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Beginner's guide to bowdrill - getting your first coal

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by kgd, Apr 2, 2012.

  1. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    This weekend I decided to try and put together a tutorial video series for friction fire by bowdrill.

    The main reason I wanted to put this video out there is because I often see people trying to take on too much at once when trying to learn the technique. For example, one of the most frequent questions you see asked by people who haven't yet achieved a coal pertains to their wood selection. I usually advocate that people use the best of materials to first learn the technique. After they have achieved success a few times with optimal materials, they can then go out and explore foraging for wood on site. The problem with trying to both forage and learn the bowdrill technique at the same time is that the person never knows if they are simply doing it wrong or if their wood selection was wrong.

    In this video set I go through the bowdrill process step by step using easy to procure materials (cedar from lumbar yard), shot glass top piece and bow made from paracord.

    The first video is all about the materials you need and prepping them (hearth, spindle, top piece and bow).

    The second video demonstrates the technique including the burn in, notching and getting the coal. I tried to use split windows to show the drilling action from both far and close up angles.

    The intended audience of these videos is for people who haven't yet managed to get their first bowdrill coal but want to try it out at their home. Folks who already have had success getting their coal will find the video boring and too basic. Hope this helps the aspiring friction fire beginners out there.


  2. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003
    Would you mind if I used this for Scouts?
  3. KuRUpTD


    Aug 5, 2008
    Great tutorial Ken ... thanks for taking the time to do this, it's very informative.
  4. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    No problem it is out there for anyone with the patience to sit through it :D

  5. tonym


    Mar 18, 2008
    I know it's been awhile since I've been around; but when did your hair get all grey/white? Is all the time you have been spending with Rick, or have I really been gone that long?

    I would say "excellent video", but I haven't watched it yet. I stopped as soon as I saw your hair. I'll watch it now though..
  6. tonym


    Mar 18, 2008
    Now that I saw the video. That was one of the best instructional bow drill videos I have seen.

    I only have 1 critique. You may want to tell the people new to this to blow up to the tinder bundle and not down. It just helps keep the smoke out of their eyes...

    All in all, it is an outstanding Demo Ken, Thanks.:thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:

    P.S. You may want to zipper your fly for the next video though... :eek:
  7. averageiowaguy


    Mar 22, 2011
    This is a good video. I wish I had that video available when I was first learning. Your article on the subject was helpful as well, but videos are just SO good for teaching.
  8. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    Thanks Tony! I forgot to add in the video that the bowdrill technique NEVER works if you have your fly zipped up while bowing :D :D :D

    Thanks, I only started video work recently so a couple years ago everything was based on picture threads.
  9. Stickman


    Dec 25, 2006
    I always enjoy your videos Ken, this was another excellent one, thanks for taking the time. Jeeze, now I need to find some cedar, this was too tempting.
  10. jcl-MD


    Aug 30, 2008
    Good vid Ken!!

  11. Rockywolf

    Rockywolf Gold Member Gold Member

    Oct 16, 2005
    Thanks Ken! I'm going to use this to teach my 2 teenaged sons. What knife were you using?
  12. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007

    U da man wid-dah rubb'n sticks!

    Awesome. It was a bark river aurora.
  13. Woods Walker

    Woods Walker

    Jun 3, 2010
    I liked the two view action. Well done.
  14. crossada


    May 16, 2004
    Very good instruction KGD. Best i've watched to be honest.
  15. dboles


    Mar 6, 2007
    Interesting and informative!Last few times I tried I have had fails,so this video renews my interest again.
    That plank from the grocery store any idea on the cedar type-western red maybe?
  16. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    If you can get a piece more pale in color rather than dark brown you will probably be fine. Most lumber-pine seems to work quite good as well, although I have a great deal of trouble with our native pine trees in these parts.
  17. PGeo00


    Jan 27, 2012
    Excellent videos. Thanks for taking the time. I can't wait to get out there and try it.
  18. Widerstand


    Feb 23, 2010
    Very well done, a few things I suggest to people after there first coal is to try a braided paracord string on the bow to help engage the drill if they have slippage, a small bit of scrap leather also can make a great coal catcher, and when you get a good working set it's nice to keep it dry in ziplock.

    Thanks for the videos, I already forwarded them to some people.
  19. Unistat76


    Jan 5, 2011
    Fantastic instructional. You should post it to Instructables.com
  20. Shaw Blades

    Shaw Blades KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    May 18, 2009
    Great stuff! This is one of my New Year's resolutions. Hopefully this weekend I can mark one off.

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