Author Topic: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers  (Read 12746 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« on: February 28, 2013, 09:32:10 AM »
One of the biggest challenges I've wrestled with in my pursuit of friction fire is making cordage from natural materials that is strong enough AND flexible enough to be used as a bow drill string.  I've tried several different materials, different thicknesses, different weaves.  But nothing was both strong and flexible.  I'd seen several video demonstrations using palm tree branches or agave leaves.  I think I dismissed those materials at first due to laziness because I had hoped to find a simpler method, one where I could just take the material, twist it a bit, and use it on the spot.  But finally I was persuaded that I had to bite the bullet and go through the more complex process of processing fibers out of a leaf.

Here's a description of my journey in making a cord from an agave leaf, following the process of removing the fibers that I have seen demonstrated to successfully produce a bow drill string.

Click on any of the smaller images to see a larger copy of it.

Here's a look at the leaf in its original condition.  I received the leaf about two weeks ago from a friend.  My best guess at its species is that it's an Agave weberii.


Here's a look at its cross section.  You can see the fibers protruding from where it was cut:



My first step in processing the fibers was retting the leaf by soaking it in water.  This helps to soften the meaty plant material surrounding the fibers which makes extracting the fibers easier and reduces the risk of damaging the fibers as they're removed.

In she goes:
After two weeks:

Here's what the leaf looks like after soaking for two weeks.  You can see where the decay had discolored the middle and top part of the leaf.  The thicker part of the bottom of the leaf didn't decay as much.  But the soaking process did soften it as well.



The next step in the process is to begin separating the fibers.  This is done first by gently smashing or pounding the leaf, and then by pulling the leaf apart into separate chunks.  After I pulled the leaf apart, I further pounded each chunk which helped to further disconnect the fibers from the surrounding meaty plant material.  Finally, I coiled the individual chunks up and put them back in the water until I could find time to scrape the fibers clean:


First smash/pound the leaf
Then separate it into chunks
Store until able to clean fibers


Earlier this week, I was able to find time during lunch to go to a nearby stream and scrape the chunks of the leaf to remove all the green and meaty part of the plant away from the fibers.  I held the chunk tightly in one hand and pulled it between the thumbnail and first finger of my other hand.  At first, I used the underside of my thumbnail.  But soon I discovered that the green parts of the plant push up under the nail and began to hurt!  So I was able to use the topside of my thumbnail.  It wasn't as effective so I had to scrape more times, but much more comfortable.  In the future, I'd like to find a tool for this purpose.  I think I lost a lot of the fiber during this stage as some of the fibers broke as I was scraping them.  I'd like to improve this part of the process.

A typical amount of fiber from each chunk
Close-up of the fiber


I processed a little over half the leaf, about 6 chunks like the ones shown above.  Using the extracted fibers I twisted this cord:



About 2 1/2 feet long!  Definitely long enough for a bow drill cord. 




Next step: to use it with a bow drill to make a fire...

Offline RBM

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 501
  • Philippians 4:13
    • YouTube Channel
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2013, 01:29:25 PM »
You are doing it the right way. Retting fibers will produce the strongest product because its cleaned of all the non-fiber materials. If I were doing an archery bow string then that is what I would do for sure. Season will also have a bearing on how strong or weak the fibers are. I quick process (no retting) Yucca leaf fibers and Palmetto stem skin fibers during the Spring/Summer when they are at their strongest. Weaker during the Fall/Winter. The bark cords I get from Cocklebur and Heartleaf Sida fibers are stronger and easier to process in the Fall/Winter when the stalks go woody. I have taken those same bark fibers green in the Spring/Summer and have also worked but.....more stiff for cording and harder on the fingers.

On the firebow a natural cord is a bit tricky with a lot of things to consider. I have to take into account the above strength during the seasons and.......use them on lower ignition temperature friction woods if possible. Higher ignition temperature friction woods need a stronger cord so I either make two 2-ply cords (one to burn in and one for the coal) or I make three 2-ply cords and cord those into one single 6-ply cord. Also it may be necessary to use the Egyptian method to reduce cord wear and spindle problems rather than the tension method. I have used the tension method with Heartleaf Sida and a single 2-ply Yucca cord made during the Spring/Summer and it lasted through six coals on the Sida. I used the Egyptian method using Cattail/Yucca combo with a single 2-ply Yucca leaf cord and I used the Egyptian method using Yellow Pine with a single 2-ply Palmetto stem skin cord on video. The Yucca cord and Palmetto cord were made in the off-season of Fall/Winter when the cords were weaker. I have a video on quick processing a single 2-ply Yucca cord. I do not pound materials to prevent fiber damage unless that is the only way to extract the fibers.

Jeff (LetsRock) also has videos on using Palmetto stem skin cords on the firebow. Hope this makes some sense and helps some. Good luck in your natural firebow cord.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2013, 01:56:39 PM by RBM »
Robert

Offline PetrifiedWood

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Administrator
  • Belt Grinder
  • ******
  • Posts: 11364
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2013, 03:22:09 PM »
Great looking cordage. Looks like you got it clean enough, even if it was uncomfortable. Not sure how you'd go about cleaning them or what kind of tool to use to save your thumbnails. In any case, just looking at it, it looks way stronger than jute twine.

Offline moa_shooter

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Mill File+
  • *
  • Posts: 70
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #3 on: March 01, 2013, 09:17:54 AM »
That't a fantastic looking piece of cordage, much cleaner and neater than I was expecting.  Looking forward to seeing it in use.
"... fire is like a child that needs to be protected, respected, cared for, and ultimately, loved and appreciated." - Les Stroud

Offline xune

  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 320
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2013, 10:03:27 AM »
wow yeah, that came out really clean looking. Very nice piece of cordage, RLT.

How long would you figure it took you to scrape each chunk?
I'll tell you what hermits realizes. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you'll come to understand that you're connected with everything.

Offline Bearhunter

  • Water Stone
  • ***
  • Posts: 4642
Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2013, 10:22:26 AM »
Well I'll be!
That turned out great :thumbsup:

I can't wait to see the results of your labor = FIRE :)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 12:40:20 PM by Bearhunter »
Don't wait until it's too late to live your dream!

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2013, 12:34:23 PM »
Success!  I'll post the video later this evening.

I went to a nearby park during lunch today and used the cord with a bow and succeeded in making fire!  This is the achievement of a long term goal for me.  I've been working on this for about 6 months.

When I post the video you'll see that the quality of the video is not the best, unfortunately, as I was in a mixture of shade and light that broke through the trees.  Also, I tied one end of the string to the bow and held the other in my hand which is something I've not become proficient at doing, it's still awkward for me, so my control of the system was not as fine as I would like.   And I was nervous that I might only get one shot with this string.  I probably would have done better if I were relaxed.

But ultimately, I did it! YAHOO!  And I got it on video :)  I look forward to sharing it with you all.

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2013, 12:39:47 PM »
Thanks everyone.  I would have liked to make it a bit thicker.  Probably that would last better.  I hope to learn to make a cord that will be useful for many fires.

To scrape each chunk took about 5 to 10 minutes.  And I'd get about 8 fibers in each chunk.  Some chunks had very little hard green material left on them.  Those were easier.  But the ones with more green had to be scraped many times.  I'm thinking that a brush might make that process faster and more productive. 

wow yeah, that came out really clean looking. Very nice piece of cordage, RLT.

How long would you figure it took you to scrape each chunk?


« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 04:18:03 PM by RoadLessTraveled »

Offline greyhound352

  • Water Stone
  • ***
  • Posts: 4481
  • Tribal Warrior of the Kracaneuners Ephesians 2.8
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2013, 01:16:28 PM »
Great looking cordage and look forward to seeing the video tonight.
"Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world." John Muir

Offline PetrifiedWood

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Administrator
  • Belt Grinder
  • ******
  • Posts: 11364
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #9 on: March 01, 2013, 02:04:56 PM »
I think the lesson to be learned here is that making Fri tion fire in an emergency with zero preparation is just not a winning proposition. Native people carried proven fire sets with them. It tales at least hours to make natural cordage. Time you wouldn't have if you were wet and cold.


