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Primitive Tools: Fire Bow & Drill | U.S. PATRIOT NEWS & REVIEWS

Primitive Tools: Fire Bow & Drill

One of the most important aspects of survival is the ability to make fire. On a cold night, fire may be the only thing that saves you. On top of warmth, fire can be used to cook food, make water clean, provide lighting and to ward off dangerous animals. The smoke can chase away bugs in clothing and can be used to signal your rescuers. Given how important fire is, it is imperative that you be able to make fire – no matter what.

If your matches or lighters run out, get wet, or get lost, you need a back-up method. This can often be done with a flint rod or other manufactured tools. They all have one thing in common, though. They can get lost or broken. That is when primitive methods come in to play.

Primitive fire making can be done a number of ways. A fire drill, flint stones and a bow and drill are a few of the most common. Of those three, the bow and drill are the easiest with which to produce a flame.

The concept of the bow and drill to make a fire is a simple one – produce enough friction between two pieces of wood to create an ember that can ignite tinder and create a fire. This requires four parts:


This is a flat piece of wood of medium hardness, such as cottonwood, cedar, poplar and sycamore. Make sure the wood is as dry as possible. Pick one of the long sides of the board and cut a thin notch about 2 inches from a corner and grind/bore a tapered hole at the top of the notch. You can take a good knife and spin in on the wood until a good dimple is made.


This is the drill bit. It needs to be very dry wood and just as hard as or harder than the fire board. It should be about as thick as your thumb, or a bit thicker, and as straight as possible. Cut one end into a dull spike to be just a bit bigger than the hole in the fireboard.


This can be a piece of green wood or a rock. Whatever it is, it needs to have a bit of a cup to hold the spindle in place and should fit comfortably in your hand. This is what you will use to apply pressure to the spindle.


This is the powerhouse of the fire bow & drill. You will need a flexible stick about the length of your arm and as thick as your thumb. Cut a notch into both ends and tie a piece of paracord to one of those ends. This tie should be nice and secure. Then, make an adjustable knot for the other end of the bow. When the paracord is attached, there should bit a small amount of slack. With an adjustable know on one end, you can easily fine tune the tension of the bow.

Now we put it all together. Put a good pile of tinder by the fire board that goes into the notch. Make sure you are working close enough to your fire pit to not lose any flame you make and waste your efforts. Slide the spindle between the string and the wood of the bow and twist the bow one time to make a loop of paracord around the spindle. Now, it’s time to show off those muscles. Put that spindle in the hole on the fire board and set the hand-hold on top of the spindle. Apply pressure to the hand-hold to keep the spindle in place and provide pressure to the fire board and start sawing back and forth with the bow. Keep going. And some more. Soon enough, smoke will start to appear and the wood on the fireboard will start to darken. Keep going. If it helps, put a foot on one end of the fire board to keep it steady. After long enough, an ember should begin to appear in the fireboard big enough to make a fire. Get that ember into the tinder pile, and gently blow a flame to life. Now, all that is left is to use that flame to start the fire lay of your choice.

With a bit of practice, this method is fairly simple to use and can make a fire before too long. A side benefit of this method; when it’s cold outside, just building the fire will help warm you up.

A Few Tips:

  • Take time selecting and prepping your wood. This alone can save you time and effort in the drilling phase so, don’t rush it.
  • Practice at home on a fun, sunny afternoon. This way, you can come up with a method that works well for you and have an idea of what wood combinations work in your area before you get cold and hungry.
  • A good hand-hold that you can throw in your survival kit is a good idea, the more comfortable it is and the more spindle sizes it can work well with, the more time and effort you can save in the field.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Seth Belt

Seth grew up in Southern Arizona before joining the U.S. Navy. While serving in the Navy, Seth was an anti-narcotics operator and an anti-submarine operator for 5 years. He was lucky enough to travel to many of the Central and South American countries, as well as visiting many South East Asian nations and islands. One of Seth’s greatest joys from his time in the Navy was teaching new Sailors firearms education and safety. After leaving the Navy in 2010, Seth returned to Arizona and had a rough time learning how to be a civilian again, often working jobs that could barely pay the bills. After going to school, Seth became an Emergency Medical Technician in the Phoenix Valley, where he now lives with his wife and son.His areas of knowledge cover military, firearms, and emergency medicine.
Seth Belt

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