Discussion in 'Bushcraft' started by Huntinbull, Jun 14, 2011.

  1. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    First attempt at hand making a bow drill with just my gear from my EDC/hunting pack.

    Took a few pictures of different stages of progress. Checking out different options for string for the bow. Any criticism either constructive or otherwise is accepted and encouraged.
    Bowdrill 1.JPG Bowdrill 3.JPG
  2. beast

    beast backwoodsman

    have you tried cambium string yet? that, leather, gut or grass would have been the original string choices
  3. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Thinking out loud, because I've never made one.
    -550 cord or like I have for that very purpose some day, an old boot lace.
    -Curved stick for the bow proper so that you can keep a stroke more or less in line with the string rather than having to move in a circular motion. (You'll see what I mean when you try it.)
  4. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    I am contemplating using masons line (braided nylon twine) or 550 cord, just because those are what I carry in my bags. Trying to practice with what I will have to live.
  5. Hispeedal2

    Hispeedal2 Nay Sayer

    550 cord works well, but has a limited life. Any nylon cord will be similar.

    For quick cord, split pine root will work decent for awhile. Pine is one of the few woods that can be tied without be breaking... only preparation necessary is splitting it.

    There is no doubt in my mind that nylon cords will last longer than natural cords.

    As to critique, try the thing first. We would know more from there. Don't forget the V-notch on your fire board. I might have made my spindle a bit thicker, but yours may work fine too. I have seen all different sizes work. Its not terribly hard to make work. Having said that, I was never successful until I took a class on primitive firemaking. If you can't make it work, find someone that can and get some pointers.
  6. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    Thanks for the input HispeedAl2. I haven't notched the board yet, because I am still looking over other posts and videos to figure out depth and width. Was unsure how thick to make the spindle because I was debating material to have to heat vs torque advantage.
  7. Hispeedal2

    Hispeedal2 Nay Sayer

    As per the notch, less than 45 degrees... I have seen different angles work. Just keep it acute. Remember, if you think it's not getting enough air, making the notch wider is easy. You can't put wood back, though. What is the material used in the spindle and fire board?

    A short (not exhaustive) list of wood that I know to work well are:
    white cedar
    red cedar
    honey suckle

    There are a lot more people that have experience with other woods. The ones I listed are the ones that I have experience with. Small things like humidity also make difference in whether or not the material I use will work in your area, vice versa.

    On the thickness, I generally carve my spindle thicker than my thumb. Maybe ~1.5x the thickness of my thumb?.?. That seems to work well for me. The issue with thinner spindles is they lack the surface area to maintain friction and tend to slip more on the cordage. Not that they don't work, they can. They may work great with your technique too. Too thick of a spindle has the opposite effect- its hard to pull.

    Give it a try. Once you start to get smoke, you will hear a change in tone of the wood. Once you hear that, you are close. Bear down a hair harder and *maybe* speed up a hair. A coal *usually* follows. That is about the best I can give you on techniques without a hands on demonstration. It is more technique than strength or speed. Having said that, the technique will tire you out, but even my wife can make friction fire.

    Good luck with it. Its a great skill. A lot of armchair-type survivalists talk about it, but few have actually learned it and can actually do it. Friction fire is not something that you can just up and do, especially if you wait until you NEED it to figure it out. That whole "what one man can do" thing can only get you so far. Pre-sought knowledge and practice will take you the distance. Its like everything else, practice brings proficiency. Speaking of which, I think I might put together a set to play on with all this spare time I have...
  8. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    Quoted from HiSpeedAl2 " but even my wife can make friction fire"

    I guess he just told me to put down my purse, hike my skirt up, and get the job done!! LOL

    I appreciate everyone letting me learn from their experience. All the input helps me to "get it" faster.
    Hispeedal2 likes this.
  9. Hispeedal2

    Hispeedal2 Nay Sayer


    Not really what I meant and certainly not how I would word it. Its all in the technique.

  10. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    I wasn't offended at all, just making a funny comment.
  11. Hispeedal2

    Hispeedal2 Nay Sayer

    Indeed. Have you tied it yet?

    C'mon Lucille, drop the purse. If you have time to post, you have time to give it a spin ;):D

    (Plus, I'm on the edge of my seat in anticipation and clearly have too much time on my hands ;))

    Is that little thing in your avatar pic considered a fish in Ohio? JK ;) Where was that pic at?
  12. Tikka

    Tikka Monkey+++

    That reminded me of Tom Hanks in Castaway. :D
  13. Sapper John

    Sapper John Analog Monkey in a Digital World

    Huntinbull...I was taught that when making a bowdrill,the spindel should be made of a hardwood (oak,maple,ect...) and base should be made of a soft wood such as pine...just a thought...
  14. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    Remaking the spindle to thicker dimension and going to try one of poplar and one of cottonwood as well as one of red oak. have some brush laying dry from these types of wood so figure to try them and see.

    Thinner spindle didn't handle well. Wobbled some.

    Oh well it is a work in progress.
  15. sarawolf

    sarawolf Monkey+++

    This reminded me of how much one of our sons loved making his bow drill. He used heavy fishing line.
  16. Huntinbull

    Huntinbull Monkey+

    Sarawolf, did that work for him? I could braid up three or four pieces of braided line and it should be flat and grippy as well as strong.
  17. Warden7

    Warden7 Monkey+

    Nice work pics are worth a thousand words.
  18. Marco Montana

    Marco Montana Monkey+

    tulianr likes this.
  19. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Good find, thanx.
  20. Not sure if I can help, but maybe you can try a piece of cedar from the hardware store to hone your bow drill skill with. The wood is kiln-dried and easier to get a coal from. I would make the spindle and the hearth both from the same cedar board. I also got an ember from a cherry spindle into a Chinese privet stick (please ignore the other carvings, they were not related to the bow drill process).

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