Fire Piston: instructions

July 25, 2019

Instructions for setting up & using your fire piston.

fire piston

Age Range: 6+

Duration: less than an hour

Location: anywhere

Time Of Day: any time

Season: any

Tags: fire, firelighting, instructions

Category: bushcraft & survival product information

Fire Piston Information sheet

Please read these instructions before using your Fire piston – they will help you get it correctly set up.
Information on how to use the Fire Piston is provided by Bushcraft Tools.

Buy a Fire piston in our shop. Watch a how to use a fire piston video.

fire piston - green aluminium tool that fits togetherTo begin

Attach the washer to the small cup and then screw it into the end of the piston rod.
Before doing so, apply a little lubricant to the tip of the piston rod, then screw the washer and cup on. This will allow you to easily adjust (squash) the washer to the correct diameter (approx 1mm wider than the piston rod diameter).
Apply a little lubricant to the edge of the washer and insert into the piston barrel.
Do this a few times until the piston rod springs back freely.

Make sure you have compression

After lubricating the washer, push in and out of the piston barrel until it springs back smoothly. Then press and hold the piston rod into the barrel for a few seconds.
If the rod springs back then you have compression.
If the air escapes then you have no compression.
You can turn the cup on the end with your fingers to adjust the washer. Then try the compression test again.

A little tip

If you find it difficult adjusting the washer to fit the inside of the tube, try this:

  • Unscrew the washer and end cup from the piston rod
  • Now dip the end of the piston rod in some lubricant and then screw the washer and cup back on. The lubricant will make it easier to adjust (squash) the washer to the correct diameter.

Using your fire piston

If you have compression, place a small amount of tinder into the tinder cup.
Make sure the washer is free from dirt/tinder and push into the piston barrel approx 10 mm.
Firmly strike them together either in your hands or by pressing hard and fast onto a piece of wood.
Make sure all the caps are screwed tight otherwise you will damage the threads.
The rapid compression should cause the tinder to ignite. Do not hold it in too long after striking as you may starve the tinder of oxygen.


If you still fail to do this but have good compression then you will need to try another tinder as your tinder may have become damp or contaminated with lubricant.
NOTE: make sure there is not a build up of lube in the bottom of the piston barrel. If there is, remove the excess with a stick/twig.

I recommend using a cramp ball fungus/King Alfred cake (make sure it’s dry and powdery when you use it as many freshly picked ones are moist/damp).
You can also try making some char cloth. This is easily done… see YouTube videos for instructions.
The char cloth works extremely well with the fire steel too.

This is basically all you need to know!

So… the most important thing is that you have compression. If you have compression, you know you will be able to light a fire… it just comes down to the tinder.

Replacing the washer video:
Firmly grip with a cloth and twist to unscrew.
Remove washer.
Dip the tindercup thread and piston rod end in some lube (helps get the washer on).