2012-06-29

How to make Jerky

I've been making a lot of jerky recently without a dehydrator, and it's super easy. The basic concept with jerky is that you're taking a lean meat, cutting it into thin strips and then drying it out. You want a lean meat so that the fat doesn't go rancid on you. You can add flavoring, but that's mostly a taste thing.

So first step is to pick out the meat. Flank steak is the easiest thing to buy. Sheep jerky is amazing. I bet goat would be even better. As stated before the biggest thing is that you don't want any fat marbled into the cut. (Also cubed is a pain in the butt to slice) Then take a very sharp knife and cut against the grain to make the thinnest slices you can manage. Some people suggest freezing it slightly before hand to make this easier, but I prefer to do it with fresh meat.


If you want to marinate it now's the time. I marinated my last batch using this recipe(without the liquid smoke), but it had too much Worcestershire sauce in it for my tastes. If you marinade let it soak for a few hours, then pull it out, dry it off with a towel and continue from there. In the past I've just sprinkled soy sauce, salt, pepper, and a little hot pepper on the meat strips. It's a bit blander, but way easier.


Okay! Hard part over, now it's just time to hang it up in the backyard to dry. Any dry, warm day should do it. I kind of squish any thick pieces a little thinner as I'm hanging it up, but I don't know how much it matters.

I make sure to pick a sunny spot where the sun hits it full on for the initial part of the drying process. Later on it doesn't mater, but when the meat's wet the flies will be interested in it. Once a crust forms on the outside they can't get at it. I haven't hand any problems with flies ruining the jerky though - only with the neighbor's dog stealing a few pieces.

How long the jerky will have to dry depends on your preferences and your climate. Generally I dry it for two days in the sun (I have to take it in at night so the sprinklers don't get it wet), though this last time I put it up on the balcony after the first day and just left it for three days. I like mine dried to the point where it will snap if you bend it.


That's it! I tend to store mine tied up in a bandana, but a paper bag should also work fine. If your climate is particularly cold or humid this might not work as well, but it works wonders even in May in California.

Notes:
  • Beef in particular seems to get a slightly sour flavor partway through the aging process. If you let it age longer (at least a month or two) it appears to go away again, but this is probably why people flavor their jerky so much.
  • These pictures are all of about a pound of flank steak. More are here

2012-06-23

Review: Feathered Friends Lark Sleeping Bag

Feathered Friends 10F Lark Sleepingbag

Advertised specs

  • Weight: 2lb 3oz
  • Rated temp: 10F
  • Cost: $499.0

Back Story

In 2008 I'd just moved to CA and after a trip to the desert in a 20F rated REI sub-kilo I decided I wanted a warmer sleepingbag, knowing I'd want to explore the high Sierra. I got a Feathered Friends Lark sleepingbag. I got a custom 5'6" bag (they come in 4" increments, I'm 5'6"). Full-length zipper, epic for the shell, pertex for the inner layer. I had intended to get a half-zipper and eVent shell, but the salesman talked me out of both on the phone. I'm still not sure about the shell, but I'm *really* glad I got the full zipper.

I used it for a while and loved it so much that when Jess and I started dating in 2009 I talked her into getting one. I payed for half of it as a gift. She went to the actual store in Seattle and they spent the time to make sure her 6' bag would zip to my 5'6". After a couple of other trips that year we carried them on the AT. I carried mine for all 1500 miles I did and Jess for her 1000. CIMG0463

I'm writing this because I finally gave up the poor beaten bag as it's lost too much loft. I recently got a down quilt that so far I'm in love with. This seemed like the perfect time to write a review of my old trusty sleepingbag

Things We've done to our bags

  • In 2009, a while before the AT I decided to go up into Humboldt Toyobe wilderness. The second night I was at ~9600ft, and the temperature plummeted. I slept behind a giant boulder to break the wind and the venturies behind it were still enough that if I rolled off my pad it would blow away. I didn't use a tent. I was a bit on the cool side until I remembered the bag had a neck baffle, I fell asleep staring at the beautiful stars, otherwise naked in the bag.

