Hand Drill Fire Starting

Hand Drill Firemaking is about technique and avoiding blisters.

Hand Drill Firemaking is about technique and avoiding blisters.


Hand drill is a desert technology. Humidity, not temperature, is what makes hand drill difficult. If you are in a moist environment, like here in Maine, moisture is your number one blockage when it comes to hand drill. Winter tends to be dry here, which is nice, because it is easy to get the wood stove going with a hand drill in the morning instead fumbling for all the right bow drill parts (we have a barrel with dozens of mismatched sets). When your hands recover, choose a spindle that you know has been kept off the ground and is dry. Place it on your cheek and it should be warm, not cool. Cool means wet, warm means dry. Also, be sure that the end of your spindle that makes contact with the fire board has no leaf scars on the edge. Inconsistent density will create a vibration that will shake your coal apart. When you choose a form, be sure that it is comfortable and you can lean your center of mass over the spindle. Being contorted and uncomfortable is a big issue in ones ability to apply consistent downward pressure. “Floating” is sexy, but not necessary. Just remember that your blisters are from pushing in and rubbing. You want to push down and glide with as much length of your hands as you can to get as many rotations as you can. Sometimes this is best done with the blades of the hand, with other folks, riding to the tips of the fingers works best. Play with your form until you have it “dialed in”. After that, start slowly to “prime the pump”. Pre-heating before applying your “all” helps you get your coal before you wear out and/or get blisters. Fatigue leads to poor judgement which leads to blisters. First establish a smooth roll using the entire length of your hands with each “run”. Accomplish a sustainable rhythm until you see the first wisp of smoke, than apply increasing downward pressure, than increase speed. When you have thick, white, billowing smoke, add eight to ten more strokes before checking for your coal. The dust should be black and a thin wisp of smoke should continue after you stop your technique. Take your time gathering yourself and shuttling your coal into a tinder bundle. Once you have a coal, the biggest threats to success are shocking the coal apart and a crappy tinder bundle. Here is a link to our instructional video. Good luck! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF9GiK_T4PA

By |2015-10-23T13:17:09+00:00October 23rd, 2015|Earth Living, Primitive Skills|0 Comments

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