Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Bamboo Fire Saw First Attempt

I had a holiday in the Pyrenees a few years ago and the area where we were staying had bamboo in the verges and so there were copious amounts lying in the street. I decided to bring a couple of small lengths home to entertaining the notion of attempting friction fire lighting using the bamboo bow saw. 

If you watch Ray Mears' video on Youtube you'll see him using bamboo with a bigger girth than the stuff I have so I wasn't expecting guaranteed sucess, but equally I thought I had a punchers chance and if nothing else it would give me a feel.

One length had a split in it so I decided to utilise this bit as the tinder holding scraper and would give me a small but holdable piece to work with. 

So these are my two main pieces. I decided to keep the node on the end of the 'baseboard' to give some extra rigidity.

I then cut the notch that lets the hot dust through small and decided to work a bigger one in the bedding in process.

This is what I initially started off with.

I then shaved the business edge.


The bamboo gave up tinder shavings easily by using a knife blade to scrape it. With the lengths being small I decided to have a little bracken and seed tinder on hand to help with a bundle just in case I got lucky.

I also rounded the end a little to help make it more comfortable when propped into my midriff. I had an old tea towel as padding so it was comfortable, but  perhaps I rounded it a bit too much.

I cut a notch in a big round of wood to make up the length as it was a too short on it's own. I decided on a shorter piece so that I had a second set of bamboo in case this failed.

I made a split splint to hold the tinder either side of the notch using a bit of a standard bamboo cane and loaded in the bamboo tinder.

And then put my tripod mounted camera on a low wall, selected the time lapse function and then got started on the sawing. I didn't go off like a rocket as I decided that getting used to the movement and bedding the bamboo in was beneficial.

The bamboo starts to smell scorched very quickly and this was evident on the business surfaces. I did however stop to re-adjust the angles of the notch as there wasn't even browning on it.

I'd primarily selected a time lapse function to give me a hands free recording of events, but it also showed me that the 'baseboard' section had started to bend and this caused an interruption to the old rhythm as I was trying to compensate it. the bend is quite pronounced at the top.

After giving it a good go I decided to  stop with Mk I because of the bending and the fact that if it over-flexed a little too much it popped out of the notch and I fell forwards...Not a good move next to a wall. I slimmed  one section down on the longer piece (between nodes) but found that I couldn't quite reach it to saw. I then decided to slim down a second section and really I should have cut a bit off the end in my midriff because I'd effectively just created a longer version of the first whippy one.

Having a longer length made sawing easier as I wasn't having to think about keeping the end wedged in a notch. I was getting a small secondary notch forming as the scraper touched the other side, but I wasn't that bothered about it as it was minimal.

It is clear to see the bend in the picture above and the decision to adjust this end and not the other was proving somewhat costly.

I did also fall forwards with Mk II as I had with Mk II, just the once as it broke in the bendy bit! I pushed all the pieces into shot to record what had just happened and yes, I was as fed up as I looked as I still felt good to go on the energy front. I've saved all the pieces and the tinder as I wondered if the lengths could be used as scrapers once I source some more bamboo.

It hasn't been a totally wasted week on the fire front though, apart from getting a feel of bamboo in action I recently fired up an Egyptian bowdrill that I made on this green woodworking day in Essex.

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