    The next morning I woke up and the ground had grown crystals up, it was rock hard. The lake had frozen over. This means it was no warmer than ~20F that night. I was perfectly comfy.

  • On a trip to silver-peak wilderness I camped on a ridgeline one night near the ocean. I didn't yet know this was a bad idea. The fog blew over me FAST the whole night. It was a pretty cold and uncomfortable night, but I was okay. When I got up in the morning I went to pack my sleepingbag and I literally rung water out of it. I packed it anyway not having much choice.

    Later that day I stopped in a field in the sun and lay it out to dry for a while. I unzipped it all the way and spread it out. As it got towards evening I zipped it up and crawled in. By the time I went to sleep it was just damp, and by morning it was basically dry and fluffy again.

  • In 2010 we decided to go snowcaving . The temperatures dropped to 7 outside that night. I soaked my bag by accident with my tights. THIS night I slept in a lot of extra clothing (tights and jacket), due to exhaustion and soaking the bag.
  • We carried these bags for the whole time we were on the AT, despite them being "warmer than needed" we were *extremely* happy we had them when in the smokies.
  • In 2010 in Yosemite I had gotten soaked due to a failed raincoat experiment. Jess barely got a fire started to cook dinner. I was going hypothermic and had soaked my vest. I crawled into my bag, and after a bit of shivering was just fine.
  • A couple other snowshoe trips. Trips with heavy dew. Jess got her bag damp many many nights on the AT as she would slide out of the tarp while sleeping. 9 days of rain in the Smokies near freezing. 5 days of rain just crossing freezing at night with my parents in the whites. etc. With all of that I've always been fine, the snowcaving trip was the only time I needed clothing with it.

Discovered properties

  • Jess and I both put off a fair amount of heat while sleeping, we can dry these bags after a normal natural soaking (I.E. not a full long-duration dunking) in 1 day in the sun, and 1 night sleeping.
  • The 5'6" model fits in a 3 liter eVent drysack (my favorite sacks), if you're a bit talented.
  • The 6' model needs the larger 6 liter compression sack.
  • I've slept in this bag ~10F with no additional clothing. New, I'd trust it to 0F. This is in contrast to an REI sub-kilo 20F, which I'd be confident with down to ~25F.
  • It depends on the person how much it loses loft as it ages. My sweat is very caustic. I wear out a set of sheets in ~1 year, but now (2012) my bag is relegated to being a 30F bag. Washing only helps it a little for me. Jess' bag is still going strong. With a washing it returns almost to new condition each time. We've been following the manufacturers recommendations including mostly their soap, it does seem not all soaps are created equal. Jess' washed her bag twice, mine has been washed maybe 4 times or so.
  • Jess' bag formed one hole in it in it's whole lifetime. This was due to a hot ember, not a flaw. Remember that we (especially Jess) often sleep directly on the ground and are generally pretty hard on gear. She stitched it up no problems.
  • The baffles are circular. When the bag is new this doesn't matter, but when the down is less fluffy then optimal, you'll find yourself shifting the down around on a cold night. It also slows down drying more if the down starts clumping, since it makes bigger clumps. Personally I do NOT see this as a feature, and other things being equal would prefer a full box baffle.
  • In practice we don't zip them together. Jess sleeps curled up. We tried zipping them together a couple of times and it didn't go well :P.
  • A full zipper is really really nice, as it can reduce drying times and allows it to work better as a quilt.
  • Simple neck baffles are the bomb.
  • It will shed light dew relatively well, but only light dew.
  • The grey color disappears in a field (great for stealthing).

So, what do we think?

Is it expensive? Yes. Is it worth it? That depends. Note my temperature commentary above (good too 0F for me). Now look at the weight of the bag at the top. Now try and name another bag that can do that temperature in < 1 KG and 3 liters. THAT is what this bag is for.

I figure the single piece of gear most likely to save my life is my sleepingbag. For me the weight and volume means there's rarely a reason not to carry this bag. I don't worry where I'm going or what I'm doing. 12,000ft on whitney? used it. A weekend with a tiny little daypack in mendocino? Yup, used it there too.

