Complete Bow Drill for Beginners
For the bow drill this. Is my primary primitive. Backup to, all of my modern ignition, sources the reason being is because with the bow it gives you a mechanical, advantage if, you have moisture if, you have dampness if you have humidity you can overcome that because, physically, you, have an advantage mechanically. You have an advantage by using the pool of thumb is is that if you can take your thumb nail and, press. It into the wood and it leaves an indentation. Then. You. Know that wood said to be good, to try doesn't. Mean it's good to go there's a lot of woods that won't work well. Especially not for a beginner. That. You can actually dent with your thumbnail so. Anyway. Here we've got willow. We've got. Tulip. Poplar we've got cedar, and that's, really the the kind, of the the beginner, bow-drill. Woods that we have around here in the southeast. We. Some, places have cottonwood someplace in that basswood you get up into the Smoky Mountains and you start getting some more choices. But. You know out west you've got your cottonwoods, up in the Midwest you've got tulip poplars extremely, popular up there pop, poplars. Poplar, up there and. Up. Into North East we have Aspen, which, is a fantastic wood, if, I had to choose I would choose willow first as. Far as beginners you know because they're just an easier set to use I would choose Willow then follow, that with Aspen, if I can't get that then I would probably get a hold of. I'd. Go with bass, wood or, sorry, Cottonwood, Bass would then, probably tulip, poplar then cedar, cedar. Is not my favorite choice but that's what I have here available. And it's not good, specimen I actually harvested, this, chunk of cedar and you can see the Cedars got a lot of heartwood, the. Heartwood is the dark purple stuff and generally speaking that heartwood, is, is. A lot more dense than. The. SAP wood which is the lighter colored wood, on. The, outside a lot of SAP wood is what you want for, your bow drill kit however, heartwood. SAP. Wood I want more SAP wood but I don't have it we'll. Still be able to make it work look, at the components, of the bow drill so you've. Got a bow you don't really I'll go, you know armpit, to fingertip, armpit, the wrist that's about the size other, bow that I'm looking to get doesn't matter if it's straight doesn't, matter if it's bent I like a stick that is as, green, I mean and it's not dead so that it won't snap doesn't, have a lot of flex to it let's. Talk about how we build this this, bow real quick so what I like to do is, spend. A little time just like I do my tender bundles I like to spend a little extra time on my bow, I want this thing to work I don't want to be messing with this when I'm trying to focus on getting an ember you have to stop tighten your string up all the time and it's it's really good kind of an awkward.
Not, You. Know it's a tie on here if you don't make any notches, so what we're gonna do is is. We're going to carve some notches in here. To. Make it easier, so. That when we get going on this it actually stays put as. Best we can, so doesn't have to be perfect, but, what I've created is. Basically. A pot hanger notch that allows the string to rest in there and, not. Come undone on the other side what. I want to do is carve an. Elongated. Saddle, notch on, the. Top and. On. The bottom because. What I'm trying to do is reduce the amount of material that I have to bore through here in a second got an elongated. Saddle. Notch on this side. Then. What I'm going to do is flip it over to the other side and we're gonna match that I've significantly. Reduced. The. Thickness of that and, how far I've got to bore through. To. Make my home okay. So, I can, use this knife. Find. The center. And, I can start boring a whole. One. Side. In. The other. If. You have a Swiss Army knife, with. An awl on it or a multi-tool, it. Comes in really handy now quick that was now, I've got a hole through. My. Elongated, saddle notch this is a bowline. On this end that. Just. Barely slips, over top of that and it sits right in that pot hanger notch, just. Like that, come. Back to the other side once it's on there just, stretch it out to the other side I'm. Gonna go through my hole and. My. Elongated, saddle notch. Then. I'm gonna come around and I'm gonna come towards the inside, first. To. Trap that up, in. The. Saddle notch then. When I start making my wraps I try to keep my wraps in the saddle notch so that they don't slip. Off the end you know they're kind of held in place I'm. Just going to throw a couple of half hitches in here. One-and-two. All. Right doesn't. Have to be super tight the. Next two parts that I'm going to talk to you about are the hardest to reproduce, in the wild so a lot of times I'll carry things that, allow for. Me to not have to do this when I'm out in the wild so it's it's kind of a semi primitive, skill at that at that point you know it's easy for me to find a bow it's even easy for me to find a set sometimes, it's harder to find a, bearing. Block and harder to find the cordage or, the material to make cordage however, it's, all doable you can make everything from the landscape, the second part is is cordage, and, I've just got about a I don't know about a three-foot section maybe a four foot section of paracord. Here and. This. Particular piece I carry in my pocket doesn't. Take up much space and, then, I'm always prepared for something like this I can use it for other things as well but because.
It's Always in my pocket I've actually, soaked this one in beeswax it gives it a little more grip a bearing. Block is nothing, more than than another piece of wood that, you're using to, set inside your palm but. You drill a dividend that sits on top of the spindle and that's what you bear down with downward pressure my. Bearing block means, to be harder, than these two. Because. You're, at least harder than this because. When this sits up in here as I'm. Producing, friction, it's wearing away dust from. Both, the end of my spindle and, from. The hearth board I don't, want that friction up here I want this to be as friction, free as possible and if this is a softer, wood just like this is then, this will wear evenly. With this and I'll, get friction up here that. I don't want early. All right so what, I like to do and yes you can do that I could use the same piece I could use a cedar bearing block I just have to do a little more maintenance as I'm, producing, the Ember down, here in the south we have fat wood which. Has resin. It's a resin resin. Infused pine basically, but what that does is it actually as it heats up that, resin, turns. Back to a kind of a liquid state and that actually lubricates this. Really well so that fat would you. Know tends to tends, to have less friction when you're using it as a bearing. Block so anytime I can I'm going to use that one. Thing I have in my fire kid here where, I was talking about. You. Know the bearing block and the cordage being the hardest things to find so I carry little little, things that. I. Think are useful so, this particular steel, striker was made for me and. It actually has a small, bow drill divot in it. That. Was made for me by a guy named Patrick Farnham in a Valley Forge, anyway. It's also my my, flint striker. But. To. Make it more useful for me you know he added a bow drill divot so I used that quite a bit you. Don't have to have something like that it's just a nice to have but today we're going to be using some natural stuff stuff, and then you've got the fourth, component which.
Is The spindle one. Thing that you'll read in the manuals also that's that's incorrect, and as a myth is it, says that you know you have to have a hard wood spindle, with a soft wood board and you read another manual, and you have to have a hard wood board. And a soft wood spindle, when you actually do this you'll find out that it can, be. Mixed. And matched or it can be from the same piece, 99%. Of the bow drill kits that I make are from the same piece of wood I myself once. I find a piece of wood that's good for either it's, good for both I'm not gonna spend the time going out and finding a different, species I like. To have mine be. About you, know thumb to. Pinky so probably, eight inches maybe 10 inches or so as. Far as the shape goes if you. Look at it as it is now think. Back to when you were in kindergarten, and, you had those big fat pencils, that's. Kind of what you're going for you know kind of the rule, of thumb like, a literal, rule of thumb that you'll see on the, bow drill is a, good place to start is some, thickness you, know some thickness for that. Thumb. Thickness for, your hearth board then. My hearth board is just, a rectangular. Board, I try. To go about four fingers wide so. That I can use both sides and. I. Try to go about thumb thick. All. The way around right, and, when. I'm shaping these you know I'm going to hammer this out of a full block, and. Then, I'm going to use a kind. Of an improvised plane I'm gonna use my knife and kind of shape it doesn't, have to be perfect but it does have to sit flat I don't want it to rock so. That's the shape that I'm going for that rectangular, shape rule. Of thumb about. The same, length. As your. Spindle because it came from the same piece of wood the. One last thing that I want to tell you about that you'll need is. A. Catch. Pan an ember catch so I've got myself a little catch pan first off you've, got to do a burn in and, to, do the burn in. What. You want to do is find, out take a look at your board and find out where you want to actually start where, do I locate this I don't want to be. Closer. Than a thumb. To. The end because. It may split out on me so at. Least that far in is. Where. I want to begin and the same thing for this edge I don't. Want to be right. On the edge, whenever. I'm starting to actually seat. My set and get it seated I want to go about at. Least half the distance of that spindle, in. And. At. Least the thumb away from here now I need, to make a divot so, what. You can do is I. Want. My the center. To. Be right there the center of my spindle so, what I'm going to do is choke up on the knife and when I mean choke up on the knife the edge is still away, from my fingers. And. I'm not using any part of my body as a backstop I poke the knife in there, and. I just kind of score around lightly. In. A circle and. Choking. Up on the knife allows me to have better control doesn't, have to be all that deep I've got this hearth board pretty thick you, know to give me some time to. Show you how to pick up on a Miss timber that happens. So. I don't have to worry. Too much. About, going too deep if you've got a thin board you'll. Burn through it pretty quickly. Especially. If you make this initial divot a, little. Too aggressive, you know you're cutting away, material. That, you don't have to reduce friction later. But. This one's plenty thick enough and all I'm doing is giving this. Drill. A place, to start so loading. The boat, obviously. Keeping in mind which end is forward, to, load the bow what. I like to do is you, want the boat to end up with obviously the eraser, side down. And. It has to be you know the line has to be wrapped around it, you. Also want to make sure that. The spindle is on the outside, of the string what. That does for you is allow you to use the full length of the bow if it's on the inside of the string when you end up being. Finished then, you're actually going to lose a, good three to four inches of your bow on both, sides and you're not going to be as efficient. As you would if, this is on the outside where you can use the, entire length of the bow.
