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Making Fire by Hand

Colton-Pierrepont Intro to Environment and Society students met with Dr. Timothy Messner from SUNY Potsdam in September to learn about fire-making.

Making Fire by Hand

By Emlyn Crocker
September 27, 2017

Ever made fire by hand? Students in the Intro the Environment and Society class at Colton-Pierrepont High School met with Dr. Timothy Messner, Archaeology professor at SUNY Potsdam, this September to learn how to make fire by hand using just a simple tool and the energy in their hands and breath. Below, students Summer Scovil and Ariel Garvin provide an insight into the experience:

Friday the 15th of September our Intro to Environment and Society Class met with Professor Tim Messner from Suny Potsdam for a bow drill demonstration. A bow drill is a prehistoric fire starting tool. There are several steps that are very important when using a bow drill. The main pieces are a hearth board, the bow, the spindle, and the bearing block.

Dr. Messner teaches a student how to work with a bow drill.

Dr. Messner teaches the students how to work with a bow drill outside the school.

Fire-making is tough. But practice and patience may just pay off.

Fire-making is tough, and requires immense preparation, as well as practice and patience. Continue reading to see if it worked!

Here the student gently blows on the embers she created to feed the flame.

Here the student gently blows on the embers she created to feed the flame.

A hard earned ember, and a fun lesson to share with friends and family.

A small fire takes shape on the pavement, coaxed into being by the student's breaths. 

I, Ariel Garvin, was successful creating fire. It took time and patience to make sure the bow was going parallel to the ground.

I, Summer Scovil, was unsuccessful creating fire with the bow drill even after working all period to attempt to make fire.  It is very exhausting physically after a while of work.

Thanks to the Fall 2017 Intro to Environment and Society students at Colton-Pierrepont for sharing this inspiring experience with us!

By Emlyn Crocker
Canton, New York

Emlyn Crocker is Project Manager of Nature Up North. An enthusiastic hiker and naturalist, she also enjoys skiing, cycling, and the thrill of an unexpected adventure in the woods.


Submitted by morgankat on August 1, 2018 - 11:34am

With a woodsmen's team up the road at Paul Smith's College I feel like I could do a lesson along these lines with my MST (Math, Science, Technology Class), something like fire technology through the ages. Thanks for the idea!