Making and Using a Bow-drill


1. Understand that a bow-drill; consists of four parts: the bow, the hand-hold, the spindle or drill and the fireboard. The hand-hold and the fireboard are held on either side of the spindle, which is spun by the bow to generate friction, heat and, finally, fire. Rub your hand together back and forth to understand the concept of generating heat through friction.

2. Make your bow from a light sturdy sapling, slightly longer than your arm from shoulder to fingertip.

3. Tie a piece of nylon cord (parachute cord) from one end of the bow to the other, like a bow for archery. If you don't have a nylon cord, you can use string, a shoelace, a strip of cloth or whatever is available.

4. Use a dry, soft wood such as cottonwood, willow, larch, cedar, sassafras, alder, aspen, poplar, box alder or basswood to make the other parts of the drill.

5. Make sure the hold piece fits into your hand snugly and firmly. Carve a small depression in one side of the hand-hold for the spindle to ride in.

6. Cut your spindle from a branch 3/4-inch wide and 6 inches long. It should be round and straight. Carve both ends of the spindle to a dull point.

7. Make you fireboard about a 1/2-inch thick and flat on both sides. Make a depression in it, like the hand-hold, for the other side of the spindle to ride in.

8. Place your fire board on the dry ground and place your left foot across it to hold it stable, with your right knee on the ground. If you're left-handed, do the reverse.

9. Wrap the string of your bow around the spindle once.

10. Place the bottom end of the spindle in the notch on your fire board. Hold it in place by putting the top end of the spindle into the handhold notch and pressing down on the handhold.

11. Hold one end of the bow in your right hand, with the string side facing inward, toward your left knee.

12. Lean down over your left knee and press down slightly on the handhold with your left hand. Move your right arm back and forth in a sawing motion, causing the spindle to spin back and forth.

13. Increase the speed of the sawing motion and the intensity of your handhold pressure until the fire board begins to smoke.

14. Do this for a while to grease your handhold notch and "burn in" your fire board to prepare your apparatus to start a fire.



Preparing to Make a Fire with a Bow-drill


1. Prepare a small tepee of twigs in your fire pit. Make sure you have enough fuel readily available.

2. Gather a palm-sized ball of dry fibrous vegetation, such as dry grass or inner tree bark. Wad the material together to form a nestlike tinder ball.

3. Keep your tinder ball near your fire board.

4. Place your spindle in its fire board notch.

5. Operate your apparatus until your fire board begins to smoke.

6. Give it about 10 more strokes.

7. Lift your apparatus carefully away from the fire board. Notice that a small piece of coal has developed from the wood dust worn off by the action of the spindle.

8. Use a small twig to nudge the coal from the fire board into the tinder ball, like an egg in a nest.

9. Blow gently on the ball until flames develop.

10. Place your burning tinder ball inside your twig tepee and carefully fuel your fire.