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Published on Dec 7, 2012
Did you know there's a way to start a fire by squishing air? In this project we're building a tool that does exactly that, and with a little bit of resourcefulness, we can make this for under $1.00. This tool is completely see through, so you can witness the ignition first hand!
A fire piston, or a "slam rod fire starter" as I sometimes call it, is a device used centuries ago to kindle fire. It works because rapid compression heats the air in the chamber to the ignition point of tinders, such as char cloth. The tinder can then be used to ignite kindling, and develop a flame.
It's thought that the fire piston may have inspired Rudolf Diesel in his creation of the diesel engine around 1892.
I had a fire piston I made out of copper tubing, but I wanted to make one out of clear acrylic so I could actually see the ignition of the tinder. It seemed it mystery how, or when, it actually lit, and I wanted to see.
FINDING ACRYLIC: I used google.com to find different plastics companies in my area, and called around until I found one that sold acrylic tubing and rods to the public. I went for a visit, and luckily they had some lengths of scrap tubing they couldn't sell. I asked them if I could use it for a science project, and they gave it to me for free.
The tubing I used was 1/2" inside diameter, and the rod was 1/2" outside diameter - clear acrylic.
This piston was given to a subscriber, as part of a contest I held in celebration of 10,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel.