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Thread: Fire-Bow (PIC HEAVY)

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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    Default Fire-Bow (PIC HEAVY)

    Some folks have been saying they've had difficulty in making fire by friction. I wanted to take the time to put up some pictures of the process. I will go ahead and let you know, that the crepe myrtle was still too green to work, so after 3 exhausting tries with it, I switched to my faithful yucca and willow combo for the sake of actually making fire for this instructional.

    First you need to select material that's fairly straight and a good diameter. I like mine to be about as thick as my thumb. More surface area means more friction.
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    I like for the spindle to be long enough that I can brace my wrist just under my knee. It gets shorter of course, but shin length is good for a fresh spindle.
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    The ends need to be pointed. I like to put the thickest end up so that as I make the hole in the hearth, the spindle will always fit snug. You don't want sloppy spindle-to-hearth contact. It doesn't need to be perfectly straight, but close, as you can see in the second pic.
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    Got all that? Good. Spindle is ready. Now you gotta wax, grease, soap-up your socket rock, and prepare your hearthboard to mate with the spindle. I like to make a small indention with my notching rock, so that the pointed end will seat well. I use soap to lube my socket. Once you've picked wich end you want to use, you can't change it.
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    This is a good picture of the proper drilling posture. I'm not making fire yet, just seating the spindle and hearth together. You'll see that in just a minute.. let me talk about posture here since this is a good pic of it.
    Take up your bow in your hand, your rock in the other and get up off your butt. You will not make fire sitting down. Get up on one knee, lean over your upright leg and pull it close to your chest. Your upright leg's foot holds your hearth in place, typically under the arch of your foot. Your wrist should be really close to your leg and the socket held firmly, but not applying a whole lot of pressure. The string is low on the spindle. My body is rigid except to breathe, and work the bow. Start slow and increase speed and pressure. I like to keep the string low on the spindle, just right across the top of my foot. If you aren't wearing shoes the string will burn you as it comes across your foot! (don't ask me how I know...)
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    Now your spindle and hearth are mated. It's time to cut the notch. Generally it should intrude 1/3 the way into the seat, and the width be about 1/3 the diameter of the seat. This is called the "rule of thirds"
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    Now you are ready to make fire! Prepare your tindle ahead of time. I'm using a sycamore seed-ball to catch my ember and dust in transfer, and dry grass for the actual fire.
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    Using the posture described above, start slow, and increase speed, then pressure. You'll start to see smoke in a few moments, but you don't have fire yet. The smoke has to change color. It will go from grey, to yellow-ish. When you start seeing smoke, breathe onto the dustpile. You can see my tindle in the bottom left corner, of dry grass nest, with sycamore fluff to catch the ember.
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    Transfer the ember and dust into the tindle, and GENTLY blow it into life. As the ember grows, you'll need to tighten the grass around it, and keep it close to the ember. Theres a technique to this and I've watched friends get an ember, only to lose it in the tindle by letting the grass stay too loose. You have to have it close to the heat for it to actually catch up. I hope that makes sense. Fire is hot, but this is not fire yet. It gets warm, but if you keep your hands below the fire, it won't burn you. As you get comfortable with the ember propagating into the tindle, raise it up and blow sideways and then UP INTO the tindle. It's a lot easier than it sounds.
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    Now that you have fire, you can be HAPPY, and warm!
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    When I take up my bow, I wrap the spindle, and immediately take up the slack with my fingers like this.
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    He who makes his own fire warms himself twice. I say three times, because it warms my heart as well.

    Here's the whole kit. My bow doubles as a walking stick and could work as a fishing pole. Easily packable rocks, and the spindle and hearth can usually be found in the woods. Of course, it doesn't hurt to pack those too just in case it's raining.
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    If I missed any details, please feel free to ask. It's really a lot easier than all this sounds, but you really have to understand the setup and mechanics of the process first. Once you've got the hang of it, it's pretty easy. I think if the crepe myrtle had been dry enough, I'd have gotten it to work on the first try. I hope my effort will help some of you to obtain this skill.
    Last edited by crashdive123; 08-04-2014 at 06:06 AM.
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  2. #2
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Great post - tried to give you some rep - gotta spread the love though.
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    Wow Thanks for that post, very informative. Thanks for taking the time to post this.
    I Wonder Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, "I think I'll squeeze these dangly things here, and drink what ever comes out?"

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    This should get a sticky in primative section

  5. #5

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    You've almost inspired me to try again. Great tut.

    Outside of the process, I think it's all in the materials and I just ain't found em yet.

    Now that it's warming up here, maybe I can get out and give it a real go.

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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alaskan Survivalist View Post
    This should get a sticky in primative section
    Consider it stuck.
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    Quote Originally Posted by rwc1969 View Post
    You've almost inspired me to try again. Great tut.

    Outside of the process, I think it's all in the materials and I just ain't found em yet.

    Now that it's warming up here, maybe I can get out and give it a real go.
    Keep trying. We don't have any of those materials here. You'll find something that works.

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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    The trick I use for selecting materials is the thumbnail dent. If you can dent it with your thumbnail it might work. You won't know for sure till you try it, but it needs to grind into a fine powder.
    cottonwood and horseweed are good examples.
    I have some cotton rose put back that I've been aiming to try.. forgot all about that.
    Nandina domestica spindle and tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) are fairly hard woods and I've made fire with those.
    If it has a stick that's straight enough for a spindle I'll try it. I've tried several things that'll make smoke, but the powder doesn't grind fine enough to catch an ember.
    I believe Ted has said that both the spindle and hearth can be the same material.
    Don't use woods that have pitchy resins.. they'll just gum up and stick.
    Maybe that'll help too, at least with material selections.
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    I also recommend trying any invasive species in your area, like chinaberry and mimosa in my area.. which reminds me I should have harvested some of that over the winter.. so many woods, so little time..
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    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
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    I trimmed back the chinaberry trees two weeks ago and didn't think to save any for projects. Have you had success using it?
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    I forgot to harvest any while the trees were dormant. If I get a chance to walk the heavily infested dirt road today or this weekend, I'll be checking for dead limbs. Heck, I might even harvest some of the saplings I've seen sprouting lately. Seems a soft enough wood that it should work. I have yet to try it, but as soon as I do I'll let ya know
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    I'll mention here that yesterday I drove by a stand of yuccas that were prime for flower stalks. They were in someones yard and they weren't home so I wouldn't go harvest them. There must have been 20 stalks ready.
    I have about 30 put back to give away at demo's and I'll be collecting more as I spot them. Not sure how far north they grow, but they are everywhere down here.
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    I'm gonna give this a try at camp tonight. I think I had my bow string way too tight and a longer spindle may help me some as well.

    Thanks for the great post! I added some rep.

  14. #14

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    I got a good ember and several smaller ones. But, I couldn't get the tinder bundle to light.

    I was looking for a change in smoke and didn't see it. I was getting LOTS of smoke and I stopped and moved the fire board and there was smoke coming from the sawdust. I moved the sawdust and saw a small red ember that went out almost immediately. Getting that ember burned through that part of the board.

    So, I made a new spot for the drill and when I stopped this time I had smoke coming just from one little spot on a piece of pine bark I had put under the board. I blew gently on that spot and the whole pile glowed red.

    Since I had not expected to have an ember that easy. I had no tinder ready at all. So my brother and I started grabbing palm fluff and I transferred the ember. But, it just burnt through the fibers without igniting.

    The ember was the size of a pink nail and it glowed with me blowing on it for quite a while.

    Next try I grabbed the pine bark and it broke dropping the ember on the ground.

    I haven't been able to find large dead willow limbs. So my fire board was pretty narrow and it had termite trails through it and broke easily. But, seeing that coal was bad arse!

    Grabbed some more willow to work on more this week. First I am going to reread this thread.

    All of the willow here is in water and it is thick to get to the thicker branches and none appear dead. When we were leaving the WMA today I noticed the willow in the ditches were taller and thicker than the ones in the swamps. So, I am going to just climb down and start trying to snap off branches to see if they are dry enough.

    The fire board I used last night had green branches growing off of it when I took it and it worked good.

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    reclinite automaton canid's Avatar
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    i use the same method for regulating the tension on my fire bow cord. it really helps. it certainly makes my fingers sore after a while though.
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    try the dry grass. It's the best tindle I've come across. and remember to keep your tindle bunched close to your ember. something fluffy to catch your ember in the dry grass and you should be good to go. Always prepare all your materials beforehand.. you don't wanna get an ember and have nowhere to put it!
    Sounds like you got the drilling technique down, now you just need to find a good tindle combo.
    The color change in the smoke is pretty hard to see, but it's there. If you look at the close-up of me drilling, you'll see the smoke is grey, but the next picture the smoke is yellowish with the presence of the ember.. still kinda hard to tell, but the change is there. I wish I could show you the process in person so you could see how it all just sorta happens.

    This is the stand of yucca's about 1/4 mile from my house. roadside. My oldest son and I harvested 8 more dead stalks yesterday (Saturday). Keep your eye open for stands of yucca and I'm sure you'll find some. Seems you find it everywhere when you AREN'T lookin for it lol.
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    oh, yeah.. you can age and rot any wood you like, but it takes time.. I usually debark it and toss it on the dirt for it to weather for a few weeks in the sun and rain.
    another note, my ember is usually MUCH smaller than a pinky nail.. more like a pencil lead.
    If it's so rotten it has termites in it, then it might be a little too dead lol.

    remember the fingernail dent trick. if the wood is soft enough to dent with your thumbnail then it'll probably be good for this method. I've used harder woods, like poplar for my hearth, but for a beginner I recommend stuff a little softer. I'll try to take some pictures of the dent trick to add to the thread tomorrow.
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    The pinky size ember was just a pin prick of smoke out of the willow dust. But, it turned a lot of that dust glowing red ember when I blew on it. That is what got pinky nail size.

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    aah. cool! sounds like you are making progress. You'll get it going. I'm confident in you. If you can get the ember, that's the hardest part.
    Good Job!
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    I have a crepe myrtle tree in my yard that I cut back this winter. The branches are in the back yard. You use the crepe myrtle for the spindle?
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