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#98696 - 06/28/07 08:04 PM Starting a Fire
atoz Offline

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 144
Loc: Nevada
In a resent thread about an article in Outside Magazine where a guy named Thayer attemped to survive on a tropical isle and in a rescent thread an ETS member had commneted that the Thayer had did not use all his options for starting a fire.
The Thayer had taken a survival course and had started a fire with a fire bow using softwoods. But in the article Thayer was unable to make a fire because the only wood he had was hardwood.
My questions are as follows:
1) would the fire plow method been more approperate with hardwoods thus the method favored by S. Pacific Islanders?
2) what were Thayer other options then trying to start a by fiction methods.

Edited by atoz (06/28/07 08:25 PM)

#98697 - 06/28/07 08:18 PM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: atoz]
MDinana Offline

Registered: 03/08/07
Posts: 2184
Loc: Deep south... Carolina
Um... fRiction methods...

Unless he's lying about fire starting smile

#98734 - 06/29/07 01:21 AM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: MDinana]
Todd W Offline
Product Tester

Registered: 11/14/04
Posts: 1928
Loc: Mountains of CA
Non-Friction... did he have glasses, water bottles, etC? Could have used the sun.
Self Sufficient Home - Our journey to self sufficiency.

#98743 - 06/29/07 03:29 AM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: atoz]
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
If he was on a tropical island, there was probably bamboo. So, even tho this is a friction method, he could have tried this ...

#98747 - 06/29/07 03:52 AM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: OldBaldGuy]
Nicodemus Offline

Registered: 10/30/05
Posts: 1341
Loc: Virginia, US
Ray Mears, in either "Extreme Survival" or "World of Survival" covered starting a fire with Bamboo and Friction. He did it in reverse of the way the link illustrates, with the sharp edge bamboo being held and the piece with the slot lying on a leaf with the tinder underneath.

On another show he started a fire with a piece of rope and bamboo. He stood on the bamboo, ran the rope from one hand down around the bamboo into a slot and up to his other hand. By sawing back and forth the friction made a coal.

Interesting stuff.

I'd like to see what methods the person was familiar with. It doesn't seem like he did too much research before the trip.

Then again, maybe there was no bamboo... Or another way to start the fire... I need to read before making any snap judgements on the guy.
"Learn survival skills when your life doesn't depend on it."

#98750 - 06/29/07 04:23 AM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: OldBaldGuy]
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
Nothing sends up warning flags faster than " I've been to a survival school." A century ago Ishi, the 'last Wild Indian of California' was found outside a slaughterhouse corral in Oroville. His tribal band, and most of the greatest concentration of distinct cultures in the Western Hemisphere had been virtually exterminated. In Ishi's case, some prospectors had come upon the camp and took their tool kits for souveniers. Unable to readily make fire, cold and hungry, they all perished save 4 men who were hunted down by paid hunters removing 'vermin.' And finally only Ishi remained. These were native people who knew their territory with the same intimacy you and I our bedrooms. Yes we can talk of the knife being our most important tool, invest hundreds of dollars in the latest minimalist blade with attached steel match and attend schools, good and bad with each instructor promoting some Excaliber, assigning animal guides or whatever. And we can go forth with a philosophy of minimalism, primitivism, gearism and Mother Nature can still lock thumb and forfinger and go 'FLICK' one footstep off the concrete. This guy failed, not because of hardwood but hardheads.

#98767 - 06/29/07 10:18 AM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: Nicodemus]
simplesimon Offline

Registered: 09/28/05
Posts: 133
Ray is simply very good with his hands. Some of the shows are 'woodworking with Ray' in reality. He's making canoes, skis, furniture....

In one show he had to teach a fellow who was into survival so much he spent months in the woods alone and still had never started a fire with friction alone. Ray also mention that the survival books teach the 'bow' method but he's never seen a tribe use it.
The reality is I think that it's very difficult to start a fire by friction alone.

