Brilliant bearing block for a bow-drill fire set


Ever hear a brilliant idea and wonder why you didn’t think of it earlier?

By Todd Walker

(INTELLIHUB) — On The Pathfinder School Learning Center, Dave Canterbury posted a pic of a bearing block he made using an old soda can as an insert to reduce friction on his bow drill set up. While this idea wasn’t new to me, he suggested I use a piece of fat wood as a bearing block for my set. How brilliant is that!?

I made a bearing block out of a fat lighter’d knot yesterday. It’s a simple DiY project and adds another layer of fire redundancy in my kit.

You can’t walk far in the woods in Georgia without stumbling over fat wood. From previous resource gathering jaunts in the woods behind my school, I knew exactly where to harvest a few lighter’d knots for this project.

Down-and-Dirty Steps

Material and Tools

  • Fat wood knot (lighter’d knot)
  • Soft metal blank
  • Vise
  • Ball pen hammer and 9/16″ socket
  • Drill and bit
  • Wire brush
  • Epoxy

Step 1: Harvest a Lighter’d Knot

Harvest a fat wood knot. You can use a piece of fat wood from the core of a pine tree. It will take a bit longer to shape and finish into a smooth hand hold. You’ll speed up the process if you can find a nature-made hand hold – a fat wood knot.

A great score on lighter’d knots! My previous bearing block in the center is made of cedar.

Step 2: Mold Your Divot Blank

Use a soft metal. I used a blank from a metal electrical box. I’ve seen socket blanks made from U.S. coinage.

A Brilliant Bearing Block for a Bow Drill Fire Set

Place your blank over an appropriately sized socket from a ratchet set. I used a 9/16″ short socket. Center the rounded end of a ball pen hammer on the blank which is resting on the socket.

Place the whole set up in a vise (hammer, blank, and socket) and tighten to create a dimple in the metal blank. File or sand any rough edges off the edge of your divot to prevent snags.

Step 3: Prep the Lighter’d Knot

If you have a grinder and wire brush attachment, use it to knock off any crust of the knot. Place the knot in a vise for this part. Normal safety precautions: Wear eye protection and gloves. This step also brings out the natural color of the fat wood – if that matters to you.

Next, place the knot in your hand and find where it’s most comfortable. Mark the spot under the knot where you’ll place your divot for the blank.

A Brilliant Bearing Block for a Bow Drill Fire Set

Load the knot back in the vise and drill a hole about a 1/4″ deep to accept your divot blank. Use a paddle bit that is the same width as your divot blank. For me, a 7/8″ bit matched perfectly. The bit size and hole depth depends on the size of the blank you use.

A Brilliant Bearing Block for a Bow Drill Fire Set

Dry fit the divot blank in the hole. Tweak as needed. It shouldn’t be a very tight fit since you’ll be securing the blank to the wood in the next step.

A Brilliant Bearing Block for a Bow Drill Fire Set

Step 4: Epoxy the Divot Blank

Follow the directions on your epoxy and mix an amount that will fill the divot hole. Place the divot blank on top of the epoxy and set firmly. Wipe up any excess that squeezes out around the divot blank.

A Brilliant Bearing Block for a Bow Drill Fire Set

After the epoxy sets up, sand off any residue around the hole if needed.

A Brilliant Bearing Block for a Bow Drill Fire Set

Of course you wouldn’t have access to these tools in a wilderness setting. I’ll be posting on how to make a bow drill set from all natural harvested wood (poplar tree) in the next few weeks. Hope you stick around!

Keep Doing the Stuff,


This article originally appeared on Survival Sherpa.
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