Fire is probably the most under appreciated necessity in our lives today. Throughout our history it has been the one basic item dividing life and death. From the people of old who considered it a great and trusted honor to be the one chosen to carry the coal from camp to camp, to a modern day hiker who carries a lighter, fire is and always will be a basic for the survival of mankind. To walk into the forest and make fire with only what you find is not as easy as you might think. My kids and I have had a lot of fun when they were younger trying to do just that.
The way we have found that is the most simple and efficient is the bow and stick creating friction. First you need a stick to make a bow. Find a branch of a bush or shrub a little longer than your arm and a little thicker than your thumb. A green branch is best because it’s pliable. Now, take the shoestrings from your boots, if you don’t have shoestrings take the hem from your shirt (a T-shirt works best). You need to cut the hem all the way around, this will be your bowstring. Tie one end on your bow stick, and tie it tight. Now bend your bow and tie the other end of the bowstring to it. Make sure the bowstring is a little loose, you’ll find out why in a few more steps. Now that you have your bow you need to find the straightest and driest piece of tree limb or other hard wood (not a bush) that you can. It needs to be about as thick as your pointer finger and about a foot long.
We are saying you are out there with only the clothes on your back. Yet for the next step you are going to need a knife and a drill, so go find yourself a rock. I’m not a geologist, but those rocks that look like they have layers work the best. Take your rock and crash it down on another one. Be sure to turn your head and protect your eyes the best you can. After a few times of this you should have a good assortment of fragments. You’ll be amazed how sharp these can be. Pick out a few to use as a knife and a few with points for drilling. Take your knife and round off both ends of the dry one foot stick. Take your time, the more rounded you make this, the easier it will be. Now that your stick and bow are ready find another piece of wood, for this about anything will do, but it has to be wide enough to cover the palm of your hand. In the middle of this piece take your pointed rock and drill a hole just big enough to get your dry stick end into it about a half-inch deep. Don’t make it where it’s tight, you want it to turn freely.
Look hard and careful for the next step. Your success or failure will depend on what you choose. You need a down, old dead tree or limb a foot or so long. Any piece will do, but again, this can’t be a bush, and it has to be dry. Drill a hole in the center of this just like you did with the piece of wood for your palm. Again, don’t make it tight, the stick has to turn freely. The last thing you need, is to find the driest leaves, grass or rotten wood that you can. If you can’t find that use your rock knife and whittle thin pieces off of your dry wood, toothpick size or smaller. Don’t forget to gather larger pieces also to feed your fire once it starts.
Take your one foot dry stick with both ends rounded and your bow. In the middle of the bow wrap your bowstring one time around your stick. With your dry piece of wood that you made the second hole in, sitting on the ground, put the bottom end of your rounded stick into that hole. Now, with all of this in place, put your small pieces of wood or grass around the stick, pile them up all around it. As the hand that is holding the rounded stick pushes lightly down start working the bow with the other. Don’t try to do this in fast bursts, better steady and not stopping, it takes a lot of friction to make a coal. As you spin your rounded stick, be sure your pile of tender stays around the stick. These aren’t what starts your coal. Your coal will start on the bottom outside of your hole, the tender needs to be close to this so when the side of the hole makes a coal it will in turn light them.
As soon as you see a coal while still turning the round stick lightly begin to blow on that coal. Just remember it’s only going to coal so much. If you over do it trying to make the coal larger you are going to lose it. When the coal begins to grow stop turning the stick and start piling more and more tender on the top, slowly. Keep blowing, sometimes at this point quick hard puffs are best. Remember, be prepared before hand for the point when your coal turns to fire, have plenty of small, medium and large wood gathered.
As always, be sure to check back in with our website every once in a while. We have a long line of survival tips that we will be putting on soon.