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Bow Drill fire making question...

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gear, Survival Equipment & More' started by four_shore, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. four_shore


    Oct 21, 2010
    I've recently been toying around with several different primitive fire making techniques and i'm currently working on creating fire using the bow drill method.

    My question is about the hearth and spindle.

    What wood do you guys have the best luck with?

    I've heard that medium/soft wood for both works well but i've only been able to generate smoke and no actual coal.

    I have done fairly extensive research on this method and i don't feel like it's my particular technique as much as i think that the wood i've been using is not the best of choices.

    Other than that i've followed the instructions to a T.

    Thanks in advance...
  2. Thomas Linton

    Thomas Linton

    Jun 16, 2003
    Eastern Cottonwood
    Tulip Poplar
    Red maple
    Silver Maple
    Red Cedar
    Try mullein for the drill
    Douglas Fir was favored out West and comes to us here as Christmas Trees
    Balsam Fir has worked for me.

    If the black char you are producing is not fine - like flour - try a different wood.

    Technique is pretty important. I've seen people get a fire with pretty lousy material but super touch and speed.

    Two sticks that fit pretty well together side-buy-side can be tied together = "hearth." Crack between = "notch."
  3. mewolf1

    mewolf1 Platinum Member Platinum Member

    Oct 24, 2005
    Basswood, both spindle and hearth.:thumbup:
  4. VA27


    Dec 24, 2005
    Any basswood/cottonwood combo will work. Either of those will work with a yucca spindle.
  5. B.B.M


    Dec 3, 2009
    Williow is one of my favorites, but i have not experimented with much, I have had some luck with pine. btw Dave Canterbury (wildernessoutfitters) has an awesome video on the bow drill. What does you dust look like? is it Black?
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2012
  6. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    Before you forage, do a little whorage....:D By this, I mean go to the lumber yard and get your self a 1" thick piece of kiln dried cedar and use that. Its bone dry and will let you pop off a coal in no time. Try to find a piece lighter in colour rather than reddish/brown. Another source I find useful is at the grocery store next to the fish department. They often sell little 6" x 10" by 1" thick cedar pieces used to make plank salmon on the BBQ. Once you get your coal on the store bought materials, then start to go out and forage for wood in nature.

    Speaking of whoring....Here is a three part youtube series I did a year or so ago on the topic of how to select wood for bowdrill. I post this video all the time, but that is only because the question being asked in the OP comes up very often..




    BTW - in the video 1, I dwell on my 'okay' rule for size. I actually like to harvest pieces a bit larger than that - similar to the thickness of my wrist or forearm if available and I have the right tools. Its easier to baton split the piece to the right width than trying to work with a slightly too small piece for the hearth. Plus with larger sizes of wood you can get both the spindle and hearth from the same piece.
  7. four_shore


    Oct 21, 2010

    thanks man.

    i just subscribed to your channel as well.
  8. four_shore


    Oct 21, 2010
    i got my first coal using dry pine btw.

    it was exciting.
  9. kgd


    Feb 28, 2007
    Congrats man! Great accomplishment!
  10. four_shore


    Oct 21, 2010

    it was after taking your advice that i was finally able to achieve a coal.
  11. Quirt


    Oct 10, 2005
    kgd, for some reason my iPad won't play you you tube videos. So I'm trying to find them on you tube. Would you please post a direct link to them? Thanks!
  12. tonym


    Mar 18, 2008
    Here is a link to his channel Quirt

  13. Quirt


    Oct 10, 2005
  14. Killinumsoftly


    Apr 14, 2013
    Pine is what I have always used, as there is tons of it around me and always works pretty quickly. When you make your spindle I know that I used to make my tip to skinny, try to make it almost flat with slightly rounded edges, once I started doing that it fired up fast. Now I can make one in about 10 mins and get a fire going in another couple with no wind and stuff. With crap conditions it takes me a bit longer but I've been doing it for a while now.
    If you get a chance try a pump drill they are awsome. I always carry a few extra ranger bands with me to set up my weight and pump stick around my spindle. Once you get the hang of them, they take more time to build but way less energy to get an actual fire. I'm still trying to get good at a hand drill and have never tried a saw method as I don't have bamboo around here, and have only tried a plow method a few times but no actual fire from it.
  15. CrazySanMan


    Jul 3, 2012
    +1 on the cedar lumber. I made my first coals with a hearth and spindle made from an 8' long 1x4 cedar board from Lowes.

    When outdoors, look for wood that is soft enough that your thumbnail can make a dent in it, but not so soft that you can tear the wood fibers with your nail.

    Also, to make a really nice and easy socket, drill a 5/8" or 3/4" hole 1/2" deep into a piece of wood or antler and carefully epoxy a skateboard wheel bearing in the hole so that the bearing will still spin. I cut and carved down a piece of black and white ebony so it was a little bigger than the bearing. I drilled a hole all the way through it and threaded a piece of paracord through it so I can wear it as a necklace or tie it onto my pack when I go out. You'll find it's easy to get a hearth board and spindle after a while but a socket can be more tricky to come by.

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