Fire Making with a Bow Drill:
Prepare your tinder: Imagine a bird’s nest – smallest and fluffiest to the centre, getting progressively larger outwards with enough bulk to protect your hands from heat. Have plenty of spare tinder to hand!
· Prepare all before starting, imagining the whole process
· Compose yourself and visualise fire / pray to the fire god
· Arch of bare foot on fireboard to hold securely
· 1” from spindle to foot, to keep stable and “feel” vibrations
· Front leg shin upright, rear leg knee on ground, comfortable
· Rear foot turned sideways for tripod-like stability
· Body-weight forward, to apply variable pressure
· Bowing hand free to move in long, steady strokes
· Spindle hand locked tight against shin to hold steady
· Eyes watching hearth, notch and spindle and bow cord
· Bow hand tensioning cord, should it start to slip
· Listen intently and feel vibrations
· If cord slips about spindle, stop and tighten
· Don’t rush; it is a process which must be continued to the end.
· Start with smooth, steady strokes, fairly slowly
· Start with light downward pressure on the spindle to dry off moisture
· As hearth dries and warms you can increase pressure until smoke begins
· Increase downward pressure to stop squeaking, or if surfaces become glazed – roughen wood and restart
· Continue bowing steadily at medium speed until smoke is billowing out and then keep going
· Remember to breathe steadily, keep calm and do not rush
· It is essential to keep the spindle upright and steady all the time
· Once you get smoke do not stop!
· Continue bowing until notch is full of black, smoking dust
· Dust should fall through notch onto a suitable leaf, leather, flat bark etc. ready to be transferred to the tinder nest close at hand, instead of letting it fall directly onto the tinder
· Finish bowing by easing downward pressure and bowing faster
· Take care not to move fireboard or disturb the fragile dust pile
· Now you can pause for breath! Steady your nerves and wobbly hands before the delicate stage.
Moving the dust
· The dust must continue to smoke gently, on its own, possibly glowing a little
· Very carefully lift away fireboard to leave dust pile smouldering on its own – but protect from the wind / rain
· You may need to rotate the board away, using a stick to detach dust from the notch whilst lifting fireboard
· Try hard to not disturb dust pile, but gentle breathing on it is good, encouraging it to glow and continue smouldering, to coalesce and form a fragile ember
· No need to hurry at this stage. Regain composure and breath before next stage
· Place this smoking dust ember carefully in the pre-prepared nest of tinder
· Add any remaining loose hot dust
· Hold nest between widespread hands to scoop up the whole bundle, palms inward.
Coaxing a flame
· Wrap tinder gently around ember to keep warm but do not suffocate – treat this ember like a delicate baby!
· Raise tinder nest to aid airflow and allow rising heat to remain in the nest
· Hold gently and allow air flow but keep contact between ember and tinder – avoid blowing too hard too soon
· Balance the closeness of tinder with the amount of air, enabling the ember to grow and extend to its surrounding downy tinder
· Allow time for ember to extend to the tinder – don’t rush but periodically breathe gently (not too close, to avoid sparks and cold breath)
· Blow gently, coaxing more smoke, keep tinder ball moderately compact but allow air to move through. Add more tinder to outside of ball if hands get hot
· Don’t give up – if it is smoking there is still a chance!
· As heat increases tinder will smoke liberally
· Now you can blow more steadily into the glowing centre, blow upwards and watch what is happening!
· Just prior to ignition the tinder ball will smoke very densely but continue until you actually have free burning flame
· Protect hands throughout and keep face away to avoid sparks!
Fire at last!
Gently place burning tinder within pre-prepared small kindling and nurture this as carefully as the tinder nest before. Enjoy!