Hand Drill Numpty Seeks Advice

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Stringmaker

Native
Sep 6, 2010
1,891
1
UK
I have been dabbling with this method to complete the set as it were.

I know that elder on clematis is used a lot but I don't have any clematis handy so have used willow for the hearth board. My elder stem is good and dry, with about 50:50 pith to wood. I also have dry teasel, buddleia and golden rod stems but I've not tried them yet.

My limited observations so far suggest that I am not getting the initial friction needed to even begin burning the set in, let alone go for an ember. I am using thumb loops but all that happens is polishing of the elder stem and the hearth, so my question to you hand drill dudes is this:

How much pressure and how fast do I need to drill initially? Obviously with the bow drill you can adjust this as you go because you have a virtually constant rotation and therefore don't lose heat. I have seen a video of a guy using elder/willow so it should work.

Rich59 said once that when he was sussing this method he used a power drill to hold the bit to satisfy himself that an ember should be possible with the materials he was using; I might try that next but any tips welcome.

Thanks.
 

sasquatch

Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
Jun 15, 2008
2,812
0
45
Northampton
I'm far from an authority on the hand drill, the only thing I've had any joy with is clematis though. I've tried ivy and various other woods and just got the polishing effect you described. I'm a bit gutted as the clematis I have is nearly used up now from doing demos, I'm going to have to join a gardeners forum and beg for offcuts to fuel my habit soon!
 

Treemonk

Forager
Oct 22, 2008
168
0
Perthshire
Have you seen this thread?

http://www.bushcraftuk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=64970

If you are glassing over it really does suggest too little pressure and/or that you have hearthwood that is too hard.

If you are glassing rapidly at the start, try putting in a pinch of woodash or sand - this will lift the glaze, help form a nice depression and generate a bit of friction.

Do try ivy - works well and easier generally than willow.
 

Stringmaker

Native
Sep 6, 2010
1,891
1
UK
Have you seen this thread?

http://www.bushcraftuk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=64970

If you are glassing over it really does suggest too little pressure and/or that you have hearthwood that is too hard.

If you are glassing rapidly at the start, try putting in a pinch of woodash or sand - this will lift the glaze, help form a nice depression and generate a bit of friction.

Do try ivy - works well and easier generally than willow.

I have seen that thread yes thanks.

Maybe I need to try a bit harder both with the initial drilling (plus sand) and finding some clematis and ivy.

I have a feeling this project could go on a bit...
 

ocean1975

Full Member
Jan 10, 2009
676
67
rochester, kent
I have been having a go at the hand drill,using a elder tip spliced onto a hazel drill.
Using clematis as a hearth board.see this thread. http://www.bushcraftuk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=81734&highlight=
As off yet i've not got an ember.:(
I think my elder tip is not up to much,so i have a new one drying at to moment with less pith to it.
To gain more friction you can use you knife to cut across the tip in a criss cross fashion.
i will post picture when i get there with it.
Good luck in your quest.
Andy.
 

Stringmaker

Native
Sep 6, 2010
1,891
1
UK
I have been having a go at the hand drill,using a elder tip spliced onto a hazel drill.
Using clematis as a hearth board.see this thread. http://www.bushcraftuk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=81734&highlight=
As off yet i've not got an ember.:(
I think my elder tip is not up to much,so i have a new one drying at to moment with less pith to it.
To gain more friction you can use you knife to cut across the tip in a criss cross fashion.
i will post picture when i get there with it.
Good luck in your quest.
Andy.

Cheers Andy, I had read your thread too.

You've got much further than me; I just get polishing with no smoke at all, never mind dust.

Treemonk made the point that my willow hearth could be too hard which certainly won't help, but I don't have a source of clematis or ivy to try as alternatives.

All this just goes to show why the different friction methods evolved to suit the locally available materials. I'm sure we'll both crack it eventually!
 
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Firelite

Forager
Feb 25, 2010
188
1
bedfordshire
Stringmaker, I don't speak as an expert, (I managed it on about six different occasions). Nonetheless, for what its worth, my advice would be twofold: 1) Get your hands into condition if you are not using them for hard labour all day. This means using the drill for several minutes every day or other day (depending on blisters) for a couple of weeks so that when it comes to real attempts the skin won't let you down. 2) Try to master the "floating hand" technique. The reason I would advocate this is that if you can work with shorter drills then there it will always be much easier to find a suitable short length of elder, rather than the elusive perfectly straight long piece. This will also obviate the need to mess with setting elder tips into hazel rods. After that its about using all the experience (good and bad) you gained in learning the bow drill - Asking yourself all the questions like "have I got good hot dark powder?" and so on.