#98773 - 06/29/07 01:26 PM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: simplesimon]
Frank2135 Offline

Registered: 04/26/07
Posts: 266
Loc: Ohio, USA
Originally Posted By: simplesimon
The reality is I think that it's very difficult to start a fire by friction alone.

Unless you don't want to. Then it's disturbingly easy.

Frank2135 (sometimes frustrated home hobbyist)
All we can do is all we can do.

#98775 - 06/29/07 02:14 PM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: simplesimon]
Nicodemus Offline

Registered: 10/30/05
Posts: 1341
Loc: Virginia, US
Becoming proficient in fire by friction, like most things, is a matter of practice. Once you get the hang of it, it becomes second nature. However, it's not only the understanding of how the process works mechanically, but knowing the best materials to use for the area you're in and so on. It's a chain of knowledge somewhat like the idea that one needs to know basic math to understand trigonometry.

I've become fairly proficient at using the bow drill, but I still have quite a way to go in learning the best woods to use in any given area. I could rattle off a memorized list, but the difference between knowing that list and recognizing the plants themselves is huge, especially in winter when you're most likely really going to need a fire to survive. My chain of knowledge become kinked when it comes to materials.

Above all that, depending on any number of factors such as the season, the tools I would need to make a fire kit may not be available.

Granted, I could always carry a bow drill kit with me, but at that point it's easier to carry matches, a lighter, or a fire steel. Still, it's good to have the knowledge as a backup and I practice often. I'll get back to the idea of carrying "modern" tools with you in a moment.

As Ray Mears mentioned, you can travel all around the world and find a ton of tribes that use the hand drill method before you'll run across one using the bow drill. The hand drill simpler in many ways, even though I must admit that I've never been able to get a coal using this method. I say it's simpler because you need one less skill to accomplish it versus using the bow drill, specifically the skill not needed is the making of cordage. The chain of knowledge comes into play here once more.

On a side note, the tools that you'd take with you when you are proficient in the hand drill method are smaller, lighter, and less cumbersome.

Now as Chris K mentioned, there's the case of Ishi. He had the pressure of his tribe being robbed, broken up,and hunted down going against him. Survival in such a situation is going to be tough, no doubt about it. However, a case might be able to be made, if the story related to me is true, that his tribe's knowledge and skills may not have been what they once were. When Ishi showed archeologists his superb flint knapping skills he used a stick with an iron nail driven into it as a pressure flaker. The reason I bring this up is that the iron nail represents a broken link in the chain of knowledge in some ways. Instead of having to hunt a deer for antler (or finding antlers from a dead deer in the wild) to use in the pressure flaker, he only had to get a nail, which he didn't make himself. He used a modern tool.

Don't get me wrong, Ishi was certainly amazing by the accounts I've read and I'm not trying to attack him as a person who may not have been skilled enough to survive on his own...

Just to blow my point out of the water, It could be argued that just because Ishi was an excellent flint knapper, it doesn't mean that his other primitive skills were up to snuff. He could make arrow heads, but it doesn't mean he was an excellent hunter and unparalleled fire maker. Granted, he may have been good at both, I don't know, but others in his tribe may have been responsible for different skills. Specialization has its detriments because focus on one skill may mean that a person is less versed in other areas.

To reiterate another point, when Ishi was found, he was distraught by the many losses he had suffered, was cold and hungry, and had burnt off his hair in mourning. His mental state, it could be argued, was having an adverse effect on his ability to survive as well.
"Learn survival skills when your life doesn't depend on it."

#98784 - 06/29/07 03:18 PM Re: Starting a Fire [Re: Nicodemus]
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 1965
Loc: NE Illinois
I know I've mentioned this here before, but it wasn't until I saw the movie castaway that I started EDCing the BSA Hotspark.

I'm starting to think that - at least in the midwestern US, where there a usually plenty of trees with hanging deadwood around - the ability to start a fire, build a shelter, acquire water, and signal for help are critical - - - and all quite doable without a knife. Not that I'll give up my beloved Rittergrips :-)


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