View Full Version : Bow Drill Choices
One skill I would love to master would be the bow drill. From various lists of suitable woods for drill, hearth, bow and block I have only the following trees in the woods where I practice.... Chestnut, Birch, Oak, Hazel and Scots Pine (there are only two Holly trees but the thought of relieving it of limbs just to see if it works kinda feels wrong.....hmmm.. does this make me a tree hugger :eek: ). So, what do you think would be the winning combo, holly inlcuded :morpheus:
Ogri the trog
I'm no officianado on the subject but this is what I feel to be right.
Chestnut or birch for the hearthboard (as dry as you can make it)
Hazel for the drill (ditto the dryness)
Oak or holly for the top bearing block (use when green as the sap acts as a lubricant)
Anything for the bow (as long as your arm and at least as thick as a broom handle)
Anything for the ember pan (dry again)
Ogri the trog
The best I've used is dry willow for the drill and hearth. Sycamore is good but after a while the drill and hearth tend to glaze and you have to scratch it off. it sorts of work hardens. Anything will do for the bearing block but lubricate it well or you'll have smoke at both ends. You have to find the right soft/hardness which is a thumbnail pushed in hard. Once you have burnt the dent for the friction, take care with cutting the notch. Too big and the hole may go off centre, too small and you won't get enough 'woofle dust' to burst into fire. About 35 to 45 degrees is about right from the centre of the dent. If you want to do a hand drill try a dead cat-tail stalk for the drill and either willow or lime for the hearth. Mind the blisters..... i have a dry 'cramp ball' fungus handy when I get an ember and drop it on to this. you can then get a big ember going without fear of it going out. It's not as hard to do as you'd think, once you've got the hang of it. It's all trial and error. No doubt others will disagree with this but gather all the info and have a go.
I like a bird-cherry spindle on an elder board.
I like hawthorn for the bearing,willow for the spindle as for the hearth Im not settled yet as I have also been experimenting with the two stick hearth and it seems to need a different material from the standard notched hearth.
I always favour hazel spindles (make sure you take the straight shoots from the base - nascent growth) on pine or cedar hearth (i.e a bit of pallet). Avoid willow or alder as these woods tend to give folk a lot of problems - either because these woods stay damp, or because they flake off under friction before charring. Also avoid very hard woods to start with (oak, ivy etc) and don't try pine on pine as this tends to create 'cold' coals that don't stay hot for long.
For a bearing block, I always use a split green branch - find a branch of something common like sycamore about the thickness of your wrist - saw it off and cut a piece about palm-width long, then baton it in half with a knife/axe. The green wet wood means that you almost never need to use any lubricant on it.
Whats the difference between hearthboard and ember pan?
The hearthboard is what you are drilling onto. It's the part with the notch in it
Generally 1/2" - 3/4" thick by about 1' long
The ember pan is what you catch the black dust in for when it forms the ember
This can be anything from a leaf to a pupose built hand-carved piece of art pan (someone had a photo of a carved one somewhere on here)
Hope that helps
Gotcha! Very clear thanks!
I'd definitely agree with everybody in terms of Hazel for the drill. Probably pine for the hearth and oak for the bearing block. Holly leaves as a lubricant ;). Bow doesn't matter but probably hazel would be easiest.
Try and find some stuff that's dead, but not rotted, and of course dry.
have u tryed lime for the hearth and ivy for the drill .it works for me :)
My 2p worth.
I've had success with Ivy drill and hearth but have found that lime and lime work even better. :D
Practice may not make you perfect but it will definately keep you warm. :)
i find that a dry dead sycamore branch about 3" in width is good for the hearth. For me willow drills tend to be the best. A dead peice of yew wood is brill for the bearing block, it will last ages!
I have never found hazel or pine to be that good, do they really work that well? I havnt realy experimented with them that much i have just stuck with what i find best. :)
The ultimate advice is : NEVER GIVE UP!!!!! and you will be victorious!!
When I pick the wood for drill and base I found best results if the wood is dry and light but strong. I have found that when drilling small short bursts is the trick and not to be hunched over your knee but more upright. Concentrating breathing and keeping the bow level and using the whole length of the bow. a good book that helped me crack this skill was "primitive living self-sufficiency and survival skills'' by thomas j elpel :burnout: