Pump Drill and Bear comes clean

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Bushcrafter (boy, I've got a lot to say!)
The Kenyah people of central Borneo use the pump drill as a woodworking tool. So do the Lun Dayeh, I believe.

They would be surprised to be told that Europeans or Iroquois were the inventors since their ancestors reached Borneo long before the migrations to Europe and North America took place.

Colonialisation only came to them in the very late 19th and early 20th century well into the age of iron tools as trade goods.

The date something was written about (especially by white men) tells you little about its provenance.

It is just as likely that modern man walked out of Africa with the knowledge in his mental tool kit.

All of us are indebted to them for the technology.

That's a beautifully elegant pump drill. The best I have seen. I think you could get a coal from the notches.



Jan 21, 2005
S. Lanarkshire
Pump drill seems to be a worldwide technology. :)
I know it was in use here in the Iron Age, India, Africa, Indonesia......

That one is massive though. The number of wraps doesn't need to vary so long as the proportions are held the same. Those wraps (cord around spindle) will turn the drill bit the same number of times on the smaller one.
Jewellers had a tiny version, and one that can be used one handed is excellent for bonework.

The one I used for schoolkids is only about 40cms high and it makes excellent coals. Much easier for kids to use than a firebow.


Mikey P

Full Member
Nov 22, 2003
Glasgow, Scotland
Excellent post, Mr Randle.

Superb workmanship and a well-written and referenced article.

Why can't it always be like that?

PS - Got any snout?


Full Member
Feb 18, 2004
Cool post and a great drill. The notch being slightly off certainly does not mean that you will fail in getting a coal. Just as long as the notch collects enough, it should be fine. During the use, my freshly drilled holes often develop a habit of mis-aligning a bit. Unless it goes nowhere - I usually won't bother with corrective carving.


Nov 1, 2008
Hereford, UK
Timothy old chap, you might detect a smidge of sarcasm in the post what with all my "Randy ruddy riled" "never done a day's bird" etc.

No hard feelings, was meant to get a giggle not to offend. And as for the challenge, well nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition. Apologies if I’ve now “riled” you"; was not my intention.


You hadn't "riled" me at all mate, confused me, yes - I read your first post, then this and yes, I firstly congratulated you on the article and workmanship which as I already said was good and after spending over the past decade myself teaching these skills to customers, from that experience I seen a few flaws and thought I could help.

A 'you tube' challenge ???, why would I do that when I never challenged you in the first place, where did a challenge come from ?? - I definately can say you'll win hands down mate as I wouldn't have a clue how to post something on 'you tube' in the first place - I'm not familiar with survival in the 'You Tube' environment but it seems 'the place' to be these days, together with facebook, bebo...etc

The old hats who earn a living from the skill often get a pasting for not helping people freely and without charge - when we do, well, I can now see why a lot of the guys don't bother.

Enjoy the forum mate
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fireman sam

Jan 26, 2009
the woods
Absolutely love the post Randy, it’s top….notch!

oh dear, I’ve waded into the notch debate.

Oh well, here goes. In a perfect world it’s probably better to have a dead centre 1/8th notch hitting the bullseye, or just before it, but it’s really not necessary at all. If you know what you’re doing then it is actually quite possible to create an ember with no notch whatsoever. Here’s my good buddy Dale, doing just that halfway up a snowy mountain.


As for the glazing, well, I find that with enough downward pressure you can more often than not cut straight through it, and by the looks of that stone on your big drill I shouldn’t imagine you’d have much trouble in that department. What on earth’s a “fire off” though?

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