Fire Test

Has anyone been able to go out in the woods, and build a fire with no tools? What I mean is, no tools you bring in, just you, and the woods? I would love to hear stories, and share ideas.

I found a dead elm two days ago that the wind had just blown down, and the crown had split from the trunk, and there were all these floorboards and spindles calling my name from their dry, dry mouths.

I wanted to do this really badly. So I found a piece of granite in a semi-wedge shape, and I took another piece of granite that was large enough to not shock my hand (too much, it still hurt like a sonofabitch), and went back to this well cured wood. In the split, I found choice, dry, cured heartwood, and with a few stroke, I was able to split out a fairly flat floorboard, and from so remaining branches, I split out a spindle, which was way easier.

I realized very quickly unless I wanted to walk my bike home, My shoelaces were too old. So I tossed my silly bow and spindle, but kept the perfect, natural thunderhead I found in the creek. At this point, already committed, and too frustrated to let go, I was willing to try anything. So I went for the driest, deadest once-sapling I could find. The best I could come up with was a beech, and since I was going to make a hand drill, a long ass hand drill, softness would be an ally, what I needed was wood I could put my weight on, but wouldn’t break. A piece of bluebeech (or was it ironwood?) was easily de-barked, adn I was back in business.

I leaned my floorboard against the trunk of a large sycamore, and I placed thin, hairy, dry strips of fomitopsis around the knothole I had for a notch. I used my bellybutton to hold the thunderhead in place, and I leaned against the hand spindle and started to spin.

I started to get smoke right away. BUt the thunderhead kept slipping, and I kept stabbing myself. Ouch! so I took a larger piece of the elm and used it as the thunderhead, which worked out really well. In fact, I got my spark from the top piece! I lost the first one, but once I broke the hand spindle in half, I was able to bear more weight down. But I tell you, If anyone saw me, they probably ran away. I probably looked like I was fucking a tree stump. Keeping things balanced, and getting my spark to land in the tinder polypore was hard. So I went and made a birds nest, and used green bark strips to tie in into place. 90 minutes into my fiasco, I almost set my ass on fire as the birdsnest, strapped to my log of a thunderhead, produced a flame!!

I had never done any of this stuff before, but I was determined to make a godamned fire with my hands! I had this sudden realization that bic lighters were making me lazy.

This was really hard work, and I used to train young boys to perform fire by friction for their manhood ritual. I think I became more of a man on Woden’s Day.

I think the only reason I didn’t set my ass on fire, was because I was sweating so much!

It was almost to the point where it wasn’t worth it! So I sat by my fire, meditated towards dusk, and started home before the evening winds would surely push me off the road. After I got up form the fire, I realized, wow, this could have been huge mistake. I forgot I was all tailwind on the ride out, and I had ten miles of western wind, and nothing but corn and soy fields between this forest and town.

But after my fire trial, the ride home was all second wind. I even down shifted, going downhill, if that tells you about some of the wind I had to ride against.

It was funny. I had to keep my head down to get the right balance for the fire, and I felt like I was in ‘turtle’ pose. This pose was also the reason I why I made it home in reasonable time.

I didn’t mean to do it, but I learned something new about myself. I connected in a deeper sense with my turtle nature, with my human nature, and with my connection to the fire gods. I learned yes, tools are everywhere, but godamnit, the ones in the toolshed make life a hell of a lot easier!!!

Success or fail, I learned in my manhood ritual, that trying was all you could do, that where you lacked, others would pick up, and how in the trying, you would learn what others need.

Has anyone else here put themselves through this kind of Fire Test? I think the telling of these stories could one day be mythical, like, “How Turtle Discovered Fire”. I felt like myths, good ones anyway, were made, not written. The storytelling comes afterward…

pretty cool you got it going with minimal tools (I guess I count the shoe lace as a tool), I’m shit with a bow drill. I guess I should get of my lazy ass and practice, thanks for the reminder that if I want something I have to work for it, not just read about it.

yeah bow drills don’t work so well when the shoelaces are old, and you have a few knots in them because you’ve broken it a few times. Fire is really fucking hard to make, but we had this ‘contest’ in Scouts, called the Minuteman, which was a patch made up at the Scout Reservation, where, basically, we give you a seasoned piece of wood and you have to make the floorboard and spindle and get a flame from your spark in one minute or less. It’s very possible with really dry wood. Only a few were able to actually earn this honor, which allows for a pre-made bow (what good indian wouldn’t already have a bow?) and a thunderhead. Now, I feel like it’s a much greater honor to do this with no tools whatsoever, regardless of how long it takes, as long as you can get it done.

and you’re welcome. I’d love to hear of your own trials and tribulations. may I wonder though, what is your experience with making fire by hand? any good luck? bad luck? with fire, you either have or not, there’s no kind-of fire. I think that’s why I like it so much…

I’ve gotten the thing smoking before, thought I had it, lost it. I started having trouble with my strokes right when I thought I had a chance. That’s the hard part for me, nice even strokes. I’ve only tried once. I’m sure I’ll give it a go again at least by February. There’s going to be a skill share up here that includes a bow drill demo, maybe I’ll get my first fire I can be proud of.

oh that moment after smoke before fire is the most delicate thing a human must navigate. good luck, adn I wish we lived near each other, I’d love to help you out. I’m used to teaching 14-16 year old young men, I’m sure you could get it with only minor adjustments.

the key is pressure, getting into a comfortable(as possible) position. I’m a righty that does it left handed, because I need my right hand to keep the thunderhead in position under immense pressure. the strokes almost seem secondary to me if I can get the right pressure, the right friction.

then again, there might be a little magic to it all, some sort of cosmic intentionality that come into play. why some people can stick their kit in an oven for a while, or even charcoal their spindle tip, and not get a spark, or why some people can get a spark in the rain.

One day, when I’ve got some time in the woods at hand, I want to experiment carrying fire, and put all this hard work nonsense to bed :wink: :wink: (just kidding, I love it in all of it’s futility).