So. To load it all. You have to do is. With. This, facing. Right. Just, facing up. Come. Towards the inside, because once I flip this I want it to end up on the outside then. You just wrap. This. Around. Until. You hear it snap then. What I like to do is pin it to the side of the bow with. My. Thumb just like that. Now. Body position, I try. To keep my board and, a. 90 at basically parallel keep my shoulders parallel to, my hearth board and my. Foot at a 90 degree perpendicular I, get, this in a spot where it sits nice and flat which I don't really have going on right here but I think we'll be okay I. Want. To set my foot as close. As I can to, that. Hole what. That allows me to do is when I lock my wrist on my. Shin bone I'm directly. Up and down with the spindle if I'm out too far I. Have. To reach over to. Have my spindle up and down and this is less stable I want to be able to lock my wrist in and have, that go straight up and down so, what I'm going to do is get, my foot as close as possible I'm going to turn a little bit. So, that you can see everything, we. Get my foot as close as, possible to, that edge. So. That when I lock my wrist in place. The. Spindle is straight up and down now it's very important on this bearing block that I also keep this bearing block parallel. Not, so much this way but parallel, as far as this face with this face to, the ground because if I turn any way shape. Or form it's, going to create shoulder, friction up here I want. All the friction down here I don't want the friction up here so, the first step that I'm going to do is I'm. Going to burn in it's called burning in basically I'm marrying, this bottom edge to, the, actual surface of the hearth board that divot I made as well as up, here, in my, bearing block, and. When. I'm doing this when I'm bowing I got. To start getting this thing to start marrying, up so I'm going to take little short strokes. Just. To get things going and. One. Of the keys that I want to talk to you about is. The. Mechanical, advantage of the bow drill depends. On you actually using the bow in the most efficient, manner, so. If. I'm short stroke in this, I'm. Less efficient. If. I'm using the full length of the bow I'm just maximizing. The efficiency of this type of a system. The. Other key thing is I want to keep the. Bow, parallel. With the ground, because. If I let, this bow. Tip go up you, can watch the string. Start. To climb up on. The actual spindle, and it will fly out if I let the bow tip down it'll, start climbing down and eventually it'll, go out all the way down to the bottom and lock out so I need to make. Sure. Move. It up to the center again. And. To make sure that I keep that parallel, now. What I'm going to do is I'm going to do about you know 10 to 15 strokes. To. Get that set warmed up. Notice. How my. Armpit, is locked, onto my knee, my. Bicep, is touching my knee I've, got my forearm, touching, my shin and I've got my wrists locked. Into my shin as well. All. Of those points of contact, make this much more stable this. Leg is out, of the way what. I need to be able to do is put downward pressure on this as I'm. Increasing. In speed here, as I'm actually bowing it's. A combination and a balance between. The. Actual speed of the bow and. Downward. Pressure one. Has to kind of play off of the other and we'll talk about that a little bit if you know for, some reason you're not strong enough to put enough downward pressure what. You can do is take this leg and. Drive. It back in the lunge. And. What that does is it brings my chest down and in. Turn drives, that force to give me more downward pressure first ten or fifteen strokes or so do nothing but warm up the set. And. You'll feel it start to change. And, you'll start to get little wisps of smoke and then you can just. Gradually. Increase your speed and downward pressure and. What. I'm watching for down here is I'm watching from a dust to start spinning and everything, to marry up nicely and start running smooth and you'll actually be able to hear it. So. Right now I'm not putting a lot of effort in it you should still be able to have a conversation, while you're doing this. Because. I'm not going for fire yet I'm just going for a burn in but, this also tells me whether or not this set is going to be good. I'm. Starting to change now. When. You hear squeaks like that it means you don't have enough downward pressure or you're starting to shoulder out in your. Bearing block up top here so. The. Key to that is increase. The downward pressure until you get that squeak out. If. It's because you're bearing block we'll fix that in a second. Now. I've effectively, burned, in and I've also if you noticed the top of this is smoking.
