I was watching the Ask Paul Kirtley vids on youtube and as happens every once in a while the pros and cons of bowdrill seems to be coming up a lot lately. I'm not a great proponent of it, I believe it's over rated and there's too much time and emphasis placed on it when it's simply one more arrow in the bushcraft quiver. Even Ray Mears says on one of his Walkabout programs that in a genuine survival situation you lose energy very quickly and it's therefore difficult to achieve fire with this method.. in a genuine situation get out your lighter!!
So if it's not a genuine survival situation why even bother with it as any sensible bushcrafter will have a means to make fire on them. Also not only do you lose energy quickly but what happens if you're injured, if you can't bend down, or if your leg or arm is broken?, bowdrill won't be possible... I can see the purpose of it for demonstration or fun but in a genuine situation it's surely going to be a last resort, but Paul said something that got me thinking and really struck a cord with me, that the bowdrill method gives you a greater understanding of fire, it makes you think about achieving this element and with that thought and that greater understanding comes a more skilled individual, one who, if he can get an ember regularly with a bowdrill, then his entire fire making capabilities would be sharpened and made more acute, now that is something that makes sense to me, bowdrill is not just a means of making fire.. it's a teaching tool! Now this I can relate to as a deeper understanding is what I've always strived to achieve, so with this in mind I had a hoke to see what wood I had lying around, I found some elder, sycamore, willow and lime so out into the back garden for a go.
I haven't used the firebow in quite a while and muscle memory is important with this technique, you can certainly feel it after a few goes.....willow on sycamore
willow on lime
sycamore on sycamore, the dust was quite coarse and this usually denies me an ember though I got it this time, understanding the colour and texture of the dust is a lesson in itself..
I tried two types of bow, a stiff one and a flexible one and I without a doubt prefer the flexible one as it allows a bit of leeway with string length and spindle width..
I don't think it will ever be my favourite method of lighting fire as I can do without friction in my life..!!