I've been working with the bow-drill, and I notice that certain types of wood may be so hard that hardly any powder forms (like african mahogany) and others may be too soft and crumbly. Pine appears to be a little too resinous. So far, I've had some success with rambutan.

  1. What species of plants produce coals efficiently when used as part of a bow-drill set?
  2. Is there some test I can perform to easily identify good bow-drill wood?
  • 3
    You need to take in consideration the geographical location because it will determine what you have available.
    – slybloty
    Feb 10, 2014 at 20:40

1 Answer 1


Your bow can be made of any pliable wood like yew, which archers have used for centuries. Your drill shaft should be a hard wood like oak or cherry. Your kindling wood (the wood being drilled into for fire) should be a soft-fibered wood like pine. If you find pine too resinous, seek out older pines that may have stopped producing resin. You can identify harder and softer woods by peeling the bark and trying to scrape the inner wood with your fingernail or a knife. Softer woods will be marked by your fingernail alone. You can also look for tightness of grain pattern if you happen to have a cross-split piece.

  • This is a good answer. You need a short bow. Bamboo & a boot lace will work fine. 18 to 24 inch's. You need a top board or holder for the shaft. Spinning the shaft in your hand will put blisters on it. Or holding it at the top. A very dry! soft fiber wood. A light pressure on the shaft. Downward.
    – J Bergen
    Dec 10, 2017 at 5:11

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