Help w/ a bowdrill

Hi all, this is my first post, just letting y’all know.

Now I know there’s been another post about this recently, but it didn’t answer all my questions, so here goes.

First, I’ll outline my materials:

Wood type: Not sure, very, very hard, maybe hickory
Size: 1" x 1/2" x 1"

Wood type: Once again, not sure, but soft enough to dent with my finger
Size: 1’ long, 3/4" thick.
Shape: Pointed at the top, rounded at the bottom.

Wood: Sycamore (Green)
Size: 1/2" thick, 2’ long
Shape: Slight arc

Wood: Don’t know, not the same type as the spindle.
Size: 10" x 3/4" x 1/2"

Ok, now that that is done, time for my technique…

I start by placing the board flat on the ground, then place my left foot on top, perpendicular to the board. I kneel down andplace my right leg straight out behind me. I wrap the spindle in the bowstring and place it on the fireboard. I place the socket in my left hand and rest my arm on my left kneecap. I begin moving the bow in a sawing motion and the punk starts off a light brown, then darker, then black. The spindle begins smoking heavily, and I ramp up the speed for 15 more strokes. At the end, the spindle and fireboard are too hot to touch, and slightly glazed over. The punk is cooler than ever and after a few seconds the spindle and fireboard begin to stop smoking.

Well, now I’ve described everything I’ve done, any tips, comments, whatever, is appreciated. Thanks in advance, I’ll be checking up in a day or 2.


The problem with having a spindle and firewood of unknown woods: even if you get a coal, you won’t have learned anything about the behavior of certain woods.

Everything sounds great (for the most part; a 1’ spindle sounds pretty intense, but tastes vary); I would refind a spindle and fireboard of known wood for the previous reasons.

Believe it or not, once I used chemically treated wood for a hand drill, without noticing. That wouldn’t make a coal either.

Also I notice you don’t mention the notch (shape and size) in the fireboard. I hope you have one…

If you got the unknown wood from an unknown tree, and could identify that tree next time around you should name it yourself :smiley:

Nice anti, from now on it’s the Alex Tree.

Anyway, the fireboard has a 1/8 of a pie notch. Just letting ya know. It might also be chemically treated, so I might just start over, like you suggested.

Obama '08!


This forum is a funny place to say that.

Good luck on making your next set. I can’t give much advice, unfortunately, since I mostly start fires by compression. I should get off my ass and start learning about friction fires.

Also, you should think about introducing yourself over at the introduction thread: