How a Boy Scout makes fire This article is
from the 1919 book, Everyday Science with Projects by William
H. Snyder (which is why it starts with Figure 5). If you attempt
this project to start a camp fire, use the appropriate precautions
that you would use with any fire, and make certain that you are in
an approved area for camp fires.
"Five things are
necessary to produce a rubbing-stick fire: a drill or spindle, a
fire-block or hearth, a hand-socket, a bow, and tinder.
In choosing wood
for making the drill and fire-block, great care must be exercised.
The wood should be dry and long-seasoned, but sound. Gummy and
resinous woods should be avoided. A test for good wood for this
purpose is that the wood-dust ground off shall be smooth to the
touch, not gritty or sticky. Two of the best and most widely
distributed woods are cottonwood and willow. Better even than these
are the cedar, the cypress, or the tamarack, if they can be had. If
none of these is at hand, try soft maple, elm, poplar, sycamore, or
Out of a straight dry branch or piece of seasoned wood, whittle a
roughly rounded spindle, about 12 inches long, and not more than 3/4
inch in diameter. Sharpen the two ends of the stick, as shown in
-Take a piece of wood not more than 12 inches long, 2 or 3 inches
wide, and not more than 3/4 inch thick. On one side of this board,
well toward one end, cut a notch 1/2 inch deep and bevel it slightly
toward the under side of the board. About 1/8 inch, or less, from
the tip of the notch make a little hollow or pit in the board, an
shown in Figure 6, A.
- If nothing better is at hand, take a pine or hemlock knot that will just fit comfortably
into the palm of the hand. Make a pit in the center of one of the
flat surfaces of the knot, about 1/4 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch
If you are going
to practice fire-making on camping trips, you will find it a great
saving of time to have a socket made for your permanent use. Take a
solid block of wood 5 or 6 inches Ion, 1 3/4 inches wide, and 1 ½
inches thick. Set in the middle of one face of this block a piece of
soapstone or marble 1 inch square and about 3/4 inch deep. In the
center of this piece of stone make a small smooth pit, 3/8 inch wide
and 3/8 inch deep. Smooth and round the opposite face of the block
so that it will fit your palm comfortably and can be grasped firmly.
The socket in now ready for use (Figure 7).
For this, any slightly curved rigid branch or stick, 18 to 24
inches long, may be used. Fasten a thong of buckskin, belt-lacing,
or of any pliable leather, about 3/8 inch wide, to the bow, as shown
in Figure 8. The thong should be just long enough so that when it is
given one turn around the drill it will be stretched taut (Figure
Any dry, finely divided material that readily bursts into flame from
a spark is called tinder. Shredded cedar bark, a wad of dry grass,
crumpled dry leaves, willow catkins, scraped cedar or spruce wood
will serve admirably. Any observing person will be able to find plenty of good
tinder in a forest.
In addition to
this tinder, which is used to nurse the glowing spark into flame,
the fire-maker should have at hand a collection of twigs,
long-stemmed dry grass, splinters, slivers of dry bark, etc., to be
used as kindling for the larger fuel that is to follow.
Fire. -Set the fire-block on firm ground or on flat rocks or on
any foundation where the block can be kept from slipping or
joggling. Slip a thin chip under the notch of the hearth.
Turn the thong
of the bow once around the drill. If the thong is of the right
length, it will now be taut.
Set one point of
the drill into the pit near the point of the notch of the
fire-block, fit the upper end into the hand-socket, and with your
left hand hold the drill perpendicular to the block. Anchor the
fire-block with your left foot, and steady your left hand by resting
your left wrist against your left shin. This is to enable you to
keep the drill steadily in an upright position (Figure 9).
Now with the
right hand draw the bow slowly and steadily back and forth the full
length of the thong, pressing lightly on the hand-socket. Keep the
bow horizontal, and do not touch the drill with it as you saw back
and forth. The twirling motion of the drill soon makes it bite into
the block, boring out powdered wood. When it begins to smoke, put a
little more pressure on the socket and drill faster. When the dust
comes out in a compact mass and the smoke increases to a
considerable volume, you probably have the spark.
the fire-block so as to leave the smoking powder undisturbed on the
chip. Gently fan this with your hand into a bright glow. Then put a
wad of tinder gently over the glowing powder and blow until the
tinder bursts into flame. Follow this with the kindling and your
fire is started.
N. B. If you are
left-handed, you will probably reverse the directions for employing
the right and left hands."