Ever made a friction fire?

Have you ever made, or at least attempted, to make a friction fire? What method did you use? Were you successful?

Been watching a lot of survival shows during self-quarantine. Mostly “Dual Survival,” but a few others too. Anyways, there is always a heavy emphasis on making fire, and they almost always have to create fire from whatever they can find around them. They do bow drills and hand drills mostly, but there is the occasional fire saw, and once they even made and used an ice lens.

I was never a Boy Scout and camping was something other families did, so making primitive fire was never something that I had an opportunity to learn growing up. I don’t smoke anymore but I still have a BIC lighter on me pretty much at all times, and I have a “bugout bag” with flint strikers, magnesium strips, and Fresnel lenses, but I feel like being able to make fire just with a pile of wood and sticks is a good skill to have.

Tell me about making primitive fire!

I attempted once, years ago. I didn’t get it to work, but I understand how to get it to work. I can’t remember if I used a bow string or some other way to try.

You’re in the DC area right? There’s a group, and I think this was the group I went to about 10 years ago, that teaches you all sorts of ‘ancient’ knowledge. We made fire, rope, baskets, projectile points, things like that. You can either go each day or stay the night. Their website is https://www.ancestralknowledge.org/

Cool! I’ll check it out. Thanks!

My scout troop once had a competition between the two patrols for who could start a fire-by-friction first. My patrol won… eventually. We started off trying to use a fire bow. The leather cord snapped. We switched to the backup cord that came with it… that snapped, too. Then a couple of shoelaces, with the same effect (and I don’t know how that guy explained his shoes to his parents, when he got home). Finally, we started just rolling the pin between our hands, and we had to take turns at that, because it was exhausting. After all of that work, we managed to get a slight ember out of the best tinder we could get.

We tried like hell several times with one of those bow/spindle/baseboard firestarting kits (had special high friction woods and stuff) when I was in Boy Scouts, but we were never successful. There’s a reason ancient peoples would carry live coals with them from place to place, never letting the fire die, etc… and that reason is because it’s devilishly hard to start using primitive methods (i.e. not flint and steel or something more modern).

I’ve made a fire from a bow drill a few times (and you have to be very precise about how you wrap the cord so it doesn’t wear on itself and break as Chronos experience relates) but I’ve never gotten a hand drill to work. The trick, such as it is, is to work at a steady pace with a repeatable form so the tip isn’t wandering around the fireboard notch, make the notch itself tight but not constraining, and have well prepared tinder at hand because that ember won’t last long.

Carrying an ember is also really easy and means that you can build a fire even if your tinder is damp. aif you get to your camp after sunset, trying to make fire in the dark is no fun at all.


Yes, in scouts we did lens, flint & steel, and those damn spinning sticks that took sooooo long.

I have done it with a bow once. It is a lot of work, and you need a really good wind shelter