Fire starting with a Fire Drill

A Fire Drill or Bow Drill is a primitive tool for starting a fire that consists of a bearing block (handle), a spindle, a simple bow, and a piece of wood. These type of fire drills were commonly used by Native Americans, and its first use can be traced back to the Iroquois.

An example of an ancient bow drill

Like all friction fire starting methods, the drill uses friction to generate heat. This heat will eventually produce an ember that can then be transferred to a tinder bundle.

Using a Fire Drill to Start a Fire

It all starts with your tinder bundle.

Tinder Bundle with a Bow Drill

One of the most important parts of any friction fire-starting method is not so much what method you use, but instead making a good tinder bundle. A good tinder bundle is essential for turning your ember into a roaring flame. When building a tinder bundle, your goal is to make the bundle to resemble a birds nest.

It should be made up of stringy, fluffy, and combustible materials like dry grass, wood shavings, bark fibers, cattails, and punkwood.

Constructing and using the Bow Drill

Parts needed to make a bow drill
  1. Cut a hole into the side of your fireboard to place the spindle into. The hole should be notched with a V shape so the ember falls into your tinder bundle or container.
  2. The spindle is constructed using a hardwood carved at one end to reduce friction and the other to increase the amount of friction so as to generate heat for an ember.
  3. Attach the crossbar or bow to the top of the spindle. The bow can be constructed with a bit of paracord or cordage wrapped once around the spindle.
A Bow Drill and Tinder for starting a fire

Using the Bow drill to Start a Fire

  1. Place your knee on the fireboard to hold it securely in place.
  2. Pushing down on the bearing block (handle) and start pulling the bow back and forth.
  3. Repeat step 2 until the friction creates a glowing ember
  4. Transfer the ember into your tinder bundle and blow until you see a flame.
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1 Comment

  1. This is great advice. Considering all of the stmros back east I think it is quite necessary that all citizens consider some type of emergency preparation. I recommend first starting out with a 72 hour kit for each member of your family. After this is accomplished, a simple first aid kit along with a week supply of water should be stored. When these tasks are accomplished an overall emergency plan should be put into place. Set goals for each month and work on them. As the holiday season approaches consider purchasing emergency preparedness items for loved ones instead of all of the things retailers throw at us. The most important thing to remember is preparation begins with you.

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