FIRE MAKING BY FRICTION How To Make A Fire-Board, Bow, Drill And Thimble -- Indian Legend Of The Source Of Fire -- Record Fire -Makers -- Rubbing-Stick Outfit -- Eskimo Thimble -- Bow, Bow-String, Thimble, Fire-Board, Fire-Pan -- Tinder, Charred Rags, Puff Balls -- Fire-Makers Of The Balkan -- Fire Without A Bow, Co-Li-Li, The Fire Saw -- Fire Pumping Of The Iroquois -- Pyropneumatic Apparatus Fire Making by Friction. WHEN THE "what-is-its" of Pithecantropus erectus age and other like hob-goblin men were moping around the rough sketch of an earth, there were no camp-fires; the only fire that these creatures knew was that which struck terror to their hearts when it was vomited forth from volcanic craters, or came crashing among them in the form of lightning. No wonder that the primitive men looked upon fire as a deity, no doubt an evil deity at first but one who later became good. When the vast fields of ice covered Europe during the glacier period and forced men to think or die, necessity developed a prehistoric Edison among the Neanderthal men, who discovered how to build and control a fire, thus saving his race from being frozen in the ice and kept on cold storage, like the hairy rhinoceros and elephant of Siberia. The fire of this forgotten and unknown glacier savage was the forerunner of our steam-heaters and kitchen ranges; in fact, without it we could have made no progress whatever, for not only the humble kitchen range, but the great factories and power-plants are all depending upon the discovery made by the shivering, teeth-chattering savage who was hopping around and trying to keep himself warm among the European glaciers. But we people of the camp-fires are more interested in primitive fires just as the Neanderthal men built them, than we are In the roaring furnaces of the steel works, the volcano blast furnaces, or any of the scientific, commercialized fires of factory and commerce.
What we love is the genial, old-fashioned camp-fire in the open, on the broad prairie, on the mountainside, or in the dark and mysterious forests, where, as our good friend Dr. Hornaday says, We will pile on pine and spruce, Mesquite roots and sagebrush loose, Dead bamboo and smelly teak, And with fagots blazing bright Burn a hole into the night Not long ago the author was up North in the unmapped lake country of Canada, and while camping on the portage between two wild and lonely lakes, Scout Joe Van Vleck made himself a fire outfit consisting of Fig. 1, a thimble made of a burl, with which to hold Fig. 2, the spindle made of balsam. Fig. 3 is a bow cut from a standing bush; not an elastic bow, such as one uses with which to shoot arrows, but a bow with a permanent bend to it. Fig. 4 is the fire-pan which is placed under the fire-board to catch the charcoal dust as it falls through the slot when the spindle is twirled. Fig. 5 is the fire-board, made of a dead balsam tree which was standing within three yards of the camp-fire. In order to make his fire it was necessary for our Scout to have some tinder, and this he secured from the bark of cedar trees, also within a few yards of our camp. This indeed was a novel experience, for seldom is material so convenient. The fire was built in a few seconds, much to the wonderment of our Indian guide, and the delight of some moose hunters who chanced to be crossing the portage on which our camp was located. It was an American, Dr. Walter Hough of the U. S. National Museum of Washington, who first proved that a modern up-to-date civilized white man can make a fire with rubbing-sticks, as well as the primitive man. But it was an Englishman who popularized this method of making fire, introduced it among the Boy Scouts of England and America, and the sister organizations among the girls. According to the American Indian legend the animal people who inhabited the earth before the Redmen lived in darkness in California. There was the coyote man, the vulture man, the white-footed mouse man, and a lot of other fabled creatures. Away over East somewhere there was light because the sun was over there, and the humming- bird man among the animal people of our Indians is the one, according to Dr. Merriman, who stole the fire from the East and carried it under his chin. The mark of it is still there. The next time you see a humming-bird note the brilliant spot of red fire under his chin. Now