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Thread: primitive fire starting failed attempt?

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    Member mud dawg's Avatar
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    Default primitive fire starting failed attempt?

    i was going threw my survival gear,and got to thinking how would i start a fire if it was lost for some reason? so in ideal conditions thought i would try .i decided my best bet would be a bow drill set so started searching for the materials i needed. got the bow made with a boot lace and small piece of spruce, a cool cupped rock for the socket, pine for the drill(not from the forest but thought it was my best bet for this 1st test) and spruce for the fire board. had a great tender bundle and kenneling ready. started working this set up and on the second try had it smoking really strong but no ember developed. tried a few more times but never achieved better results. when i was pretty exhausted from trying i gave up and used my flint and steel and had it going in no time. im not sure why i failed with the bow?(wrong materials,a little moisture,not enough effort,fire board constructed wrong??) any of you guys tried this method with better results? sure would be nice to have confidence in my ability and had i been successful intended to try in poorer/damper conditions. ill keep trying and report back with what worked for me and what didnt when/if im able to master this skill.

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    Member ak_cowboy's Avatar
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    The fire bow is one of the hardest ways to start a fire in an emergency situation. It's a good skill to have, but I always keep a Flint on me

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    Member mud dawg's Avatar
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    i agree. just want to develop the skill needed in case i ever find myself in a situation were i am separated from other means of starting a fire for whatever reason.

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    Premium Member kasilofchrisn's Avatar
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    Did you have some char cloth to catch the ember?
    Another suggestion is to try some Chaga or true tinder fungus as when dried it takes and holds an ember quite well.
    "The closer I get to nature the farther I am from idiots"

    "Fishing and Hunting are only an addiction if you're trying to quit"

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    Member mud dawg's Avatar
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    had a great tinder bundle just couldn't get get the ember to transfer into it. i think part of the problem may have been the fire board construction.
    (no air able to get into the pocket the drill created?)

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    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mud dawg View Post
    had a great tinder bundle just couldn't get get the ember to transfer into it. i think part of the problem may have been the fire board construction.
    (no air able to get into the pocket the drill created?)
    Could be......from what I've always seen you should have some kind of notch for air. I've never tried it though, as I always keep my magnesium and flint with me when I go hunting or anywhere far........along with a few lighters........lol
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Member AK Ray's Avatar
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    A few years ago I came across a tree list made by a guy in CA based on their performance for hand and now drills. The wood's characteristics for moisture and ember building seemed to be the most critical. Conifers were not the best choice due to their resin content. The resin appears to slow down heat development or ember creation. The best woods were types of deciduous brush stuff.
    Prepping the drill board was a critical step as was choosing the right drill that worked best with the board wood.
    Making smoke is easy, but making an ember to transfer to your kindle bundle is hard science.
    There are some really good primitive arts videos out there to learn from.
    I've never gotten very far with AK materials, but I've never been overly serious about it. Splitting dried alder or birch to carve a drill board then shaping the notches and drill ended up being too difficult with a pocket knife. You need some real tools to get started and not pocket survival kit tools.


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    Member mud dawg's Avatar
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    i always try and have a couple ways to build a fire with me when im heading out too. i just keep thinking there could be a time when it would come in handy to have an alternate method mastered. i was close on my second attempt. i think had i tried the notch at first ,i may have been successful as my attempts got weaker and weaker before i said enough and pulled out the flint. i am pretty happy with how well that(flint-steel) has worked in all my tests so far ,but even with the flint i haven't tried in a driving wind/rain or snowstorm. i think it best to test skills in non life threatening situations till mastered.then should they be needed in THE REAL DEAL you know what works and what doesn't. saw gas and the leaf blower seem to work pretty good too!!

    thanks ak ray very informative ill look into that.

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    Firebows are fun, and can work, but they can also take a lot of work to get to work. I agree with you completely on having different methods. Thesethree things are always (and you can underscore that word) on me when Iím out.And when I say on me, well if I become separated from them itís possible thesituation is such that a fireís not going to help much. In addition I carry afirestarter. Everyone has their favorites; I carry Vaseline soaked cotton ballsin a prescription bottle.

