This is a great method for starting fires and amazing your friends and others at parties. You start out by bragging that you can make anything burn. When people are skeptical, you say, “Okay, I’ll prove it, I’ll make steel burn.” Of course, they won’t believe you, which will make the surprise when you can do it all that much greater.
All you need is steel wool and a battery. This works best if you use 0000 steel wool (pronounced ‘four-ought’) with a standard nine-volt battery. 0000 steel wool is the finest grade they make. While it is theoretically possible to use a coarser steel wool, you’ll need a much bigger battery to provide enough current. You can use couple of AA batteries instead of the nine volt, but this method is much easier with the nine volt.
It is important that the steel wool not be rusted. Rusting is a chemical reaction, called oxidation, which takes place between the iron in the steel and oxygen. Your burning of the steel wool is also an oxidation reaction. So, even slightly rusted steel wool won’t work. For the best results, tear off a piece of the steel wool and spread it out as much as you reasonably can. You want to create a short circuit, which will provide you with the spark to start your steel wool burning. If the steel wool is bunched up, it won’t burn as readily.
To get the fire to start, brush one end of the steel wool over the two poles of the battery, simultaneously. It has to touch both of the poles at the same time, or there won’t be a short circuit. As soon as a short circuit is achieved, the battery will spark against the steel wool, starting it burning. A piece of steel wool 3” x 6” will burn in about 15 seconds, which is more than enough to start your tinder burning.
The only problem with this fire starting technique is that it requires special supplies, which most people don’t have on hand to use. That’s why it’s not any higher on this list. 0000 steel wool is used for fine finishes in varnish and lacquer, something that most people don’t do. Nine volt batteries are common, but most people don’t use them a lot. However, with the right materials, this is a very easy method.