View Full Version : Cannot make fire with bow and stick
I was trying to make fire using bow and had no success: I had a lot of wood dust, there was a lot of smoke, but fire did not ignite. I used also cotton to ignite from wood dust but it did not even burn at little.
Wood, I think, is from pine trees - I just used what I found in the shed.
What was srong? Do I really have to find some good wood?
pine is a little too resinous for bowdrill. you need to use different wood.
I looked up "Douglas Fir" (a type of Pine) on a chart of ease of bow drilling. See http://www.hollowtop.com/Articles/Friction_Fire_Woods.htm . It may be a bit difficult to read. However, it shows that Douglas fir bow drilled onto Douglas fir seems to be relatively easy.
So, don't be too put off by initial advice. Get back down to it and try varying lots of the things you did the first time, one at a time, taking note of what you did and what if any difference it made.
Could I ask you what diameter of drill? What was the punk/ dust like - brown, nearly black, gritty, fibrous, or fine dust? What is your notch like? How thick is your hearth board?
When you had smoke and dust did the dust carry on smoking when you stopped drilling? If it did you had an ember, like a cigarette end, transfer this to your tinder bundle and nurse into flame. The wood WON'T go to flame!
It is a lot harder than it sounds there are a few tutorials on here, try a search.
I just got it to work for the first time a few days ago, so I am not really an expert(yet!) but there are quite a few will offer advice on tinders and woods.
Ivy hearth and hazel drill work well. Ivy on Ivy works well as well sycamore is a good one also.
Bow steadily and evenly with a reasonable amount of pressure. You wi;; see smoke starting to come from the kit.
Now increase the speed a little and watch the smoke start to rotate around the drill, if you can keep that up for 15 to 25 seconds normally you can form an ember, it won't be huge and is still reasonably delicate.
There are other woods that you can use and as Goose mentioned pallette wood can be used as a hearth with a Hazel drill/spindle.
You will get there it is only a matter of time, some parts of technique are better shown,but all in all you will probably make fire in the end with little guidance:)
Omega, try using a long spindle, about 10 - 12 inches of hazel. If you can't find any dead you can cut some green straight bits and season them. (I leave some in the car during the hot weather and they dry out fairly quickly.) strip the bark soon after cutting but don't make the spindles too smooth, a few small ridges will help the cord grip later on when drilling. A small diameter is also better than a large diameter about 1.5cm width is good. carve the bottom in the shape of a viet cong's hat and have a gradual taper about 4 inches down from the top, tapering gradually to a fairly sharp point. A short acute taper makes the spindle bind more quickly in the bearing block socket making it harder to drill You can add a secondary bevel at the tip which will help rotation a little but it will ware away. Initial 'burning in' can be a little tricky until a smooth depression is acheived as the spindle bottom and pilot depression in your hearth will not match exactly until you've worn it in a bit. (give it large!!) cut notch as usual and go for it. I have a large felled western red cedar tree that I'm harvesting hearths from at the moment and find it's a good wood for hearths using hazel spindle. A blackthorn bearing block is a good choice as it's a very hard wood and the hole for the spindle dosn't wear too quickly. Clematis buffed very fine for the tinder bundle or to save labour buff a small clematis tinder bundle and drop your coal onto this surrounded by some dry grass or other
I use an ivy hearth and a hazel spindle. I can achive a reasonable amount of smoke but due to my short bow it will not take an ember to quickly. The bow should be the length of your fingertip to your armpit. The spindle should be about the distance between your thumb and little finger, it should be as thick as your thumb. The bearing block should fit snuggly into the palm of your hand. Don't forget though stance is everything in the bow drill technique. Until Ed showed me the correct stance i couldn't achive smoke let alone an ember. ;)
The bow should be the length of your fingertip to your armpit. The spindle should be about the distance between your thumb and little finger, it should be as thick as your thumb. The bearing block should fit snuggly into the palm of your hand.
Just to clarify what craig said above, your bow ideally should be fingertip to armpit minimum, but personally i prefer something a little longer so a i can get a full stroke (fingertip to breast bone/sternum).... the spindle should be about as thick as your thumb pad (preferably not thinner than your thumb nail) and about the same length as the distance between your thumb tip to little finger tip when your fingers and thumb are splayed out.
The problem with using resinous woods like pine is that the resin can heat up on the contact surfaces and glaze over giving you pretty much zero friction and therefore no coal..... thats not to say its impossible.... but you can have problems.
I like hazel for spindles as there is loads of it around here and it grows nice and straight. For hearth boards to start off with I would reccomend Ivy, Willow, sycamore, and alot of people love western red ceder (very quick to get going).
Hope this helps you out a bit on your quest for fire.
I've just re-read my post and realise it's not very clear. The spindle is MAX 12 inches before carving into the shape you need. After carving it will be less than this a little. Ideally as Ed said, span of your hand as a rough guide. my hand span is 9 inches (you know what they say about blokes with small hands!) - no not that! they say they can't hold a big tinder bundle....aheemm. Anyway.... my spindles when used for the first time are usually about 10 inches after carving into shape. Another advantage with having a long spindle is when starting out with F by F some people experience problems with the cord riding up the spindle when drilling (with practice you'll get the hang of correcting this whilst drilling. It's much easy to show someone than explain in words and you'll get the 'feel' for it soon). Personally I find things easier with a fairly straight bow too, but I think that's down to personal preferance. Good luck Omega and let us know when you've cracked it. No pressure then !