Author Topic: Agave Leaf Fiber Bow Drill String  (Read 2484 times)

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Offline RoadLessTraveled

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Agave Leaf Fiber Bow Drill String
« on: March 01, 2013, 08:28:40 PM »
Today I succeeded at making fire with the bow drill using only natural materials.  For the last six months or so I've been trying to do this, but I've struggled with making a bow string that is strong and flexible enough.  The key, for me, was using the fibers from an agave leaf.  Here is the thread that describes the process I used to extract the agave fibers and make the cord.

Here are the materials I used:
SpindleSotol stalk
HearthSotol stalk
Bearing Blockoyster shell from the Gulf of Mexico
Bowbranch of a tree
Bow Stringagave fibers
Coal Extendercottonwood punk wood
Tinder BundleTexas Cedar bark

I tied only one end of the string to the bow and held the other end.  The idea is to minimize the tension on the bow string by putting only as much tension as is needed and not more.  I don't know if this was critical or not, but I had seen it done by others who succeeded, so I followed their example.  In time, probably I'll determine how important this is.  But trying to hold the tension on the string while bowing is a challenge all by itself.  It made the process more complex and difficult.  When I didn't have enough tension, the string slipped.  Too much tension and I pulled the spindle out of the hearth.  I've also seen a slightly flexible bow used with natural cordage.  I think I'd like to try that next time.

I anticipated that _IF_ I succeeded at making an ember, it might be a small one.  So I brought some punkwood as a coal extender to make sure that ember didn't go out.  I had a bit of trouble getting the cedar bark to catch, so I'm glad I had the punkwood.

Here's a picture of the fire with the instruments I used to make it. 

And a video of the whole experience:


Edited to update youtube links by author request. -Admin
« Last Edit: March 12, 2013, 10:51:10 PM by PetrifiedWood »

Offline RBM

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Re: Agave Leaf Fiber Bow Drill String
« Reply #1 on: March 01, 2013, 09:33:19 PM »
Nice job with the punkwood. Its always a good idea to have some on hand if possible for extending coals. I use a large chunk of punkwood and the parabolic lens from a cheap one dollar AA flashlight. Drop the lit large piece of punkwood into a tinder bundle and hold the lit punkwood to the inside of the bundle to transfer heat. Solar fire. Without holding the lit punkwood to the inside of the bundle it will often just burn out in the bundle without lighting it.

Great to see your natural plant cord worked. I see some folks holding the cord to control tension. I think Jeff (LetsRock) does it. Holding the cord can present a whole new set of problems that I don't want. I want to minimize and if possible eliminate my problems. :) I still do it the old fashioned McPherson way and control tension with my fingers on the cord. I also like to use a longer bow and cord so I get more spin with each run of the cord and so I don't work so hard as with a short bow. I don't spin fast or hard. I find that if I just spin at a steady pace keeping the spindle moving, the coal will form without tiring myself out. Different strokes for different folks I guess. The goal is the coal no matter how we get there. Its always great just to get that coal. Good job. :thumbsup:
« Last Edit: March 01, 2013, 09:55:03 PM by RBM »

Offline rlh2

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Re: Agave Leaf Fiber Bow Drill String
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2013, 03:45:33 AM »
I gotta say, well done!  The patience you showed in making the cordage and then using all natural material is quite a task.  Good job.
"Help me to be, to think, to act what is right because it is right; make me truthful, honest, and honorable in all things; make me intellectually honest for the sake of right and honor and without thought of reward to me." - Robert E. Lee

Offline MnSportsman

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Re: Agave Leaf Fiber Bow Drill String
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2013, 04:12:32 AM »
Bravo! & Congrats! on reaching your goal!
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 RoadLessTraveled

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Re: Agave Leaf Fiber Bow Drill String
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2013, 06:51:45 AM »
Thanks guys!  It's a huge relief to finally succeed.  But I'm not proficient at this yet.  I want to try several different materials/processes such as different agave species or processing methods, as well as tree barks and roots.  I believe the process I used this time is one of the most tedious, and that others will be less complex or time consuming.  I hope :)

I wasn't so patient six months ago...  But having tried and failed so many times, this time I was determined.  I had seen this method work, so I decided to just do it.