How to Make a Simple Fire Piston
Out of Hardward Store Material

by Tom Lourens



A More Traditional Gasket: Winding Thread
To make a more traditional gasket, as used in the original Southeast Asian fire pistons, a thread can be wound around the piston end instead of using an O-ring. Originally, waxed silk or other thread was used to form the gasket.

You will need a broader (4 mm or more) and shallower incision for winding with thread compared to the rubber O-ring method. There is no absolute need for knots. If you make a slightly deeper groove at the upper and underpart of the incision, you can bury the beginning and end of your winding thread in both grooves.


I've used ordinary cotton thread and there was no need to treat it with wax to make it airtight.


Just moisten the thread by running it trough your mouth. Then wind it tightly (starting at the tinder cup end) around the piston.


Wind tightly and press each turn to the previous one with a fingernail for a closer fit. If the fit is too loose, try winding more turns or try winding up the thread itself (making it slightly thicker) before turning it around the rod. When you reach the end of the incision, hold the excess thread with one finger.


Lubricate the wound gasket and push it into the tube with some force, turning the piston rod in the same direction as the winding. The windings will be kneaded into the right shape, forming an airtight closure. If it really doesn't fit into the tube, the gasket is too thick and the winding or the groove must be adapted. It will take some time to find the perfect fit.

If the gasket fits well, the excess thread can simply be cut off.


Load the tinder cup with some charcloth and try the fire piston out. Each time you insert the piston use a screwing motion in the same direction as the winding. If you turn it in the opposite direction, the winding may become undone.


A simple homemade fire piston with a more traditional gasket:


Back to the Beginning




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