Friction Fire Help

Hi all. I’ve just turned my tomahawk into a pump drill.
And I’m having a hard time getting a glow.
I’ve gotten the bit and socket to mate and heat up and turn a little brown and even smoke, but one or the other, or me, wears out before anything starts turning black or glowing.
So am I a sissy because I can’t pump the tomahawk for more than ten minutes?
Or am I likely using unsuitable materials?
Both my bit and the fire board are made of dry, dead river willow branches.
I’ve never seen a friction fire made so I’m sorta at a loss.

I’ve never made a pump drill but if you make a bow drill and use cedar or juniper and/or cottonwood or poplar for your spindle and fireboard, with some practice you should get a coal very quickly.

I’d say getting a smoking coal shouldn’t usually take more than a minute of drilling once you get some wood that works well.

Willow has the same plant family as cottonwood- I’ve never used willow for firemaking- but I assume that should work too.

Welcom Nicholas! Thx fo sharin!

Keep tryn. :slight_smile: Yr structr, form, & enduranc wil pic up ovr time wit practic & ten mintutes wil feel like nothin. i think th wood u hav works fine but i don’t kno fo sure since i’v nevr made a pump dril eithr. Hope u al th best! Later!


Doesn’t a pump drill require some very precise weight balancing? I’ve found a bowdrill to make an ember fairly easily, if you get the technique right (hint: bracing your handhold-holding arm around your knee will do wonders).

The only one of those trees that grows around here is poplar. Cedar irregularly. I’ll have to give them both a try. I’ve heard old roots work better than old branches- being lighter and loftier.

Yeah, I constructed this tomahawk so it has equal weight fore and aft. It is balanced perfectly and spins really fast- throws fairly well too. Maybe the problem is pressure. Being a pump drill there is no downward pressure (aside from the weight of the rig) during each upstroke and most of the pressure applied on the down stroke is translated into spin.

Has anyone ever heard of a minimum effective weight for a pump drill? I’m sure there is one- I don’t think you could ever start a fire with those tiny pump drills you use for making beads. How much weight do you think you apply the the shaft when using a bow drill? I know it varies- but on average?

thanks all

Nicholas, I’m afraid I can’t answer your specific questions (I’ll be learning more about friction fires at the Porcupine Palace), but I really want to share my opinion that anybody who turns a tomahawk into a pump drill is probably far from a sissy.

nicholas, willow should work fine, i have had success with a bowdrill with a willow spindle and willow hearthboard.

i think you hit on the answer with the downward weight issue. when i bowdrill, i can vary the weight based on the color of the powder color. you want to produce a dark brown to black powder, as that will ignite into a coal best. (see picture examples here)

if your powder looks light brown, then you probably don’t have enough downward pressure on the spindle.

It’s like a mocha brown :smiley:
I’ve set that project aside. But I’ve got some poplar I’m going to give a whirl
The weight may well be the issue- we’ll see.