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How to Run a Bow Drill with One Hand to Make Fire

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If you have injured or lost the use of one of your arms, here’s how to operate a bow drill to start a fire in a survival situation.

This is ingenious. This man effectively operates a bow drill with one good arm. His other arm is in a sling, immobilized as it might be were he injured.

The contraption that he made to take the place of his injured arm is clever, although it would also take some extra effort and the ability to overcome the awkwardness of doing everything with a single arm (unless you were ambidextrous).

What he did was this: he created a sort of substitute arm for holding the spindle of the bow drill steady, by lashing a branch to a small tree. Granted, there are a few things that need to be considered in doing this. One, cutting the branch/crosspiece would have to be done with one arm. Not impossible, but swinging an axe or hatchet is a tad more difficult with an injured arm.

Two, putting the divot for the spindle into the branch. This too would have to be accomplished with one hand. Three, actually lashing the branch to the sapling at the correct height. Lashing pieces of wood together with one hand would take some doing, and should be practiced if you expect success. You’d likely have to enlist the help of your feet here as well. Getting the divot to be properly located during the lashing process would take some additional awareness.

If you can get all of that done with one arm, then you should be able to give this method a go. But I can see this entire process taking a good amount of time and energy, particularly if you have not practiced it thoroughly and repeatedly several times before. And be sure to practice with each separate arm, as you have no way of knowing which arm you might injure.

Now I do not know if he assumes that you have a bow drill kit already on you, or if you are starting from scratch. If starting from scratch and you are forced to make the kit, this seems an almost improbable task. But the point is, with some herculean effort and determination, humans can overcome dire circumstances to survive.

I would say that it would be a very good idea to practice this method well beforehand.

He also shows how to light a ferro rod with one hand, which is much more doable. These examples show why it is important to always carry a lighter and/or magnifying glass with you into the bush.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

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How to Run a Bow Drill with One Hand to Make Fire