Some tools seem so intuitive that we never really think about the way we use them. For example, when was the last time you contemplated alternate ways to use a flashlight or a pair of scissors? They're pretty straightforward tools, and we've all seen them used a certain way a thousand times, so we usually go into auto-pilot mode when we pick up these items.
For survivalists, a ferrocerium or ferro rod fire starter is another ubiquitous implement. You can pick it up in one hand, grab a sharp-edged striker in the other hand, and swipe the striker along the rod, showering your tinder bundle with sparks. Simple enough — we've seen dozens of people do it this way over the years, and it tends to be at least reasonably effective. However, there may be a better way to strike a ferro rod.
The first key to improving your rod's effectiveness is to move the ferro rod, not the striker. This prevents pushing the striker into your tinder, and disturbing or scattering the pile. Manufacturers of ferro rods will typically give you this information in their instructional guides, such as this guide from Coghlan's. However, there's another useful tip you should learn, seen in the video below:
Outdoorsman and YouTube video creator Clay Hayes posted this short video, and it shows a second modification to the striking technique. By holding the striker underneath the ferro rod and pulling the rod backwards, sparks are directed into the center of the tinder bundle. When using the top side of the rod, these sparks tend to scatter, making it harder to light the fire.
So, next time you whip out your ferro rod, think twice about how you're striking it. It might save you some time and energy as you light your campfire.