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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I decided to work on friction fire this year and figured the bowdrill would be a good place to start. While hiking the other day I found a downed aspen and cut a section out of it. From that piece I cut my board, spindle and socket. I also found a good curved branch for the bow. I cheated a little by using 550 paracord instead of making my own cordage. It took several attempts but after about an hour and having to start a second spindle hole I had an ember. I took my time, fanning it and breathing life into it, then transferred it into my tinder nest. I blew on the ember a little longer and in a few seconds...FIRE!!! I was very happy!

I have not used matches or a lighter to start a fire in years. Most of the time I use a flint and steel with char cloth. I have also used a fire piston, magnifying glass, an aluminum can and fero rods. It feels good to have another method available. I want to try a hand drill next.
 

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El Kabong
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We were tought in jungle school to use a boot lace, we carry two of them all the time
 
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In your area, try a piece of sage for the board and spindle. Sage is twisted and gnarly but after trimming the outside chafe off, it shapes right up. Sage is the best wood I've found for a bow drill. Don't worry if the spindle isn't perfectly round. My spindles are usually end up sorta fat and about 10" in length. For a socket, I try to find a fairly flat rock that fits my hand and then try to make a divot with another pointy rock. A rock socket gives less friction which allows you to really bear down on the spindle and pick up more speed and friction where your building the ember. The rock socket I keep as a piece of kit, as good ones are hard to find and make. I also roll the point of the spindle that goes into the socket, on the crease of my nose to pick up some sweat to lubricate it to reduce friction but I never lube the point that makes the ember. I've successfully used aspen but sage will give you an ember "fast" and grows as high as 7000 ft and you can use both standing or dead wood equally well.

Making your own fire from what's laying around is a handy and fun skill. Way cool!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
In your area, try a piece of sage for the board and spindle. Sage is twisted and gnarly but after trimming the outside chafe off, it shapes right up. Sage is the best wood I've found for a bow drill. Don't worry if the spindle isn't perfectly round. My spindles are usually end up sorta fat and about 10" in length.
Thanks for the info, I'll have to try some sage. The biggest problem I found with the aspen (at least the pieces I used) is how soft it is. The first spindle hole was blown out after my first few attempts. The spindle also lost length quickly. What did surprise me was on the attempt when I finally got an ember, I drilled for less than a minute. I've been wanting to do this for a while. I found a copy of Thomas Elpel's book Participating In Nature the other day and that finally got me motivated. Its a great book packed with info on primitive living skills.
 

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Thanks for the info, I'll have to try some sage. The biggest problem I found with the aspen (at least the pieces I used) is how soft it is. The first spindle hole was blown out after my first few attempts. The spindle also lost length quickly. What did surprise me was on the attempt when I finally got an ember, I drilled for less than a minute. I've been wanting to do this for a while. I found a copy of Thomas Elpel's book Participating In Nature the other day and that finally got me motivated. Its a great book packed with info on primitive living skills.
I've noticed aspen can be pithy and hold moisture easily but you gotta use what's around. It helps to take wood well up the hill, away from a creek or stream. The closer you get to water, the more humidity/dew absorbs into the wood. I try to take it from a downed tree with it's branches up in the air and off the ground way up on a sunny hillside. With sage, I just hack the closest piece I find. The stringy bark from a juniper is very abundant and peels off easily and is the best "nest" for laying the ember into if you ruff up the fibers. You get about 5 or 6 fires from a sage board but the stuff is everywhere. Some guys are good at carrying an ember around with them in their pack which makes life a lot easier. I never tried it.

I used to do a bit of primitive skills stuff. Living off the land. More like starving off the land but it was fun. Spent lots of hungry and shivering days/nights in the bush.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 · (Edited)
I tried sage and got an ember fast on the first attempt. The ember seems to burn out fast though. Since its a harder wood it doesn't produce as much wood punk before the ember is lit. After a couple more failures to light my tinder nest using the ember only, I used some cattail fluff for a coal extender which gave me a very good ember.
 
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