Some of our members can do the friction fire from scratch thing and it is an amazing achievement. But it definitely underscores the need for us to carry a reliable means of fire on our person at all times.


This cordage looks to be high quality. But the quality is proportional to the time and care spent preparing it.


Great thread! :thumbsup:

Offline Dano

  • Diamond Stone
  • ****
  • Posts: 5009
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2013, 02:29:22 PM »
Wow, you did an awesome job on the cordage, and the processing investment you went through surely contributed to your success :thumbsup:

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2013, 03:55:25 PM »
I think the lesson to be learned here is that making Fri tion fire in an emergency with zero preparation is just not a winning proposition. Native people carried proven fire sets with them. It tales at least hours to make natural cordage. Time you wouldn't have if you were wet and cold.

Some of our members can do the friction fire from scratch thing and it is an amazing achievement. But it definitely underscores the need for us to carry a reliable means of fire on our person at all times.

Very true.

Also, I believe that if our ancestors could have traded their friction fire set for a lighter...  they would have done it in a millisecond :)  In fact, if they saw you use one, you had better be prepared to trade it, or defend it with your life!

In non-emergency situations (thankfully the majority of our experience) the bow drill is very reliable.  It's been shown that just about any type of wood and many stalky weeds can be used to start a fire, even in wet and cold environments.  The hand drill requires greater strength and more regular practice to maintain the skill.  But it also is pretty reliable.

In emergency situations the more methods you have at your disposal, the better - fastest, simplest, and most reliable method being best. 

It's always good to be prepared for emergencies.


Some of our members can do the friction fire from scratch thing and it is an amazing achievement.  But...

Thanks for tempering my post, Ron.  It's important to remember that there are many things a person might pursue (knife making, leather or wood work, hunting, fishing, shelter building, trapping, etc)  Friction fire is one among many.  I share your desire to avoid the formation of any elite mindsets. 

But I think you're wrong when you say "Some of our members can..."  not trying to pick a fight :)  I suspect you'll agree with me when you read what I'm about to say.  I hope you'll not insist that only "Some can".

I really think all our members could do it, if they wanted to.  And it's okay if someone doesn't want to.  Just because someone doesn't want to do something doesn't mean they can't do it.  Maybe some have tried, failed, and stopped trying.  Maybe some are firmly convinced that they can't.  But even if someone has decided to stop trying it doesn't mean that if they tried again they would fail :)  In fact, they're more likely to succeed every time they try again.  But if they don't want to try again, that's okay.  There are many things worth pursuing, and we've just got a limited amount of time to pursue them.  So we select the ones that we enjoy the most.

Probably what you meant to say is "Some of our members have..."  And the rest may or may not depending on what they want to do.  And whatever they want to do, I for one will enjoy sharing it with them.


This cordage looks to be high quality. But the quality is proportional to the time and care spent preparing it.

Great thread! :thumbsup:

Thanks :)

Offline wolfy

  • Supporting Member
  • Belt Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 18431
  • "You want a toe? I can get you a toe." -Sobchak
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2013, 03:58:54 PM »
That's always been the biggest "FAIL" for me in trying to get ALL of my material from nature's bounty.  Nothing I have ever tried has been long-lasting enough to get to the point of creating a viable ember.  I get some good smoke and then the cordage that I have spent hours in making, BREAKS! :doh: :pissed:   I've tried velvetleaf, dogbane and yucca so far, with no luck.  I thought the cordage looked pretty danged good, too!  I am getting pretty good at making good looking cordage that works well for everything EXCEPT a bow-drill string! :P :-[

It makes no sense to me to use a fiber that is not native or in abundance in my area.  If I really needed it, I wouldn't have it available to me anyway, so I guess I'll just keep pluggin' along trying what I have here.  Maybe I'm collecting at the wrong time of the year, but I've taken my instruction from many of the paleo sites and tried different methods......very frustrating! :doh:
The only chance you got at a education is listenin' to me talk!
Augustus McCrae.....Texas Ranger      Lonesome Dove, TX

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2013, 04:04:34 PM »
Wow, you did an awesome job on the cordage, and the processing investment you went through surely contributed to your success :thumbsup:

Thanks!  I'm nervous that this cord may not survive a second try though... 

