November 11, 2001

Bow Drill from Scratch in the Wild

(Photos by Walter Muma)


On Sunday Nov 11, 2001 eight people gathered at a large semi-wild area west of Toronto. Our objective was for each of us to construct a bow drill set from scratch in the wild using only a knife, and then use it to make a fire. (Actually, wanting to adhere to "no fire" regulations of the area we were in, we didn't actually make a fire, just blew the tinder into flame.)  Six of us managed to get fire. 

Peter Moc was on hand to facilitate our learning experience and share his experiences in this topic. Everyone present learned quite a bit, and was also able to share some of what they knew.

The group included five enthusiastic newcomers to Wildwood Trackers. A very warm welcome to Rob, Ron, Julia and Murray, and Corinna!

For lots more info on the Bow Drill, and other fire-making methods, please visit the Wildwood Survival website.

Our first activity was to make tinder bundles from cedar bark.

Here we are peeling bark from a standing dead cedar tree. 

Peter showing how to fluff up the cedar bark into a tinder bundle.
Close-up view of the cedar tree that provided us with tinder.
People at work on various aspects of their bow drill.
At work in the woods, among the cedars.
Close-up of working the bow.

Click on the small photo to watch a movie of the bowdrill being "cranked"

Windows media format (WMV)
320x240, 556 KB


Here is a sequence of pictures showing the process of blowing the coal and tinder into flame (Peter Moc is demonstrating).


I think Ron is in there somewhere.


Click on the small photo to watch a movie of Rob blowing the tinder into flame

Windows media format (WMV)
320x240, 1.2 MB


The gift of fire! 

Although you do have to work for it!

After getting fire once with our bow drills, several of us then made cordage from basswood bark.  

This cordage was then used for the bow string, and fire obtained a second time, this time from bow drill kits made from 100% natural materials obtained in the wild!

Here is one of the group making basswood bark cordage. 

Ron working his 100% natural bow drill kit to make fire.

The bow is utilizing basswood bark cordage, which lasted quite well.


Click on the small photo to watch a movie of Ron cranking his 100% primitive materials bowdrill

Windows media format (WMV)
320x240, 377 KB

Lending advice and a helping hand to each other with the bow drill.
Rob introduced us to tinder fungus and false tinder fungus.

Here is a photo of a piece of false tinder fungus holding a coal quite well.

Tinder fungus grows on live birch trees.
False tinder fungus grows on dead birch trees.

Rob also showed us a fire piston that he had made.

Click on the small photo to watch a movie of the fire piston in operation

Click to watch movie!
Windows media format (WMV)
320x240, 441 KB

In the movie, look close and you'll see the coal produced in a small piece of tinder fungus.

The whole group at the end of the day (with the photographer (Walter) "pasted" in)!
Although it was a bit chilly, and the sun shone only intermittently to warm us but little, all of us had a great day in the outdoors on our cedar-clad hilltop in the forest.

After cleaning up our debris we headed back to our vehicles.

For lots more info on the Bow Drill, as well as other fire-making methods, please visit the Wildwood Survival website.

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