Introduction: Fire From a Primitive Bow Drill

Everyone now a days is so accustomed to having fire at their fingertips. You can simply flick a lighter, strike a match , or push a button and you have a fire source. It hasn't always been this way and you won't necessarily always have that luxury. Building a fire from friction is a long lost art that was an every day occurrence for thousands of years. And not only will this skill bring you back to your ancient heritage of survival, it could also save your life.

Step 1: Materials Needed


Haha ok so I used some tools and materials to make this bow drill. But honestly you can make this fire drill from rope you braid yourself out of nettle or cedar , use a knife that you flint nap to carve your parts from obsidian or flint , and you can gather all your wood materials and tinder from the forest. Which I have done and it gives you a great feeling of accomplishment
But in this demo and most of the time to make it easier on yourself.
You need
A knife
And a shoelace or length of paracord
Everything else you just gather from nature
I'm from b.c Canada so the best wood for this is red cedar. Any other dry softwood can work as well. The key component is that it is bone dry.
I also used jute twine for tinder because it is readily available and dirt cheap but you can easily make your birds nest out of anything dry in the forest ... Including a birds nest lol.
Birch bark ... Cedar bark shavings ... Dry grass ... Seed pods ... The list goes on and on

Step 2: Components

These are the components of the bow drill. I will list them one at a time and give you some pointers on each.

Step 3: The Platform

This will be made out of a dry piece of wood roughly about 3/4" thick up to one inch. Technically it only needs to be long enough to fit under your foot and have enough sticking out the other side to make a drill hole but I like to use one plank for multiple holes because eventually you will drill through the plank.

Step 4: The Spindle

The spindle only needs to be about 6-8 inches long and rounded off on each end . Try to make it as round as possible but perfection isn't overly Important , in my opinion if it has some flat cut marks running down the length of it, it creates a better grip for the string and it slides less.

Step 5: Palm Block

This is the block that you are going to use to bear down on the spindle , the deeper you drill this hole , the less likely it is that your spindle will slip out. Also make sure it is a comfortable fit in your hand

Step 6: The Gross Part

This part is gross but crucial to have a fully functioning drill. You need to oil the socket In your palm block , and one side of your spindle , you want the two to spin freely with as little friction as possible, otherwise you will have smoke billowing from your palm as well as your base , and you will be wasting energy on un needed friction , and ruining your palm block. It's actually not a bad thing to do originally to create a nice socket fit but once it's deep enough, oil it. The easiest place to get oil from is the side of your nose and your scalp. Just refer to my sexy ass demo pics haha.

Step 7: The Bow

Everyone seems to think that the bow needs to be a flexable sapling that you bend and then tie up. That actually makes it difficult to get the proper tension. Just get a bent sapling that is a little on the thick side so it doesn't Bend much.

Notch out each side and tie your string tight enough that you can snap your spindle into place and it is tight on it .

Step 8: Tinder

As I said earlier you can make your tinder bundle out of a lot of natural materials but I highly recommend having some jute twine with you. It's like 2 dollars at your local hardware store for tons of it and when you pull it apart it is so combustible. Great to have on those rainy days when dry material is scarce.

Step 9: Prep Your Drill Socket

First you are going to carve out a small hole , just big enough for your drill tip to sit in , and not fall out . Then start to drill so that you drill your way down into it , and your spindle will sit better and be less likely to fall out. It will smoke during this step but don't worry nothing bad will happen. And you'll feel badass for making your first friction smoke.( don't worry , I'll go over form of drilling ) , then you are going to cut out your notch with a saw. You are going to cut in to the edge of the circle or a little bit into it. Just don't cut past half way through. Then cut a slice of wood off your platform and place it under your groove , this is going to be your ember catcher , so you can transport it to your tinder bundle. Some people use a leaf but in my opinion there is way to much of a moisture content in a leaf and you are risking extinguishing your ember.

Step 10: Form

This is very important. It will be the difference between you making a fire and you swearing at your spindle flying out of your string , sweat dripping off your nose and throwing all your materials as far as you can. ( all has happened to me ) haha

So if you are right handed , your left foot is going to stand on you're board , your board is going to stick out at a 90 degree angle from the side of your foot. The drill hole is going to be about an inch away from the side of your foot. Your right knee is going to be on the ground , and your leg is going to be at a 90 degree angle from you're heel. The reason you do this is to create a straight line you can move your bow back and forth and your leg won't be in the way. You are going to snap your spindle into your bow and place the non oiled side down into your spindle . You are going to grab the bow with your right hand , and grab the palm block with your left hand , place the socket into the top of the spindle and LOCK YOUR WRIST INTO YOUR SHIN!! Very important , otherwise when you are trying to drill your spindle will be flopping around and popping out all the time. Ok you are now in the proper position to drill.

Step 11: Making Fire

Now that you are in the proper position to drill , you are going to start moving your bow back and forth , but you are going to only put enough pressure on the top of the spindle to keep it in the socket. You are going to move your hand back and forth pretty fast but you should just be relaxing, what you are doing Is slowly building up sawdust in the Chanel and slowly heating up the socket. Pretty soon it will start to smoke. Don't stop drilling , just stay calm and use fast bow strokes , using as much of the bow String as you can. The smoke will start to get very thick. At this point you want to bear down on the block in your hand hard and keep drilling quickly . What that does is flake off little bits of super heated wood into your sawdust and it will start to smoulder , when you have bore down hard for about 15 seconds you see going to stop and slowly and carefully lift your spindle out of the socket. If the sawdust is smoking on it's own , after about 10 seconds , you have an ember.
Now you are going to slowly remove you're ember from the socket by slowly pulling the ember catcher away and lightly tap the ember off into your tinder bundle shaped like a birds nest with a cup in the middle . The truck with blowing on the tinder bundle is the more smoke , the harder you blow , start out blowing slowly and gradually blow harder and harder until it bursts into flames!!!
I'm sorry my pics werent better of the actual bow drilling but it is very hard to photograph yourself with a photo delay but I did my best.

If you have any questions at all please ask me and I will get back to you ASAP with some answers.
Feel free to comment as well :)