Ever since the writer was a small boy he has read about making fire by rubbing "two chips" or "two sticks" together, and he was under the impression then, and is under the impression now, that no one can build a fire in that manner. When we find reference to rubbing-sticks it is probably a slovenly manner of describing the bow and drill and the other similar friction fire implements. For the bow and drill one requires first a Thimble (Figs. 1, 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D). This is a half round stone or pebble, a half round burl or knot of wood, or it may be made of soft wood with an inlay of a piece of stone. In the bottom of the thimble there is always a shallow hole or socket; see S on Figs. 1, 1A, 1B, 1C, and 1D. The thimble is an invention of the Eskimos (Fig. 1C); they keep the spindle upright by holding the pointed upper end of it in a hole (S) drilled into a piece of serpentine, or soapstone.
The author has a thimble personally made for him by Major David Abercrombie. This beautiful implement is made of hard fine-grained wood carved into the form of a beetle (Fig. 1B). It is inlaid with copper and semi-precious stones. The socket hole was drilled into a piece of jade (B), using for the purpose some sand and the drill shown in Fig. 23. There was a piece of steel pipe set into the end of the wooden drill with which to bore a hole into the hard jade. The jade was then inlaid or set into the middle of the bottom of the thimble, and cemented there, Fig. 1B. The author also has a thimble made for him by Edmund Seymour of the Camp-fire Club of America. This thimble is a stone fossil with a hole drilled in it, Fig. 1A.
It is not necessary to tell the reader that when using the bow for power, the twirling spindle cannot be held down with the bare hand, consequently the use of the thimble for that purpose is necessary. Fig. 1C shows an Eskimo thimble so fashioned that it may be held in the fire-maker's mouth.
Is a stick or branch of wood (Figs. 3, 3E, 3F and 3G) about a foot and a half long and almost an inch in diameter, which has a permanent bend in it—the bend may be natural or may have been made artificially. To the bow is attached a slack thong, or durable string of some kind. The Eskimos, more inventive than the Indians, made themselves beautiful bows of ivory, carving them from walrus tusks, which they shaved down and strung with a loose strip of walrus hide.
The objection to whang string or belt lacing is that it is apt to be too greasy, so if one can secure a strip of buckskin, a buckskin thong about two inches wide, and twist it into a string, it will probably best serve the purpose (Fig. 6).
The spindle is the twirling stick (Figs. 2, 2A, 2B and 2C) which is usually about a foot long and was used by our American Indians without the bow (Fig. 7). The twirling stick or spindle may be three-quarters of an inch in diameter at the middle; constant use and sharpening will gradually shorten the spindle. When it becomes too short a new one must be made. The end of the spindle should not be made sharp like a lead pencil, but should have a dull or rounded end, with which to bore into the fire-board, thus producing fine, hot charcoal, which in time becomes a spark: that is, a growing ember.