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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Yep Tree Beard, I know exactly what you mean about the simplicity of a hand drill.   It is a heck of a lot quicker if you don't have to worry about making a bow and a bearing.   And once you've mastered the hand drill, a bow drill should be really easy to work with.

I've played around at using the floating method of spinning the drill, and I can kind of do it that way (this is where you rock the angle of your hands so that they tend to 'climb' the spindle as you spin it).  However I don't find it easy to get a lot of pressure on the drill when I'm doing this method.   So I prefer to let my hands work down the drill.   When my hands are at the bottom, I hold the drill with one hand while I quickly return the other to the top of the spindle.   I've seen a video of Alan Halcon using a hand drill, and this is what he did as well.  And if it is good enough for a guy who has gotten a coal in six seconds, it is good enough for me.

My focus now is to find some good wood combinations that make the process quicker.

I want to try old man's beard for my hearth board, and maybe mullein stalk for the spindle.   Plus other materials of course.

A few things I don't see shown often:


thumb loops - hand drill practice/wood selection testing.

link to youtube example



spliced/joined hand drill - make use of short lengths of quality wood.



two hole or two stick fire boards - no notch cut needed.


That's all good stuff Deanz... thanks.   I particularly liked the You Tube demo. It was well done, and the guy had a classic accent!

I like the two-stick fireboard.   One of the biggest nuisances with these fire-drills is having to start the hole and then cut a notch.   When you use the two-stick board you don't necessarily have to do either of these things. So far I've made more coals with a standard notched fireboard, but I want to get better at making and using the two stick board.   In fact I gathered a dead willow branch today with a two-stick board in mind.

The spliced drill is another good idea.   When I use a bow drill I find that unless my drill is a fairly big diameter, the string doesn't grip it well enough (so I use the Egyptian multi-wrap system).   But a big drill isn't, in my opinion, the best thing for getting a coal.   I think a drill should have a maximum diameter of around15 mm at the point, but a thicker drill will 'drive' better with a single turn of cord around it.   So the spliced drill can give you a big drive circumference, and a replaceable small tip.  Its a bit more work for a start, but if you are camped somewhere you may as well take the time to make the best fire kit that you can.

Well, tried my first bow drill fire last night, using Mahoe board and spindle (got impatient and grabbed my boot lace for the bow).

Once I managed to assemble it without the spindle flipping away in random directions, I got good fluffy black punk, then smoke, then a coal...  Transferred it to some punga hairs, few trembling breaths and I had fire!

Called wife, and proceeded to show off how I did it, and damn me - worked again!

Three attempts and three fires!


Absolutely chuffed with this. The feeling of empowerment to be able to make fire with nothing more than a knife (and bootlace) still has me grinning as I type this.


Next step will be using a natural cord, thinking plaited possum leather?


Congratulations !!!    Welcome to the forum.


I think I've managed to get a coal using green strips of flax for my bow cord (it was a long time ago).  The flax wont last forever, but it may last long enough to light a fire.


Of course the ultimate is to use no cord at all.....   just a hand spindle.   The last time I tried this I got a big blister on my palm, so it is something that probably should be done with gloves on until your hands toughen up.

Thanks Stephen.


I'll give flax a go, but as you say, durability would definitely be an issue. I might have to go for a larger diameter stepped spindle to ease the load on the fibres maybe.


Not overly fussed about hand spindles - in my mind, anything that potentially jeopardises the paws should be avoided. The extra time absorbed in bow construction is worth it in this respect I think.


I have successfully produced fire with Kohuhu numerous ammounts of times. The wood is perfect for the bow drill fire method.
Oshadhi...   did you use the Kohuhu for both drill and base?   Thanks in advance...   Coote.

I have not visited the forum for a while, good to see lots of comments and interested. Very interested in comment about Kohuhu. Pittosporums are know to be hard and dense.( 2* harder than oak by one source, Some people use them for bearing blocks because of this) so i have never tried it.

Regarding hand drill sets. I like meullin on willow.  This is a good time of year to harvest Muellin storks. Drive along any rural road and you will see the dried stems . That are generally very straight and you can select the diameter you like.

I have also found thumb loops to be an efficient way to generate a coal. I clove hitch a string to the shaft,

In my experience if people spend a few days hardening up the hands and improving stamina it will make achieving a coal much easier.


Good on you Barnsey.   Nice photo.

I've got some willow drying now.   It will be good to increase my experience with different wood types that work for this.

If anyone is having trouble sourcing hand drill materials contact me and i'll send you some.

All willows are not created equal. The common willow is too hard to make easy friction fire lighting sets. The one used for orchard shelter belts is best, weeping willow is good as well. I must really learn the names of the different willows

I have used twisted flax cord for bow drill strings and have been very impressed, i made 12 coals with one, before stopping,it was still is reasonable shape. Make them thick as i have seen thin ones break quickly. Quite a testimony to the quality of nz flax fibres. My favorite string is twisted raw hide. Strong, great grip and lasts .

I have read one authority who suggested that scotish broom works well. It has all the correct ingredients, plentiful,straight,hard shell and soft interior. I must give it a try. There are several native broom species as well.

I was interested in tree beards post using Kenono for a spindle, i have found the coprosma good for bow drill but must try it for hand drill technique.


I understand poplar is pretty good


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