Bamboo Fire Saw Tips?

12:20 a.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Hey guys, as a form of entertainment recently I've been wanting to try some fire starting methods without using matches, etc. I'm not looking for advice on an easier method (yet), as I plan on trying to figure them all out.

I've tried the bamboo fire saw a couple of times recently, mainly using this video as a guide of sorts:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y46eQ_siA14

The one thing that seemed promising was to make sure the groove I cut into the shorter piece that you move back and forth allows for maximum friction on the longer piece that you sharpen. I've gotten the groove and some of the tinder to blacken, which seems like a good sign. But even after 45 seconds to a minute of rubbing back and forth, no ember formed. Do I need to rub longer? The videos I've seen look like it doesn't take that much time, though some of them that may be editing.

Has anyone ever gotten one of these to work? Do you use dried bamboo or wet bamboo? Do you put some kind of grit in there to cause more friction? Any tips would be appreciated, as I'm determined to get this to work! =) Thanks for the advice.

2:33 a.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Well, tried it again tonight and this is what I got. Soo close. My arm was about to fall off, and maybe had I been able to continue, an ember would have formed, but I doubt it. The hole kept getting bigger/longer, and it seems like that would disperse the friction enough so that an ember wouldn't really be able to form.

Seems like I got close:
IMG_0002-1-.jpg

Here are the grooves that have been created after two tries, the second and most recent one got pretty wide:
IMG_0003-1-.jpg

1:41 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Building friction fires may be possible but its so much less effective than flint and steel, ore even steel and a decently hard rock.  I tried using a dowell chucked up in a DRILL motor and I got no fire, but lots of smoke.  My rsuggestion is to bag friction and use a sparking method. 

2:10 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks, but as I stated in the first post I realize what I'm doing isn't as easy as flint and steel, and would definitely have that with me in a backpacking situation, but I'm going to try the different friction fire methods out just for fun!

I'll keep trying on this bamboo method, maybe with enough practice and analysis I can figure out the best way to get it going.

4:12 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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I can start a fire with a different friction method and materials. I use kindle from grass, old dry pine needles, or cloths lint from the dryer. I place the kindle in a hollowed out log and use the bow techique for the friction. My arms hurt, but I can get it to spark after awhile. Bamboo shavings as kindle? I understand bamboo is hard to burn in general-I sense a challenge for myself.(Or, I normally carry three types of fire starting items in my survival pack:matches, flint/steel and an electric lighter. I also carry a magnifying glass. ):)

4:31 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Yeah you're supposed to be able to do it with bamboo shavings only, but maybe it would be easier if I found some other kind of tinder. I'm planning on trying the bow technique at some point too, possibly when I'm out car camping or something, but for now a friend has a ton of bamboo in his yard and I've been playing with that.

7:27 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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In the past, I have successfully started fires by friction with several different methods (haven't done any experimenting in a few years, though. In large part it depends on technique. Having a mentor to guide you the first few times helps a lot.

But I have also found that the materials are fairly crucial. One of the easiest methods is the bow drill. At 8 or 9 years old, I got this to work within the first 15 minutes of trying, but had the aid of someone very experienced. Most of my attempts over the years worked in the first 5 minutes or so with a variety of woods. This also got me jump-started with the hand-spinning fire drill as well. About 15 years ago, I was handed a box of Boy Scout fire-by-friction kits. At first glance, they were pretty much identical to the way I had been doing things, and the kit even says that yucca is used, the wood I first learned on and prefer. For some reason, I have not gotten any of the scout kits to do more than generate lots of smoke and dust. I have had some others, who are experts try the kits, also without success. One fellow got annoyed as all getout and pulled out his personal kit, getting a fire in about 2 minutes. I then used his kit and took just a tiny bit longer than he had. Then we went back to the scout kits and still failed. So something about the materials must have been different.

What I am suggesting is that maybe something about the particular bamboo isn't quite right - water content (dryness)??. Have you tried other friction methods - other fire saw materials (a la Tom Hanks in Castaway - supposedly his lighting the fire by the saw method in the film was for real), bow drill, hand drill, etc.?

By the way, I have read that some of the best fire pistons are made from bamboo in the Philippines, although I made mine from yucca for one and walnut for another.

1:13 a.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks for that post, Bill. It definitely could be the materials. The bamboo might not be dry enough, maybe the tinder wasn't right. The charred tinder makes me hopeful though, and I'll surely try again.

I'll also definitely be trying other wood fire saws, bow drills, hand drills, etc. I'm interested in getting them all to work though, so I won't give up on this bamboo just yet.

