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Bow Drill Fires!
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Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Bow Drill Fires! on 02/10/2010 07:11:15 MST Print View

Can you bust? I'm pretty darn good at it. Here's my working set right now:wefa

Andrew Richardson
(arichardson6) - F

Locale: North East
Re: Bow Drill Fires! on 02/10/2010 08:35:37 MST Print View

Pretty sweet. Bow drill fires are pretty fun to practice. I haven't spent enough time to get good enough to feel extremely confident though. Can you name the types of wood you use? I generally try to make the drill out of a hard wood (willow, oak, maple) and the board out of a soft wood (Fir, pine, basically an evergreen tree).

You could lighten this a fair amount by using a knot of wood or something as your handhold.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Re: Bow Drill Fires! on 02/10/2010 16:58:03 MST Print View

What's pictured is mostly sage, with the lower fireboard being made of cottonwood root. I've also used juniper root and branch, yucca, and cliff rose. One can definitely use wood for the top piece. I like the very low friction of my rock though.

Andy Berner
(Berner9) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Re: Bow Drill Fires! on 02/10/2010 17:16:59 MST Print View

Very cool Jack. Ive always wanted to try to do it but never have actually sat down and done it.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: Bow Drill Fires! on 02/10/2010 17:27:11 MST Print View





Edited by Found on 02/10/2010 17:27:46 MST.

(wentworth) - F
fire on 02/10/2010 18:08:27 MST Print View

2 weekends ago we used the bowdrill on a trip. I set a new PB for time taken to produce an ember. Problem was, we didn't have any suitable tinder around! Ah well.
Fun stuff

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: fire on 02/10/2010 21:48:06 MST Print View

What was your time?

Steofan The Apostate
(simaulius) - F

Locale: Bohemian Alps
Re: Bow Drill Fires! on 02/10/2010 23:22:26 MST Print View

Very nice kit!
Someone tried to teach me that once with a cedar fireboard and a yucca hand drill - no bow. This guy was good, I could never get the hang of it.

Kyle Crawford

Locale: SouthEast
Very SUL on 02/11/2010 00:01:53 MST Print View

This is the most efficient fire starter right at 0 oz! (Everything you need is in the woods!) I've always wanted to try this method. Nice work.

(wentworth) - F
bowdrill on 02/11/2010 03:01:45 MST Print View

My record was 15 seconds.

That was with a new hole in the board, but an already warm spindle. I used xanthorrhoea for both spindle and hearth.

As for superultralight, unfortunately it's not a reliable enough method to be your primary firelighting source. If it rains, the moisture absorbed by the wood means it doesn't produce an ember, just powder and smoke. It's fun, but I think the practical weight saving value is limited.

Particularly considering the time spent looking for the right wood and carving a set, finding a bearing etc.

Tried the hand drill? Now that's calorie intensive. I can only get an ember when taking turns drilling with someone.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: bowdrill on 02/11/2010 07:28:40 MST Print View

Yep, hand drills are indeed harder, but well worth it.

I teach this stuff and we use bow drills as our primary means of starting fires. It's reliable when wet, but that's because we carry around dry sets and nesting. We start fires with this stuff all winter long, it's actually easier than using a lighter as you've got a coal to light the nest. It was also reliable for many people before we had things like matches! I fully agree though that harvesting a wet set, and trying to bust with it, is not a reliable fire starting method.

My record is about six seconds, and I've seen less than four seconds, essentially a single stroke!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Bow drills, etc on 02/11/2010 07:58:52 MST Print View

I think making fire from scratch is really empowering for people and everyone should try it. There's something really primal there.

There is a whole "bushcraft" subculture out there. I find many of the participants to be too much on the Luddite side of the fence, let alone some knee-jerk right-wing views and an attachment to canvas,leather and wool gear. They REALLY need to work on Leave No Trace principles. Side-stepping those issues, there is a wealth of information on shelter and fire making skills, food gathering, etc. All good stuff for people who like to wander in the woods.

michael huynh
(radlations) - F
Ahh man on 02/11/2010 23:34:09 MST Print View

I could never get it going. I mean either the rope would never grab the spindle well enough or the board would not get hot enough.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
2N? on 02/17/2010 12:53:31 MST Print View

Wilderness therapy does teach you things.... ;)

Back in the day I could pretty consistently get embers with (very dry) juniper on juniper. A fat cottonwood root fireboard is like cheating!

