Ferrocerium (Ferro) rods are known for their fire making purpose and are composed of an alloy of rare earth metals. When scraped, these rods produce amazingly hot sparks and at the same time some very intense flashes of light. This is one of the hidden capabilities that is seen but not observed. It is said that these bright flashes are visible from a mile away.
Ferro rods come in a variety of sizes, from 1/8″ to 1/2″ in diameter and from 2″ to 4″ in length. When it comes to sparks – bigger is better but there’s something to be said for technique. There are small ferro tips mounted inside “spring strikers” that are used to ignite propane torches. But the smallest ferro rod and unsung hero is the “flint” inside a cigarette lighter.
I collect dry flintwheel lighters to show others how they can still be useful. To best access the sparks that it produces, I remove the wind screen. After experimenting with a wide variety of flintwheel lighters I have found that the “Bic” brand has the largest and most durable flint as compared to the cheap inexpensive imports.
As for illumination, a person can grope in the dark for dropped items or for a door knob or key hole, but light is essential for reading signs or printed material as illustrated in the photo. This image of a flintwheel spark was captured from a video frame at 1/30th of a second. Repeated flashes can be used to navigate in a room or for short distances. Larger ferro rods can be used in an emergency situation for signaling at dusk or in the dark however this usually requires the use of both hands.
Just remember… don’t use a sparking device in a flammable gas environment!