If that's worth paying double the price of some other bags to you? That's the decision. This is a great bag. It's well made, and absolutely is as warm as advertised. You're getting at least what you think you're paying for. Jess thinks it's like sleeping in a cloud, so there's always that too :). If you don't need it though, there's numerous cheaper solutions.

There are of course other options in this category as well. This is the 3'rd decent sleeping-bag I've owned. All have been down. I've heard great things about several other brands, and so far I'm loving my new overstuffed 10F down quilt. YMMV as always.

2012-06-18

New Webstore/Gearlist!

So, we've made several changes to the site that you might have noticed:
  1. We've removed the random and irrelevant ads.
  2. We've added amazon links where relevant from some of our blog posts. We're only putting them at the END of the post, and we're going to make sure they are very obviously advertising.
  3. We've put up a store on amazon, linked from the blog. This contains only gear we've actually used fairly extensively, and liked (or at least gear nearly identical to such). Each product also has a short blurb about what we think of the gear, and links back to our reviews where relevant. Hopefully this will prove useful to our readers as much as helpful to us.
So, the goal is to make the advertising less obnoxious, and more helpful. Please let us know if you think we did otherwise!

2012-06-17

On T-shirts

A short story

At some point while in college I got annoyed at dealing with clothing. I played a little with washing things by hand and then decided to try an experiment.

I decided to go with only one set of clothing. That is: one pair of boxers, one pair of shorts, 1 pair of socks, and 1 t-shirt. At the time I never wore long-pants (I used warm tights and/or wind-pants in the winter), so this sufficed for all of my first-layer needs.

Well, it worked, I went a year this way, and I actually *liked* it. Every night I would wash my clothing by hand using Dr Brauners and baking soda, and hang it up to dry. As a bit of a cheat I had a sorong I would wear for the short remainder of the evening. In the morning I'd put the same clothes back on. The only thing that particularly annoyed me was washing socks.

I continued the experiment but with multiple socks for another year. More recently I've switched to having more like 3 shirts and 2 pairs of shorts and boxers - so I don't have to do laundry quite as often. I've gone kinda crazy/lazy, think I own 5 shirts now!

I also hiked the Appalachian trail with Jess, when I did so I used one pair of women's running shorts (for decency), one pair of compression shorts, and 1 t-shirt.
100_0186
(Ice-breaker 200 weight tech-t)

An opportunity

In this time I had a rather unique opportunity to evaluate clothing. Wearing the same shirt every day you become keenly aware of how fast they wear out. It turns out that most t-shirts won't even last a year. In fact, some will barely last a couple of months!

I also got an opportunity to find out exactly how well different clothing dried overnight, and as I softened my initial experiment, how long they took to start to smell. So, here's some of what I learned.

The T-shirts!

First, material:
  • Plastics: Plastics can be the most durable option. Surprisingly, they can also be the least durable. The longest I ever had a shirt last was a bit over year. This was a Columbia shirt designed to dry quickly. The shortest I ever had a shirt was ~1 month, I forget the brand but it was also plastic. The key is that the first one was a very dense weave, the second felt almost like a sponge. The first shirt didn't ever snag on anything, the second snagged on everything, and each time pull a fiber out into a little loop that stuck out off the shirt. This meant the shirt looked absolutely terrible in NO-time. Be careful of the weave! Note that silver stitched in does help keep odor down, but it only gets it marginally better than cotton. The one like a sponge dried *okay*, the other dried as well as any shirt does.
  • Cotton: Again, it's all about the weave. A waffle-weave cotton shirt lasts fairly well (~6-8 months). It looks a bit hippy for some people's tastes, but works well for me. Surprisingly, a waffle-weave cotton will actually dry over night no problem, as well as many plastic shirts. Note that a waffle weave cotton is approximately the worst option for cold, and approximately the best option for the desert. A more normal weave shirt won't dry overnight, as a result I've never done more extensive testing on them.
    me_hiking
    (Standard T-shirt, not waffle)
  • Marino Wool: This is my favorite option because it's the most flexible. The number one advantage is smell. Marino beats every other option for smell hands down. The biggest downside is lifetime. It loses to the good plastics, and it loses slightly to the waffle-weave cotton. Other great feature though is it's wicking properties, and the fact that it's warm and comfy when wet. It will keep you a touch warmer than some options, but regulates to that temp extremely well. On the AT I wore an icebreaker marino wool t-shirt, it was a bit used at the start. 1500 miles later I'd torn out both shoulders and sewn them back up. Overall the shirt performed beautifully.

