wow, lots of great information. thanks, scout!
i think i had pretty good form. i was going off elpel’s instructions in Participating in Nature. i’m not sure if my legs made a perfect square, and i know i didn’t make the notch with my left wrist/hand to fit against my shin–though i did have my left wrist braced against my shin.
the amount of powder needed being relational to the thickness of the fireboard makes excellent sense.
i see now, that i also had the sharpness of my spindle backwards. i had the blunt end at the top and the pencil sharp end at the bottom. i think i ended up drilling a lot of wood off the board with the sharpness, and that attributed to the seemingly excessive amount of powder.
i think the burned-in bottom end of my spindle is probably the right sharpness now, judging by your spindle picture on the wiki. i think i’ll knock the shine off it and round it out a little more for more friction surface.
i think i ended up getting the black flaky and the shiny tip because i was trying various pressures as i went, and i probably hit both extremes before i gave up last night.
You want the top end to get shinny and stay very pointy. I generally don't use rock hand-holds for that reason. They tend to sand down the point and since rocks generally have rough surfaces the top never seems to glaze.
i can see what you're saying about the rock being too hard. it was definitely taking wood off the top of the spindle. i had no burn-in there since it was all lubed up with vaseline. i think as far as slickness, i was fine, but i bet it will definitely cut down on my spindle's life expectancy.
If your spindle is wound to tight, the only way to get it to turn is with lots of downward pressure, which is generally too much. Loosen the string, see what happens.
i never thought about the string being too tight. i'll try loosening.
as for the wood. it seems like everyone i read uses cottonwood or yucca–neither of which i have in the ozarks. i might be able to find some decorative yucca planted somewhere, but i won’t count on it when the civ goes down. we have lots of willows around fayetteville, but out in the hills, i’m not sure what will work. our forests are mostly hardwood. there are some cedars (which i think is really a kind of juniper, but i don’t know what species) but i figured the cedars would be pitchy and just end up glazing. mullein might be my best bet if i’m around any kind of clear ground, as it is pretty profuse in every part of the state. and maybe cattail in wetlands, though i don’t know what i could use for a fireboard, since the stalks are so thin.