And. I've. Also really. Worked out that divot up there. So. - squeaking that you're hearing. Is. Likely. Up top here where I have shoulder friction and I don't want that but. What. I'm trying to accomplish is a burn in right, now, so. That. Part is done and I, can fix this before I go back to starting my divot is now burnt in, and. I'm going to use that as a gauge, to. Carve my actual notch so the first thing I've got to do is, actually. Take a little bit of time and score that notch and that not. Like. I said is going to go about. You. Know maybe 20%. Maybe. 30%. Into. Scored. Those lines. And. What I'm going to do is take those lines because I've got a triangle this way I also want a triangle, this way because. That allows maximum. Air flow and, that, pyramid type structure, will. Help my dust stay together in. A nice pile, so. I'm going to take those, I've. Got those lines there. I'm. Going to transfer, those down to. This other edge we've got. Now. I'm just going to carve those out. Using. My knife. Burned, in got, my notch carved out. Now. As I'm carving my notch I've lost all, the heat that I've generated before. So, essentially I'm starting over but now I have a notch that I'm gonna fill with, fuel. Because. I'm going to go from, this, step to. Actually, filling the notch with. Fuel and then, actually lighting the notch after. That without stopping, I need to make sure that my set is in, complete working, order as if I'm starting from scratch so. That I don't have to stop, Midway because, you. Know my, bearing. Block or whatever I've got too much shoulder friction or my string gets loose or, something that effect so I'm gonna set myself up for success, by. Taking care of that stuff again before. I get back into this a couple. Things that I'm going to do to dress this up, to. Kind of touch this up before I get going again is I. Don't want this so deep because, that allows the shoulder to touch what. I can do is. Take. Just kind of like a small. Sliver of that and. I, can cut that off. Now. What I've done is reduced, it back down to that small little hole and I've actually got some some, fire hardening, going on there and. Then you know that takes care of all of that on the end this is no longer a point this is kind of blended off so I'm going to take the time before I get going to tell how somebody I'm it's hot out here and. I'm, going to take the time to. Resharpen. This, so, that when I get going again I have. The maximum amount of time. Before. It starts shouldering out again and producing. Friction up top where I don't want it keep. It in mind that the very tip of this has, also been blackened. From, the heat which. Makes it stronger so I'm trying to preserve that. Blackened, tip. And. The mess I can now what it's it's in there you know I've got the maximum, amount of time before these shoulders, get, up into the bearing block and, start causing me problems looking, at the bottom the, bottom of it's also hardened, I want, that to. Not be hardened when, I start back up because, I'm trying to produce dust. From that bottom and if it's hardened and glossed. Over it'll, slide rather. Than produce friction and actually grind, the. Material, off the dust that I want I'll go ahead and tighten that, before. I get started again just because it's a good habit to get into I. Want. Everything to be right before I go again because I'm going to go from filling this notch to lighting it and. I, don't want to stop because every time I stop it. Reduces, the. Heat that I've already generated, you know take me more effort. To. Get that heat generated, again. My. String. Is. Tightened. Up my, spindle is dressed up my, bearing block is touched up I've, got my notch carved, in I'm burned in now, I'm gonna place my catch pan, underneath. The notch so, there's a dust that's collected will. Build up on there and, get myself set back up in my position. Locking. Everything in. And. I get everything running smoothly again. Use. The full length of your bow keep. The bow parallel, to the ground and I'm, watching for dust to, start spilling, into, that notch. Which. It's doing now and right. Now you. Know I'm not going crazy I've, got a little bit there. We go you. Get a little more downward pressure on that, to. Get that squeak out once I start generating dust I'm just going to keep that pace, nice. And slow until, that, notch gets reasonably, full.