P1000351
(200 weight icebreaker tech-t)

Further notes:

Notes on wool: I wore smartool marino shirts for a little while, and then stopped. These do NOT last long enough, these would live 3-months or less and then get so full of holes I couldn't wear them in public. For wool t-shirts the best I've found are icebreaker 200 weight shirts. Note that the tech-t is the best looking as a normal t-shirt, but for backpacking it has those shoulders that I tore out on the AT. Icebraeaker makes raglan sleeve shirts, which should help the shoulders last a lot better when under the stress of a backpack.
robinson_lakes_trail_me
(Smartool T-shirt)

Backpacking: For serious backpacking, a discussion of t-shirts is a little silly. A shirt serves to keep bugs and brush off your skin, block sun, and be decent for town. Maybe you might need it occasionally 'til you get calluses on your shoulders. IMHO, if you need it for bugs, brush, or sun, you need a long-sleeve shirt. For the AT you can easily tan enough to just go shirtless whenever you're on the trail for sun purposes. More and more I've been moving towards this model - and thus thinking of t-shirts as something for society. When you think this way things like raglan sleeves are for fashion, since you won't have it on most of the time with a pack anyway. I will say that wool makes a nice base-layer.
100_0127
(really bad gnats while on the AT)

Edit: Sadly, it appears the Tech-T is no longer made, only the Tech-T lite, which is 150 instead of 200 weight - so the wear lifetime will be somewhat shorter, though it is cooler.

2012-06-12

Super simple tarp pitch

This is the fastest and easiest pitch I know. It requires a tarp, a tree, and three stakes (optional) A flat 8'x10' tarp is pictured here, though a 6'x8' would also work.

First find a tree with a nice spot to one side of it. The space needs to extend a fair distance from the tree, about ten feet.

Tie one corner of your tarp to the tree at about head height. Then, grab the diagonally opposed corner and stake it out as far away from the tree as you can. If you don't have any stakes just hold it down with a log or rock, or even tie it to some bushes. This is a low tension pitch so it's fairly forgiving. Then take the two remaining corners and stake or tie them to the ground so everything is taut.

Voila! You have a shelter that will comfortably sleep two. An yes, that's a very car shaped tree... it's just the picture I had laying around.


Note: Your head will be at the tree side of the shelter, so make sure that side is up hill unless you like inversions.

Unfortunately side blown rain will still get you wet in this shelter, and a heavy wind from the tree side of the shelter would put a lot of strain on the pitch and possibly collapse it. I've never had that happen, but I don't use this pitch in storms.

This shelter works best in the same weather where an umbrella would keep you dry. That is to say it's useful for rain in still air, and for keeping off heavy dews. I learned this pitch in Seattle, where the weather is almost always perfect for it. It's also great for dealing with fog coming off the ocean, which is key down in California. In general the openness makes it ideal to cook under and it's tall enough to sit up in, but my favorite thing about this pitch is that almost half the setup time is pulling the supplies out of my pack.

2012-06-10

Foraging in June

Gathering season is getting rolling. Wild oats, and doc seeds are both in. Elderberry and walnuts coming soon. Cattail pollen is in depending on location, cattail shoots are delicious right now.

