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