Section 7: Fire-By-Friction

The single most time consuming job that the Vice-chief, Coordinator, or Instructor has is responsibility for helping candidates master the art of fire by friction.  Candidates will look to these individuals for demonstration, explanation, guidance and encouragement.  It is wise to advise candidates to make their sets on Monday and Tuesday.  At the latest, they should be pumping on Wednesday.  If the candidates, for some reason, have not popped their spark by the end of Friday night, a Saturday morning session will be necessary.

The whole purpose of fire by friction is to force the candidate to devote all that they have to a challenging task.  It is not easy, but if the candidate sticks with it, they will pop a spark.  The candidate will not gain from the experience if someone else does any one of the steps for them.  This is why the candidate must make their own set.  Firecrafters may explain how to form a certain part of the set and even demonstrate how to, but the candidate must make their own set.  Firecrafters may also help them find suitable wood. When it comes to the actual pumping, you may not help apply pressure, pump the bow, or “warm” the set for the candidate.  You may help stable the board, build the spark once obtained by the candidate, and gather some wood.

Creating Fire-by-Friction takes a few key components and with proper guidance and initiative any Scout can complete this requirement.  Many people have the misconception that the key component is strength and being able to bow quickly. Although this can get you fire, it is often only a tiring effort that more and more find less successful. The more vital components to creating fire-by-friction include pressure and consistency. If the Scout can provide the proper pressure, speed is not a factor. Many Firecrafters believe that every candidate can get a spark by doing the exact same process that they did as a candidate, however this is usually not the case. Each physical build and ability can be different and require different techniques to achieve fire. A shorter or smaller Scout cannot use the same techniques as a larger or taller Scout. 

It is strongly advised that this requirement be done with the guidance of a well experienced Firecrafter.  There are many factors to be considered in achieving the skill.  If there is difficulty with pressure, then a taller spindle or using the leg as support utilizing body weight can be helpful.  If there is too much side friction in the hole, narrowing the end of the spindle can be helpful.  If dust is not collecting properly, carving the underside of the floorboard might be useful.  These are all examples of situational circumstances that could be different for each candidate.

Some good woods to use to build a set include: Red Elm, Red Cedar, Cottonwood, Aspen, Poplar, and Basswood. It is wise to make the spindle and floorboard out of the same wood. If they are made out of different woods, the spindle should be a harder wood.  A good judge of height for the spindle is about from foot to knee.  The floorboard should be flat and about an inch thick. However, Scouts who are struggling with creating the ember may find a half-inch floorboard easier.  The spindle should also be straight and about the thickness of a quarter. The spindle can be rounded or eight-sided. The octagon method can help with the string not slipping. A good bow is about the length from the floor to the Scout's waist, have a slight curve and is very strong. A good strength test is to lean on the bow and see if it holds the body weight. (a Firecrafter may NOT purposely break a bow the Scout has selected because they do not feel it is strong enough. This is considered hazing. You may provide advice against the bow, but if the Scout would like to use it, they may)  The best method of stringing the bow is drilling a hole on one end and three holes on the other end.  This makes it easy to loosen or tighten the bow. In the single hole tie an overhand stopper knot, and the other end, weave the rope through the three holes and tie it off. Since this may not be easy to do at camp, tying a clove hitch, taut line, or bowline can be suitable. You may want to cut a notch in the bow for the knot to sit in. The thunderhead or top bearing should be made out of a hard wood like an Oak, Hickory, Beech, Ironwood, or Walnut. It should also fit the candidate's hand.

Dumping water on the candidates’ sets, dumping water on the candidates’ fires, and putting out sparks is in no way allowed.  It is considered HAZING, and it will not be tolerated.  Discipline for such behavior can result in expulsion from Firecrafter.

Firecrafter is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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