Here's a great list of plants and uses
http://primitiveways.com/#anchor707849

Here's a pretty complete list, but not very trustworthy (good for ideas though). At a glance Jess and I saw a couple of flaws.
http://www.laspilitas.com/classes/edible.htm

2012-06-07

Tips for spinning up fire

We're not experts yet, but we've gathered quite a lot of tricks from various people, and we have succeeded in spinning up a few fires now, so I wanted to share some of those tips. P1000861 Regardless of other details what we're talking about here is starting a fire by creating heat via spinning a stick against a board. As you spin the stick you create a fine powder, the goal is to get this powder to compact into a nice little block right where all the heat is, so that that block of powder will ignite (at this point smoke will pour out if it, even once you stop, blowing on it lightly will show a bit of hot red). You then take this block, drop it into a tinder bundle, and blow that very slightly glowing little pack of powder into igniting the tinder around it. Now it's just a matter of basic fire skill to turn that burning tinder into a full fledged fire.

The stick that you spin is called a "drill" or sometimes "spindle" and the board you spin it against is called a "hearth" or "hearth-board".

Selecting wood type

So, How do you make this happen? You need to create a powder, usually you want this powder to come from the hearth-board. This means you usually want the hearth board to be a bit softer than the drill. Here's some of the easier woods to use:
  • Hand Drills:
    • Seep willow (tried)
    • Thick walled elderberry (seen it used)
    • Buckeye sucker (tried)
    • Sojaro rib (seen it used)
    • Ceder (tried)
  • Bow Drills:
    • Sotol (tried)
    • Yucca stalk or root (tried)
    • Seep willow (tried)
  • Hearths:
    • Sojaro cactus root or rib (tried)
    • ceder (tried)
    • buckeye (tried)
    • cottonwood root (tried)
This is absolutely a partial list. With enough skill almost any wood can be used, but as a rule soft woods (woods you can press your fingernail into) that aren't pitchy are good candidates for easy starts. At a gathering I was at recently, I heard that 3 ripped and skilled guys managed to start a hand-drill fire with ironwood, so "works" is all relative. I also know a guy who can start a fire in one pass down the drill with oak on oak. But... presumably since you're reading this, you want the easier methods.


There are a lot of properties that matter, frictional coefficient, fire hardening, oilyness, and ignition temperature are some examples. A major factor in my experience is whether the hearth board will be worn away by the drill, and maybe a bit of the drill worn away, or whether one or both the drill and board will basically just polish each other. This seems to be why oak, maple, or other hardwoods are so hard to use. Basically, getting the powder is a heck of a lot more work , and getting enough friction to build heat is hard to do before it's too polished, you need crazy downforce to make it work.
Remember that you're making fire, everything has to be dry. If you cut a fresh sucker of buckeye you'll have to dry it before it'll be easy to use. I've been told that wood that dies on the plant will be weaker than wood that's cut or broken - because the plant pulls all of the stuff out of it. I've also heard this matters particularly for the already week woods like elderberry. Be aware that sticks in shade grow differently than those in the sun, even on the same plant. Plants with water grow differently than those without, sticks growing up grow differently than those growing outwards, etc. So pay attention not just to the type of plant, but everything else about the environment the specific stick you're using came from.

Okay, so you've found some sticks that you think are good potentials. You can dig your fingernail into it. Now you want to decide if you're doing a hand-drill or a bow-drill. Bow-drill is easier for most people, but to use a bow-drill you need some good solid twine, a curved stick, and a hub to spin the drill in. Vegetable twine can work, but unless you're super good it'll need to be decent quality (think yucca, redwood cambium, or dogbane). I've read of using a strip of rawhide off a squirrel but it barely worked before breaking.

Selecting materials

P1000862
Tinder: I'm not going into detail in THIS article on tinder. I highly recommend learning to start a fire with a sparker of some kind *before* trying to spin up a fire. The long and short of it is, get the best stuff you can, and surprisingly quantity CAN help if your quality is low. But if your quality is high get quantity anyway. The last thing you want is to do all that work and get a cinder just to fail at the "easy" part of turning that cinder into a fire. When it comes to tinder do it once, do it big, and do it right. 

Drill: If you're making a bowdrill, grab something around the size of your thumb or a bit larger. It's easiest if it's straight for 6-9 inches, cut it to this around length. You want it to come ~1/2 of the way up your lower leg. If you're using a handdrill grab something the size of your pinky or a bit smaller. (I'm 5' 6" and have large hands, but midsized fingers - adjust as needed for other sized hands). It should be at least 2 ft long.

