Hand Drill Method: Fire Building Skills

One of the oldest and simplest techniques to build a fire, the hand drill method employs spindle rotation and downward pressure to create friction that results in heat. This heat then creates an ember which starts our fire. This primitive way of building a fire best works in climates that are dry and it basically has two major components: namely the drill and the fireboard.

The biggest downside to this method is the difficulty of having to maintain that level of friction to create the fire via speed and pressure as you have to manually rotate the spindle using only both your hands.


  • You’ll first need a sizeable amount of good tinder bundled up together. Any friction fire-building technique relies on the kind of tinder you’ve managed to gather. Your bundle of tinder should be made up of materials which are stringy, fluffy, and combustible like dry grass, bark fibers, and wood shavings. Ball them up and make sure there’s enough space in the area for our fire to breathe.
  • You’ll then need both wooden a fireboard or a baseboard and a spindle. The thicker our board the longer it will take to build up heat. Ideally, it should be around ¼ inches in thickness. The board should also be flat for us to better control spinning our spindles. The spindle should be sturdy enough that it doesn’t easily break when you add pressure while spinning it. The spindle should also be fairly straight and shouldn’t have any twigs attached. Its diameter shouldn’t also be too small else it might run through our fireboard while its length should be around two feet.
  • You’ll also need a reliable knife and something to catch your ember when it falls such as a piece of bark or a big leaf.
  • Begin by cutting a V-shaped notch into the fireboard. Afterward, you’ll want to start a small depression using the tip of your knife. Have a piece of bark or a big leaf underneath the notch so you’ll be able to catch the ember when it drops.
  • Place your spindle in the depression. While maintaining some good downward pressure, place the stick and roll it between the palms of your hands running them very quick down it.
  • Keep it up until the spindle’s tip glows red and you get an ember.
  • For the ember to get onto your piece of bark or leaf, you’ll have to tap the board first. Afterward, immediately transfer it over to your bundle of tinder and blow into it until you get your flame.

Voila, fire. There’s an easier method to this though and it’ll require two people.

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For other fire building techniques, read this.

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