I try to make fire without matches - day four

back to day three

I needed a straight stick, but in the world of sticks, straight is relative. I almost bought a dowel at the store during lunch.

On Tuesday after work, I  double-checked under every tree at Sutter's fort, but nothing was looking very promising.
Here is another stick.  It is straightish, but it wasn't exactly perfect. It also seemed too flexible. Straight and thick was a somewhat rare combination.
I eventually got in my car and made a trip down to the river. the closest access to a river from my house is the overpass at 16th street near the Blue Diamond Almond factory.  This particular area is in a somewhat seedy part of downtown, where homeless people camp and cross into Del Paso Heights.  I was alone and feeling kind of creeped out, but when you are on a quest for a straight piece of willow, the riverside is exactly where you want to go.

Here is a photo of some homeless-generated trash...and sticks!

Within 15 minutes, I had found three damn straight sticks. Look at these babies!  There was a spring in my step again.  The dark one was particularly promising.
Here is a photo of the dark stick. It is dry and straight and about 1/2 inch thick (13 mm).  When I dropped it, it clicked like a drumstick.  I trimmed it to 16 inches long, and then cut it down again to the straightest 13 inches.  It wasn't perfectly straight, but it was much better than what I had been working with. the top end of it is rounded off for the bottle-cap, and the bottom is flat where it touches the base-plate. 
I recommend using  a knife to carve a shallow pit (two millimeters deep) into the baseboard for the spindle to sit in.  Carve it about a quarter-inch from the side edge of the baseboard. In this photo you can see four of them in a row.in front of my shoe.

Before you start spinning with the bow, twirl the stick by hand in the shallow pit until a little indentation is made, then use your knife to cut out a small "v" shaped notch through the thickness of the wood. This small channel is to allow hot sawdust to fall into a small pile that will theoretically start to smoulder.

After all those set-up steps are taken, you can begin in earnest with the bow.

The rope was stretched out enough to be very snug against the bigger stick. It felt very very promising. Finally the bow would really be able to dictate the actions of the spindle instead of just influence them.

I was confident I would succeed, and I prepared some more kindling for the giant raging fire I was going to soon have. 

On the first try, the bottlecap was hot! Promising...ok, annoying. 
I was actually drilling all the way through the baseboard on these attempts, I felt very close to success.
After a few tries, I settled down and got my top fingers out of the way of the hot bottlecap. I carved the starter pit a tad deeper so the spindle wouldn't pop out and started bowing away at it.

Hot sawdust piled up almost immediately and started to smoke. There were a couple of hitches in the bowing, but the action was easy enough to get it very hot again without too much effort. 

Suddenly I spotted a red ember! I gingerly stopped my bowing and saw it was smoking by itself. I blew and blew and piled on the kindling. The waiting seemed to do as much as the blowing, but I got a tiny flame as big as a cat's tongue. Yes! Desperate for it to burst into flames, I blew too much and the little red ember went slowly out. 

The smoke had been pouring off the baseboard.  About ten cigarettes of smoke indicates near-success. 

I tried one more time, got a smaller ember & blew that one out faster. I was a little too anxious to succeed this time.  It is so great to see the smoke still coming up after I stop spinning the shaft!

I was excited and disappointed. Here is a photo of the sweat beading off of my forehead and of my stupid grin of success.

I was pretty sure I would succeed tomorrow.

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