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Thread: How to Make/Use a Hand Drill Set (Parts 1 - 3)

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    How to Make/Use a Hand Drill Set (Parts 1 - 3)

    There are lyrics to a song that I think describe learning the hand drill very well... "This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill, fifteen percent concentrated power of will, five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain..."

    Learning the hand drill is mostly about patience. You aren't going to get an ember on your first try. You probably aren't even going to get one on your 50th try. You have to condition muscles you normally don't use, and you have to condition your hands so they can rub a spindle for a minute or two without getting blistered.

    So, why would you even want to learn the hand drill?

    1. It is the easiest friction fire method to make a set for, since you only need a spindle and a hearth.

    2. It builds patience and perseverance.

    3. It teaches you much about the principles of friction fire.

    4. It teaches you the importance of proper preparation of your friction fire sets.

    5. Preserving an ancient skill. It is a skill that has existed for thousands of years, yet few possess today.


    So, if you've decided that you want to learn the hand drill here is what you should do.

    First, watch this video. It is by far THE BEST instructional video on the hand drill I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot of them).

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ScmQxuRrFww

    Listen to what this guy says, and try your best to follow his advice.

    Next, you'll need to acquire a spindle. Your spindle should be some kind of a weed that is somewhat pithy. Here are some things that work decently:

    1. Mullein
    2. Indian Teasel (probably my favorite)
    3. Bull Thistle
    4. Goldenrod (hard on the hands)
    5. Yucca

    You want your spindle to be straight - it doesn't have to be arrow straight, but the straighter the better. If you can't find a straight enough spindle, you can always fire straighten a crooked one (I'll do a post on this later.

    Also, a good diameter for your spindle is around the thickness of your little finger. Spindles that are too thin tear your hands up, and drill through your hearth a lot faster (making it hard to get an ember). However, spindles that are too thick make it difficult to get enough RPMs to generate the heat required to produce an ember.

    Once you've located your potential spindle, you're going to want to harvest it. Don't snap it off, which can crack the whole spindle; cut it off instead, or uproot the whole plant.

    You're looking for something between 2 and 3 feet long. Shorter will work, but it is harder to use.

    Next, scrape off any leaves, thorns, etc., and hang the spindle to dry for a day or two (I tie a piece of twine around the top, and hang it from a shelf in my garage.

    Next, I trim the fatter, bottom portion until it is flat-ish and even the whole way around.

    (I'll be using this picture again when we talk about "burning in")



    For this demonstration, I'll be using an Indian Teasel spindle.


    Plant (the brownish one with cones on it).



    Finished spindle




    Next, you'll need a hearth board. Any soft wood will work - here are a few that are recommended:

    1. Box Elder
    2. Basswood
    3. Cottonwood
    4. White Pine
    5. Cedar
    6. Yucca

    If you don't feel like searching for one of these, just go to your local hardware store and pick up a package of cedar shims (the long ones).

    Your hearth board should be between 1/4" and 1/2" thick. If it is too thin, you will drill through before you make an ember. If it is too thick, you will have to drill for a lot longer until your notch fills with powder - this is tiring enough as is, don't make it harder on yourself by using a thick hearth board.

    I'll be using a Cedar shim for my hearth board for this demonstration.



    A lot of these shims have different hardnesses, so try to choose one that is relatively soft (the fingernail imprint test should help with this - the easier it is to put a dent in the wood with your fingernail, the softer the wood is).


    Now onto business

    Most of the prep work is the same for hand drill as it is for bowdrill.

    First, you are going to "cut in" by using your knife to make a circular divot in the hearth board.





    It doesn't have to look pretty - the "burn in" will get the divot to the right shape. Just make sure divot is at least the same diameter as (or preferably, slightly larger than) your spindle.

    Well cover burning in, and proper form (which really matters) in part 2.
    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    I'll be putting part 2 (and possibly part 3) up tonight.


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    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    How to Make/Use a Hand Drill Set (Part 2)

    This is a continuation of part 1.

    http://www.personaldefenseforum.com/...l-Set-(Part-1)

    Now we move on to the hand and body form you'll need for the "burn in."

    This is where it is important to understand how the bowdrill is similar to the hand drill.

    With the bowdrill, the bow provides the lateral motion, and your bearing block provides downward pressure (which creates enough friction to make an ember).

    With the hand drill, your hands are acting as both "bow", providing lateral motion, and "bearing block," providing downward pressure.

    There are two parts of your hand that you will want to be able to use while you are working the spindle (during both the burn in and when making an ember).

    First, the whole palm - keep your hands flat, like you are clapping.



    Second, the heel of your hand (the meaty portion between your little finger and your wrist).



    When one part gets tired, or begins to hurt, use the other. Just in my experience, the bottom portion can take more abuse.

    Now, to burn in, you need to place your foot on the hearth board. There are two ways you can do this:

    Sitting down, semi-Indian style, and using your heel to brace the hearth board. This takes more shoulder/tricep strength, and is not my preferred position.



    The other was is kneeling on one knee (or "Tebowing" for you football fans). This position allows gravity to help you attain more downward pressure with less work.



    Always keep your left hand inside of your thigh when you are working the spindle - it gets too cumbersome to keep it on the outside.

