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 too have had frustrating results with pine. Steve Kohler has a great video called Make Fire Without Matches in NZ
which may help if you haven't already seen it. Its has a few ideas that I have yet to try out
Hi Scott,

I think pine is too soft for bow-drill, I've ended up drilling straight through the harth and not generating much heat with it (Beech behaves like that as well). I am not sure about how pine does with the fire-plough technique, never tried it, but you might have more luck with that.

Manuka and Kanuka are definitely a good bet and easy to find, both are hard and have oils in them which help the process, dry standing wood is much easier than anything live or lying on the floor and damp. I also find making the complete fireset from the same wood source works well. I stuck a post up on my site with some details not that long ago, it may help, it's here.

Let us know how you get on!
Mate (Maori name) wood I recall from memory is good for friction fire-starting. I will check it out properly at the weekend...and update. There is a companion wood to it...Details later. ZZZZzzzzzzz
Just checked the book...actually it's PATE and is coupled with KAIKOMOKO to make fire. Have yet to locate both with confidence but aim to soon. Has anyone else?
Kaikomoko is one of the woods that Steve uses in his video by memory you should check his video it is one of the best quality bushcraft videos I have seen.
I've made successful fire drill sets from NZ wood. The hearth board I've had the most success with is Mahoe. My successful drills have been made from Kaikamako and Kawakawa. I've had smoke and charring using manuka/kanuka, but no glowing coal. I think that the resin in pine could be a big disadvantage. But that is just my current opinion.
Yes I agree with the resin point. I have been getting into the old school Ray Mears recently and each indigenous people I have seen make friction fire so far tend to used non resinous softer wood, quite porus.
I think any kind of resin would cause more of a glaze to form.


There are a number of woods which work well in New Zealand. The one I have used most and have taught many people to use the firebow method is mahoe on mahoe. Mahoe has many advantages, it readily found at low alititudes,is soft and easily carved. It has a tendency to  produce suckers, which are straight and taper gradually(many die off naturally and are perfect). This enables you to make spindle and base board from the same branch.Mahoes strongest assest is the ember, often it goes straight to a robust glowing coal while pumping. I find the  effort required is considerably less than with a manuka set. Mahoe dries quickly and i have had green sticks dry in 2-3 weeks and form good sets.

Another wood which is widely distributed geographically and can be found up to 1000m is, Kamahi. This is a medium hard wood and works well . It can be hard to find straight bits for spindle so they need to be carved, Another option is to join a piece of the right wood onto a straight shaft with a scarf joint. From time to time you meet Kamhi branches which have come down in a storm.

If you just wish to learn and practice the technique then there are several introduced woods which work well.

Poplar is a soft wood which readily produces a glowiing ember and is widely distributed. Some willows are quite difficult so do not perservere if it is not working. Because there are some easy willows, it just a matter of finding it.

Literature claims the Sycamore is the easiest wood and i would agree. Once you recognise it you will see it growing everywhere it is a pest in nz.(at least in tasman) It is quite hard to carve in comparison to the others mention but you can comfortably get a fire in less the 20 seconds with a good set.

As regards pine. I have not succeeded with naturally harvested wood but carved a set from kiln dried wood which produced a fire without too much difficulty. Maybe the treatment process remove some of the resins that cause problems with pine. Or i was just lucky

Nice to meet you Barnsey.   And thanks for this contribution about friction fire.   I've recently started to think about this topic quite a bit again as I'd like to show my grandchildren the method.   I haven't played with friction fire for a while, but in the past I've had quite a bit of success.     I've only ever used dissimilar woods for the board and spindle.   For the board I've nearly always used mahoe, and kaikomako or kawakawa have made my most successful spindles.   I don't think I've ever thought to try mahoe on mahoe though.... I must get some  and give it a go.  Those long mahoe suckers would be ideal for a hand-spindle.   And the sycamore is a good idea.... this can be a bit of a weed in some areas.    I've made some successful primitive bows from sycamore.
Kia ora raa Scott. According to Maaori oral traditions, Maui hid the flaming fingernail of his grandmother Mahuika in the Kaikomako tree. In the Far North oral traditions, he hid it in the Mahoe tree. My son and I are in the process of testing this traditional knowledge by sourcing both types and will use the Samoan technique of firelighting as is the same as the Maori of old. Good luck with your research naa Sean Delany
Hi Sean, thanks for this and would be good to keep us posted on your successes if you can. I have had trouble sourcing kaikomako in the Wellington region, bar one or two trees in Otari bush (protected area - so nothing I could use there). I know what kaikomako looks like, I just can't seem to find any...any tips you have on common habitats would be helpful! Thanks, Martin...

Hi Sean

If you were able to take some pictures or video of your efforts I am sure us fellow members could learn a lot! Feel free tomake use of a blog post to share with others in our community.

All the best!


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