How to Make a Pump Fire Starting Drill

How to Make a Pump Fire Starting Drill

Out of all of the improvised fire-starting tricks out there, the pump fire drill is the most effective.  It requires minimal effort on your part, focuses energy where it needs to go, and you can light tinder in just a few minutes with this trick.  The downside is that it takes some time, effort and patience to put it together due to it’s complexity.   However, having it ready when needed will be worth its weight in gold if you are out of other, easier fire starting options.

Fashioning the Components

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The first step is to find a round piece of a hard wood or sandstone and fashion a disc that’s at least an inch thick.  Cut a hole in the center that is wide enough to accommodate a smooth and long stick of softwood.  ½ inch in diameter is ideal.  You want the stick to slide through but stick to the sides of the wheel.  The fly wheel will turn the stick later and create friction to start the fire.  Peel the bark off of the softwood stick.   Use cordage to secure it in place, and anchor it by cutting a gash into the bottom of the stick if possible for more stability.  You want it to be the same width of the stick. 

Next, take a piece of plywood or lumber to serve as the baseboard.  Cut a divot through the wood that is just a little bit bigger than the width of the stick.  This is where you will put the end of the stick along with the tinder that will get your fire going.

The next step is to make a crossbar that will be used as a handle as well as an anchor to hold the cordage that will create the spinning later.  Choose a branch that is around a foot long and two inches thick.  You can improvise on the specific dimensions as you go, but this should give you enough leverage and support to direct the forces and friction efficiently.  Bore a hole through the center of the handle so it can also fit over the long stick of softwood.

Next, cut a hole through softwood near the top that is wide enough to feed cordage through.  Take a three to four foot long piece of cordage and insert in the hole until half of it rests on either side of the stick.  Then, attach each end to the handle.  You can either tie it off or drill holes through either end of the handle, feed the cordage and tie off with knots. 

Using the Fire Drill

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Attach the cordage to the handle and place it through the stick before adding the flywheel.  Place the end of the stick through the hole in the baseboard and place this above the tinder.  Make sure that you are working on a firm surface to reduce the chances of the stick slipping as you exert downward force.  Wind up the handle so the cordage is wrapped around the upper part of the stick.  Press down on the handle and the string should release and cause the flywheel and stick to spin rapidly.  If you do this correctly, the string will rewind automatically and all you need to do is push up and down gently on the handle to keep the drill spinning.

Consider either rounding off the bottom of the stick or adding some rock to the end of the stick.  The rock will create more friction and help to get your fire going faster.  Find a piece of rock that is around the same diameter of the stick and secure it to the end with cordage. 

All you need to do now is press down on the handle until the fire starts.  Nothing could be easier, and you will exert minimal energy and avoid getting blisters or cut from using other traditional fire-starting methods.  The trick to using this approach is to make the unit ahead of time and deploy it as necessary.  However, it is definitely worth the effort, and you should consider including it in your arsenal of emergency fire-starting resources.

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