    Now let's address hand motions.

    First, you want to try to use as much surface area of hand. This will give you more revolutions of the spindle per pass of your hands, which means more heat in less time, with less effort.

    The first hand position is the one that most people think of when they hear "hand drill."

    This position entails keeping your hands perpendicular to the spindle, while moving them back and forth, working your way down the spindle.

    Move your whole upper body down as your hands move down the spindle. When you reach the bottom, leave one hand on the bottom of the spindle, to keep the downward pressure on it (so you don't lose heat), and move one hand back to the top. Then use that hand to keep downward pressure and move the other hand to the top.





    The other method, which allows you to conserve energy, is called the "floating method," because it allows your hands to "float" or stay in one place (vertically) on the spindle, while still applying downward pressure.

    The secret of this method is keeping the fingertips of your retreating hand pointed toward the ground, while keeping the fingertips of your advancing hand pointed toward the sky.

    Again, use as much of your hand as you can.





    We'll get to the burn in and the ember in part 3.
    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    How to Make/Use a Hand Drill Set (Part 3)

    This is a continuation from part 2.

    http://www.personaldefenseforum.com/...l-Set-(Part-2)

    Now we actually get to the "burn in."

    Place your spindle in the divot hole that you carved, and move your hands back and forth (like rubbing your hands together, but now you've got a spindle in between them).

    I think it is best to use the floating method, but if you want to speed up the process, you can get the most downward pressure using the meaty part of your hand (that we discussed in part 2).

    In this stage, you are just getting the divot and spindle to conform in exact shape to one another. Usually once you get a little wisp of smoke, you can stop the "burn in," and move on to carving the notch.

    A burned in divot



    Your notch should look a little different for hand drill, more like a pyramid without its pointy peak. This allows for more oxygen to get to the dust pile, which allows your ember to "breathe" better.

    I find it is better to use your knife to carve the notch on a hand drill hearth board. It is made of softer wood than a bowdrill hearth board (usually), and a saw usually tears it up, whereas a knife is gentler, giving you a nice smooth notch (so the dust can fall freely and not stick to the sides).

    Notch carved.



    Next, it can be very helpful to rub some pine sap on your spindle. This helps you keep your grip when your hands start to sweat. Some people spit on their hands in an attempt to accomplish the same thing, but that has never worked for me.



    Now it is time to try for an ember.

    You should start out nice and slow, using the floating method. This warms up your hearth board while conserving energy (trust me, you'll need it).

    Once you start to get a little smoke, you can switch to the traditional method, and go for a little bit more speed, but not too much yet.

    You can't get an ember until your notch is full of dust. Once you see it is full, turn on the juice - add more speed and pressure.



    Your pile should start to give of a wisp of smoke, which shows that you probably have an ember. You might be tempted to stop, but keep going for another moment. You'd hate to almost have an ember because you stopped too soon.

    Once you are sure you have an ember, pull your spindle out, but leave your hearth board in place for a minute while your ember firms up.



    Wave your hand over the top of your ember, kind of like a dog's tail wagging, so you can give your ember oxygen and help it grow.







    Now put it in your bird's nest and blow it into flame, and celebrate the fact that you achieved a hand drill ember!
    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    For the sake of full disclosure, the hearth board that I demonstrated the "burn in" on is not the same hearth I got the ember on; it ended up being too soft, and I drilled right through it before the ember formed.
    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    Awesome job and great posts/threads.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1MoreGoodGuy View Post
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    Awesome job and great posts/threads.
    Thanks! This was one of the skills I've always wanted to learn, but figured it was next-to-impossible to do. I hope some of the members here give it a go at some point!
    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    That's awesome. I need to learn it but I'm afraid that if I get fristerated I will just stick the spindle in the drill. Lol
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wasp View Post
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    That's awesome. I need to learn it but I'm afraid that if I get fristerated I will just stick the spindle in the drill. Lol
    LOL! It is tempting at times! I mean that would technically be "hand drill," right? You're holding a drill in your hand and making a fire.
    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    Here's a quick video demonstrating this. My parents were over visiting the kids, and I did a quick demo for them. Sorry for the poor video quality.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=ri4WqMHthtg
    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Badey View Post
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    Here's a quick video demonstrating this. My parents were over visiting the kids, and I did a quick demo for them. Sorry for the poor video quality.

    https://youtube.com/watch?v=ri4WqMHthtg
    What a failure...socks and sandals that is.

    Seriously...great job Badey.
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    You make it look easy, Badey!

    Thanks for the beginner instructions, pics, and video.
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1MoreGoodGuy View Post
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    What a failure...socks and sandals that is.

    Seriously...great job Badey.
    Lol! Yeah, thats a look I only rock at home .

    Thanks!
    "Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men." - Miyamoto Mushashi

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1MoreGoodGuy View Post
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    What a failure...socks and sandals that is.
    He would fit right in here. High fashion in this area...

    Thanks for the instructions, Badey. I will have to try this sometime. Of course, finding dry wood and tinder is a difficulty where I live.

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    Great thread @Badey. You got some good skills.

    I've never done a hand drill. Only bow drill. I don't like sweating so I usually use a lighter or one of those magnesium bars.

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