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Maxpedition Survival Tips: Bow & Drill Friction Fire

Maxpedition Survival Tips: Bow & Drill Friction Fire

Exposure is the number one killer in
outdoor survival situations. As such it is critical to know how to make a fire
in the outdoors. Now if you get caught off guard and
unprepared, there is a way to make a fire off of just what you find around you – the
bow and drill friction fire method. The primary components are: the bow which
turns the stick; the straight hard drill; the baseboard, often called a hearth; and
the socket you use to allow the drill to spin in. This is a piece of volcanic ash
that can easily be dug into with the tip of a harder rock and there are even
specialized knives like this one that allow a handhold for your tool. The
hearth should be a very dead wood, as dead as it can be and still make a
knocking sound or be able to carve or push on it without it just tearing apart.
When making the drill we’re going to look for a piece as hard and straight as
possible. Believe it or not this will be spinning at thousands of rpms so it’s
critical we find the straightest piece possible off the branch we found. We want
it to be about two inches longer than our hand if possible but generally no
shorter than our hand. We want it to be no thicker than our thumb but thicker
than our pinky – or the hang-loose sign. If one end is more straight than the other
that will be the end you drill with. The curved end – we will carve into a point on
the top which goes in your socket. This is a friction drill, not a hole making
drill, so the point is on top flat piece on the bottom. For your board we want to
get it around a half-inch thick. If it’s a very soft piece, it could be a little
thicker. If it’s a little bit harder, it could be a little thinner. Now to start
with I need to form a small pilot hole that my drill can fit in. Once I believe it’ll hold the drill
tight I can now spin the drill and bore a small hemisphere or half circle into
this board. This is the bow, it should be about as long as your arm to the center
of your hand for an optimal draw length with a slight curve. We have to be sure
that we cut a notch out to hold the string if it doesn’t have a branch or
anything off to the side to hold it already. Now if you’re very good at knots
you can use something like a double overhand slider or fisherman’s knot for
your anchor knot… or I will just do this, a square knot. I now pull the string
straight, not tight, just until it’s straight. Wrap into the notch, and again a
square knot. An easy way to put the drill onto the string is to clamp your fingers
like so, clamp the string between the drill and your fingers, hook the top and
turn the drill & the bow at the same time. Again spread, clamp, hook, turn. Before
I make my attempt, I’m gonna put a shaving of wood under the notch so that I
can easily lift to pick the amber off the ground and place it into my tinder
bundle. When making a bow drill fire we need a light,
flashy dry material to take the ember and turn it into a flame. One of the best
ones is any tree bark you can find that shreds like this – like hair – and doesn’t
just crumble like a potato chip. We’re gonna go ahead and pack that down real
tight into a bit of a dreadlock. In this way, when the ember lands on it, it
doesn’t just fall through the pieces of bark and go out. Then form a depression
in the middle and begin to turn this into a bit of a bird’s nest and what you
see here is where normally where the bird’s egg would go is where we will
place our smoldering ember. Posture is critical in a bow and drill friction
fire. We want to be sure our body weight and posture is doing all the work and
not our arms. I want my heart directly over the drill.
I want my foot almost touching the drill so I can lock my wrist in the corner of
my thumb onto my shin. When bent in this fashion, the wrist forms a small point
that fits to the shin perfectly. This will prevent any wobbling of the wrist
or turning of the hand. Be sure the corner of the thumb is locked on the
shin. Grab the bow at the bottom by the knot. If you squeeze the string, you can
control the tension better. Start with small strokes forward and back so it
doesn’t fall out. Once it starts to go forward and back we’ll go for a longer
stroke. Once the longer stroke goes well, go for speed. Once you have a speedy and
long stroke, add just a little bit of pressure with your lean. Go for about ten
seconds and we have what we call the burnout done. Your stick will be rounded
off and you’ll have a small hemisphere here rounded off. Now we want to form
the coal collecting notch. All of the dust formed by drilling will get trapped in
this notch. The notch will form a heat chamber and it will ignite the dust.
I want my notch just as wide as the hole at the mouth and I want it to come
to a point around a quarter of the way in. Now people always ask me how will I
know when I have an ember. If you want to check for an ember, you want to wait
until your notch is really full of dust. Once the notch is full, the conditions
exist to create an ember. Then give it about 10 seconds of speed and power. Do not remove the dust in your notch
until you are sure an ember is in there. You won’t get one until it’s about full
so don’t remove it. To check, just lift your drill, wave on it and we see we get
more and more smoke. The smoke just doesn’t go away so now we know we have
an ember. Now to really be sure we don’t lose it, we want to let it collect and start to burn real well till we see red like that. Now that we see red, we
know the ember’s established well and it’s not just going to go out. So I will
remove it keeping the knife to make sure it doesn’t get trapped in the notch, and
now you see why we carry the chip. Gently transfer into the fire bundle. We now
want to have this grow like a cigar ember. Once the bark is burning and not just
the dust, we could blow much harder. If you’re afraid to burn your hands, you can
use your wood slats. Turn away to breathe in, and there’s your

2 thoughts on “Maxpedition Survival Tips: Bow & Drill Friction Fire”

  1. Hmmm…. Ideal tools & materials. Ideal pack/ gear, ideal knife, ideal bowstring, ideal bearing-block. A perfect way to plan for an unplanned event when you supposedly forget to bring your ideal fire-making devices. A few mini-bic lighters, ferro-rods, water-proof matches, a road/ signal flare, dry tinder material, etc… would be better options if it were critical to make a fire when you don't have to really improvise less-than-ideal options.

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