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Bow Drill Tutorial

And mostly spot on. I still do not have a camera capable of taking pictures usable in showing my bow drill fire kit. Some day before long I will, and I'll show some more detailed pictures of the components and the kit in action. My kit was a gift from a forum member, and is a bit unique in that it is composed of some very traditional components used by the plains indians. The bow itself is a bison rib. The socket is a piece of vertabrae from the same beast. The whole kit, including several spindles and fireboards is contained in a leather pouch along with tender materials and a piece of birch bark to use as an underlayment. This is important because when you do achieve a successful glowing coal, you'll want to be able to pick it up to advance it with tender to the flame stage. My fingers aretough enough to pick the coal up, but too often I crush the coal out in the process. And holding the live coal in the palm of your hand while blowing on it and adding tender can be a bad experience.

Kits can be as elaborate and reusable, or as field expedient as you wish. Mine is fairly elaborate in that most components are quite durable, and may be used for generations with minimal care, replenishing tender and replacement of the fireboard and spindle occasionally.

One last thing, I added a thin section of river cane about eight inches long to the kit. This allows me to control my blowing on the coal better than using just my mouth, scattering the dust less. I'll replace this with a section of turkey wingbone before long, since that material fits better with my unique kit. As with most of the components, a field expedient substitute would be easy to find such as a reed or blackberry cane with the pith pushed out.

Codger
 
Split the river cane and try it as a fireboard.The indians used them.Works great.Arnold
 
It's about time you posted here Arnold! Now for the folks here, what was it you used to do before you retired to a life of knives?

Codger
 
Thanks for the welcome.For a few years I worked as an archeologist.Best gig I ever had.Arnold
 
So that means you know something about native firemaking, shelter, cordage etc?
 
I know enough to know that all we can do is make an educated guess at things.Half of things we supposedly know are wags from someone sitting in a lab looking at a peice of rock.Arnold
 
For some years I did a thing I call "experimental archeology", which I know is not the right name, but the best I could come up with. When I came across pottery or pottery shards, waddle remains, flint knapper's camps, etc., I attempted to recreate what I found. From boxes of pottery pieces I found incised patterns, and coloring, and inclusions of crushed shell, charcoal, and even earlier pottery. From whole or reassembled pieces in museums, I found designs that matched some of the pieces I had. Then I collected the materials and duplicated the pottery to see what processes were required, and what tools were used. It took quite a while to figure out how to mix, form, decorate, cure and fire the pottery. My recreations were quite close in some cases. And utter failures in others. But I did learn how to make my own utilitarian pottery is ancient patterns. Same with flint knapping, and making cordage. I doubt the original makers would have wanted the products of my efforts, but I did gain quite a bit of insight into their way of life.

Codger
 
Codger, how does that vertebrae work as a socket? Does it char at all from use?
Does it add more or less friction to the feel of the kit? Was the socket carved or was there a natural depression in the bone? In case you can't tell i'm a bit intrigued haha.
 
The vertabrae of ungulates, and most mammals have natural depressions. I suppose you could get a more secure setting by boring a smaller cup depression in the center, but I haven't needed it. The bearing surface is waxed for lubrication. A rounded river rock with a natural depression, or a lubricated bole of wood would work as well. Just something to press down on the spindle with and control it. The lube is so that the friction is concentrated at the bottom of the spindle on the fire board. No, it hasn't charred at all, but the wax does darken as the friction heats it and polishes the bone.

Codger
 
Interesting
I've been using whatever wood I can scavenge for the most part.If i have time i carve the bearing block from wood then "jewel" it like a compass needle with a piece of river rock. If not, i just burn it in then oil it with my nose and hair oil. Nothing beats the subtle scent of your own burning nose oil smoke.

The reason I'm so curious is because I want to find the least amount of friction. I twist my own cords, usually stinging nettle or milkweed fiber. The milkweed fiber is rather delicate and I think this has a lot to do with friction in the kit.

Would it be worth it for me to go butcher roadkill for the vertebrae? or do you think the friction gonna be about the same as what i'm using now?
 
