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Old 03-17-2009, 04:01 PM
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Default How do i identify best wood for bow/drill set?



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I live in the middle-region of Maryland and each time i go camping, i experiment with different woods for making the best bow drill set. Thus far, the sets i have made have not been successful. I have seen enough Ray Mears videos to know that my technique is good. I use my entire weight to bear down on the spindle but, i cannot get the fine dust i need to make a good ember. I truly believe i am using the wrong wood combination. Just wondering if anyone has any tips or tricks on how to identify the best wood types for the spindle as well as the hearth. What characteristics should i be looking for when selecting wood to make each?
Old 03-17-2009, 04:20 PM
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its not so much weight but timeing and the speed of your bow

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Old 03-17-2009, 05:59 PM
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One of the important things to remember is that you can not pick up wood off the ground and expect any success. Use wood that is dead on the tree, "squaw wood" we used to call it.

In your area there should be some good silver maples, I know they will work. Used them many times.

Eastern red cedar is excellent also.

You also have a shrub that grows along the road called "Horse weed". It makes excellent spindle inserts. I have had students get a coal in less than 30 seconds using horse weed.

I have even made spindles from dowels bought at the Home Depot and hearthboards from split 2x4 lumber.

It's not rocket science. (that's a joke)
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Old 03-18-2009, 10:26 AM
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The wood should be FAIRLY SOFT. Can you dent it with your thumb nail? It should be soft enough if you can.

It should be LOW IN VOLATILE RESIN. Smell the wood- if it has an odor, it may be too "greasy" to work well. Species that are gummy (Like spruce) may be ok if they are well weathered.

It should be DRY!!! Touch the wood in question to your lips and hold for a count of 5. If it feels cool- then it is conductive because it is damp. If it feels warm, it is insulative because it is dry.
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Old 03-18-2009, 10:27 AM
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i'd recommend a swedish firesteel

seriously though, you're going to be limited to what you can find on the ground wherever you are, it's not something you'll make and carry with you.
Old 03-18-2009, 10:34 AM
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"seriously though, you're going to be limited to what you can find on the ground wherever you are, it's not something you'll make and carry with you."

Yes, but knowing WHAT TO LOOK FOR is important.
Old 03-18-2009, 10:48 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cryptkeeper View Post
its not so much weight but timeing and the speed of your bow

YouTube - Fire Starting Bow Drill Method (Part 1 Making the Set)
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I like a lot of his stuff, but his constant promoting of the "Tom Brown Tracker Knife" is annoying to me.
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Old 03-18-2009, 03:26 PM
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I own a swedish fire starter, magnesium stick as well as a windproof butane lighter. I want to have the bow drill skills under my belt just in case i don't have any of those things with me during an unforeseen emergency.
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Old 03-18-2009, 04:50 PM
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I like a lot of his stuff, but his constant promoting of the "Tom Brown Tracker Knife" is annoying to me.
i totally agree
Old 03-18-2009, 05:43 PM
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Spindle should be a dry hard hard wood, no resin. The base should be a dry soft hard wood, no resin -- that means stay totally away from pine, cedar, spruce, hatmatah et cetera. Example, maple spindle, basswood base. Ash spindle, poplar base. Always the harder hard wood on top, the softer hard wood on bottom. The spindle rubs fibers off the base and that's what makes the coal. If you are in the gulf coast, Yucca is an excellent spindle and Mahoe a prime board. If you can't get a fire going with those two in a minute stick to lighters.
Old 03-18-2009, 05:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Curdog1 View Post
The wood should be FAIRLY SOFT. Can you dent it with your thumb nail? It should be soft enough if you can.

It should be LOW IN VOLATILE RESIN. Smell the wood- if it has an odor, it may be too "greasy" to work well. Species that are gummy (Like spruce) may be ok if they are well weathered.

It should be DRY!!! Touch the wood in question to your lips and hold for a count of 5. If it feels cool- then it is conductive because it is damp. If it feels warm, it is insulative because it is dry.
Nice, Curdog1!

I have made bow-drill fire, but through much trial and error. I like the tests you post for finding the right wood. I'll try it next time I'm camping and need to kill some time.