I think the way I splice in new strands could be improved so that there is more overlap.  And maybe there are ways to treat the cordage (wax or oil) that might prolong its life as well.  And as Robert (RBM) described, the Egyptian method of wrapping the spindle can also reduce wear on the cord.  I'd like to practice these things and hopefully learn to get many uses out of a single cord.

One thing's for sure, those agave fibers are some of the strongest and most flexible fibers I've encountered so far.  I believe the inner bark of some trees as well as certain roots, may be comparable.  I hope to find and use some of those in time too.

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2013, 04:14:32 PM »
That's always been the biggest "FAIL" for me in trying to get ALL of my material from nature's bounty.  Nothing I have ever tried has been long-lasting enough to get to the point of creating a viable ember.  I get some good smoke and then the cordage that I have spent hours in making, BREAKS! :doh: :pissed:   I've tried velvetleaf, dogbane and yucca so far, with no luck.  I thought the cordage looked pretty danged good, too!

Believe me, I feel your pain!  I've made many cords that made it only as far as a few bow strokes.  I think one time (before I tried processing agave fibers) I did see some smoke before the string broke. 


I am getting pretty good at making good looking cordage that works well for everything EXCEPT a bow-drill string! :P :-[

Yeah, that's the same thing I was saying to myself.  And that's why it took me so long to finally succeed.  Cattail leaf fibers makes a very nice looking and fairly strong cord.  But it's not flexible enough. 


It makes no sense to me to use a fiber that is not native or in abundance in my area.  If I really needed it, I wouldn't have it available to me anyway, so I guess I'll just keep pluggin' along trying what I have here.  Maybe I'm collecting at the wrong time of the year, but I've taken my instruction from many of the paleo sites and tried different methods......very frustrating! :doh:

Actually, I'd say there's value to you making a successful cord using any natural fibers, whether or not they're native to your area.  Non-native could be a good step or exercise, moving towards using native materials.

Good luck!  I hope you'll keep trying.  I'm sure you'll succeed if you keep trying.  And I look forward to celebrating with you when you do! 

Offline MnSportsman

  • Diamond Stone
  • ****
  • Posts: 6320
  • Just call me, JB, it is easier to type. ;)
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2013, 04:14:45 PM »
Wow, you did an awesome job on the cordage, and the processing investment you went through surely contributed to your success :thumbsup:

Thanks!  I'm nervous that this cord may not survive a second try though... 


One thing's for sure, those agave fibers are some of the strongest and most flexible fibers I've encountered so far.  I believe the inner bark of some trees as well as certain roots, may be comparable.  I hope to find and use some of those in time too.


And then you'll have to do it again.. But you already know how to do it, so it is just the time to do it.
 :)
 Hopefully not in a dire need sort of way! That would suck...


Agave & Yucca are not available to us here in Minn.,unless we sneak into a greenhouse, or a botanical garden, & takeoff with some stuff.. Notlikely for me anyway..Not my "style"...
 ;)


We have to stick with Nettles, Milkweed, Cattails, etc for just a few plants to mention of many, and Basswood, Slippery Elm, & some other trees to use the bark... Just to name a few.


But it is great to see the methods you used, & I thank ya for it, RLT!
 
 :)
Very informative and "Well done!" !
 :thumbsup:
I love being out in the woods!   I like this quote from Mors Kochanski - "The more you know, the less you carry". I believe in the same creed, & think  "Knowledge & honed skills" are the best things to carry with ya when you're out in the wilds. They're the ultimate "ultralight" gear! ;)

Offline BUSHYBEARD

  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 302
  • practicing bushcrafter
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2013, 04:23:23 PM »
Bravo mon ami :thumbsup: that's some fine lookin cordage and thank you for introducing me to "retting" i got some plants round these parts that may be suitable for this process   
Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda, ain't an option

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #17 on: March 01, 2013, 04:30:54 PM »
Thanks!  I'm nervous that this cord may not survive a second try though... 

One thing's for sure, those agave fibers are some of the strongest and most flexible fibers I've encountered so far.  I believe the inner bark of some trees as well as certain roots, may be comparable.  I hope to find and use some of those in time too.