Anything will work. A block of wood harder than your fireboard, a rock, a bone, whatever. I've seen coke bottle caps driven into holes in wood. Or the brass of a shotgun shell. Unless you are getting top smoke and a hot hand, you are doing it right. Skin oil is a good expedient lube. Some plants have waxy leaves that help. Of course, the more polished your spindle top and socket are, the less friction it will have there, no matter what the socket is. In field prep, you can polish the socket in the stone/bone/wood with fine sand and the spindle top then clean it out and lube it. Likewise, you can increase the friction at the fireboard by adding a minute amount of fine sand before making fire. Incidentally, a great lube comes from between the toes of a whitetail deer. There are glands there, interdigital glands, that exude a white waxy substance that allows them to find each other. A section of legbone makes a good spindle when you use wood inserts in the ends. I have one of those in the kit Mewolf put together for me. There are three other sindles of cedar, and two other woods I forget. Birch?

You can get the vertabrae from a butcher shop if you want to try it and don't have access to a deer carcass.

Codger
 
Tiros, I'm in MN too and might be able to help with a socket. Can't mail you, but you can email me, if you want.
Kent

varioussocketsspindles.jpg
 
Hip bones work too, but need a little something to keep the heat from ones hand.

theotherhalf.jpg
 
Interesting
I've been using whatever wood I can scavenge for the most part.If i have time i carve the bearing block from wood then "jewel" it like a compass needle with a piece of river rock. If not, i just burn it in then oil it with my nose and hair oil. Nothing beats the subtle scent of your own burning nose oil smoke.

The reason I'm so curious is because I want to find the least amount of friction. I twist my own cords, usually stinging nettle or milkweed fiber. The milkweed fiber is rather delicate and I think this has a lot to do with friction in the kit.

Would it be worth it for me to go butcher roadkill for the vertebrae? or do you think the friction gonna be about the same as what i'm using now?


I mostly use moose antler without lubricant.

Just out of curiosity, what diameter do you make your Milkweed strings?

Doc
 
I mostly use moose antler without lubricant.

Just out of curiosity, what diameter do you make your Milkweed strings?

Doc

I try to make them at least 1/4 inch. This is usually all I have the materials for. The breakage usually occurs at the split I have in the ends of a willow bow as I am very careful to string it so the cord doesn't rub itself.

I splice the milkweed when its still in its fibrous state before I begin the initial twist. So that may be part of the weakness as well?
 
Codger: your mention of tempering in pot-making got my attention. I've looked at potsherds in a museum and seen that this was done (i.e., coarser material deliberately added to the fine clay, apparently with the result that the pot withstands heating and cooling better, or something), but I really have very little idea of such practicalities as what to use, how coarse, how much, etc. May I suggest that you initiate a thread on pot-making? I've long been fascinated by primitive weapons, blades, etc., and only recently got practical enough to realize that primitive cultures also needed something to boil their deer-meat in. I'm working to increase my knowledge-base of these less-flashy parts of primitive artisanship.

Tiros: I'd love to hear your exact process for turning milkweed into usable cordage. Which parts do you use? I recently found a lot of desert milkweed behind my sons' school, and had a go at using the bark portions for cordage, but without a lot of success. I'd love the details of how you succeed.

Thanks, guys!
 
Return of the J.D.

Here is a better tutorial than I could produce

http://wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/cordage/milkweed/index.html

I would practice twist braiding on a more readily available fiber first to get it down, then move onto the milkweed fiber. I practiced on hemp twine that I dismantled into fibers and then put back together via twist braid.

I can't vouch for desert milkweed, but the milkweed here has the fibers contained just beneath the bark surface. A lot of it comes off with the bark when peeled. The outer skin is not very strong or fibrous in my experience.

I often have trouble keeping a good peel going for more than 2 feet because of "knots" for lack of a better description, so I end up having to splice a lot. I do this by carefully laying the fibers out and overlapping them 3-4 inches before I begin twisting them into cordage. This is the tough bit because it is hard to keep the thickness consistent. It takes a lot of patience but I feel its worth it in the end. I'll try to get some pictures of my own up when time allows.
 
Codger: your mention of tempering in pot-making got my attention. I've looked at potsherds in a museum and seen that this was done (i.e., coarser material deliberately added to the fine clay, apparently with the result that the pot withstands heating and cooling better, or something), but I really have very little idea of such practicalities as what to use, how coarse, how much, etc...

Here is the main page.
http://www.nativetech.org/pottery/index.html
and the page on tempering and mixing.
http://www.nativetech.org/pottery/prepare.htm
 
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