There seems to be great interest among ATS users in survival
skills. Many thoughtful folks have spent their time posting videos
which unfortunately are commonly over-long, under-descriptive
and sometimes full of poor information.
Having taught these skills for over 20 years I feel qualified to at least pick
which videos might teach the most in the least amount of time. So, I'm
starting a series of "best of" videos on survival. In addition I will fill in
other information that will better illustrate what the videos are teaching.
That said I'm going to start the series with bowdrill firemaking. There are
nearly 20 different methods of friction fire making but I'm choosing bowdrill
because it is the most effective and likely to succeed in a real-life survival
Let me preface the videos with some information that is not included in
Which woods will work? The best answer to that is which WILL NOT WORK
because the list is much shorter:
hickory (bark makes cordage, root bark even stronger)
(extremely hard woods)
All evergreens except cedar (both red and atlantic white cedar)
You don't have to learn ALL your trees to do this, just learn the ones that
won't (or don't easily) work.
Choose wood that is dry but not rotted or crumbly, preferably from
somewhere off of the ground. Never use green wood.
Spindle and hearthboard or fireboard should be same material but a
mix of woods can work also.
Spindle should be 5 - 8" long. Not thinner than pinky finger nor larger
than your big toe.
Spindles can also be made of weedy plants including:
Horseweed (Erigeron canadensis)
Mullein (Verbascum thapsis)
Cattail stalks (typhus spp)
Yucca (yucca spp)
Evening primrose (oenothera biennis)
Hearthboard or Fireboard:
Minimum 3/4" thickness, maximum 1 1/2".
Cut notch (V-shape) into hole about HALFWAY TO CENTER.
20" to 30" length. Find a piece of wood around thumb thickness that has a good curve to it. It should have just a little "give" to it. Any type
wood or even a rib bone will work.
Should be very strong and uniform with no knots except where it is tied to
the bow. Keep string dry, if wet it will slip.
OK, the first video is great, this guy uses all natural materials to make a
bowdrill fire - no knife, no premade cordage. Don't count on finding a nice
nodule of flint like this guy uses, flintknapping is a difficult skill and should NEVER be done without eye protection.
His hearthwood is a little too punky but still works. Don't let his accent put you off, it's semicomic but very few people can do what he does in
this video, watch for yourself-
The second video shows proper bowdrill form. She's pretty arrogant in
tone but competent and instructive. Her remarks about "if you don't make
a fire in less than 45 seconds" might be true if you have well-seasoned
wood and a working pre-made bowdrill, but is not true of survival situations
where reality can make things more lengthy and complicated. It's important
to know that women and kids can make fire this way. Watch and learn the
proper form for bowdrill firemaking -
Everybody got all that? Hopefully this will provide enough information for
folks to go try this for themselves.
TINDER - the last step
To make a fire successfully you need to know a little more about tinder.
Notice how they transfer the coal from beneath the hearthboard into the
tinder? A green leaf works best to catch the coal ( you can see in the first
video where his coal burned through his brown leaf)'
Also gently add the brown dust from the top of the hearthboard to your
coal. Your tinder can be any fluffy dry material (they are using inner bark
from trees). Buff the tinder to break it down into finer strands. Put the finest
and fluffiest stuff into the middle of the tinder bundle. BLOW GENTLY or it
may go out. A slow steady stream of air will help spread the coal into the
Final Note: WHERE you atttempt to make your fire makes a difference, go
uphill, away from open water and get out into the sunshine if possible.
When making fire this way it's very important to stack the odds in your favor
in every way possible. Doubtless I will have overlooked something so feel
free to ask away. I'll do my best to answer. I hope this helps.
I'm still trying to find the video of how to do a complete fire with nothing but a knife and a trunk of bamboo. It was the first time I had seen it.
The guy had a fire going in 2-3 minutes. Amazing stuff and if I ever find it, I'll share it with yall.
Thanks warrenb. The bamboo method is called the firesaw. You split a piece of bamboo lengthwise. Lay the open side of one piece 90 degrees to the
round side of the other. Mark where the edges of the first piece meet the second. Cut 2 grooves through the bamboo where the marks are.
Holding it is kinda tricky, you plant one end in the ground the other to your chest (it can hurt, use padding) - this piece is open side up. Holding
the other piece with both hands you push down and draw back the backside of the 2nd piece while keeping it at a 90 degree angle. Place tinder where
the slots are and push and pull. Eventually the dust build up and will light. you can use the very thin "skin" inside the bamboo (actually the
cambium layer) for the tinder. would be far easier to illustrate with a video im sure , lol. Search bamboo fire saw or maybe firethong. I've haerd it
called both. thanks again
Star, and Flag to the OP for an excellent Tutorial.
Both videos were good, and I'll take a superior man, or woman's tone any day of the week; considering how thorough she was with the whole procedure.
The hick showed excellent way back to basics on how to make them, and she streamlined the efficiency.
I forget what it's called exactly, but in my neck of the woods the tree moss is an excellent material for tender.
I've almost got that pictured, but I'd like to see a video. So it would be like leaning in on piece as though impaled; while another piece is
forming a cross...........pushing, and pulling......... I don't understand how the tender goes off exactly, or where it goes?? is it being moved
along, or is it sitting at the base?
Er, that looked like a LOT of work. I like the bow method very much. The latter is good to know when stuck on an Island......???Hmmm, I've been
stuck on one of those before; getting supplies is a real pain!
Originally posted by calstorm
I need wood help. The trees that I know (I need to work on my tree identification) Is Manzanita, oak, 6 kinds of pine, ceder & dogwood. That is pretty
much what you are going to find around here.
It sounds like you live in the western US. I apologize but I only
know the trees of the eastern states. Try any wood that isn't too
hard - to test try pushing into the wood with your thumbnail - if it
indents the wood it will probably work if it is dry and not rotted.
You don't have to learn your trees, just know the properties of
the woods that work best (medium-soft wood). You can still use
oak or cedar but it will only work if your form is perfect.
Out west I know you have yucca stalks, you can make both
the hearthboard and spindle out of it. That was the favored
method of Southwestern indian tribes and should work for you
as well. Good luck! With some practice, patience and good form
you will succeed calstorm. By the way, the first time you make a
fire this way is absolute magic - remember to thank your spiritual
PTB for providing you with this gift.
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