you understand why the king-pin in fire making at your camp deserves the title of Le-che-che (the humming- bird). If one gets the fire from a fire-board, spindle and bow in record time, then the title of Le-che-che is all the more appropriate because it was the humming-bird man who hid the fire in the oo-noo tree, and to this day, when the Indian wants fire, he goes to the oo-noo (buckeye) tree to get it; that is, provided he has no matches in the pockets of his store clothes and that some white boy, like the Scout previously mentioned, has taught him how to make fire as did the Indian's own ancestors. But even then the oo-noo* wood must be dead and dry. * It is not the buckeye of the Ohio and Mississippi Valley, but is the nut buckeye of California, AEsculus California. Austin Norton of Ypsilanti, Michigan, April, 1912, made fire in thirty-nine and one-fifth seconds; Frederick C. Reed of Washington, in December, 1912, made fire in thirty-one seconds; Mr. Ernest Miller of St. Paul made fire in thirty seconds, but it was Mr. Arthur Forbush, one of the author's Scouts of the Sons of Daniel Boone (the scout organization which preceded both the English Boy Scouts and the Boy Scouts of America) who broke the record time in making fire with "rubbing-sticks" by doing it in twenty-nine seconds at the Sportsman's Show at Madison Square Garden, New York. Mr. Forbush made this record in the presence of the author and many witnesses. Since then the same gentleman reduced his own world-record to twenty-six and one-fifth seconds; by this time even that record* may have been broken. * The (1920) record is now eleven seconds. The "rubbing-stick" is a picturesque, sensational and interesting method of building a fire, but to-day it is of little practical use outside of the fact that it teaches one to overcome obstacles, to do things with the tools at hand, to think and act with the vigor, precision and self-confidence of a primitive man.
"RUBBING-STICK" OUTFIT Ever since the writer was a small boy he has read about making fire by rubbing "two chips" or "two sticks" together, and he was under the impression then, and is under the impression now, that no one can build a fire in that manner. When we find reference to rubbing-sticks it is probably a slovenly manner of describing the bow and drill and the other similar friction fire implements. For the bow and drill one requires first a ... THIMBLE (Figs. 1, 1A, IB, 1C and ID). This is a half round stone or pebble, a half round burl or knot of wood, or it may be made of soft wood with an inlay of a piece of stone. In the bottom of the thimble there is always a shallow hole or socket; see S on Figs. 1, 1A, IB, 1C, and ID. The thimble is an invention of the Eskimos (Fig. 1C) ; they keep the spindle upright by holding the pointed upper end of it in a hole (S) drilled into a piece of serpentine, or soapstone. The author has a thimble personally made for him by Major David Abercrombie. This beautiful implement is made of hard fine-grained wood carved into the form of a beetle (Fig. IB). It is inlaid with copper and semi-precious stones. The socket hole was drilled into a piece of jade (B), using for the purpose some sand and the drill shown in Fig. 23. There was a piece of steel pipe set into the end of the wooden drill with which to bore a hole into the hard jade. The jade was then inlaid or set into the middle of the bottom of the thimble, and cemented there, Fig. IB. The author also has a thimble made for him by Edmund Seymour of the Camp-fire Club of America. This thimble is a stone fossil with a hole drilled in it, Fig. 1A. It is not necessary to tell the reader that when using the bow for power, the twirling spindle cannot be held down with the bare hand, consequently the use of the thimble for that purpose is necessary. Fig. 1C shows an Eskimo thimble so fashioned that it may be held in the fire-maker's mouth. THE Bow Is a stick or branch of wood (Figs. 3, 3E, 3F and 3G) about a foot and a half long and almost an inch in diameter, which has a permanent bend in it the bend may be natural or may have been made artificially. To the bow is attached a slack thong, or durable string of some kind. The Eskimos, more inventive than the Indians, made themselves beautiful bows of ivory, carving them from walrus tusks, which they shaved down and strung with a loose strip of walrus