Fire Making With a Bow Drill – Part 2 – Using the Bow Drill

The Bow Drill Method


  • Gather Tinder
  • Spindle should be on outside of string
  • Upper body rests on upper thigh
  • Handhold hand hooked on shim
  • Lubricate handhold with oil, pitch, body grease, green leaves, DO NOT use water or spit (spindle will swell)
  • Hold bow parallel to ground if using string, at an angle if using cordage


  1. Friction + Downward Pressure = Charred Dust
  2. Build up dust with slow continuous bow movements – light wispy smoke
  3. Increase pressure for 10-15 strokes, creating a thick smoke.
  4. Stop when dust is smoking on its own.
  5. DON’T RUSH! You have plenty of time. Remove fireboard from tinder by using a knife or stick to gently push the coal into the tinder.
  6. Nest the coal in tinder, blow conservatively.


  • The ideal dust is dark brown to black, and should stick together.
  • Add tension to the string with thumb.
  • To add more friction, add gravel or dirt to hole.

See Fire Making With a Bow Drill – Part 1 – Making a Bow Drill for Bow Drill construction methods.

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