Bowdrill strings

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Landy_Dom

Nomad
Jan 11, 2006
436
1
46
Mold, North Wales
Hi guys

Having been experimenting a bit with bowdrills in the past week or two I have been having trouble with the type of cord I'm using. I started with cheapo "paracord" and then moved on to nylon split from 3 strand braided dynamic rope. In both cases I was lucky to get more than 10 or 15 minutes hard drilling before wrecking the string.

Knowing that the only things that cannot be easily sourced in the field are the knife for whittling the wooden components, and the string; I was considering finding a suitable type of string and then lacing my walking boots with it so it is always with me when in the field. The trouble is, with that kind of wear rate, they are not going to be of much use for very long!

Have any of you found a type of string that seems to wear better than this?

Cheers,

Dom.
 

Ogri the trog

Mod
Mod
Apr 29, 2005
7,141
37
56
Mid Wales UK
Dom,
I've even had trouble when using genuine 550 paracord. One thing that I have found that makes a difference is the way in which the cord is wound.
I was shown this method by George (Seoras) and found it to be both easy on the cord and long lasting.....

Clove hitch in the centre with three coils of cord at each end of the spindle.

Hope this helps

Ogri the trog
 

mick miller

Full Member
Jan 4, 2008
520
0
Herts.
You know what Dom, I'm inclined to agree with you. I have also tried various types and the paracord never seems up to the job, the best I've found is a solid type of nylon cord, without a core and densely weaved, this is what currently graces my bow and even it is prone to fraying.

If I remember correctly this was cord 'robbed' from an old fishing shelter of mine so alas I can't help with a brand name or product name, when it runs out I'll be stumped again so I'll be keeping a eye on this thread.

I have to say the bowdrill is my least method of firelighting and given that it is so reliant on a decent type of cord (be it man made or natural) I find it surprising that so much time is given over to teaching and learning it. The hand drill however seems a much more practical method to learn and although extremely hard to master I can't help thinking that it's simplicity knocks the bow drill into a cocked hat!

That said, I'm a long way from mastering the bowdrill and light years away from the hand drill. For most instances I think I'll stick with my matches, firesteel and flint and steel (probably in that order too!)

EDIT - Ogri, that looks worth a try, especially if it helps put pay to the fraying. That cord looks similar to the stuff I'm using too, only white rather than black.
 

leon-1

Mod
Mod
Hi guys

Having been experimenting a bit with bowdrills in the past week or two I have been having trouble with the type of cord I'm using. I started with cheapo "paracord" and then moved on to nylon split from 3 strand braided dynamic rope. In both cases I was lucky to get more than 10 or 15 minutes hard drilling before wrecking the string.

Knowing that the only things that cannot be easily sourced in the field are the knife for whittling the wooden components, and the string; I was considering finding a suitable type of string and then lacing my walking boots with it so it is always with me when in the field. The trouble is, with that kind of wear rate, they are not going to be of much use for very long!

Have any of you found a type of string that seems to wear better than this?

Cheers,

Dom.
As Ogri mentioned try using the Egyptian bow drill method it's easier on the cord, but also try using climbing accessory cord, with you being in North Wales there should be a few places near to you that sell it at a reasonable cost.
 

rancid badger

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
I have always ended up back to using the terylene cord from I.P.K. kits.
It's incredibly abrasion resistant, I used the same piece of cord for two successive years of Festival demos, as well as all the "training and prep" runs too.
The bow is still in the garage, strung with the same piece of cord and still perfectly serviceable.
I think you get about 60 feet of the stuff in a kit, so for about £5, not only are you max'd out with drill cord, you get a small tarp and a set of tubular alloy tent pegs into the bargain;)
cheers
R.B.
 

gregorach

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Sep 15, 2005
3,723
26
47
Edinburgh
Have any of you found a type of string that seems to wear better than this?
As leon-1 says, climber's accessory cord is the bomb. I used to use it for bootlaces and it lasted for at least two pairs of boots. These days I have a length of about 1.5 to 2 meters as a turks-head wristband. Comes in handy for all sorts of things...
 

Toddy

Mod
Mod
Jan 21, 2005
35,600
1,700
S. Lanarkshire
Real paracord is what I've had on my demo ing bow set for nearly three years now and I've only changed it once. It's been used literally thousands of times. The bit that's on now came from a group buy Rapidboy organised.

Make my own ? I tightly spin and braid up hemp or flax fibres for preference, but anything will do in a pinch. Nettle, lime bast or willow bast are very, very good. I saw beautiful elm bast stuff at the weekend that I was itching to have a go with. I have used rush string before and that works too if it's well worked before it's strung.

The Crannog centre demo and hands on bows are strung using polypropolene which works very well though it needs replacing daily with hard use, i.e. a couple of hundred people having a shot.

You could use the catgut or rawhide stuff too I suppose.