And then you'll have to do it again.. But you already know how to do it, so it is just the time to do it.
 :)
 Hopefully not in a dire need sort of way! That would suck...

I don't know if I'll try this cord again or keep it as a keepsake :)  I'd like to search for ways to treat the cordage to help it last longer.  And probably making it thicker would increase its lifespan.



Agave & Yucca are not available to us here in Minn.,unless we sneak into a greenhouse, or a botanical garden, & takeoff with some stuff.. Notlikely for me anyway..Not my "style"...
 ;)

In my imagination I see a shadow lurking near a green house.  The sound of breaking glass, followed by "Oo, ouch, oh!" and the sound of a knife cutting through sharp pointed leaves.  Then suddenly, a shadow dashes out of the darkness with full hands...  Then to my surprise, the shadow stops!  It sits down and begins to weave the leaves into cordage and use it for a bow drill string...  Strange shadow!



We have to stick with Nettles, Milkweed, Cattails, etc for just a few plants to mention of many, and Basswood, Slippery Elm, & some other trees to use the bark... Just to name a few.

But it is great to see the methods you used, & I thank ya for it, RLT!
 
 :)
Very informative and "Well done!" !
 :thumbsup:

Thanks!  I hope to try using Basswood bark eventually.  It's native to my area and I'm going to be looking for recently fallen trunks.

Offline MnSportsman

  • Diamond Stone
  • ****
  • Posts: 6320
  • Just call me, JB, it is easier to type. ;)
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #18 on: March 01, 2013, 06:07:38 PM »
RLT,


   That "sneaking around the greenhouse" part in your last post is funny.
:D


If ya do decide to use tree bark to make some cordage, a freshly fallen tree will likely be better for ya than a dead one, at least as far as many of the types of trees you may "want" to use. I have used live tree branches myself,( small limbs usually), but not too many folks make natural cordage in my area that I know of, to ask them about dead tree bark usage to see if it is a viable option. Even though it is one of those skills I am familiar with, I do not actively practice it as a skill.( I prolly should practice that skill more, though.) So I do not know if dead tree barks would make suitable cordage. I am thinking it would not have the strength that folks would desire due to it being too dry. Maybe RBM, or one of the others here would know more about using dead tree bark..??
 :-\
   If ya do find some dead trees that are useful in your area, I am sure that I would not be the only one to want to know of your efforts & if you are successful or not in making cordage from the bark.
:)







I love being out in the woods!   I like this quote from Mors Kochanski - "The more you know, the less you carry". I believe in the same creed, & think  "Knowledge & honed skills" are the best things to carry with ya when you're out in the wilds. They're the ultimate "ultralight" gear! ;)

Offline RBM

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 501
  • Philippians 4:13
    • YouTube Channel
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #19 on: March 01, 2013, 06:30:53 PM »
That's always been the biggest "FAIL" for me in trying to get ALL of my material from nature's bounty.  Nothing I have ever tried has been long-lasting enough to get to the point of creating a viable ember.  I get some good smoke and then the cordage that I have spent hours in making, BREAKS! :doh: :pissed:   I've tried velvetleaf, dogbane and yucca so far, with no luck.  I thought the cordage looked pretty danged good, too!

Believe me, I feel your pain!  I've made many cords that made it only as far as a few bow strokes.  I think one time (before I tried processing agave fibers) I did see some smoke before the string broke.

I broke two Palmetto stem skin cords using the tension method in Fall/Winter when the skin is the weakest in the Seasoned Yellow Pine video clip. Nobody saw that part. Lesson learned. The third skin cord I used the Egyptian method and got the coal. It is not easy cording Palmetto stem skin strips. Pretty stiff stuff but it does work.

