It doesn’t have anything to do with the piston in an engine, although there are stories that the inventor of the diesel engine was inspired after seeing these devices in 18th century Asia. The fire piston is a remarkable way to start a fire through the heat created from the compression of air molecules. This method was used by a number of cultures, and it dates back to prehistory, possibly predating the use of metal tools. But just because this fire starting tool was first invented in primitive times, doesn’t mean that it’s an ineffective method. There’s actually a lot of engineering involved to make one of these, and make it successful. When properly built, the fire piston works in one strike – and it works every strike. I’ve been working with this method for years, even making my own pistons, but I’ve never seen one like this.