Fire is one of man's greatest multitools. Think about it. Without it, we would have next to nothing. Tools, food, water, clothes, and warmth among other things have come from it. Well, now you can make it yourself, the way native americans once made it. I know it as the bow drill, but I've also heard it called fire bow, fire drill, fire by friction, and rubbing two sticks together. It basically works by spinning a piece of wood in a socket of another piece of wood. This creates an extremely small coal, which, with the utmost care, can be blown into flame.There are many other forms of making fire by friction, and even more beyond that which involve percussion, metals, and chemicals. However, this is, in my opinion the easiest way of fire without matches. It may involve lots of work, time, and effort before you get a good coal. So please enjoy this primitive method of fire starting.

I have won second prize in the Great Outdoors Contest! Thanks to all of you for supporting me. It's a great honor.

Step 1: What wood you should use

Preferably, for the fireboard, you should use a wood of medium-hardness, like cottonwood, willow, aspen, tamarack, cedar, sassafras, sycamore, and poplar, which are the very best. For the spindle, you should use either the same wood or harder wood. I find that an aspen fireboard and a yucca spindle work well. Remember, use a dead, very dry branch for the spindle and fireboard. Green wood is too wet and won't start well. It has to be the driest possible. For the handhold, use a piece of hardwood or a rock with an indent in one side that fits in your palm comfortably. The bow should be a flexible, slightly curved piece of wood about as long as your arm. Tie a piece of paracord on the bottom with a fairly permanent knot, then tie it loosely (not too much slack, but some) to the top with an easily adjustable knot. 
<p>great instructable!</p>
<p>Thanks much!</p>
<p>Very good 'ible and thorough coverage of a lost art. A tip: use your knife to cut a small groove around the circumference of the spindle at its middle. It helps keep the bowstring riding in the center of the spindle instead of tending to want to travel up and down while you pump the bow. It also helps beginners as they can concentrate on overall form since the string is holding more uniform as they bow.</p>
<p>Thank you. That's a very good tip, so thanks. I've had trouble with that a times. Thanks!</p>
<p>How to make a fire like a boss!</p>
You know it! Thanks!
<p>I once watched a survival/herbalist demonstrate this technique in the middle of his shop's carpeted floor. He had an ember glowing in short order and then had a nice fire going in his firepit on the outside of the building within about 5 minutes or less.</p>
My bow broke and then the spindle stabbed me in the foot:(
<p>I'm real sorry about that, but don't let it discourage you. You don't know how many bows I've broken myself in frustration. I've cleared the forest!</p>
Need to trim those nails bud... You bout climb a tree
<p>So I've been told...</p>
<p>Thanks for good and useful information.</p>
<p>Of course :)</p>
<p>Pine and spruce I tried to twist even a drill! No results! Only a little glow, but is not burning :( . It's very-very dry wood of firm breeds. Well helps a handful of gunpowder... :))</p>
<p>Yes, pine and spruce aren't necessarily the best woods. While it's true the sap is very flammable, it is also very sticky. The woods are also softer than you would want. Try something without needles. </p><p>Also, even a little glow can be helpful, if nurtured in the right way. Just be gentle, maybe just wave it in the wind before blowing on it, as your breath is full of moisture. And yes, gunpowder would help...</p><p>Good luck, my friend.</p>
how about an old bird's nest for tinder/dust?
<p>That's a great idea, very time and energy saving, if you can find one.</p><p>(P.S. Sorry for replying late.)</p>
My dad uses the bow drill
Trim them nails cheif
I had a friend who said he didn't join the Boy Scouts because he said he could make a fire from scratch without matches or a lighter. We made a bet. he lost. I'm glad he didn't look at this.
It's a good thing he didn't test his theory when he was lost in the wilderness.
Good point. I've wanted to learn this skill for a long time, always thinking to myself &quot;The day you need it, it will be too late&quot;. Guess I better get started on this! TY
Just wanted to say congratulations on being a finalists in the Great Outdoors Contest! This was a fantastic instructable! Good luck!
Thanks, I wasn't really expecting to get this far. Keeping my fingers crossed.
You're welcome!
Looks like you put a lot of time and dedication into making a successful fire. Concise instructable that got my vote. Good job!
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I was always put off this method of firelighting because unless you can go into your native woods and find the gear for doing it, it's not a survival skill worth learning until you can. Two years ago I got taken out in ancient woodland, found the materials and they trained me all in about 3-4 hours. Very good experience even if I was rubbish for the first 10 attempts (in the pouring rain). <br> <br>One of my favourite bearing blocks is two limpet shells inside each other - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limpet - the heat just doesn't seem to seep through and it's nicely smoothed and not worn easily. <br> <br>There's evidence to suggest that bearing blocks of good quality hardwood (and rubbish wood too) were inlayed with limpet shells. <br> <br>One step you didn't mention was the lubrication in the bearing block - I like to use natural wax, but have used waxy leaves such as holly or anything else green that comes to hand. <br> <br>I'm not too sure about the spindle points. The top spindle point is spot on, but the one that comes in contact with the base board, I've always been taught to keep it only mildly curved because you want to maximise the friction at this point. The sharper it is, the more of your baseboard you're going to consume to get the heat. <br> <br>Some of the best guys can light a fire in only a few strokes! I'm in awe of how good you can get at this.
