by Todd Walker
The Bushcraft Journal, a free online magazine, has a wealth of articles dealing with outdoor self-reliance. This post is based on a recent article by Gary Johnston of Jack Raven Bushcraft.
As Gary mentions in his article, many people would like to learn to make fire by friction with a bow and drill but many not have the physical stamina to twirl up an ember. Others may have bad knees or other injures which prevent them from ever attempting fire by friction. This method alleviates knee pain and weak wrists.
Here are the steps our students at RISE Academy used to make fire using this method…
Long Lever Bow Drill Set
Step 1: Gather the Stuff
- Bearing block: About a yard long log and 3-4 inches in diameter
- A platform like a firewood round knee-high
- Long bow about chest high for multiple bowers
- String for bow and normal stuff you’d use for regular bow drill fire – tinder, welcome mat, etc.
Cut a 36 inch long, 3-4 inch diameter, tree to be used as the bearing block. Flatten the underside on one end of the log. Carve a pivot hole about 3 to 5 inches in from one end of the long bearing block. We found a wide pivot hole about 1/4 inch deep to be about right. We used a hearth and spindle (cedar on cedar) which the students found produced embers in the traditional bow drill set.
In the video below, we show two separate groups of students successfully using this long lever bow drill set. It makes for a great team building or family project.
Step 2: Attach Bearing Block to Tree/Pole
Lash the other end of the long lever to a tree or pole. Use a square lashing or tie knots until it holds to the anchor point level with the top of the spindle. The long lever bearing block takes advantage of mass and mechanical advantage to easily apply downward pressure on the spindle during bowing. In fact, I applied too much pressure in the beginning which caused problems.
Step 3: The Longer Bow
For two or more people doing the bowing, use a longer bow to achieve more spindle rotations per stroke. By yourself, stick to a normal arm-length bow. And yes, this method works well if you’re spinning solo. The anchored bearing block steadies the point of contact against my shin – which is one of the struggles I see a lot with first-time friction fire makers.
Load the spindle into the long bow, place the spindle into the hearth board divot, and mate the top of the spindle to the long lever bearing block. The person “driving” the bearing block will place his/her foot on the hearth board resting on the stump. Steady the bearing block against the shin with two hands.
You can also set this entire rig up without elevating the hearth board. It’s certainly kinder on the knees when elevated.
Step 4: Twirl an Ember
For a group effort, have two bowers hold opposite ends of the loaded long bow. Oh, have them stand offset to the plane of the bow so nobody gets a stick in the gut. Start the pull/push slowly to gain a rhythm like a lumberjack crosscut saw competition. As the charred dust builds into the hearth board notch, pick up the speed in bowing.
If the first two bowers tire, and you have alternates waiting, the bearing block “driver” gives the command to switch. Including all the hands builds teamwork and ownership to the effort. While the switch takes place, check the condition of the char dust in the notch. Even if it is smoking on its own, allow the other bowers a turn in spinning.
Step 5: Blow the Ember into Flame
Celebrate your creation of a fire egg (ember) and allow it to grow by fanning it with your hand. High-fives all around! No need to hurry as you will likely produce a larger-than-normal amount of char dust in the hearth board notch.
Once the fire egg is resting in its nest of tinder material, have each team member take a turn blowing the ember into flame. At that moment when heavy, white smoke billows from the nest, get your camera ready to capture the magic of fire from scratch!
Place the burning nest in the fire pit and add prepared kindling for the fire to eat. Let the high-fives and fist-bumps begin! Your team has just created fire by friction and welded bonds of friendship never to be forgotten!
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.
P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there…
Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!
Copyright © by Survival Sherpa: In light of the recent theft of all my content by a pirate site, my sharing policy has changed. I do not permit the re-posting of entire articles from my site without express written consent by me. My content on this site may be shared in digital form (200 words or less) for non-commercial use with a link back (without no-follow attribute) to the original article crediting the author. All photos, drawings, and articles are copyrighted by and the property of Survival Sherpa. You are more than welcome to share our photos and articles on social media for educational purposes as long as you link back to the original article/photo with credit to the author.
Pingback: Off Grid Medic: Surviving Wilderness Emergencies When Definitive Care is Miles Away | Survival Sherpa
Pingback: 5o+ Reasons I’m Thankful for My “Country-as-Cracklin’-Cornbread” Raisin’ | Survival Sherpa
Pingback: Hoko Knife: How to Make a Simple Stone Cutting Tool | Survival Sherpa
Pingback: How to Make Reverse Twist Two-Ply Natural Cordage | Survival Sherpa
Pingback: SmartPrepper Mason Jar Kerosene Lamps | Survival Sherpa
Pingback: 5o+ Reasons I’m Thankful for My “Country-as-Cracklin’-Cornbread” Raisin’ - Survival Guides HQ
Pingback: How to Make and Use a Long Lever Bow Drill Set - Survival Guides HQ
Pingback: Our First Year of Building Self-Reliance Skills at RISE Academy | Survival Sherpa