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Thread: Expanding my hand drill material set

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    Member RoadLessTraveled's Avatar
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    Default Expanding my hand drill material set

    Here's a video of me using Sotol on Sotol for the hand drill.


    I wasn't sure which species this was when I harvested it. I knew that several Yucca species are useful for the hand drill, and this large stalk looked like one that was worth trying. I researched the different species of Yucca, and none of them was a very good match. Then I stumbled across a picture of Sotol. Bingo! Sotol looks just like one of the many Yucca species. Sotol and Yucca belong to the same classification family. But they diverge at the subfamily: Yucca belongs to the Agavoideae subfamily whereas Sotol belongs to the Nolinoideae subfamily along with other "evergreen shrubs". In my uneducated opinion, it looks a lot more like an Agavoideae than a Nolinoideae. In this video I refer to this plant as Yucca because at the time, I hadn't ID'd it yet. But now I'm pretty sure it is actually Sotol, Dasylirion wheeleri.

    Sotol is the second plant I've used successfully for the hand drill. I've made embers using this sotol five times. In the process of trying to make this video, I made four embers. But each time I tried to use the ember to start a fire, I failed. If anyone has an idea why I couldn't get the ember to light a fire, please let me know.

    About three weeks ago I collected this stalk and just now got around to trying it out. I'm very pleased with it as hand drill material. It's nice to be able to use the same plant for both the hearth board and the spindle. It's as easy to form an ember with sotol as it is with mullein, in my opinion. It may appear more difficult in this video, but keep in mind that this video shows the fourth successful ember in a row. And by the fourth time I was pretty exhausted.

    The next material I'd like to try to use is Prickly Lettuce. It's very abundant here in Austin TX, so being able to use it would ensure an almost endless supply. I've been watching it mature and waiting to harvest it. Hopefully I'll be able to collect some stalks in the next few weeks.
    Last edited by RoadLessTraveled; 03-11-2013 at 04:11 PM. Reason: updated video link


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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    Personally, I like the wild lettuce better than any of the yucca's I've tried as it's a little bit harder. Most of the lettuce I've seen around here is still more than a month from being mature. Yucca is good, don't take me wrong, but the grip-texture and wood itself seem easier to me using Lactuca spp.

    Next time try crushing up some of that bark to use in a "nest" rather than using the flat sheets of bark. It's all about surface area and heat retention inside the tindle nest. I like to use grasses moreso than anything else for the tindle nest. There was nowhere, really, for the heat to spread, and nothing to keep it concentrated into the center of. The sheet you used is perfect for transferring, you just need something better to transfer it to. With tindle prepared, and using a smaller section of the birch bark that is more easily balled in the nest, I think you'll have an easier time getting that flame. Good work and Keep it up! Practice makes perfect!

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    Member RoadLessTraveled's Avatar
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    YCC,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and advice.

    Last night I tried again twice with the Sotol. I got an ember each time. With the first one, I tried shredding the birch bark and added some grass. The ember grew, but eventually, it died out. With the second one, I tried increasing the quantity of tinder. The ember grew but wasn't lighting. So then I ran and got some cottonwood punk wood. I crumbled a pile of it onto the ember and used a few chunks of the punk wood as extenders. I got a good pile of ember going. And finally, I was able to blow the pile into flame. Maybe it succeeded only because it was Tuesday

    I think I'll give some attention to practicing making nests. I understand what you're saying about surface area and the difficulty of igniting the sheets of bark. I should have thought about that before.

    I sure appreciate you taking the time to offer some good suggestions! Thanks!

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    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
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    Anytime, my friend. If you have any more difficulties, I'll be glad to offer tips.
    I shared friction fire with a friend over the weekend. Horseweed (Conyza canadensis) is one of those magical materials that seems to work almost every time.
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    Member RoadLessTraveled's Avatar
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    Default Success from coal to flame using Sotol on Sotol

    This weekend I tried leaves again for the tinder bundle. I put the leaves directly under the hearth board to catch the coal. And I made sure the leaves were thoroughly brown and dried leaves. I'm suspicious that my previous failures were caused by selecting leaves that were still slightly green or possibly even slightly moist from dew or humidity. I've had pretty good success with leaves both with hand drill and even flint/steel and charred cloth.

    So here's a video of my success using Sotol on Sotol to bring the coal to flame.



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    Great Job man! Couldn't help but crack a smile could ya!

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    Member RoadLessTraveled's Avatar
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    What a relief. I thought I was going crazy when I couldn't get those leaves to light in the first video! I couldn't get anything to light! So it was reassuring when I was able to get the leaves to ignite finally. And they burned quickly and easily, just like they're supposed to!

    next on my materials list: Prickly Lettuce, Horseweed, and Cattail - whichever becomes available first. I have some cattail, so I'll probably experiment with it. The Prickly Lettuce isn't ready to harvest yet, still some green in it. And I have yet to learn to identify Horseweed. I've studied the pictures, and I know it's native to this area, so I should be able to find it.

    Thanks for your support, brother!

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    I will try to take some better pictures of horseweed for you over the next couple days. (Seems like I have a whole lot of pics I haven't posted to the boards recently...) Conyza canadensis is by far my favorite and is one of the most abundant around here. My "magic kit" that works every time is horseweed. You are doing great with hand-drill RLT. Keep it up!
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