hide. THE Bow STRING The objection to whang string or belt lacing is that it is apt to be too greasy, so if one can secure a strip of buckskin, a buckskin thong about two inches wide, and twist it into a string, it will probably best serve the purpose (Fig. 6). THE SPINDLE The spindle is the twirling stick (Figs. 2, 2A, 2B and 2C) which is usually about a foot long and was used by our American Indians without the bow (Fig. 7). The twirling stick or spindle may be three-quarters of an inch in diameter at the middle; constant use and sharpening will gradually shorten the spindle. When it becomes too short a new one must be made. The end of the spindle should not be made sharp like a lead pencil, but should have a dull or rounded end, with which to bore into the fire-board, thus producing fine, hot charcoal, which in time becomes a spark: that is, a growing ember. THE FIRE-BOARD The fire-board (Figs. 5 and 5A) should be made of spruce, cedar, balsam, tamarack, cottonwood root, basswood, and even dry white pine, maple and, probably, buckeye wood. It should not be made of black walnut, oak or chestnut, or any wood which has a gummy or resinous quality. The fire-board should be of dry material which will powder easily. Dr. Hough recommends maple for the fire-board, or "hearth," as it is called in the Boy Scout Handbook. Make the fire-board about eleven inches long, two inches wide and three-quarters of an inch thick. Near the edge of the board, and two inches from the end, begin a row of notches each three-quarter inch long and cut down through the fire-board so as to be wider at the bottom. At the inside end of each notch make an indenture only sufficiently deep to barely hold the end of your spindle while you make the preliminary twirls which gradually enlarge the socket to fit the end of your spindle. THE FIRE-PAN The fire-pan is a chip, shingle or wooden dust-pan used to catch the charred dust as it is pushed out by the twirling spindle (Fig. 4) . The use of the fire-pan is also an Eskimos idea, but they cut a step in then* driftwood fire-board itself (Fig. 8) to serve as a fire-pan. TINDER When you can procure them, charred rags of cotton or linen make excellent tinder, but the best fabric for that purpose is an old Turkish towel.
How TO CHAR A RAG Find a flat stone (Fig. 10) , a broad piece of board, a smooth, hard, bare piece of earth; set your cloth afire and after it begins to blaze briskly, smother it out quickly by using a folded piece of paper (Fig. 9) , a square section of birch bark or another piece of board. This napped down quickly upon the flames will extinguish them without disturbing the charred portion (Fig. 10). Or with your feet quickly trample out the flames. Keep your punk or tinder in a water-tight box; a tin tobacco box is good for that purpose, or do like our ancestors did keep it in a punk horn (Fig. 30).
Very fine dry grass is good tinder, also the mushroom, known as the puff-ball or Devil's snuffbox. The puff-balls, big ones, may be found growing about the edges of the woods and they make very good punk or tinder. They are prepared by hanging them on a string and drying them out, after which they are cut into thin slices, laid on the board and beaten until all the black dust ("snuff") is hammered out of them, when they are in condition to use as punk or tinder (Fig. 11). In olden times there was a mushroom, toadstool or fungus imported from Germany, and used as punk, but woodcraft consists in supplying oneself with the material at hand; therefore do not forget that flying squirrels (Figs. 12 and 13), white-footed mice (Fig. 14) and voles, or short-tailed meadow mice, are all addicted to collecting good ... TINDER
... with which to make their warm nests: So also do some of the birds the summer yellow bird, humming-bird and vireos. While abandoned humming-birds' nests are too difficult to find, last year's vireos' nests are more easily discovered suspended like cups between two branches, usually within reach of the hand, and quite conspicuous in the fall when the leaves are off the trees.
Cedar bark, both red (Fig. 15) and white, the dry inner bark of other trees, dry birch bark, when shredded up very fine, make good tinder. Whether you use the various forms of rubbing-sticks or the flint and steel, it is necessary to catch the spark in punk or tinder in order to develop the flame.
