What is the most reliable way to start a friction fire using foraged materials?

Not necessarily just the overall technique (ie: "drill" or "plow" or whatever); it's good to compare specific variations of the technique.

Assume that you can process the materials with a blade. It is only fine to use other tools if they can be made from what you find (ex: preparing a hearth board days or weeks ahead of time).

Assume I have the most common knowledge that you can expect someone to have after watching 2 or 3 videos each about fire drills, plows, and saws.


2 Answers 2


The one you've practiced

Starting a friction fire is hard work. It's not something you can "just do" after watching a video.

You need to have the experience to choose the right wood, build the bow or drill or whatever method you've chosen and the strength and stamina to use it.

None of the methods are reliable for a beginner, none of them are "easy".

Try them all and you might find that one works better for you than the others in the long run, but a definitive answer can't be given as to which one is best, because it really is which one the individual in question finds suits them best.

  • 1
    I understand this, but that doesn't really answer the question. For someone who has not mastered any of the techniques and who is practicing multiple techniques, this is not very helpful.
    – Loduwijk
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:01
  • 1
    @Aaron, it makes no odds, they're all hard, they're all unreliable, the most reliable one is the one you are best at.
    – Separatrix
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:10
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    Again, this question is from the point of view of someone who still needs to get to the point where he or she can call one of them reliable. I think, perhaps, you are hinting at something that could be an answer but not outright saying it. "It makes no odds, they're all hard." Are you suggesting that, discounting "the one you're good at" (since, from the Q's point of view, you're not good at any yet), no one method is more reliable than any other? It really does not matter which one you choose to practice when you're not good yet?
    – Loduwijk
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:20
  • @Aaron, close but not exactly. Try them all and you might find that one works better for you than the others in the long run, but a definitive answer can't be given as to which one is best, because it really is which one the individual in question finds suits them best.
    – Separatrix
    Dec 18, 2017 at 15:34
  • I think your last comment would be a better answer. Or at least would improve the current one.
    – Loduwijk
    Dec 18, 2017 at 16:36

I have seen the most people succeed with the hand drill method. But I've never seen anyone succeed with the hand drill without getting blisters.

I've never seen anyone succeed with the plow method.

I've only seen the fire drill succesful when two people worked together. Also, for the fire drill you need a very strong string, a knife to hollow out the top block and some grease for the top block, which makes it unlikely that you don't also have a lighter with you.

Most important is of course that the wood is completely dry. Any hint of moisture makes your efforts futile.

Using two rocks or a flintrock and metal to produce sparks doesn't seem to work, unless the metal is magnesium.

I saw someone using a tinder mushroom in a video, but I couldn't even get that to burn with a lighter.

  • 1
    I always had a lot of success with flint and steel. Basically a chunk of rock and a bit of hacksaw blade, but as with all the others practice and technique is important. If you don't know how to do it you'll never get a fire going.
    – Separatrix
    Dec 19, 2017 at 12:31
  • This answer is based on your personal observations, not sure it really adds value. Dec 19, 2017 at 13:41
  • I specifically did not include flint in the question because it is not as universally available as wood - and is not available in my region, hence the restriction to friction fires.
    – Loduwijk
    Dec 19, 2017 at 19:57
  • I saw the mushroom thing too, probably the same video. Unfortunately, I don't think that type of mushroom grows in my area. Again, why I'm trying to keep it generic to materials that are available almost everywhere.
    – Loduwijk
    Dec 19, 2017 at 19:59
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    @itsLex "whatever" in the context of friction fires. The mushroom is a good one, and I would not remove it from the answer. I was just commenting on how that only helps people who are near that specific resource; my understanding is that the type of mushroom you speak of (I don't recall the name) is not common at all, grows very slowly, and does not grow in my region; but perhaps I'm wrong. I disagree with James though: I think the mushroom does add value as questions are supposed to be generic enough to help others in the future too; this can, especially if you add info about that mushroom.
    – Loduwijk
    Dec 20, 2017 at 15:16

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