RLT,


   That "sneaking around the greenhouse" part in your last post is funny.
 :D


If ya do decide to use tree bark to make some cordage, a freshly fallen tree will likely be better for ya than a dead one, at least as far as many of the types of trees you may "want" to use. I have used live tree branches myself,( small limbs usually), but not too many folks make natural cordage in my area that I know of, to ask them about dead tree bark usage to see if it is a viable option. Even though it is one of those skills I am familiar with, I do not actively practice it as a skill.( I prolly should practice that skill more, though.) So I do not know if dead tree barks would make suitable cordage. I am thinking it would not have the strength that folks would desire due to it being too dry. Maybe RBM, or one of the others here would know more about using dead tree bark..??
 :-\

I typically use plant barks rather than tree barks. The plant barks tend to be less brittle around here. Tree barks and roots I have used were too brittle. Both green and dead. However I have found that "some" green tree bark tends to be stronger. Varieties of some plants and trees may vary in their fiber strengths also. We ask a lot from a "natural" plant cord to hold up under the stress and abrasion of the firebow. I do not have Basswood available to me here and have not used it so I can't comment on it. Never hurts to give it a try. So try the bark green and dead and let us know.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 06:39:02 PM by RBM »
Robert

Offline PetrifiedWood

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Administrator
  • Belt Grinder
  • ******
  • Posts: 11364
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #20 on: March 01, 2013, 07:06:52 PM »


Probably what you meant to say is "Some of our members have..."  And the rest may or may not depending on what they want to do.  And whatever they want to do, I for one will enjoy sharing it with them.




Yes, exactly that. I could have chosen my words more carefully. :)

Offline PetrifiedWood

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Administrator
  • Belt Grinder
  • ******
  • Posts: 11364
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #21 on: March 01, 2013, 07:09:54 PM »
That's always been the biggest "FAIL" for me in trying to get ALL of my material from nature's bounty.  Nothing I have ever tried has been long-lasting enough to get to the point of creating a viable ember.  I get some good smoke and then the cordage that I have spent hours in making, BREAKS! :doh: :pissed:   I've tried velvetleaf, dogbane and yucca so far, with no luck.  I thought the cordage looked pretty danged good, too!  I am getting pretty good at making good looking cordage that works well for everything EXCEPT a bow-drill string! :P :-[

It makes no sense to me to use a fiber that is not native or in abundance in my area.  If I really needed it, I wouldn't have it available to me anyway, so I guess I'll just keep pluggin' along trying what I have here.  Maybe I'm collecting at the wrong time of the year, but I've taken my instruction from many of the paleo sites and tried different methods......very frustrating! :doh:

Wolfy, there are more ways to skin the cordage cat. I like your approach that you want to use cordage from materials found in your area. How about rawhide from a local ungulate? If you can't get plant fiber to work, try an animal product.

Offline PetrifiedWood

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Administrator
  • Belt Grinder
  • ******
  • Posts: 11364
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #22 on: March 01, 2013, 07:12:36 PM »
Ok last of the continual posts. How about soaking in beeswax? Might this help bind the fibers together and reduce fraying? Or maybe pine sap before it has a chance to harden?

Offline wolfy

  • Supporting Member
  • Belt Grinder
  • *****
  • Posts: 18431
  • "You want a toe? I can get you a toe." -Sobchak
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #23 on: March 01, 2013, 07:19:34 PM »
That's always been the biggest "FAIL" for me in trying to get ALL of my material from nature's bounty.  Nothing I have ever tried has been long-lasting enough to get to the point of creating a viable ember.  I get some good smoke and then the cordage that I have spent hours in making, BREAKS! :doh: :pissed:   I've tried velvetleaf, dogbane and yucca so far, with no luck.  I thought the cordage looked pretty danged good, too!  I am getting pretty good at making good looking cordage that works well for everything EXCEPT a bow-drill string! :P :-[

It makes no sense to me to use a fiber that is not native or in abundance in my area.  If I really needed it, I wouldn't have it available to me anyway, so I guess I'll just keep pluggin' along trying what I have here.  Maybe I'm collecting at the wrong time of the year, but I've taken my instruction from many of the paleo sites and tried different methods......very frustrating! :doh:

Wolfy, there are more ways to skin the cordage cat. I like your approach that you want to use cordage from materials found in your area. How about rawhide from a local ungulate? If you can't get plant fiber to work, try an animal product.


