Catching Fire with a Bow and Arrow

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When you’re stuck in the wild, it’s good to know how to use the materials around you in order to survive.  Just like Katniss, from the wildly popular Hunger Games Trilogy, did to ensure here survival.  The following article will teach you the basic steps of starting a fire with a bow and arrow.

… or if these instructions are too much of a headache, you can save yourself the heartburn by just being prepared with:


  • The Bow
    • Should be about 80 cm tall
    • Should be made of a hard and rigid wood (not particularly flexible or bendy)
    • Should have only a slight gradual bend
  • The Drill (Arrow)
    • Should be about 6-7 in tall and 2 cm thick
    • Strip the stick of its bark
    • Whittle at it until the drill has a pointed end (should be the shape of a thick, well-used pencil)
  • The String
    • Can be made of rawhide, sinew, plant fibers, or regular old string.
    • To keep the string from slipping on the drill, apply pine resin
    • You can attach string to the bow one of two ways:
      • If there is a fork on either end of the bow, you can secure it in that natural wedge.
      • Otherwise, whittle away at the ends of the stick until they are flat headed (the ends should now look like a Phillip’s screw driver). Cut a triangular rivet out of either end of the flat headed ends of the stick deep enough to secure the string.
  • The Hearth Board
    • Sycamore, lime or willow are preferred
    • Should be 1.5 cm-2.5 cm thick
  • The Bearing Block
    • Strong fresh wood is best (holly is preferred)
    • Carve a crevice in the center of the bearing block using the tip of a knife
      • The crevice will be used to hold the drill in place
      • Set green leaves in the crevice on the bearing board to act as a lubricant for the drill and board.
      • You will be gripping the top end of the bearing block with your hand, so you should make it a point to sand down the top or whittle it smooth so that it is comfortable to hold.
  • Tinder
    • The best materials to use for tinder is bark
      • Lime, clematis, and honeysuckle bark are preferred
      • Bark should be dry
      • Rub the bark in between your hands until the fibers break apart and becomes fluffy

Some recommended bearing block and wood combinations:

  • Willow (drill) on Lime (bearing board)
  • Willow on Willow
  • Willow on sycamore
  • Hazel on lime

Steps To Putting Together the Materials:

    1. Set the hearth board on the level ground
    2. Set some green leaves in the crevice on the bearing block and then crush into those leaves using the pointed side of your drill.
    3. Set the flat/rounded side of the drill on the hearth board (pointed side up).
    4. Tie one end of your string to an end of your bow (use the triangular cut-outs of forks in the stick to secure knotted string in place.
    5. Loop the other end of your string around the middle of your drill once so that it is hugging the drill tightly.
    6. Tie the other end of the string to the other end of your bow.
    7. Place the bearing block on top of the pointed side of the drill so it lines up with the crevice (so the point of the drill fits in the crevice)
Making the Magic Happen:
  1. Hold the hearth board in place with your foot (step on the board with one foot to keep it firmly in place)
  2. You should not be able to wobble the hearth board at this point.
  3. Move your bow back and forth (towards you and away from you) as fast as you can.
  4. This movement will cause the bow to rotate back and forth, meanwhile rubbing against the hearth board causing a significant amount of friction.
  5. This will burn a perfectly rounded crevice in the hearth board.
  6. Cut a triangular notch in the side of the hearth board so that it cuts a piece from the crevice (like a piece of pie). The triangle cut from the crevice should account for about 1/8 of the circular crevice.
  7. Place your ember pan (a flat, dry piece of wood smaller board than the hearth board) directly under the newly cut out triangle.
  • This ember pan, as the name suggests, will be used to catch the embers.
  • Continue bow drilling (see step b.) until you make an ember.

You can often get your ember to burn brighter by wafting air over top of it using your hand.

8. Carefully ad your ember to the tinder to let it catch
9. Fold the rest of your tinder around the ember
10. While holding the tinder in your hand, begin to blow on the now lit tinder.

Remember not to blow on it too softly—give it oxygen to give it life!

From here, it’s burn baby burn!


  • Always be applying plenty of downward pressure to your bearing block and, subsequently, your drill.
  • Move your bow backwards and forwards smoothly as possible at a quick and consistent pace.
  • Lock your wrist against whichever leg that has the foot the hearth board.
  • Your bow should always be horizontal to the ground.
  • Hold your bow the way a cello player would.

Good Luck!


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