Bow Drill 101: Things All Newbies Should Know

 

The bow drill can be used to create fire in any environment and is one of the oldest methods known to man, dating back almost 2,500 years. Every ancient culture had its own unique bow drill, but the science behind it remained the same.

Today, we’ll go through some important pointers that will help you use a bow drill in case of an emergency. Even though you may never really embark on dangerous adventures, knowing to create fire is an essential skill that everyone must learn.

Here are some pro tips to properly use a bow drill:

1. If you are going to create a bow drill from scratch, it would be wise to use White Cedars or Basswood. These types of wood that have been tested and verified to produce good coal. Other types, such as Oleander wood should be avoided at all costs since it is known to produce toxins when undergoing combustion.

It’s really important to make sure that the wood you are using hasn’t been previously coated with paint or chemicals, as even they are likely to produce toxins while burning.

2. Use your dominant hand to saw the bow back and forth. Bow drills can be used by just about anyone, as long as they are letting their dominant hand take control. One should also learn to efficiently use the handhold to control the spindle, as this is the part that causes friction on the flat board to create fire. Do not touch the spindle when you are in the process of sawing the bow.

3. Beginners tend to easily miss the sweet spot on the flat board, so it would be a great idea to mark the exact spot of drilling. Based on this marking, you can position the spindle using the handhold. Use a sharp knife to mark the drilling spot and carve it inwards, as it would be hard to drill on a flat surface.

4. Be cautious with the rope. It can be easily broken if it rubs too much against itself. To avoid this, always drill downwards at an angle creating ample space to prevent friction. Any other method would simply create pressure on the rope twirls resulting in breakage.

5. Often times people try all sorts of things with their bow drill only to fail. The correct techniques must be applied in order to create a good fire. Patience and perseverance are key to learning this skill. The most common mistake is to not apply enough tension and pressure on the spindle.

The proper method involves using the handhold to push down on the spindle while pulling back the rope at the same time. Extensive pressure must be applied on the spindle while sawing, without enough friction there won’t be enough spark to light a fire.

However, precautions must be taken before you kick things into full gear. Make sure that the rope is attached properly and tightly wound. A stable bow is of the essence for smooth functioning. When you are done drilling, take the spindle out. Your objective is now let it cool down.

6. So how do you know if things are going according to plan? You should be able to see some smoke from either end of the spindle. Your next step will be based on the location of the smoke. Get some lubricating oil ready as you will need to lubricate the end that will be pressed against the flat board. If the smoke is being emitted from the handhold side, twirl the spindle in such a way that the top end gets pressed against the flat board.

7. Get some Tinder. It’s a very fine, dry material that traps coal, allowing you to blow and turn it into flame. Take out the fluff by rubbing it for about 5 to 10 minutes between your hands. Collect the resultant fine material and place it in the carving on the flat board. Cliffrose or Cottonwood should do the job.

Feel free to research about more plants – there’s a variety of them that can be used. In some cases, certain plants might not be available in your location. For such reasons, it’s always useful to know that plants in your region can be used as tinder.

It’s fairly easy to light a good fire with these tips in mind. Browsing YouTube for tutorial videos is another great way of familiarizing yourself with proper techniques.

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