I can understand how helpful it is to have someone who knows a thing or two about it to help you out, I just don't know the first place to look for someone like that. I am in the Pacific NW though and I'm sure there are plenty of people who could help out, just need a means to find them.

7:05 a.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks, but as I stated in the first post I realize what I'm doing isn't as easy as flint and steel, and would definitely have that with me in a backpacking situation, but I'm going to try the different friction fire methods out just for fun!

I'll keep trying on this bamboo method, maybe with enough practice and analysis I can figure out the best way to get it going.

 Heck if you think this takes time, you're really going to become discourraged sitting around under a tree waiting for the lightning method to start a fire.

Ed

1:22 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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See the thing about the lightning method is I don't have to do any work. It's a fire method that works while I'm not! =)

3:07 p.m. on February 25, 2011 (EST)
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bccarlso,

Just keep trying, you will figure it out.  I have never tried a bamboo fire saw before but I have used the bow drill. I have started several fires with a bow drill and I had to make my own fire board at home out of white cedar since most of the wood I was finding at the time was wet drift wood along a backwater creek & island.

I think maybe you just need to play around with your materials some, drier probably, and make sure your tinder isn't bundled too tightly or it will just smolder.

"Less force and more finesse" someone once told me.

 

3:08 p.m. on February 25, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks, but as I stated in the first post I realize what I'm doing isn't as easy as flint and steel, and would definitely have that with me in a backpacking situation, but I'm going to try the different friction fire methods out just for fun!

I'll keep trying on this bamboo method, maybe with enough practice and analysis I can figure out the best way to get it going.

 Heck if you think this takes time, you're really going to become discourraged sitting around under a tree waiting for the lightning method to start a fire.

Ed

That's very funny, I'll have to remember that.

5:38 p.m. on February 25, 2011 (EST)
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bccarlso,

Just keep trying, you will figure it out.  I have never tried a bamboo fire saw before but I have used the bow drill. I have started several fires with a bow drill and I had to make my own fire board at home out of white cedar since most of the wood I was finding at the time was wet drift wood along a backwater creek & island.

I think maybe you just need to play around with your materials some, drier probably, and make sure your tinder isn't bundled too tightly or it will just smolder.

"Less force and more finesse" someone once told me.

 

Cool, thanks. Yeah I'm going to be experimenting some more. Might try non-bamboo tinder. Am going to let it dry out some more. Might try putting some dirt in to increase friction? Saw that somewhere, but maybe it was the bow drill where that worked. Hopefully I'll come back to this thread at some point saying "success!"

4:54 p.m. on May 4, 2011 (EDT)
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You might try enrolling in Earthwalk Northwest, run by Frank and Karen Sherwood.  I've known them since 1985, when they were working for Tom Brown Jr.  Both are incredibly knowledgeable about various aspects of survival.

They happen to be running a course in Fire by Friction on June 18, 2011 in Issaquah, WA for $65 - well worth the small cost, considering especially how many years they've been doing primitive skills & survival.

The link is http://www.earthwalknorthwest.com/courses/fire.php - if the class isn't already full.

Don't give up on the fire saw.  Take one method of making fire at a time and perfect it - you'll get there.

Myself, I think I'd start with something I could actually use in the area I'm currently living in should I get lost.  I learned bow drill under Tom Brown and am confident I can get a fire, even if I have to make the bow drill set without a knife - using just rocks to make it (from the training I got).

I spent all of last year working on various forms of fire-making.  Seems like you are doing something similar.  Keep at it!  Eventually it'll just "click".  But it helps a ton to have an instructor if you can get one.

11:14 a.m. on May 5, 2011 (EDT)
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@skecanj Awesome, thanks for the information! Do Frank and Karen live in the area? I'm not sure I'll be able to make it to that one, but would definitely love to make it out to one of their classes sometime, sounds like a ton of fun!

Edit: Yeah it looks like the school is in Issaquah, good stuff! I'll be keeping an eye on what they have to offer, lots of great courses!

11:46 p.m. on July 15, 2011 (EDT)
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bccarlso Did you ever get it to work??  I do a lot of work with bamboo, I am in construction, also in the PNW.  And I can tell you that their are almost as many types of bamboo at their are trees.  (It a grass not a tree, if you did not already know.) 

Yucca is also used for bows, (Bow and Arrow) as it it a strong wood, not sure how dense or light it is as I have never worked with it.  Cedar strong and very light. 

I don't know what kind of bamboo they are using in the voideo but you may be able to find out doing some searches.  But I do think it makes a big difference in the wood / grass type you are using.

Wolfman

9:33 p.m. on July 16, 2011 (EDT)
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Thats one heckava video! Does anyone else feel a little inadequate? This guys used that machete with more finesse that most use a pen knife.

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