The bearing block is very important, and in my area I've heard that elk kneecaps work incredibly. <br> <br>I did mention lubrication in step 6. You can use animal or plant oil, soap, or you can use the grease on either side of your nose and in your hair. <br> <br>I agree, the bottom point of my spindle was a bit sharp in the beginning, but I do that because it helps if the depression is small, otherwise it slips out. It usually gets rounded by the first drill. If not, you may be using the wrong wood. <br> <br>Like you said, it's not the most practical way of starting a fire, but it is good to know. It is incredible watching a pro do it.
what a long spindle. is there a reason to have the spindle a certain length, or ist just personal preference? i tried this early summer, and for me it was holding the bow level that was the most difficult. the bowstring kept creeping up the spindle, causing it to fly of all the time.
Yeah, like tim_n said, it doesn't matter too much. I like longer ones because it takes longer for them to burn down, and they do burn down. Also, if the bowstring is creeping up the spindle, try to point the tip of the bow down. Keep your bowing arm straight.
Spindle length doesn't matter too much. The longer spindle means you've got further for the bow string to wander. When you're not very experienced this does help, but similarly if it's too long it can be more difficult to manage (as you mentioned) <br> <br>I use a variety of different spindles at different lengths. <br> <br>I've seen someone do this with a very tiny set - the spindle only being an inch or so long. I've seen giant sets used by two people to move the bow and one to bear down on the block.
Good instructible, but I have to ask, are you seriously starting a fire barefoot? It doesn't have to be shoes, but some protection, even if it's just a towel, is better than none.
Easier barefoot to grip it. Also, you're not going to have something that suddenly bursts into flames, you get a tiny ember. <br> <br>I'd be more worried about him slipping off the baseboard and slicing his foot with the paracord/bow. <br> <br>I tend to use walking boots for the same sort of reason. Walking boots have good grip and offer a bit more protection.
Haven't tried it myself, but I'd imagine, as long as your foot stayed a few inches away from the friction (heat), you'd be fine. (And barefoot your foot's less likely to slip or move.) <br> <br>The only problem might be splinters, so if you don't have callouses on the ball of your foot [I go barefoot every chance I get and would probably be fine], get a smooth board, rub that bit smooth on something rough, or put a bit of cloth under the ball of your foot. <br> <br>It's not as if you're going to get any kind of flame coming out of there (although it would make it much easier if it would! :)
I'm impressed. Lots of detail though and perhaps a video would move the learning process along faster. Thanks and you have my vote; that's really back to basics and explains why the &quot;fire keeper&quot; was valuable in building our cultures.
Nice survival instructable. Maybe some shoes next time though? :) cheers <br>
Thanks. The reason I prefer not to wear shoes is that it helps me get a grip on the fireboard. If I wear shoes, it tends to slip around. But, to each his own. If you prefer to wear shoes, then go ahead. Cheers!
I have been starting fires with bow and drill for over 20 years, and still much prefer a bare foot on the fire board. As the OP points out, it makes a big difference in your &quot;grip&quot; on the fire board. A good grip on the fire board will give you more confidence in increasing pressure and using the full stroke of your bow which will increase your odds of success. <br> <br>I learned this skill from Larry Dean Olsen's book, Outdoor Survival Skills. My copy is at least 25 years old. I believe it is still in print. Great book! <br> <br>Great instructable!
Great instructable! I've understood the theory of doing this for a long time, but with the details here (specs on the bow setup, cutting the notch under the coal, proper positioning and bracing) this is the first time I feel like I could just go out and do it and expect some form of success. Thanks! :)
Sweet, glad I could help.
Nice, logical, well-doc'd 'structable ! thanks.. <br>BTW, the time to look for the dry wood is while you're hiking .. not after you've settled-down in camp .. and once you've found the necessary items, keep them in your ruck-eeee !! <br> <br>While at it, why not take a few wads of weightless Clothes-Drier lint !! <br>Makes great kindling with zero burden .. <br>
Awesome, thanks for the suggestions. I'll definitely keep that in mind next time I'm in the backwoods.
Great Instructable. Really nice explanations.
Good job!!! Always wanted to try that :)

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