Fire Making Part III


Use a piece of cane about 60 cm long and a dry stick. Make a small slit in one of the cane's end, then lay it on a stone. Maintain this slit open using a small wedge (stone or wood).

Place a mass of tinder under the cane and between the cane and the tinder mass pass a thong or lash which you will slide quickly against the cane in a sawing movement. Meanwhile retain the board or cane with your foot.


10 minutes, if experienced! Fires have been made throughout the world long ago from glowing embers obtained by the combined use of bow, drill and fire board.

Although the technique is simple, considerable diligence and effort is required .

You will need a bow, with a thong long enough to loop around the dry stick that is to serve as a drill, you will need a socket with which to hold the drill against a hollow in the fire board.

By moving back and forth and so rotating the drill in the fire board, you cause so much friction that a spark starts glowing in tinder gathered to catch it. The spark you blow into flame with which the campfire is lighted.


The only use of the socket is to hold the drill in place while the latter is being turned. The socket which for this purpose is held in one hand, can be easily grasped knot of wood with a small dimple cut into it. It can be a smooth stone with a slight depression worn in one side, often found near water.


This variation of the fire bow is particularly useful with very dry tinder. Instead of using a bow to spin the spindle, just use your hands. Roll the spindle between the palms of the hands, running them down with each burst of spinning to press the spindle into the depression in the baseboard.

When the friction makes the spindle tip glow red, blow gently to ignite the tinder around it. Putting a pinch of sand in the spindle hole increases the friction and speeds the heating of the tinder. A cavity below the spindle dimple with a passage between the two will allow embers to fall into your tinder.


This method of ignition also works by friction. Cut a straight groove in a soft wood baseboard and then plough the tip of hardwood shaft up and down it. This first produces tinder & then eventually ignites it.


Among the North American woods favoured for making fire by friction are: Poplar, Tamarack, Basswood, Yucca, Balsam Fir, Red Cedar, White Cedar, Cypress, Cotton-Wood, Elm, Linden, Willow.

The drill and the fire board are both often made of a single one of the above woods but not ALWAYS the case. When not sure of type of wood see below: PUNK. *


The drill should be a straight & well-seasoned stick from 1/4 to 3/4" in diameter & some 12 to 15" long. The top end MUST be as smoothly rounded as possible so as to incur a minimum of friction. The lower end for maximum of friction MUST be blunt. A longer drill, perhaps one nearly a yard in length is sometimes rotated between the palms rather than by a bow. (Hand drill method) The hands maintaining as much downward pressure as possible are rubbed back and forth over the drill so as to spin it as strongly and as swiftly as possible.

When they slip too low, they MUST be shifted back to the top to the top with as little delay in rotation as possible. The method is however not as effective as bow and socket.


The size of the fire board that may be split out of a dry branch can be a matter of convenience. The board can be about 1" thick and about 3 to 4" wide, and long enough to be held under the foot. Using a knife or a sharp stone, start a hole about 3/4" from the edge of the board.

Enlarge this hole, thus fitting it, & the end of the drill at the same time, by turning the drill with the bow as later described.

Then cut a notch from the edge of the fire board through to the side of this cup. This slot or undercut " V" that is usually made wider and deeper at the bottom.

It should be at least 1/8" into the hole itself, will permit the hot black powder that is produced by the drilling to fall as quickly as possible into tinder massed at the bottom of the notch. (Generous bundle of tinder under "V" cut!).


The bow string from a shoe lace to a twisted length of rawhide etc. is tied at both ends so as to leave enough slack to allow its being twisted once around the drill.

NOTE: To use a fire set, the drill is put under the thong, and twisted so that the drill finally is on the outer side of the thong & with that portion of the thong nearest the handle of the bow on the upper side of the drill. This is important. If the thong is on the wrong way on the drill, it will cross over itself & cut in a few strokes, also the full length of the stroke can't be obtained.


The campfire first being made ready to ignite. The tinder is bedded under the slot in the fire board. If you are right handed, you kneel on your right knee and place the left foot as solidly as possible on the fire board. Take the bow in the right hand, looping the string over the drill. The drill is set in the cavity prepared in the fire board. Pressure from the socket which is grasped in the left hand holds the drill in position.

You can grip the socket more steadily you will find if you will keep your left wrist against your left shin and hug the left leg with that arm.

