Friday, October 31, 2008

Cattail Handdrill Attempt


I had read that other primtive skill practitioners had used cattail stalk for handdrill fire making. Having worked with the handdrill for years, I recognized how limited my choices were for appropriate material to make it with in my area. Mullein grows wild along the roadsides. Yucca is more of an ornamental plant here, but grows in the sandhills in northcentral Nebraska. Cattail is an easily recognizable plant, that to my knowledge, grows in moist areas and is available everywhere I've seen. I went out a couple weeks ago and cut half a dozen stalks, and stripped them down, to dry. Over the past couple of days I've been attempting to make a hot coal with a cattail stalk on a yucca fireboard. So, far I have smoke, but no hot coal. Some observations: The stalks are fragile higher up, denser lower. If I squeeze too hard I compress the stalk, and buckle them. Some of the stalks have a styrofoam-like inner pith, like mullein. Others are fibrous. Maybe I need to study out where this changes in the stalk. In my enthusiasm to try this, I harvested these stalks before the seed head were mature. I will gather some later in the season. The powder that forms in the notch in brown. I am not getting enough heat, from friction, to form the black powder and combust it into a hot coal. Also, the stalks outer portion is sturdy enough to drill through the yucca fireboard, perhaps a harder fireboard like cottonwood. Well, primitive skills is just that...skills. Right now I am just embarking on the learning curve with this new material. But, what a great plant if I can make fire with it. Cattails are food, cordage, medicine, insulation, shelter, tinder, torches, etc.

9 comments:

Norseman said...

Can you get your hands on a basswood hearth board? I think it works a lot better than cottonwood. I have gotten a coal with mullein and cottonwood, but basswood seems to genrate the coal faster.

Mark said...

Yes, I have some basswood. I will give that a try when I get some stalks later in the season. Cottonwood root works well, as opposed to the limbs. It is a little lighter density. I think my problem is that I harvested the stalks too early. Just like mullein and yucca...the older, the better.

barnislavia said...

Pal I wish you the best of luck. The hand drill is my arch-enemy. I can do a bow and drill no problem, but that hand drill makes me pull my hair out( whats left of it).

Mark said...

LOL...maybe that's why my hair line is as high as it is...

Norseman said...

I have to hold my goatee in my mouth, otherwise it gets wrapped around the spindle, and I literally lose hair.

Mark said...

LOL!

barnislavia said...

Be sure to post when you get a coal, and where and when you'll be showing you wares.

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