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Old 03-18-2009, 09:40 PM
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conifers like pine and spruce work good for the fire board, spindle and bow, the upper handle needs to be a harder material, hard woods, rocks and metal works good, as long as it doesn't burn as easily as the soft wood.
hard woods have leaves, not needles.
Old 03-19-2009, 09:48 AM
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"Spindle should be a dry hard hard wood, no resin. The base should be a dry soft hard wood, "

We have consistent success with the spindle and the hearth being made of the same wood- indeed, even split from the same section of log.

Two tips that have helped me-

1. For the hearth, orient the board EDGE GRAIN UP. It should look like a bunch of closely spaced parallel lines facing up. This gives a consistent surrace, and seems to make more friction.

2. WEATHERED, not rotted, wood seems to work quite well, often a great improvement over a piece of the same wood that is simply dried. Conifers that can be too "greasy" often work well after this. In fact, cypress that is weathered is one of my favorites!
Old 03-19-2009, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brick View Post
I own a swedish fire starter, magnesium stick as well as a windproof butane lighter. I want to have the bow drill skills under my belt just in case i don't have any of those things with me during an unforeseen emergency.
Good for you, the one tool you always have is the knowledge in you brain. The bow drill takes some time to master, at the very least you will gain appreciation for easier methods to make fire. Make sure you have your tinder set. It is just as important as the wood and technique. I have been successful once. It took me over an hour and I was dead tired afterwards.
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Old 03-19-2009, 11:05 AM
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357Magboy, one exception to not using soft woods as the hand socket for a bowdrill is to use a piece of fatwood, lighter pine, pine knot, or whatever one locally calls resin soaked dead pine. It is harder than other pine, but most importantly the turpentine-smelling resin the wood is permiated with is a LUBRICANT. Also, little shavings can be used from the bearing block to nurse the innitial flame. Give it a try!
Old 03-19-2009, 11:39 AM
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ANY wood can be used for a bow drill set if it is cured well but not too crumbly. As it was said, give the wood a smell. If it has a strong scent it is not cured well enough. It should sound dry when you move it in your hands. Think of a hot dry day and what that sounds like, that's what the wood should sound like. Don't use a branch as either the spindle or the fireboard. Branches have too small of pores, they just don't work well. Either break off a piece of heartwood from a stump or get some root wood from a blown over tree. I have heard that the wood needs to be one soft and one hard, I can see why that use to be though of as correct, but it isn't needed. That was when they thought of getting the dust from either the spindle or the fireboard. If you use the same wood for both you get dust from both the spindle AND the fireboard. It takes less work if both are producing heated dust.

If you want to succeed at least once to see what all goes into your technique, take a few pieces of heartwood home and dry them in an oven in very low heat with the oven door propped open. If you have perfectly dry wood and you still can't get a fire going you know it is your technique, not the wood.

I think it was mentioned before about bearing down, but in case it wasn't, bearing down right away won't work. First make certain your fireboard and spindle are mated. Twirl the spindle on the fire board until the hole and the spindle make a good connection. Then cut the notch into the board. From there begin to twirl the spindle on the fireboard with just a bit of pressure. You do not want to polish your fireboard at this time by giving too much pressure when the wood is cold. As the wood heats up you will begin to see bits of thin and often gray smoke. Start adding a bit more pressure to your spindle. When you see a white, thick smoke coming up from only one side of the spindle (hopefully the side where the notch is) NOW is the time to start bearing down with all you have. The wood is hot enough not to polish itself so friction will keep happening in the spinning. Keep going until the pile of dust in your notch is at least as big as a nickle.

From there you carefully stop, then take a deep breath. You are not in a hurry right now. If you move slowly you won't knock the coal apart. You have plenty of time, admire your work for a few seconds, laugh it up with a friend, but catch your breath, you'll need it for the blowing and choking part that is about to come.

Transfer the coal into your tinder bundle and face away from the wind. Make certain the coal is in contact with something flammable, preferably above it as fire moves up. Blow lightly if there isn't enough wind to blow the flame to life. Don't blow too hard or the coal could fall apart, don't blow too soft or there may not be enough oxygen to ignite a flame. Choke a bit on the smoke as it follows your breath back to your face and keep blowing until flame happens. From here you do what you always do when starting a fire.

Best of luck.

squirrel
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Old 03-20-2009, 02:37 PM
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Great tips, and exactly what i was asking for.

Thanks Lone Squirrel.
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