The bow is held in the right hand with the little and third finger outside the thong so that by squeezing these 2 fingers the tension of the thing can be increased.

Press down on the drill, but not enough to slow it, when you start twirling the drill by sawing back and forth with the bow. Only a light pressure is put on the socket. Now start drawing the bow smoothly back and forth in sweeps as long as the string will conveniently permit. Maybe you have dropped a few grains of sand into the cup to increase friction.

When the hole starts to smoke, work the bow even faster, never stopping the swift even action. Press down more firmly on the drill.

When the drill is smoking freely & that you have the Punk grinding out easily so that the V cut is full of it, put extra pressure on the socket at the same time give 20 to 30 faster strokes with the bow.

Lift the fill cleanly and quickly from the foot piece. Fold some of the tinder over lightly and blow gently into the "V" cut.

If you see a blue thread of smoke continuing to rise, you can be sure you have a coal, you will see it glowing red.

Fold the tinder completely over the foot piece & continue blowing into the mass. The volume of smoke will increase and a few quick puffs will make it burst into flame.


Hot black powder (punk) will begin to ground out into the tinder. Keep on drilling, for the heartier a spark you can start glowing there, the quicker you will be able to blow it into a flame. By examining the "punk" you can learn if the wood used is suitable for fire making. The punk which will produce a glowing coal MUST feel slightly gritty when gently rubbed between the fingers and then with more pressure it should rub gradually to a silky smoothness as soft as face powder. This testing of the "punk" IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT; if you do not know for certain that the woods you are using are suitable for fire lighting.


There are other refinements that are worth knowing: The boring or burning of a hole for the thong at the tip and also through the handle of the bow. The end of the thong at the tip of the bow has a thumb knot tied on the top side.

The hole through the handle takes the long end of the thong, which is then wound round the handle in a series of half hitches. This hole in the handle enables you to adjust the tension of the thong with greater accuracy.

A socket of shell or smooth grained stone with a hole in it is less liable to burn than a socket of wood. Tinder MUST be carried in a waterproof bag.

If you have any to cartridges to spare, empty the powder out of one or two to start your tinder.

Battery sparks can be used to ignite tinder.

Other items can be used to focus the suns rays:

Watch crystals:

(Sniper Note: If the watch is a Rolex or lookalike, use the magifier over the date to concentrate suns rays.)


Make a small hole in any paper sheet, spit in this hole or put a clear water drop that you present to the sun rays as a magnifying glass


A survivor's pack is not likely to include a complete chemistry set but there are some very common chemicals that if they are available, can be used to produce combustion.

The following mixtures can all be ignited by grinding them between rock or putting them under the friction point in any of the types of fire drill already described.

Mix them carefully, avoiding contact with any metal objects. All are susceptible to dampness and MUST be kept dry.


In a mixture of 3/1 by volume is a fierce-burning incendiary that can also be ignited by: dripping a few drops of Sulphuric Acid on to the mixture.


Mixed 9/1 is less sensitive and temperature is a critical factor in how long it takes to ignite. The addition of Glycerine will also produce ignition.

Sulphuric Acid: Is found in car batteries

(Sniper note: Boil car battery acip in a bottle until it gives off white fumes. This will concentrate the acid enough to be used in pyrotechnics)

Potassium Chlorate:

Is found in some throat tablets, their contents may be listed on the pack. Try crushing one & see if it works

(Sniper Note: If you have enough, the white tips of kitchen matches contain plenty, and can be used to make explosives -- Handle with care!)


Smoke is the result of incomplete combustion thus by feeding the fire with small dry twigs which catch fire almost instantly the size of them about 1/8" thick there will be no tell tale blue smoke haze.


Made by filling and old tin or small hollow piece of branch with clay earth, packed tight at the bottom. The earth should come to about an inch from the top of the tin. Into this a twig is pushed a piece of old cotton rag or very finely teased bark fibre is wound round the twig to serve as a wick. Fat from your cooking is poured on top of the earth and when the wick is lit the lamp burns with a clear flame. The amount of light can be controlled by the size of the wick.


In building a campfire is to make pigsty construction with heavy logs on the outside and then pack the inside with light brushwood. Such a fire are rarely a success. The light inside wood burns out in a quick blaze of glory but the heavy outer logs lack sufficient heat to get them properly alight and also having only small points of contact with each other at the corners do not burn well nor do such fires give out a good radiation of heat.

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Copyright 1995, David R. Reed
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