How TO MAKE A FIRE WITH A DRILL AND Bow First find a level solid foundation on which to place your fire-board, then make a half turn with the string of the bow around the spindle, as in the diagram (Fig. 16); now grasp the thimble with the left hand, put one end of the drill in the socket hole of the thimble, the other end in the socket hole on the fire-board, with your left foot holding the fire- board down. Press your left wrist firmly against your left shin. Begin work by drawing the bow slowly and horizontally back and forth until it works easily, work the bow as one does a fiddle bow when playing on a bass viol, but draw the bow its whole length each time. When it is running smoothly, speed it up. Or when you feel that the drill is biting the wood, press harder on the thimble, not too hard, but hard enough to hold the drill firmly, so that it will not slip out of the socket but will continue to bite the wood until the "sawdust" begins to appear. At first it will show a brown color, later it will become black and begin to smoke until the thickening smoke announces that you have developed the spark. At this stage you gently fan the smoking embers with one hand. If you fan it too briskly, as often happens, the powder will be blown away. As soon as you are satisfied that you have secured a spark, lift the powdered embers on the fire-pan and place carefully on top of it a bunch of tinder, then blow till it bursts into flame (Fig. 8A) . Or fold the tinder over the spark gently, take it up in your hand and swing it with a circular motion until the flame flares out. Even to this day peasantry throughout the Carpathian and Balkan peninsulas build their fires with a "rubbing stick." But these people not being campers have a permanent fire machine made by erecting two posts, one to represent the fire-stick and the other the socket thimble. The spindle runs horizontally between these two posts and the pressure is secured by a thong or cord tied around the two posts, which tends to pull them toward each other. The spindle is worked by a bow the same as the one already described and the fire is produced in the same manner. My pupils in the Woodcraft Camp built fires successfully by using the rung of a chair for the spindle, a piece of packing case for a fire-board, and another piece for the socket wood and the string from their moccasins for a bow string. They used no bow, however, and two or three boys were necessary to make a fire, one to hold the spindle and two others to saw on the moccasin string (Fig. 17).
CO-LI-LI THE FIRE SAW is made of two pieces of bamboo, or fish pole. This is the oldest instrument for fire making used by the Bontoc Igorot and is now seldom found among the men of the Philippines. Practically all Philippine boys, however, know how to make and use it and so should our boys here, and men, too. It is called "co-li-li" and is made of two pieces of dry bamboo. A two-foot section of dead and dry bamboo is first split lengthwise and in one piece, a small area of the stringy tissue lining of the tube is splintered and picked until quite loose (Fig. 18) . Just over the picked fibres, but on the outside of the bamboo, a narrow groove is cut across it (Fig. 18G). This piece of bamboo is now the stationary lower part or "fireboard" of the machine. One edge of the other half of the original tube is sharpened like a chisel blade's edge (Fig. 19); it is then grasped with one hand at each end and is slowly and heavily sawed backward and forward through the groove in the board, and afterwards worked more rapidly, thus producing a conical pile of dry dust on the wad of tinder picked from the inside of the bamboo or previously placed there. (Figs. 20 and 21). Fig. 22 is the fire-pan. "After a dozen strokes," says our authority, Mr. Albert Ernest Jenks, "the sides of the groove and the edge of the piece are burned down; presently a smell of smoke is plain and before three dozen strokes have been made, smoke may be seen. Usually before a hundred strokes a larger volume of smoke tells us that the dry dust constantly falling on the pile has grown more and more charred until finally a tiny spark falls, carrying combustion to the already heated dust cone." The fire-board is then carefully lifted and if the pinch of dust is smouldering it may now be gently fanned with the hand until the tinder catches; then it may be blown into a flame.
