Fire is necessity in a survival situation. While it is always convenient to have matches or a lighter with you when you need to make a fire, this will not always be the case. You may be without matches because of an emergency, or in the case of a long-term survival situation, because you have gone through your supply.
In case this ever happens to you, it is valuable to be able to make a fire without matches. If nothing else, being able to make a fire without matches will help you feel more self-sufficient and comfortable in the woods. Plus, who knows… your new skill could come in handy to entertain guests at a party!
Bow Drill Fires
The most common way to make a fire without matches is by using a bow drill. To make a bow drill fire, you need five things:
- The bow
- The string
- The board
- The spindle
- The handhold
You will also need a knife in order to carve out a notch in the board. Together, your tools should look like this:
Once you have your parts assembled, preferably through collecting them yourself, place a tinder bundle underneath your notch, place your foot on the end of the board, insert the spindle into the rope and wrap once, and place the handhold on top of the spindle. You should be hunched over your bow, kneeling, with your same-side knee (right knee for right-handed people) back. It should look something like this:
As the picture shows, use a sawing motion with the bow, turning the spindle on the board. The friction between the spindle and board will create heat, which will in turn make a coal out of the dust coming off the board, which will go through the notch in the board to your tinder bundle. Experiment with different speeds and pressure on the board; the powder coming off should ideally be black and powdery. If the handhold, and not the board-end of the spindle starts to smoke, you can lubricate it with oils off your body or a nearby plant.
When your hard work has produced a glowing coal in the tinder bundle, carefully pick up the bundle so it is in front of your face, and blow softly. Pretend you are whistling, except with no sound coming out. Continue to do this steadily until your tinder bundle ignites, and build up your fire slowly with twigs and branches of increasing size. Always be careful with your fire and never let it get out of control.
Like all things, a bow drill fire takes much practice to master. Experiment with different materials in different conditions, and you should feel confident doing it in no time. If you can make a bow drill fire, you will feel considerably better anytime you are in the woods, emergency situation or not.