Saturday, May 5, 2012

Using Mullein Stems for Bowdrill Firemaking

I love making friction fires...rubbing two sticks together.  There is something fascinating about spinning a shaft of wood against another to give life to a glowing ember.  Some days I have to spin up a hot coal just to smell the smoldering wood...that's my aroma-therapy.

 Earlier this year I started using more mullein stalks as drills for bowdrill firemaking.  Mulleins are common in the roadsides and waste areas around eastern Nebraska.  They are easily recognized by their velvety rosette of leaves, woody stem, and flowerhead stalk. The woody stalk makes a good drill component when used with a cottonwood  fireboard.  The stem consists of a sturdy woody outer shell with a styrofoam-like inner pith.  The soft inner pith and hard outer stem can be a problem sometimes.  A couple of technics help...
One thing I found is that the drill has a tendency to bore through the fire board, thinning or shaving the outer
 stem near the business end helps.

Also, cannot sharpen the top of the drill to a point, to spin freely in  the socket, because of the soft pithy
core.  To aid this, I tied a piece of
cordage around the top of the drill so it would not easily split.  Then, sharpening a
short hard wood stem to a point, I force it into the styrofoam like pith.  Now I have a hard wooden top to my drill  that can take more abuse and be sharpened to spin more freely in the handheld socket.


Anonymous said...

you can sharpen the top of mullein. I have with great success. just go to to see my latest video on mullein friction.

Anonymous said...

sorry, the site is

zack copeland said...

another fantastic quality about this plant brother is its medicine, my favorite being to inhale the vapors from a strong tea made from the leaves. It leaves you feeling as if you just took four shots of nasal spray!