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Wednesday 8 June 2016

Furtherance to the Bowdrill Debate...

This bowdrill discussion doesn't seem to be going away with both sides offering pro's and cons for it's purpose, I'm not going to labour the point so I'll let this article be my last on the matter..
It seems I'm in a minority on the matter on the importance and sacred elevation given to fire by friction, ironically a lot of the people who revere it so much have confessed to never succeeding at this method, go figure!
I don't see it as the be all and end all of fire methods and I'm happy to fight my corner on that. I've done enough courses were instructors seem to ram the method down your throat going on and on about how special and sacred it is, some even seem to relish the idea of watching people struggle with the method, I suppose it's one of the reasons why I dislike it so much, I've seen people get laughed at and practically humiliated by 'instructors' who were 'teaching' the skill I've even seen instructors get frustrated and angry when people couldn't manage it, there's been times when I've actually stood in to help someone in front of the teacher... not cool.

Anyway, one of the pro's main arguments for bowdrill is that it gives you a better understanding of trees and wood types, well that's to do with woodcraft, that's not firecraft, also they say that it allows you to think about tinder bundles, their construction and therefor help in the creation of fire, that's a hollow argument that doesn't hold water, so to speak, 

from left to right, bowdrill ember, charred punkwood ember, amadou ember, charcloth ember, plain punkwood ember. 

See the above picture, (apologies for quality, it was taken on my phone quickly before all the embers burnt out) I can't make this any more plain, a bowdrill ember is just that, an ember.
Do embers have to be treated differently because of how they're created, do we have to use different tinder bundles for different embers, do we have to use different tinder materials or a different construction method because of how we created the ember? No we don't, all embers are treated the same regardless of how they're made using the same types of tinder bundles..
The bowdrill ember was willow on willow, the charred punkwood, amadou and charcloth were jasper and steel, and the punkwood was a ferro rod.
These embers still have to be taken to flame then the fire created and maintained. Every step after the initial ember is created is exactly the same regardless of how the ember was made, therefor to say that a bowdrill particularly makes you more aware of firecraft is wrong, as I've said previously that's woodcraft, that is using the right woods in the right condition to be able to help you make fire, it's the wood selection and condition that is important, every step after that in the creation of fire is identical.
So many people now have it in their psyche that it's the ultimate bushcraft skill, well hardly! But the idea of bowdrill is constantly preached to the exclusion of other more important skills like tree and plant ID, bowdrill is just another string to your bow (pun intended).
Unfortunately it is given such a reverence that it has almost become the holy grail of Bushcraft and more than once I've heard people say that once they'd achieved fire by friction that there was nothing left to learn, how disappointing is that?
The method is also self limiting in that you have to achieve a particular posture to help you perform the task, some people for one reason or another can't do this, it's a ludicrous idea for this method to dominate firecraft the way it does, don't be taken in by the modern bushcraft urban mythology that it makes you a better bushcrafter, that's nonsense, it's just one more method, that's all..practice it, yes, but don't be consumed by it, chances are you will never ever have to resort to fire by friction in a survival situation, other wilderness skills are much more important, keep this were it belongs, on the back burner.
Bushcrafters in general tend to be quite intelligent, I think. Well they have to be really, when they're in a situation they need to think and act quickly, they practice continually and are able, by nature, to improvise, adapt and overcome nearly all situations, it's that broadminded attitude that makes them the intellectually aware individual that they are, giving more credence to bowdrill than it deserves just makes you blinkered.

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