Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fire by Friction

"Before you leave southern California, you gotta teach me friction fire!"-Nicholas

Well, upon request, after working on my thesis all day, Nicholas and I spent a few hours relaxing with rocks and sticks. 

Nicholas used a chert drill and sandstone abrader to shape a steatite (soapstone) socket...

A rhyolite flake to cut a wedge and bore out a depression in some well seasoned elder wood for a hearth board...

and set to work with a black willow bow and sycamore spindle over a sycamore leaf.

I was surprised at how quickly he picked up the technique. He had his first coal in less than half an hour, a feet that took me the better part of a month!

After allowing the ember to grow, and helping it along with a sprinkle of dried mugwort leaves and shredded paper wasp nest, he carefully guided this little gift of the wood down into a bed of shredded elder bark, pine needles, yucca heart, more mugwort leaves, and wasp nest seated in a scallop shell from one of our previous freedive-spearfishing trips.

Using both direct breath and indirect through a river cane straw we fashioned in a few seconds on the spot, he and I took turns breathing life into the bundle.

And as the tinder ignited there was a morale booster like no other flickering in the warm flames before our eyes. If magic exists in the world, summoning a coal from sticks is most certainly it! The bow drill and similar techniques were known to our ancestors world wide. They practiced such methods every week, and I can assure you that when you take part in a tradition like this, your bridge to the ancient past and the natural environment around you is strengthened in a way no words can describe!

We did cheat a little time nylon string will be replaced with twined plant fiber cordage so that every component of our kit will consist of materials foraged from California's wild side.
He got the technique down so well he went home and did it again!

Keep the old ways alive!

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