    On the first day of winter moose season this past December,I talked a couple of friends into going out the night before and camping out,despite a very grim weather forecast. Indeed, during the night a storm blew in.The next day saw a very heavy rain/snow mix that made visibility very, verylimited through most of the day. Combined with a stout 30-40 mph wind it alsomade it difficult to stay dry. Oh, and there was a fair amount of standing snowfrom the previous week, making foot travel simply delightful. We made it perhapsa half mile from camp before I realized the likely folly of trying to hunt aday like that.

    Well, one of the friends is a 30 year old energizer bunnysort; he decided to hike the drainage we were hunting from stem to stern anyway.Iím closing in on 50 and my other buddy is near 40 and not as nimble as he usedto be, after a college education funded via playing defensive line. As our 30year old friend went trotting off in search of a moose he would never see, theother friend and I turned our attention to getting a fire started. FortunatelyI had the above mentioned items and minutes later- despite exceedingly wet,windy conditions- we had a nice little fire going that made the rest of the daypass fittingly enough. We euphemistically told folks we spent the day glassingfor moose. (the creek valley was in front of us the whole time)

    The two lessons from that day? (lessons I had learned long,long ago) 1) If youíre really going to need an item, always have it on you. 2)Live to fight another day. (I got a nice 40 inch bull 3 weeks later, on agorgeous blue winter morning)
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    Member sayak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kasilofchrisn View Post
    Did you have some char cloth to catch the ember?
    Another suggestion is to try some Chaga or true tinder fungus as when dried it takes and holds an ember quite well.
    The real ol' time Yupiks used a walrus hide bag with a chunk of hollowed out "bear bread" (shelf fungus) to carry embers in. Hopfully they didn't have to use their fire drill very often ... just keep the embers going, grab your tinder and some swan down to kindle a fire and you're good to go.
    I am amazed how well steel wool works to capture a spark and start a fire. I found this out when I was grinding a piece of metal on my bench grinder and had a piece of steel wool on the work bench. A spark hit the wool and poof! Same idea as the swan down.

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    Member Frostbitten's Avatar
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    Although it probably isn't considered "primitive", a fire piston is a cool way to make fire without matches. As with a mag bar/flint, bow drill, matches, or lighter, if it isn't in your pack when you need it, a fire piston isn't worth a darn.

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    Member .338-06's Avatar
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    When I was in the Scouts we made fires using bow drills, but we did it in teams and traded off without stopping (on a good day). Not sure I could do it by myself, 40 plus years later.
    I may be slow, but I get where I'm going!

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    Quote Originally Posted by .338-06 View Post
    When I was in the Scouts we made fires using bow drills, but we did it in teams and traded off without stopping (on a good day). Not sure I could do it by myself, 40 plus years later.
    Yes Sir!! I was a Life scout and a leader into my late 20's and I can't tell you how many times I've started fires with a bow drill. What I learned is that it's a really poor way to start a fire and in my opinion don't rely on that technique to keep you warm in an emergency...you will probably die. Keep whatever you choose to use for fire making on your person ALL the time. Don't laugh but a tampon is a good tinder and you can also use it as a wound dressing if needed. Add in some vasoline and you have a easy to carry and light fire source...but you need something to ignite it...your choice.
    Somewhere along the way I have lost the ability to act politically correct. If you should find it, please feel free to keep it.

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    As with Lowrider I made several bow drill fires when I was in the Boy Scouts and I agree it is a really poor way to start a fire. That's why I've always carried my old Zippo, a BIC, strike anywhere matches in a waterproof case, and after they became available, a ferro rod with pj cotton balls. They have always worked for me in some very inclement weather conditions. I keep them scattered in my pockets just in case I became -- for some oddball situation -- separated from my pack.

    L.W.