FIRE PUMPING OF THE IROQUOIS Fig. 23 shows another form of drill. For this one it is necessary to have a weight wheel attached to the lower part of the spindle. A hole is made through its center and the drill fitted to this. The one in Fig. 23 is fitted out with a rusty iron wheel which I found under the barn. Fig. 23 C shows a pottery weight wheel which I found many years ago in a gravel-pit in Mills Creek bottoms at Cincinnati, Ohio. It was brick-red in color and decorated with strange characters. For many, many years I did not know for what use this unique instrument was intended. I presented it to the Flushing High School (Long Island), where I trust it still remains. The fire-drill is twirled by moving the bow up and down instead of backward and forward. THE TWIRLING STICK (American Indian) Fig. 7 is practically the same as Figs. 16 and 17, with this difference: the bow and thong are dispensed with and the spindle twirled between the palm of the hands, as formerly practiced by the California Indians, the natives of Australia, Caroline Islands, China, Africa and India. Many of the American Indians made friction fire in this manner. They spun the thin spindle by rolling it between the palms of their hands and as pressure was exerted the hands gradually slid down to the thick lower end of the spindle. To again get the hands to the top of the drill requires practice and skill. Personally the writer cannot claim any success with this method.
THE PLOW STICK (American Indian) The simplest method of friction is that of the plow, which requires only a fire-board with a gutter in it and a rubbing- stick to push up and down the gutter (Fig. 24). Captain Belmore Browne of Mt. McKinley fame made a fire by this last method when his matches were soaked with water. It is, however, more difficult to produce the fire this way than with the thong and bow. It is still used in the Malay Islands; the natives place the fire-board on a stump or stone, straddle it and with a pointed drill plow the board back and forth until they produce fire. Time: Forty seconds.
Of course it is unnecessary to tell anyone that he can start a fire with a sunglass (Fig. 25) or with the lens of a camera, or with the lens made from two old-fashioned watch crystals held together. But as the sun is not always visible, as lenses are not supposed to grow in the wild woods and were not to be found in the camps and log cabins of the pioneers, and as watch crystals have short lives in the woods, we will pass this method of fire making without matches as one which properly belongs in the classroom. THE PYROPNEUMATIC APPARATUS Before or about the time of the American Revolution some gentleman invented a fire piston (Fig. 26) with which he ignited punk made of fungus by the heat engendered by the sudden compression of the air.
The ancient gentleman describes his invention as follows: "The cylinder is about nine inches long, and half an inch in diameter; it terminates in a screw on which screws the magazine intended to hold a bougie, and some fungus. A steel rod is attached to a solid piston, or plunger, not shown in the figure, it being within the tube. This rod has a milled head and there is a small hole in the tube to admit the air, when the piston is drawn up to the top, where a piece unscrews, for the purpose of applying oil or grease to the piston. I have found lard to answer the end best." METHOD OF USING IT "Take from the magazine a small piece of fungus, and place it in the chamber, screw the piece `tight on and draw the piston up by the end, till it stops. Hold the instrument with both hands in the manner represented hi Fig. 26, place the end on a table or against any firm body, either in a perpendicular, horizontal or vertical direction, and force the piston down with as much rapidity as possible. This rapid compression of the air will cause the fungus to take fire. Instantly after the stroke of the piston, unscrew the magazine, when the air will rush in, and keep up the combustion till the fungus is consumed. Observe, in lighting the tinder, the fungus must be lifted up a little from the chamber, so as to allow the tinder to be introduced beneath it, otherwise it will not kindle. "Here it may be remarked that the instrument thus constructed has a decided advantage over the fire-cane, where the fungus is inserted at such a depth as not easily to be reached." But in Burmah they had the same idea. There the coolies still light their cigarettes with a fire-piston. The Philippines also use the same machine and ignite a wad of cotton stuck on the end of the piston by suddenly forcing the piston into air-tight cylinders, and when the piston is quickly withdrawn the cotton is found to be aflame, so it may be that the Colonial gentleman had traveled to the Indies and borrowed his idea from the Burmahs, or the Philippines. At any rate we do not use it to-day in the woods, but it finds place here because it belongs to the friction fires and may be good as a suggestion for those among my readers of experimental and inventive minds. End of Text This (Complete) Text is available in the SSRsi Survival Library Return to Outdoor Survival or Survival Fire or Family Camping
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