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Fire with Friction Tip: Bowdrill Posture

Fire with Friction Tip: Bowdrill Posture

Header photo by Tom O'Hare

Did you miss the  OutdoorFest's fire without flint workshop?

Never fear our wilderness skills instructor Rhett Godfrey offers a few tips bowdrill posture! Plus email Rhettgodfrey@gmail.com for information requests and to get exclusive invites to local wild edible plant walks, fire-by-friction workshops, and much more. 

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A fire x friction tip: bow drill posture. 

Bow drill mechanizes human power to make fire from friction-generated heat. It can be surprisingly easy to do this if you set up all the moving part correctly and more a strong stable support for those moving parts with your body posture. 

Posture is what trips most beginners up, so let's review it.  

If your trying this now or later, make sure put your bow aside. Get comfortable first with shadow-bowing in correct posture and using full length strokes. Keep your wrists and hands soft as if you were using a violin bow. Practice using gentle and rigorous speeds, soft downward pressure on your spindle and as hard as you can go.

Once you can reliably maintain balance, strength, and breath you’re ready to grab your bow and spin up a smoldering coal.

Once you can reliably maintain balance, strength, and breath you're ready to grab your bow and spin up a smoldering coal.

Rhett teaches firemaking at Mappy Hour

Rhett teaches firemaking at Mappy Hour

To get in the right position use the following rules. 

Box Form: Kneel in a classic box form or proposal posture with your dominant knee down and directly under your hip and you non-dominate leg proudly planted at a 90 degree angle.  Check that your back knee in line with your front heel. Are you pitching your hips forward or backward? Make sure to keep your thighs perpendicular to each other so that you maintain a square shape between your legs. 

The Inside Arch Fire Foot: The fire board is held still with your front foot by placing it directly in the middle of your arch. The fire hole (where the spindle goes) should be nearly touching the inside of your foot. Tip: You'll get better grip barefooted  

Shin to Hand: Your non-dominate hand can provide all the pressure you need to make a smoldering coal...if you give it your shin's support. To fine the right position, first align the hole in your hand hold directly in the center of your palm and connect the spindle between your hand hold and the fire board. Push down hard to find out if you hand hold is truly centered. Then out stretch your hand so that you have formed a right angle between your thumb and your wrist. You'll use the intersection point of that angle to "lock" into the sharp part of your shin bone. 

Check to see if you've got all the rules down, shadow-bow to your heart's content... then start spinning up those coals! 

Here's a little video if you want to see how its done. 

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