Getting to grips with the Hand drill

When you think of scenarios that occur where people get lost, injured or stranded most books on these kinds of situations always say ‘Don’t give up’ and indeed they are right. However when you think about that phrase, it is hard to determine the context in which it is meant sometimes.

For instance, if you think of someone lost. If they misinterpret the concept of ‘Not giving up’, you would expect them to plough on and try find somewhere they could recognise and get back on track. From a rescue point of view, this is disastrous and could end up being fatal in remote areas. The trick would be to stop and think about the situation rather than carrying on. So how you interpret this advice is often the difference maker.

I had a great example of this over the weekend. Although not a bad situation, I was taught a lesson about the implementation of that phrase ‘Don’t give up’. For me it has to be interpreted as a broad concept when it comes to the wilderness. Stopping and changing tact should always be an option. I heard it said once in military terms that “Retreat is simply advancing in a different direction”. I always thought of this as a cop out phrase for someone who has lost a battle. However I am only beginning to understand the term.

Personally one of my biggest enemies is Stubbornness. I get lost in a task and don’t want to fail. This was evident over the weekend. I would consider myself relatively proficient in fire by friction when it comes to bow drill. The hand drill method has always eluded me. This weekend I went out with a seasoned veteran of the hand drill and was taught a lesson not just in fire by friction but about myself.

My goal was to get fire and I was one track minded about it. Under Sams direction I tried my damnedest to get an ember but it wouldn’t go. Sam advised me to stop and try again tomorrow as my hands needed to recover but I wanted to keep going as I was getting close. Eventually the pain in my hands increased, I looked down to see blood on the hand drill. It was time to stop. I had lots of energy left but my hands were spent. There was torn skin and blood coming from my palms. As I released the drill, my hands began to throb. I cooled them off in the river and could see really bad blisters forming. I thought nothing of it, ‘I can take the pain’ but I still had 2 more days in the woods.

Looks like nothing here but man it really hurt

It was a bit later on when I had to use my knife and axe that I realised that I was barely able to put any pressure on my hands with the pain. Now I was once again trying to light fire with a much easier method, the fero rod and I was struggling. I could barely cut feather sticks or press hard enough on my fero rod to produce a spark. I was struggling at something I could normally do blindfolded, all because “I didn’t want to give up”. When in fact I should have stopped and considered the bigger picture. In truth I should have stopped and tried again tomorrow but now I have to wait 3/4 days for my hands to heal before I can try again properly. That was the true lesson I learned about fire by friction and myself.

Luckily for me, there were many different activities covered over the weekend that we practiced. Myself and Sam exchanged knowledge on Tracking & Trailing, Hunting and trapping, wild edibles, Bird ID, plant ID. It’s always good to meet someone with a similar passion for the wild. It’s not about who knows more, its about sharing the knowledge.

Hard to make out but you can see near the bottom where a Mink had its way with some Cray Fish

Tracking Mink

The Birch sap is rising!

Lunch, hazelnuts collected last autumn and Lesser Celandine root