I think it's the quality of the braiding that determines the length of time and effectiveness of the cord in use.
cheers,
Toddy
 

Ivan

Tenderfoot
Jan 23, 2008
56
0
Southern California, USA
Make my own ? I tightly spin and braid up hemp or flax fibres for preference, but anything will do in a pinch. Nettle, lime bast or willow bast are very, very good. I saw beautiful elm bast stuff at the weekend that I was itching to have a go with. I have used rush string before and that works too if it's well worked before it's strung.
You could use the catgut or rawhide stuff too I suppose.

I think it's the quality of the braiding that determines the length of time and effectiveness of the cord in use.
cheers,
Toddy
Cool. I saw some bloke on the web made bowdrill cords from pine roots, no braiding. I gotta have a go at that. Sounds like a real challenge.
-Ivan
 

demographic

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Apr 15, 2005
4,204
207
-------------
Climbers accessory cord is far and away more abrasion restistant than Paracord and Spectra accessory cord is supposed to be even more abrasion resistant than the stuff I buy although I have never bought any of the spectra stuff.
My last accessory cord bootlaces outlasted five or maybe even six (I can't remember for sure) pairs of workboots.

The outer was a bit frayed by then and I have some more accessory cord in my new boots now.
Can't stand Paracord, its crap in comparison but its also a bit cheaper, I am usually a bit of a tightwad cheapskate but accessory cord is worth the extra over Paracord I feel.

Just get some of the thin stuff and not the 5.5mm stuff.
 

Joonsy

Native
Jul 24, 2008
1,483
0
UK
get yourself some of that ''pull-cord'' that is used on chainsaws/lawnmowers etc:, it's extremely hard wearing and lasts an eternity, you can get it from most tool hire places or farm supply shops, just ask for ''pull-cord'', you won't be dissappointed, different thicknesses are available too and the thin will easily be ok for shoelaces, you will notice it has an outer sheath and inner core and is extremely resistant to friction unlike paracord and the like which wears out very quickly, also consider how you attach cord to bow as often you get wear at this point too, i personally never cut a groove in bow to attach cord but rely on good knots as the cut groove can also wear cord over time, consider knots for a ''sideways'' pull on a bow like the rolling hitch, i use the ''sailors gripping hitch'' on both ends which will hold even on a tapering item and is easily adjusted.
 

Sniper

Native
Aug 3, 2008
1,431
0
Saltcoats, Ayrshire
I've just ordered some more 4mm twine from a plastics company not as supple as paracord but very very strong, which I use for just about everything, I prefer it to paracord for many things and it's a wee bit cheaper too. Although I have never mastered the bowdrill yet (I'll keep at it until I do) I've done a lot of practice with it using this twine and as with all novices at it, the gear has taken a hammering but it's still in one piece and holding. Oh and just for interests sake I got 2 dpm tarps 2.7 x 3.5 mtr (100gsm) or 9' x 12' in old money from the same place... plus 50mtr of the twine for under a tenner! At these prices if it only lasts for 1 fire.... hay! ho! .......I carry 50 mtr of the stuff tied to the bergen with no weight at all ...so I'll still have enough for at least another 49 fires. Same with the tarps, I pay more for the car fuel to get me to my spot, even though they are extremely hardwearing and will last for years it wouldn't bother me if I had to change them every trip at that price.
 

rich59

Maker
Aug 28, 2005
2,212
20
61
London
Hi guys

Having been experimenting a bit with bowdrills in the past week or two I have been having trouble with the type of cord I'm using. I started with cheapo "paracord" and then moved on to nylon split from 3 strand braided dynamic rope. In both cases I was lucky to get more than 10 or 15 minutes hard drilling before wrecking the string.

Knowing that the only things that cannot be easily sourced in the field are the knife for whittling the wooden components, and the string; I was considering finding a suitable type of string and then lacing my walking boots with it so it is always with me when in the field. The trouble is, with that kind of wear rate, they are not going to be of much use for very long!

Have any of you found a type of string that seems to wear better than this?

Cheers,

Dom.
The 2 things that destroy your bowdrill cord are tension and friction.

Friction

If yours is wearing out fast then take a look at the way you have twisted the drill into the bow string. It is easy to find it is crossed and that twisting it the other way can correct this.

Tension

If you have just one turn round the drill then this requires a lot of tension. If you made 2 turns it would halve the tension you need, so 3, 4, 5 etc turns dramatically reduce the tension you need to turn the drill.

If you get the tension down like this then there are other advantages too. You don't need to make a knock at the far end of the bow - a good, tight knot will do it for you (constrictor). You also don't need to tie onto the hand end at all. One can take the tension with your hand. This means you can adjust the tension easily to suit the moment.

Egyptian bow drill

I have never found I needed the knot in the middle if you have a number of turns. Anyone know what the purpose of the knot is?
 

mortalmerlin

Forager
Aug 6, 2008
246
0
Belgium (ex-pat)
I had a similar problem and noticed that most of the wear on the string is caused by the friction of the string against it's self. I found I could reduce this by making sure the bow was running at 90 degrees to the drill.