Here at MOSS we teach many different techniques for starting fires; the hand drill, fire plow, bow drill, flint and steel to name a  few. I have given detailed information on the execution of a successful bow drill below. 


I've heard, read about, and watched many different ways how to make and execute a successful Bow Drill. Many of which seemed to be bogus and impracticle.  So get your pen and pad ready because I'm gonna tell you the right way for free.

Most supposed experts say that the Bow Drill is a garenteed let down, and can kill your will to survive if a fire is not accomplished. They are right and yet so very, very wrong. The Apsa'alooke indians (people of the long beak bird) better known as the Crow, considered fire a friend; as it does live, breath air, and die. A fire can provide warmth, light, hot food, and drinkable water which instills in you the will to survive. With the Bow Drill method you will have the convidence of knowing you can survive with almost nothing but you most important tool, your brain.

"I do highly recommend carrying a good knife, perferably a fixed blade, not folding. You can buy a ka-bar for around $70.00 at most online knife stores."

First you must pick a place to build your fire. Try to find a place near water, but not so close you'll be washed away by a  flash flood. Check the surrounding area for poison ivy, oak, sumak, and boroughs. Check the trees in the area for dead limbs {Don't make camp under a large dead limb}. In contrast use these limbs to your advantage by breaking them off and use them as fire wood.

Second, prepare the site. Lick the end of your pointer finger and lift your hand above your head. One side of your finger will get a cool sensation. This will tell you what direction the wind is coming from. Build your shelter facing away from the wind. Build your fire at least 5ft away from the entrance of your shelter. Dig a pit about 1 to 1 1/2ft. down angling upward from the center. Pile all extra dirt around the pit farthest from your shelter intrance. This will funnel the heat toward you. Build a fire wall on this same side to reflect even more heat. Place four peices of wood in the ground, each about 3 1/2ft in length and at least 1in. thick. Place them as if you were marking the four corners of a yard stick. Once stakes are in place fill the supports with sticks until it stands at least 2 1/2ft. tall.

After finding and preparing a site it is time to gather the materials needed for the fire. Collecting firewood is not as simple as it may seem. Yes, you could run out into the woods find a bunch of dead wood lying on the ground and carry it back to camp. But it's only good if you all ready have a fire going and you like a lot of smoke in your face. The best fire wood is found in open areas that get plenty of sun, and dead limbs still hanging from a tree. This is because they are not saturated with water from lying on the moist forest floor. Seperate your firewood by size. Pencil thickness and smaller, finger thickness to corn cob thickness, and then your larger logs. Use cattails, dry grass, pine needles, cedar bark, dry moss, or birch bark for tinder. Roll tinder in your hands vigerously until it becomes light and fluffy, be sure it is completly dry. Make a small tipi with pencil sized syicks. Leave an opening for your fire later.

The four components of a Bow Drill are the bow, drill, socket, and fire board. knowing what to look for is key when gathering these materials. For the bow, use a limb of a sapling, still green, perferably with a natural bend about 3 ft. long. Use your shoe string, natural cordage, belt strip, t - shirt, whatever you can find for the string. Tie the string from one end of the bow to the other colmplimenting its natural bend, be sure to leave some slack for the drill.

Next, the drill. The drill must be of medium hardness, but not to hard, refrain from using hickory, oak, osage orange, and walnut. Cottonwood, willow, cedar, and sycamore work best in the mid-west area. Drill should be dry, straight and no longer than 1ft and about 1 in. thick. Sharpen both ends of the drill into blunt points.

Then, the fire board. The fire board should also be constructed of a medium hardwood, as long as it is softer or equally as soft as the drill. The fire board should be at least 1 to 2ft. long, about 1/2 to 1in. thick and about 2in. wide. Cottonwood, locust, basswood, and almost any dry drift wood should work. Toward the center of your fire board use your knife to make a shallow notch, so that your drill will not slip out when spinning.

Finally, the socket. The socket is used to hold the drill in place and apply pressure to the fire board without tearing up your hand. The socket can be constructed out of any hard wood or even a rock with a hole in it. Cut a notch into the hard wood large enough for the drill to fit in. Be carefull not to make the notch to deep, the drill might go through it. Shape the socket so that it is comfortable in your hand.

Now that you have all the components you need it is time to "burn the board". Take your drill and wrap it once around the bow string, be sure that it is snug, but not so tight that it won't spin. Place one end of the drill in your pre-made notch in the fire board and the other end in the socket hole. Place your left foot on the end of the fire board, holding it in place. Your right knee should be on the ground. Hold the socket in your left hand and the bow in your right hand. Rest your upper torso on your left knee, which should be upright at a 90 degree angle. Your left fore arm should be touching your left schin. Your eyes should be looking straight down upon the drill. Move the bow back and forth slowly and first with little pressure, this should turn the drill, if it doesn't adjust the tightness of your string. Push down on the socket gradually applying pressure. When the board begins to blacken, you have burned the board.

Now it's time to cut the notch. Use your knife to cut a small pie shaped notch into the side of the board. Make sure it is smooth and even, take your time to do this right. The point of the pie shaped notch should be cut just shy of the center of your black circle. This will catch the dust and ember. Place a dry green leaf under this notch to catch the glowing ember.

Return to your position. Apply gradual pressure with the socket, when you start to smell smoke turn the drill faster. When you start to see smoke continue this action for ten more seconds. Quickly remove the drill, look for the glowing ember if it is lodged in the notch poke it with your knife onto the leaf. Use the leaf to transport it carefully to your tender. Drop the ember in the center of your tender nest and blow. When fire starts quickly place it inside your kindling tipi. Start applying the smaller sticks first, then work your way up to the larger logs. *Be sure you gather enough fire wood before it gets dark*


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