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Thread: Fire bow drill problems

  1. #1

    Default Fire bow drill problems

    I've been trying to use the bow drill method to make fire using birch, (which is basically the only tree around here so using another kind of wood isn't really an option) and I have managed to make it start smoking and produce black powder. However I have not managed to make this black powder stick together and form and ember and glow. This black powder that collects in the notch doesn't even really smoke, and in all the videos I've seen, the powder smokes by itself and forms an ember. If I blow on it it just blows away. Could you please give some tips on how to make this powder turn into an ember. Thanks.


  2. #2
    Senior Member tjwilhelm's Avatar
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    1) Is the dust indeed BLACK, or just dark brown? If it's just dark brown, you need either a bit more downward pressure, a bit faster bowing speed, or maybe a bit of both.

    2) If you don't have smoke, don't stop bowing...add pressure and/or bow speed.

    3) Is your wood dry? If not, all the heat you're generating is being kept at a low temperature due to latent heat of vaporization, rather than getting up to ignition temperature.

    4) After you have BLACK dust and SMOKE, Do NOT blow on the dust pile. Instead, GENTLY fan it with your hand. Be patient. Give the ember time to coalesce.

  3. #3
    Super Moderater RangerXanatos's Avatar
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    Have you tested the powder? See if it will catch with a spark or even a lighter. If it catches with a spark, you may just need to keep bowing longer. If it doesn't catch with a lighter, then you have already 'burnt' the powder with heat.
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  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by tjwilhelm View Post
    1) Is the dust indeed BLACK, or just dark brown? If it's just dark brown, you need either a bit more downward pressure, a bit faster bowing speed, or maybe a bit of both.

    2) If you don't have smoke, don't stop bowing...add pressure and/or bow speed.

    3) Is your wood dry? If not, all the heat you're generating is being kept at a low temperature due to latent heat of vaporization, rather than getting up to ignition temperature.

    4) After you have BLACK dust and SMOKE, Do NOT blow on the dust pile. Instead, GENTLY fan it with your hand. Be patient. Give the ember time to coalesce.
    Thanks, and in fact the powder is just very dark brown. If I lean more on it or bow faster though, is still stays darker brown. There is definitely smoke, but it isn't coming from the powder. Any more tips? Thanks

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerXanatos View Post
    Have you tested the powder? See if it will catch with a spark or even a lighter. If it catches with a spark, you may just need to keep bowing longer. If it doesn't catch with a lighter, then you have already 'burnt' the powder with heat.
    The powder does catch with a match, so what do I do to burn it with the drill? Thanks

  6. #6
    Senior Member GreatUsername's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carlo QC View Post
    The powder does catch with a match, so what do I do to burn it with the drill? Thanks
    More pressure, longer bow-strokes. I'd reccommend experimenting with your woods as well, as a lower flash point will make it easier. If you put the wrong woods in, you simply can't light them. I once did an experiment, just to prove this, with a hardwood dowel of some kind, a drill, and pressure-treated lumber. The result was a Los-Angeles-worthy cloud of putrid smoke, an overheated drill, and no flame whatsoever. It simply couldn't get hot enough. I'm sure your choice in wood is better than that worst-case situation, but see if you can make it easier for yourself.
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  7. #7

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    Well it's birch and pine, and I've heard that pine is even worse so...

  8. #8
    Senior Member ClayPick's Avatar
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    Cedrik hasnít been here for sometime, heís got the fire making thing down pat for my type of forest.


  9. #9

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    I used cedar from home depot to learn with. I got a ember and fire in just a few minutes. Here is the video i watched and where i got the idea for cedar. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX0_...e_gdata_player . I hope it helps.

  10. #10

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    Some people have better results using a hardwood like oak for the drill and a softwood like pine for the fire board.

  11. #11

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    There's a lot of great advice on this forum

    I've had the best results with both the fireboard and the spindle being made of the same wood (so they heat up and generate dust evenly and to prevent the softer wood from just being shredded by the harder wood). Dark brown dust can mean too little pressure (a lack of sufficient friction/heat) or too much pressure (wood shredding before it starts to char. Play around with your speed/pressure balance until you start to see encouraging results.

    Another thing to look at is your notch on the fireboard. Is it too wide? Often a wide notch does not collect and concentrate the good hot black powder enough to create an ember. Also, the narrow end of the notch should extend almost into, if not into, the center of where your spindle in spinning. If the notch ends too far out and away it cannot build up enough hot powder.
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    Senior Member postman's Avatar
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    I've never been able to get an ember using hard woods. It's been my experience that the softer woods work better. My favourite is willow on willow, aspen and poplar are very similar. The conifers will work also, the resins are very flamable and hold the ember together.

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