Finally, I don't know where you are, but when people talk about clematis as a baseboard, they aren't necessarily talking about the garden varieties of clematis (actually I haven't tried that sort myself). Its a common hedge plant which we used to call "Old Man's Beard" although I know that term applies to things like rosebay willowherb too, which is not what you need. The stuff I use is known as Clematis Vitalba. I don't know its northern range limit, so forgive me if you're too far up to have it.

The last ingredient is perseverance. In very large measure. Good luck!

 

Stringmaker

Native
Sep 6, 2010
1,891
1
UK
Stringmaker, I don't speak as an expert, (I managed it on about six different occasions). Nonetheless, for what its worth, my advice would be twofold: 1) Get your hands into condition if you are not using them for hard labour all day. This means using the drill for several minutes every day or other day (depending on blisters) for a couple of weeks so that when it comes to real attempts the skin won't let you down. 2) Try to master the "floating hand" technique. The reason I would advocate this is that if you can work with shorter drills then there it will always be much easier to find a suitable short length of elder, rather than the elusive perfectly straight long piece. This will also obviate the need to mess with setting elder tips into hazel rods. After that its about using all the experience (good and bad) you gained in learning the bow drill - Asking yourself all the questions like "have I got good hot dark powder?" and so on.

Finally, I don't know where you are, but when people talk about clematis as a baseboard, they aren't necessarily talking about the garden varieties of clematis (actually I haven't tried that sort myself). Its a common hedge plant which we used to call "Old Man's Beard" although I know that term applies to things like rosebay willowherb too, which is not what you need. The stuff I use is known as Clematis Vitalba. I don't know its northern range limit, so forgive me if you're too far up to have it.

The last ingredient is perseverance. In very large measure. Good luck!


Cheers Firelite, I appreciate the contribution.

I see lots of hedge clematis or "old man's beard" on the way to work; just nowhere safe to stop and snaffle a piece.

At this stage in my learning I am using thumb loops and tight fitting leather palmed gloves, so pressure and wimpy hands is not the problem, it's the rest of my technique!

I'll update this thread with any meaningful progress, assuming I make any...
 

swyn

Full Member
Nov 24, 2004
846
5
62
Eastwards!
Hello Stringmaker.
As Firelite has said.....makes good sense.
Look at Rich59s posts too, he is an expert and good at explaining, better than me!
Try, try and try again. It's surprisingly difficult early times on your own to get the pressure you need, it's often more fun, and easier, with a friend who can take over the task at the top of the stick and is sitting opposite to you. Personally I don't thing thumb loops help, sorry! You need that longer stick....and more pressure. There's a fine line to pressure and your hands sliding down as you twizzle. I think in this instance, more is best. I can still 'do' with a mis-set broken middle finger, although there's occasionally an ouch. Also really fingertip to fingertip twizzle, get that heat/friction up quickly and not too much light brown dust. Dark dust, quickly will turn to an ember.
Good luck... you will have a big smile when you get there:eek:
Swyn.
 
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wildranger

Need to contact Admin...
Oct 29, 2011
112
0
Ireland
Hey stringmaker, I've produced loads of embers over the last month or so using the floating technique and shorter drills.

I generally find dead plant stalks to work better as a drill than seasoned elder. What you want is a narrow rim and a nice pithy core. Teasel is excellent. I also like to use burdock and great mullein. Ragwort might work but when I tried it the smoke coming off had an odd smell so I stopped. I'm going to try bramble next time and see how that works. Thistle stalks might work if caught at the start of the winter but the ones I keep finding are too crumbly.

For the hearth, I like to use seasoned soft woods, especially lime and poplar. Woods such as willow, alder, ivy and sycamore are great for the bowdrill but very difficult to use with the hand drill, unless softened by fungal attack.

It'll take most people ages to get their first ember using the standard hand-drill technique and probably longer still to get the hang of churning out embers using the floating technique. It really takes months of practice to develop the necessary coordination, strength and stamina to be regularly churning out embers and also to build up the callouses on the hands, which allow you to go for a few embers each session without destroying your hands completely.

