Has any one come across a suitable, readily available wood, in NZ that is good for friction fire? I have tried some Pine and got smoke but had no tinder etc so did not go any further. Has any one succeeded in making fire with Pine, is it possible? I believe Manuka may be an option as it is a hard wood.

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I guess so. Fire engine will be on stand by! Will keep you updated, mauri ora!
Cheers Sean.

Incidentally, are you using the fire-plough technique (hika)? I have some experience with the bow-drill technique and have had some success with fire-plough too but not much, so interested to see how your technique develops! cheers, mart.
Kia ora anoo Martin. I spoke to a good friend yesterday who is Samoan. She is going to show my son and I how to do the biz. I have acquired some Mahoe however she reckons the good old driftwood is as good. Retold a story of when they were in a cyclone in Samoa when she was young. They had to hunt around for some dry wood as everything was soaked. The did manage to get a fire started after some time. Will keep you updated on our progress. Noho ora mai naa Sean

this is a link to the best article written I have read on the bow drill, it includes things I have never read else ware, like burning in the hand socket and top of spindle first then oil that joint by rubbing in your hair or side of your nose, and explaining that first you make a coal (with more pressure and less speed) then you ignite it (with more speed and less pressure), I've never heard anyone else say much beyond make a coal then go faster. He even shows 5 different coals with only 1 being correct and how to fix the other 4.


it is the one called  Basic Bow-Drill




Excellent, thanks dean...

I've had great success using macrocarpa for both fireboard and spindle, using the native amercan bow and spindle technique. Its a nice medium density wood, very easily carved but not too soft. The only downside is the smoke can be quite irritating to lungs and eyes when you're spending hours on your knees trying to perfect the technique...


As far as native woods I also have used totara, quite similar to macrocarpa but a little softer.


hope this helps :o)

Hmmm.   Interesting.   Thanks.
Never having been to NZ, I would not presume to advise anyone on specific woods to use.  However, I have taught many classes on bow drill firemaking over the years and by trial and error, worked out some helpful techniques. Most of my students can do things with computers and other advanced electronics I don't understand. But 99% of them can't name the tree they're standing under. Elm, birch, hickory, linden, it's all the same.  All evergreens are "pines" to them. So telling them to use cottonwood or willow would be pointless. Instead, I tell them to find any piece of  dry, dead wood, a tree branch or something, and remove the bark. Then press their thumbnail as hard as they can into the exposed wood. If they can gouge out pieces of the wood, it's too soft and won't work. If they make no impression at all, it's too hard and will glaze over instead of grind into charred black dust. (if it's all you have, you might still make it work by dropping a pinch of sand into the burnhole to break up the glaze and create friction. In any case, the hard wood will make a good bearing piece.) But if they can see a slight nailmark in the wood, it will be about the right density for both the drill and the fireboard. I hope this is useful to someone.
Thanks John.... that is a useful idea for me to play with.   It is something to think about when I am next playing around with sticks.

Norm Lovelock has been on my case about making fire with sticks.   I've made many coals with a bow drill, but only a few with a hand drill.   I would like to become more proficient with a hand drill.

During summer I'd collected a decent long sycamore stick for a spindle, and a thicker dead branch for my hearthboard.   These are dry now.   I'd straightened the spindle as it dried.  Using my knife, I made some shallow holes in the hearthboard to start the drilling.   I then drilled each depression with the spindle (making some encouraging smoke in the process).  The next thing was to cut the notch into each hole to collect the dust and to allow oxygen into the hot area.

I spun and spun that damn spindle.   I got smoke, but no coal.  I also got a decent blister on my right hand.    So I decided to revert to the bow drill method until I found a decent combination of wood to give me a quicker coal like I'd achieved in the past.

I looked around for bow drill set that I thought I had somewhere but I couldn't find it.  I must have discarded it when I moved house.   So I started over again.

I live in a poofy new house in a new subdivision now, so I just couldn't go and scrounge around in my woodshed looking for some suitable materials.   Next door in a vacant section there was a holly tree hanging low over the fence, so I found a curved branch for my bow fairly easily.   I didn't find a handy bit of sandstone to make a spindle bearing from, so I used a bit of attractive beach-polished argillite that I had collected.

If my bearing was to be sandstone, I could have made a socket in it with a bit of sharp rock.   But argillite is a different thing altogether.   We work with glass here, so I used a diamond burr to create a decent 'dimple' into the argillite.

I cut my spindle shorter because it was thin and likely to bend while being spun.   A single wrap of cord around the spindle didn't work too well (as I have found before), so I tied a clove hitch around the spindle, then took several wraps of the string above and below the knot.  (This is sometimes called the Egyptian method evidently).   That worked a whole lot better.

I lubricated my spindle bearing with butter and drilled and drilled.  Smoke but no glow.   The hearth board seemed to be frustratingly weak, and a couple of times it split...breaking away the wood on the edge of the hole.

I kept working at it.   I applied a bit less pressure and tried for more speed.   I got some decent smoke and kept spinning.  I lifted the spindle and found that I finally had a coal.  Thank goodness.

Norm reckons he's got some kaikomako and mahoe for me.   So if that is seasoned well it should work better.   I've had great success with this traditional combination in the past.

Here's the kit.   The knife is home made.   It was a quick job, and it is modeled after the karda knife you might typically get with a khukuri.   I really like this type of knife.



Cheers Stephen, nice info and pic. Boy it can be frustrating I know how that feels! Keep us up to date with the kaikomako and mahoe, from what I have read that was the traditional maori choice

just made my first coal using a hand drill today!


using a nice ancient piece of super dry totara fence post for a hearth and a 700mm long, little finger thick piece of kanono (coprosma grandiflora) as a spindle. first coal made by sharing the work with a friend, taking turns on the spindle, time 30 seconds.. second coal on my own more like a minute..


loving the simplicity of hand drill vs the bow drill with all its bits and pieces...


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