Hand Drill for Beginners

Hand Drill for Beginners
Patrick McGlinchey

handdrill1Over the years I’ve come across many frustrated students who have tried and failed to produce a glowing ember from the hand drill. In most cases they have ended up with blisters and no desire to push on with this technique.

Failure can be caused by many variables such as wood types, combinations, technique and so on. I often hear people talk about this or that combination of materials or technique (which are all relevant) but not many mention stamina. I will not deal with wood types in this tutorial as there is enough information on this already.

There are 3 things which are directly related to success with the materials. They are speed, pressure and stamina. Most students will achieve smoke by using 2 of these but in all cases (In my experience) they run out of stamina, usually at the critical point. If you think about it, you would not run a marathon without any prior training. This also applies to the hand drill method of fire lighting, stamina needs to be built up.

Hopefully if you try this method, after a week or so you will have strengthened the relevant muscles and can then discard one of the training aids. Persevere for another week and then finally you will be able to go it alone.

handdrill2The bottom of the hand drill, with an elder plug and flat stones lashed around the spindle with bark. The plug method will also allow you to experiment with different woods, by inserting them into the elder tube.





handdrill3Place your thumbs through the thumb loops – this will allow you to spin the drill for longer periods and add downward pressure, without moving your hands up and down the spindle. The added weight near the drill tip will also be advantageous





handdrill4Start to spin the drill and it will not take long for the smoke to appear. Keep spinning until the smoke is very thick and the nock is starting to fill with dust……give it all you’ve got.





handdrill5If all is well you should have a smoking ember sitting in the nock






handdrill6Calmly remove drill and set aside. Fan the ember with your hand until it starts to glow.


This style of hand drill will also produce coals from many unfavourable woods. Hope this helps![/TD]

Backwoods Survival School