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
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)
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.
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...