I'm. Gonna get some smoke but I'm not worried about that because I'm not ready to, light that yet. Looking. At the color of my dust. Good. Dark chocolate, color. At. This point I've got quite a bit of smoke but I don't have a full not yet. But. It is nice and clumpy, and nice and dark. So. I'm just gonna build up some of that. Now. Looking at this I. Can. Tell with, this dust building, up around the outside rather. Than in the knotch that that tells me that my notch is a little bit too shallow so. What I want to do is move, that good, dust you can tell how clumpy that is. Down. Onto my catch pan. Because. Essentially, that's that's fuel, that's firewood you know if you think of it that way but. I want to make this notch a little bit deeper. Before. I really get too far into this. And. These are some of the things that you gain more experience that, you'll start to notice and not, waste a lot of effort, when. You can make a little adjustment, and it'll make all the difference so it's. Just a little, too. Shallow, so I need that'd be a little deeper without, making it wider I just need to go a little deeper so that that dust falls more freely. Into. The knotch all right took, that a little bit deeper. I'm. Gonna set that right back down where it was because that dust that I've already created is good, dust and all. I'm doing right now is generating, dust to, fill that notch so I'm going to use that to my advantage, since. I stopped I'm going to take advantage of the, opportunity, to reduce, that friction up top again. Before. I get going. So. The key takeaway from this is every time you stop you're losing heat. But. I'm doing this in stages and. Right. Now I. Want. To reduce. Take. This opportunity, to reduce this friction up top so. That I don't have to do it when, it actually matters what. I'm actually trying to go forward here and the. Cues that I'm looking for when I get going again is wine. I've got to build up the heat once. Again. To. Is, everything. Has, to start running smoothly that's, kind of my second cues when it kind of the sound changes and I can feel it go from kind of choppy till running really smooth that's my second cue my, third cue will. Be that I start to get a little bit of smoke that cues me in that I can increase the speed and possibly. Increase the pressure each one of these cues is going to let me know that I can do that so once. I get everything kind of running, smoothly again and the, sound changes, then, I can oh I can increase the speed a little bit in the downward pressure gradually. I'll. Get a little bit of smoke that tells me it's ready for the next step which means I can give it a little more speed, and a little more downward pressure then. I'll start getting a lot of smoke. Before. I get to that I'm gonna be watching the front side of my notch here and make sure that it's full it doesn't do me any good to go all out and try to light this if I don't have any fuel in here, it's essentially, like you're trying to establish. A small little fire lay right. Down here in the in the in the notch. So. Probably. Once I get up to that step to where I'm getting a little bit of smoke and it's running smoothly, I'm going to continue to bow, until, that notch is full, once, that notch is full then. I can start looking for the next cue and I can give it a little more speed and downward pressure I'm going to get a lot of smoke at that point and from, that point on I'm going to gradually inky increase, the speed and pressure until.
I See the, smoke pouring out of the front side of the dust that's coming out of the notch and then I'm going to stop, nice, and slow take my time ease my foot off no I'm telling you that now because, once I get going on this you, know it might not be as evident. Carefully. Lift your foot off I can. See the smokes rolling out the front I want. To get that off there so I can get some air to it. Then. What you can do because there's so much heat built up in here. And. I'm constantly losing heat I, can. Lift that up and set that right up on top of there. Now. It's the time to catch your breath. There. You can see. I've. Got a pile there that'll last 10 to 12 minutes of smouldering, at this rate. And. What I'm trying to do is let that fuse. Into. A coal and I want that coal to be roughly, the size of my, my. Pinky nail, maybe. Even my thumbnail before I transfer, that over, so. You got time to catch your breath now get everything prepped. Let. Me get this out of the way. Now, the, wind is blowing this way and. I want to use that to my advantage, I'm. Going to bring my tinder bundle. To. Here. Get. All this out of the way. Now. Just. So you can see. How. Much time I've got. It's. About the size it needs to be to transfer it over and. This is one of the reasons because that fine dust is what this is actually. Using as fuel right now that's one of the reasons we make the. Inside of our tinder bundle, such. An a. Such. A super, fine mesh. So. That when I transfer, this over it doesn't just fall through the tinder bundle. Once. It's big enough and I've caught my breath I know the wind is going this way so I'm going to use that to my advantage I'm. Going to pick that coal up. I'm. Going to actually marry those two together. I'm gonna let that sit again for a second. Because. I want that coal. To. Start fusing again. No. Reason to get in a hurry yet. Now. What. I'm going to do is I'm going to try to get this over, here I want. To gently. Fold. This kind of in a taco. Because. I want, my. Superfine, tinder to be in contact, with that coal but I don't want to crush it. We, kind of fold it a little bit. And. Then I'm going to hold it up and have. This open in the back and. I'm giving it long slow breath. Well once I start getting smoke to go through the backside I know I can blow a little bit harder. And. Once it burns I know that fire likes to climb I'm just going to start turning it on its side so. They can catch the rest of that tinder bundle.
Now. I've got all my, little. Shavings I can toss on there. And. It won't be long before, I'm headed towards a nice, sustainable. Fire.