That's true, PW....exactly why I have been saving the sinew out of the back-straps of my deer for the past couple of years.   I can peel it off in one nice long sheet with judicious use of a filet knife.  I scrape what little fleshy film is left off of them and then plaster them on a clean board to dry.....beautiful stuff!   I have high hopes for it. ;)

It ain't plant fiber, but maybe I can use my old cordage to snare the deer to get the bow drill cordage :P
The only chance you got at a education is listenin' to me talk!
Augustus McCrae.....Texas Ranger      Lonesome Dove, TX

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #24 on: March 01, 2013, 08:30:40 PM »
I posted the report for today's success here.

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #25 on: March 02, 2013, 07:08:36 AM »
I plan to experiment with different treatments to see if anything will help preserve the fibers.  I've read that beeswax is used sometimes.  Other protectants that I've seen mentioned are:
olive oil cooking spray
Son of a Gun car protectant
Snow seal
Beeswax melted into the fibers in microwave
linseed oil
Animal fat
Rubbing through one's oily hair :0

I'll try something on this cord and see if it seems to make a difference.  I think I'll try veggie oil, heated in microwave to help soak it into the fibers.


Ok last of the continual posts. How about soaking in beeswax? Might this help bind the fibers together and reduce fraying? Or maybe pine sap before it has a chance to harden?

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #26 on: March 02, 2013, 07:13:18 AM »
I broke two Palmetto stem skin cords using the tension method in Fall/Winter when the skin is the weakest in the Seasoned Yellow Pine video clip. Nobody saw that part. Lesson learned. The third skin cord I used the Egyptian method and got the coal. It is not easy cording Palmetto stem skin strips. Pretty stiff stuff but it does work.

Yeah, I'll probably have to experiment with the Egyptian method as well.  There are palm trees around here.  It's on my list of materials to try.  Thanks!

Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #27 on: March 02, 2013, 07:22:01 AM »
RLT,
   That "sneaking around the greenhouse" part in your last post is funny.
:D

Glad you were amused :)  I've got an active imagination...


   If ya do find some dead trees that are useful in your area, I am sure that I would not be the only one to want to know of your efforts & if you are successful or not in making cordage from the bark.
:)

Thanks MnS.  Sharing experiences and learning together is the best way, in my book.  It's a lot more fun and inspiring :) 

Offline Cam from Limnadia

  • Mousepad and Sandpaper
  • Posts: 3
Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #28 on: July 31, 2013, 10:39:06 PM »
Tell me your thoughts...agave prep

Cut and onto bbq, 3hrs at 250 degrees F,  4 days 3 water changes, temps in 90s, strands are coming out of the pulp easy very little hammering.  Little bit of stank as this stuff is getting a bit rotted. 

Next comb and dry. 

Or do I dry after twisted?

Next batch, no BBQ, no rett,  we'll see... Pound and comb!


Offline RoadLessTraveled

  • Friction Fire Fellowship
  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 155
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #29 on: August 08, 2013, 09:27:28 AM »
Sounds like good prep to me.  It worked better for me if I let the fibers dry first before twisting.  It may feel easier to twist when they're wet, but then when they dry, the fibers loosen.

It will be interesting to see how the pound and comb, no ret approach works for you.  Seems like it would be more difficult to extract the fibers and clean off the pulp.  If it works out well for you, you may find a better process!


Tell me your thoughts...agave prep

Cut and onto bbq, 3hrs at 250 degrees F,  4 days 3 water changes, temps in 90s, strands are coming out of the pulp easy very little hammering.  Little bit of stank as this stuff is getting a bit rotted. 

Next comb and dry. 

Or do I dry after twisted?

Next batch, no BBQ, no rett,  we'll see... Pound and comb!

Offline Woods Bexar

  • Whetstone +
  • **
  • Posts: 188
  • Philippians 4:13
Re: Natural Cordage for Bow Drill using Agave Leaf Fibers
« Reply #30 on: August 08, 2013, 12:36:29 PM »
Awesome thread, bro, thanks for taking us along. I know how long you've been working at it and I'm very happy you achieved your goal. Perseverance always pays off. I like using flint and steal, but I think it's about time I give the bow drill a try.
Galatians 2:20