Stone Age Hand Drill Friction Fire With Stuff Gathered on the Spot!

About: I have spent most of my life accumulating skills to be a more self reliant person. I like making stuff and doing multidisciplinary projects using available resources. I view the world as a resourcescape of...

What if you had to make a fire and had no tools or materials? This video instructable is on how a person could make fire by the simple hand drill method with tools and materials made and gathered on the fly.

This is my first instructable. I tried to deliver a lot of information within the context I set. However, there is a lot more to these methods than may be apparent and I could only go into so much detail. This video is as much about the context I’ve set as it is about the technology.

I will be publishing more material on the hand drill method and basic stone tools in the future on my website, on my youtube channel and maybe here on instructables. Also, one of the barriers to learning hand drill fire is not having a kit that you know works so that you know it's you that needs work and not the kit. I gathered a bunch of drills in the creek on the same day I shot this, and as soon as I gather some hearth material, I'll have tested kits for sale on my website.

In the meantime, go for it! See below for a few extra notes on materials from the draft of my upcoming book on this subject.


Drills from weed stalks and yuccas are often harvested dead (though not always). Drills from woody plants (trees and shrubs) are usually harvested "green" if there is time to plan ahead and dry them. Dead drills may be usable right away; if good straight ones are found and weather conditions are favorable, a fire can often be made on the spot.

The best hand drills from trees and shrubs often seem to be what is called nascent growth. Nascent growth is quick growth— straight, tall, and slender shoots with few side branches. A common example of nascent growth is the "suckers" which form on fruit trees most abundantly after heavy pruning.

FOR DRILLS TRY: elderberry (Sambucus sp.), willow (Salix sp.), mock orange (Philadelphus sp.), mullein stalks (Verbascum sp.), buckeye (Aesculus sp.), mares tail (Erigeron canadensis), box elder (Acer Negundo), seep willow and mule fat (water loving Baccharis sp.), common cattail (Typha latifolia- dead leaf stalks inside old leaf clumps), maple (Acer species.), currant (Ribes sp.), sotol (Daslyrion sp.), bear grass (Nolina sp.), yucca (Yucca sp.), and anything else that looks and feels like it might work.

HEARTHS: Hearths are usually about 3/8 to 3/4 inch thick. There are few reliable rules, but some useful guidelines might be that super hard woods usually won't work very well, and that it is usually better to be drilling into the edge of the growth rings rather than the faces of the growth rings.

FOR HEARTHS TRY: box elder (Acer Negundo), coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), incense cedar (Libocedrus decurrens), clematis (Clematis sp.), yucca stalks (some Yucca sp.), buckeye (Aesculus sp.), elderberry (Sambucus sp.), cottonwood (several species of Populus), saguaro (Cereus giganteus), seep willow/mule fat (Baccharis sp.), red cedar (Thuja plicata), and the roots of cottonwoods, firs, pines, maples, mesquite and many others. Weathered dead roots such as those sticking out of creek banks, often seem to work very well.

Try using those species which function well as a drill as a hearth also, and vice versa. This strategy often works, but not always. Also, keep in mind the differences between heartwood and sapwood, slow growing vs. fast growing (noted by density of growth rings), and sound wood vs. partially decayed wood. There is no reliable rule on how hard woods should be, or how hard the drill and hearth should be relative to each other.



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    6 Discussions


    Reply 3 years ago

    You're welcome, thanks for thanking me! :D


    3 years ago

    You have an awesome fire drill vid, link that here man!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    It was right there. I guess I'm food when it's the apocalypse!


    3 years ago

    Thanks for sharing.

    Even if you dont win this contest you could be saving one of our lives in the future!!! :D

    You have my vote


    3 years ago

    Skills like this are so important to have! Thanks for sharing and welcome to the community!