You have to apply a fair bit of pressure, right from the start, to ensure the hole doesn't glaze over, and this is a particular issue when using lime wood, as you'll find if you try it! It takes a lot of effort to get the drill to "kick-in" with lime for some reason. You may find that it exhausts you to even reach this point, where you're beginning to feel resistance and starting to generate a few wisps of smoke. Just keep practicing, every other day, or even every 2 days if you push hard on your training sessions. Good luck and don't give up!
 

Stringmaker

Native
Sep 6, 2010
1,891
1
UK
Hey stringmaker, I've produced loads of embers over the last month or so using the floating technique and shorter drills.

I generally find dead plant stalks to work better as a drill than seasoned elder. What you want is a narrow rim and a nice pithy core. Teasel is excellent. I also like to use burdock and great mullein. Ragwort might work but when I tried it the smoke coming off had an odd smell so I stopped. I'm going to try bramble next time and see how that works. Thistle stalks might work if caught at the start of the winter but the ones I keep finding are too crumbly.

For the hearth, I like to use seasoned soft woods, especially lime and poplar. Woods such as willow, alder, ivy and sycamore are great for the bowdrill but very difficult to use with the hand drill, unless softened by fungal attack.

It'll take most people ages to get their first ember using the standard hand-drill technique and probably longer still to get the hang of churning out embers using the floating technique. It really takes months of practice to develop the necessary coordination, strength and stamina to be regularly churning out embers and also to build up the callouses on the hands, which allow you to go for a few embers each session without destroying your hands completely.

You have to apply a fair bit of pressure, right from the start, to ensure the hole doesn't glaze over, and this is a particular issue when using lime wood, as you'll find if you try it! It takes a lot of effort to get the drill to "kick-in" with lime for some reason. You may find that it exhausts you to even reach this point, where you're beginning to feel resistance and starting to generate a few wisps of smoke. Just keep practicing, every other day, or even every 2 days if you push hard on your training sessions. Good luck and don't give up!

That's really helpful, thanks!

It will be a fragmented project but even if it takes me months I will hopefully crack it.

I do have some teasel so I need to find a softer hearth wood by the sound of it.
 

Firelite

Forager
Feb 25, 2010
188
1
bedfordshire
i've had a bit of a dry spell on the hand drill front recently - (no embers and hands out of shape) so I've been playing with an intermediate method. it won't please the purists, and I will concede that its not a survival technique so much as a means to an end. Anyway, if your objective is an ember from this method (no matter what), or you're in desperate need of encouragement on the way to that point, rather than faffing about looking for a long straight stick to fix your drill into (assuming like me, you,ve ignored all the posts below advising floating method) I just pushed a sort dowel in the end of a 1m aluminium tube from "B&queue" and fixed the short elder drill onto the resulting spigot. Works a treat, and I just knocked a couple of embers out in short order.

Like I said, its not quite the real thing and it flies in the face of the technique I advocated below, but for those wearing short of patience (or skin) it might be a good morale boost. If nothing else it will reassure you that the materials you've selected are capable of doing the job.
 

Stringmaker

Native
Sep 6, 2010
1,891
1
UK
i've had a bit of a dry spell on the hand drill front recently - (no embers and hands out of shape) so I've been playing with an intermediate method. it won't please the purists, and I will concede that its not a survival technique so much as a means to an end. Anyway, if your objective is an ember from this method (no matter what), or you're in desperate need of encouragement on the way to that point, rather than faffing about looking for a long straight stick to fix your drill into (assuming like me, you,ve ignored all the posts below advising floating method) I just pushed a sort dowel in the end of a 1m aluminium tube from "B&queue" and fixed the short elder drill onto the resulting spigot. Works a treat, and I just knocked a couple of embers out in short order.

Like I said, its not quite the real thing and it flies in the face of the technique I advocated below, but for those wearing short of patience (or skin) it might be a good morale boost. If nothing else it will reassure you that the materials you've selected are capable of doing the job.

That's a neat idea.

I do have the means to use a short elder drill without having to learn floating; my problem is a good clematis hearth. There is a very kind bod on here who has cut me a piece and is now drying it (take a bow ocean1975) but I haven't got it yet. As to your final point about testing your materials, a tip I might resort to came from the fire guru Rich59; he used a power drill to hold the bit and reassure himself that the materials would work.

Thanks for the suggestions all!
 
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