Rubbing Stick Fire

I HAVE certainly made a thousand fires with rubbing-sticks, and have made at least five hundred different experiments. So far as I can learn, my own record of thirty-one seconds from taking the sticks to having the fire ablaze is the world's record, and I can safely promise this: That every boy who will follow the instructions I now give will certainly succeed in making his rubbing-stick fire.

Take a piece of dry, sound, balsam-fir wood (or else cedar, cypress, tamarac, basswood or cottonwood, in order of choice) and make of it a drill and a block, thus:


Five eighths of an inch thick, twelve to fifteen inches long; roughly rounded, sharpened at each end as in the cut (Cut 1 a).

Block, or board, two inches wide, six or eight inches long, five eighths of an inch thick. In this block, near one end, cut a side notch one half an inch deep, wider on the under side; and near its end half an inch from the edge make a little hollow or pit in the top of the block, as in the illustration (Cut 1 b).


For tinder use a wad of fine, soft, very dry, dead grass mixed with shredded cedar bark, birch bark or even cedar wood scraped into a soft mass.


Make a bow of any bent stick two feet long, with a strong buckskin or belt-lacing thong on it (cut 1 c).


Finally, you need a socket. This simple little thing is made in many different ways. Sometimes I use a pine or hemlock knot with a pit one quarter inch deep, made by boring with the knife point. But it is a great help to have a good one made of a piece of smooth, hard stone or marble, set in wood; the stone or marble having in it a smooth, round pit three eighths inch wide and three eighths inch deep. The one I use most was made by the Eskimo. A view of the under side is shown in cut 1 (fig. d).

1. Tools for firemaking.

1. Tools for firemaking.

Now, we are ready to make the fire: Under the notch in the fire-block set a thin chip. Turn the leather thong of the bow once around the drill: the thong should now be quite tight. Put one point of the drill into the pit of the block, and on the upper end put the socket, which is held in the left hand, with the top of the drill in the hole of the stone (as in cut 2). Hold the left wrist against the left shin, and the left foot on the fire-block. Now, draw the right hand back and forth steadily on level and the full length of the bow. This causes the drill to twirl in the pit. Soon it bores in, grinding out powder, which presently begins to smoke. When there is a great volume of smoke from a growing pile of black powder, you know that you have the spark. Cautiously lift the block, leaving the smoking powder on the chip. Fan this with your hand till the live coal appears. Now, put a wad of the tinder gently on the spark; raise the chip to a convenient height, and blow till it bursts into flame.

2. Ready to make fire.

2. Ready to make fire.

N. B. (1) The notch must reach the middle of the fire-pit.

(2) You must hold the drill steadily upright, and cannot do so without bracing the left wrist against the left shin, and having the block on a firm foundation.

(3) You must begin lightly and slowly, pressing heavily and sawing fast after there is smoke.

(4) If the fire does not come, it is because you have not followed these instructions.