Chris Hanson
(ChrisHanson) - F

Locale: Eastern Wyoming
How About Two Stones and Some Fungus on 11/03/2010 23:25:44 MDT Print View

Pyrite, Flint, and Tinder Fungus Firemaking
Here is fire with flint, pyrite and tinder fungus:

Edited by ChrisHanson on 11/03/2010 23:26:25 MDT.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Teaching myself to use a fire bow on 11/04/2010 08:50:22 MDT Print View

Here is a link to a short (5 mins.) of me teaching myself to use a fire bow.

How did you carve the "hole" in the rock?!? I would have loved to use a rock, but couldn't figure out how to make a "hole" for the spindle.

Edited by Hitech on 11/04/2010 21:37:18 MDT.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Bow Drill Fires! on 11/04/2010 13:27:17 MDT Print View

Jack, your palm rock looks a lot like the piece of obsidian I'm using, dremeled out the little pocket...

My set is all cedar right now. First two or three times, smoke in seconds, kept it going a bit, let the ember, um, ember-ify, and started a few fires. Now, however, I can still get heavy smoke quickly, keep it going, but can't get an ember to save my life.

When I first started having problems I was getting "beard stubble" looking stuff, which I think meant I was pressing too hard. I'm back to pretty much dark brown-ish powder, but I just can't seem to keep that ember going. The drill is harder to keep spinning toward the end... I've made a number of shallow cuts along the shaft to increase friction, but not sure it's helping. Any ideas on what I'm doing wrong? It'll smoke aplenty, but when I remover the board the smoke dies off. It's weird. The spindle and hole are almost too hot to touch, but the embers either not forming or not staying together or... ?

Chris Hanson
(ChrisHanson) - F

Locale: Eastern Wyoming
Bow Drill Suggestions on 11/04/2010 15:57:46 MDT Print View

Here are some possibilities based on my experience:

-Wrong hearth board/spindle combination. If you had success with the same combination, try new pieces. If you are using cedar the piece may be too "pitchy". I've found yucca (solid pieces w/o too many moth larvae holes) and cotton wood to be some of the easiest to use (I grew up in the midwest). I've never gotten to try desert offerings.

-Your hearth board and/or spindle has some dampness to it. I live in SE AK (temperate rain forest)and this is a real issue. It is cheating, but you might try microwaving or putting the pieces in the oven at the lowest setting for a bit and try them again. A little dampness can really make it harder or impossible to get a good coal.

-As you said, you may be pushing down too hard initially. There is a feel to it. As I'm "drilling" I can feel the two parts "mate" (subtle grab) and at that point I speed up and apply ever so slightly more downward pressure.

-It sounds as if your bowstring may be too tight. I use a looser string and then control the tension with my fingers. That way if the spindle starts slipping I can ease up a tiny bit on the tension. If you are polishing your spindle, I'd scrape it with the edge of your knife to give it a bit more "bite" and loosen up on the bow string.

Hope that helps. I enjoy experimenting with "primitive skills" and fire starting is one of the most fun. Plus, you never know when you might need it!


Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Bow Drill Suggestions on 11/04/2010 16:04:45 MDT Print View

Thanks for your suggestions!

The cedar works pretty well, not pitchy, stored inside so pretty dry.

I do vary tension by changing w/fingers on looser string... but I tighten up the string instead of loosen when the slipping starts. Prob'ly oughta try the inverse. Scraping the spindle might rough it up better than the little cuts I was making, too. Maybe the string is wearing smoother?

Thanks, & more suggestions welcome!

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
My observations on 11/04/2010 21:42:56 MDT Print View

The beard stubble definitely sounds like too much pressure. Brown sounds like not enough speed. I found that if I pushed too hard I couldn't get the speed high enough, or I would start polishing. You have to have that grinding feel. Basically pushing hard enough to make enough "dust", light enough to allow you to spin fast. Having the string slip MIGHT be from pushing too hard (was for me somewhat often).

Also, I used my knife to carve the end of the spindle after every try. If I didn't I ended up polishing way to often.

I also found that it helped a lot to get the end in the bearing block polished. The oils on my forehead and the side of my nose worked really well. I reapplied until it was well polished.

Disclaimer: I'm new at this. I've produced a couple of dozen coals, but only ignited ONE into a fire!

Edited by Hitech on 11/04/2010 21:46:40 MDT.