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    Those that say that you cannot rely on bow and drill friction fire in a survival situation have not had the good fortune of being taught friction fire by a knowledgeable person. I am confident that I could walk out any season and in almost any wooded terrain in mainland Alaska and have a fire going in 2-3 hours at most (once the proper materials have been located) by using primitive means. All that I would need is a good sheath knife which I always have on me. I believe that I could also do it without the knife but the effort and time to be successful would go up dramatically. Also even just a small saw like 3 1/2 inches or longer would really help make things much easier for friction fire(I carry 2 of them on me all the time). I am not saying this to toot my own horn but rather to point out that friction fire *IS* a very viable option in a survival situation. With the right local materials and the proper knowledge, friction fire is neither difficult nor tiring to perform. It usually takes me around 30 seconds to have an ember once I start and. I could easily immediately do it again with results in another 30 seconds and keep doing that for maybe 4 times before needing a short rest. The point I am making here is that the proper form makes the whole process much less strenuous than most people think thus greatly improving chances of success. Btw I am just shy of 60 years old and not in the best of physical conditioning.

    To the original poster, try willow or poplar/cottonwood. You need to look for trees or branches that are dead and standing vertically or near vertical. It is best to find wood that have been dead long enough to have shed the bark. The bark tends to hold moisture in longer. Search for dead standing barkless trees that have their tops still. Trees with broken tops could have more damp interiors because of the access through the broken exposed top. It is best to obtain your hearth board and spindle from the same piece of wood. Chaga was suggested earlier as a coal extender. Indeed it is excellent in that capacity. Chaga is also a great hearth board material but needs to be dry. Chaga grows on live birch and so therefore will most likely be live when found. However Chaga can occasionally be found on dead birches and so therefore is most likely dead itself. In those rare cases, it may be dry enough to use as is. Cordage for the bow can be found in the wilderness around you but is not something recommended for newbees. Cordage is best carried on you in the form of boot laces, the bottom hem of a tshirt ripped loose or of course the paracord survival bracelets so popular now days. 550 paracord makes an excellent quality friction fire cordage

    A broken edge of a piece of quartz struck against the blade back of a high carbon steel knife can also be productive as a "flint and steel" substitute. Most people will not have char cloth with them to catch the spark. Again Chaga to the rescue. Small thumb size pieces can dry enough to use in a couple hours when placed on a dry surface in summer sun.

    I recently coached a 13 year old boy to perform his first succesful bow and drill friction fire on his first try. It was almost as exciting for me as it was for him lol. His 9 year old brother was not successful as he did not have enough weight to produce enough friction. He was, however, successful when teemed up with his brother. One spraddled the hearth board while sitting down and held the spindle and bearing block. The other boy wrapped the cordage around the spindle and pulled the bare cordage with his hands rather than a bow.

    Primitive fire as well as survival and bushcraft has been a hobby of mine since the teen years.

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    I always carry several ways to start a fire. I also carry tinder. One of my favorites that I have run out of, is pitch wood from the PNW. When I was logging this stuff was everywhere in the old growth. Common in the slivers left on stumps when falling. The stuff would be so full of pitch it was transparent. Once you light it, it isn't going out unless you dump a bucket of water on it. Dryer lint is good, just like the fine moss that grows on spruce branches, but burns out rather quickly. Liquid bug dope burns easy and hot.
    When I was with the Scouts, I assigned them fire starting tasks, and had them discover for themselves what burns good and makes good fire starter. That's where I learned about the bug dope. From kids, LOL.
    Hunt Ethically. Respect the Environment.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SmokeRoss View Post
    .......One of my favorites that I have run out of, is pitch wood from the PNW. When I was logging this stuff was everywhere in the old growth. Common in the slivers left on stumps when falling. The stuff would be so full of pitch it was transparent. Once you light it, it isn't going out unless you dump a bucket of water on it.........
    We also have "pitch wood" or "fat wood" here in mainland Alaska but probably not as plentiful as in the PNW. I just found some for the first time about a month ago. This was in a dead standing mature white spruce tree. I didn't know we had it here until this fall.

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