Fire Challenges by Sunny Fox

Hello, this is Sunny Fox talking about relationship with fire-making. Right now, we are making our fires with a bow drill set, one of the most typical methods to create fire the primitive way. We’ve been doing this now for 4 to 5 moons (months) already. I can still remember how I struggled in the beginning when I built my first bow drill set. First of all, finding the right material is essential, and a challenge, especially when you are just starting to learn. Once we made had our first bow drill sets, we had to create our first embers (coal), which was the second challenge.

I was the last person to get an ember. I thought for sure that I would never get a fire going with the bow drill. When I finally made my first ember…super proud and ready to go, I was so nervous that I accidentally dropped the ember and it fell on the ground and burnt out so…I couldn’t make a fire. I continued to make embers…and after one whole moon, I got my first fire. It was a lot of work. But that was just in the beginning. Then we learned to look more at the quality of our bow drill sets: How soft is our spindle? How soft is our fire board? What is good as a hand hold? Which kinds of trees work nice for creating a bow drill set? The more we did this, the easier it got for us to get embers going.

Then the wilderness guides gave us a new fire challenge – to make embers without the spindle squeaking. So we had to find out why it was squeaking in order to stop the squeaking. It felt like we were fire making from the beginning again. It took us a long time to find out why it squeaks…. Sometimes it still squeaks, and then we have to stop making the ember and create a new one.

Well, we try to create a new one.

Once we have the ember, we put it in the tinder and get the tinder burning, which is a challenge on its own!  Sometimes if the tinder is too wet, it’s hard to get it burning.  When we finally have the tinder burning, it’s only like half of the battle because then we have to get the actual fire started… and we’ve discovered that the key for getting the fire started is to be prepared for everything.

We have to be prepared for everything so it can ignite as soon as possible, which is why we have dried needles laying around the fire hearth and small twigs. Once we have the tinder burning, we put the tinder in our fire hearth then the dry needles over it, then the twigs, and so on and so on. Right now we’ve got a new challenge, which is that we are not allowed to blow on the tinder anymore once we have the ember inside.  This is one of the biggest challenges we’ve had. It’s hard if the tinder is wet, but when the tinder is really dried out, it works pretty nice.

There is probably no other skill that is more frustrating than fire-making because every time when we feel like, “Oh yeah! Now I’ve got it! Now I understand it! This is how you make the fire!”  Then suddenly the bow drill set starts squeaking, or we can’t get an ember or we don’t get the heat built up, and then we sit there sometimes for one or two meal times just trying to get an ember. But fire making is also the most useful skill that we will keep for the rest of our lives.


Here’s to all the new challenges!

~Sunny Fox

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