Mastering Friction Fire

Becoming competent at lighting fires with a hand drill or bow drill takes time, sweat and blisters. But it can be done. There’s a difference between trying to get a coal and trying to master the techniques. Decide what your goals are before you proceed. If you want to get a coal, then drill until you can’t drill anymore and hope for the best. Do this enough times and your endurance will increase to the point where you’ll get coals. If you want to master the skill then consider this advice I give to our semester program students.

1. Learn how to do it correctly. In the early stages, focus on technique and form. Build good habits, even if it seems like it’s taking longer to do it this way. It will pay off in the long run.

2. When your form is good and you’re not wasting energy, work on it every day for 4-5 minutes. Make it part of your daily routine. Don’t worry about getting coals yet, focus on learning the motions and having them become fluid to the point where it starts to feel good.

3. Don’t ignore the fact that it takes muscular force to achieve the critical temperatures necessary to generate a coal. It’s a workout. Treat it like one and don’t work your muscles too hard without resting them.

4. After you’ve worked on it for a few days or weeks, when you’re to the point that you’re comfortable with the motions and your form is excellent, you should be getting coals regularly. If not, don’t worry about it. Sometimes the fire gods make you work incredibly hard for that first coal. Try drilling as fast as you can while maintaining control over your form. Stick with it.

5. When you’ve gotten to the point where you can consistently get a coal, stop the daily 4-5 minute practice. Instead, work on it just long enough to get one coal per day. Do this for at least a month. As you progress, the time needed to get a coal will decrease greatly.

6. Don’t get cocky. Keep track of the number of coals you get.

0 to 25 Coals – Beginner Level
26 to 100 Coals – Student Level
101 to 999 Coals – Journeyman Level
1000 or more Coals – Master Level

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