Hearth: I'd aim for a minimum width of about twice the diameter of the drill you're using. You'll want it to be a good 8" long or more, so you have some space to put your foot on one end and drill on the other. Note that you'll need to flatten the hearth on BOTH sides,. Flattening the bottom as well as top is really important because if you can't get it to sit totally stably you'll repeatedly disturb the powder you've built up losing both the heat and the powder.

Bowdrill specific stuff: 


For bowdrill you need 3 more components. You'll need a knuckle for the top of the spindle to spin in, you'll need a nice length stick with a curve in it about the length of your arm, and you'll need twine to attach to the bent stick to make a bow.

Twine: need something thick and not too smooth that will grip the spindle. If it's too slick it will slide on the spindle cutting into it.

knuckle: It makes absolutely no difference what you use for this, it just shouldn't have much friction. A rock with a dent in it is great. If your rock doesn't have a dent you can make one given an hour or so of pecking. The knuckle-bone from a ruminant is also a popular choice and a bit easier. Supposedly roots or knots from some trees work well. If worse comes to worse you can just use another chunk of wood, you'll just want to really sharpen the spindle on this end to reduce friction.

Making components

You have all your materials. Now to make them into the components you need - note that you'll probably reshape several times again while trying to spin it up as you realize things are slightly off Drill: Now sharpen the bottom point of the drill a little. You want a pretty shallow point, at probably 140 degrees or shallower. Jess says sharper points work for the earlier steps, so as with all of this stuff experiment. For bowdrill sharpen the other end at a much steeper angle, something that will help it spin smoothly in the knuckle. You can also take a little oil from behind your ear or the side of your nose and rub that onto that end of the spindle. Do NOT put this on the bottom! we want friction and thus heat at that end!

Hearth: Take the hearth board and place your spindle on the board just a bit in from the edge. You probably want the edge of the spindle about 1/8" or so from the edge of the board. Wherever this places the tip of your spindle, drill a small hole with your pocket knife or stone blade.

Bowdrill technique:

Bow: For a bowdrill you'll want to make a bow with the twine. Use a clove hitch to tie the twine to the drill, this will let you adjust tension, if it slides too much you can use a constrictor hitch or something else instead, a timber hitch might also be a good choice.

Take the drill and push it against the bow-string. With a bit of a spinning motion you should be able to wrap the twine around the spindle one round. The twine should be taught at this point, but not SUPER tight. Note that if it's just a touch loose that'll be *okay* in another minute.

Stance: If you are right handed get down on your right knee and place your left foot on the hearth board with some weight on it. Get yourself up and *over* the hearth. Take the knuckle with your left hand and lock it up under your left shinbone (arm coming around from the outside). This will keep it stable so the spindle doesn't wobble all over the place.

Place the drill in the hole with the whole setup and start it spinning with the bow. Do this smoothly and slowly, don't worry about speed at all. The spindle will no doubt shoot away from you a good 5 feet in no-time. Go get it and try again. Be patient and keep reshaping things. You may need to tweak the shape of the tip, the hole in the board, the back of the board, or maybe dig a bit in the dirt or similar to get the hearth to be really stable and the drill to stay in there. Note that if you are rocking around as you move your spindle will end up shooting out. If your twine is sliding on the spindle you have more friction in the spindle than you do in the twine against the spindle. You can increase the twine friction by holding it so you push a bit on the twine with your right hand. If the spindle isn't spinning check your knuckle, make sure the spindle is straight, oil the top again with nose or ear wax/oil. Use the bow in *long* strokes. Every time you switch direction you stop, which will let it cool down, so a long stroke will involve a lot less work. Keep at it reshaping and tweaking until everything is comfortable and smooth. If you can't get it check your stance from the last paragraph - it really really matters, lock that hand under the shinbone.

Alright, so you've got the right wood, you've got the right sizes and shapes, you've got it spinning nicely, and if it's spinning nicely then by now incidentally you've burned a nice circle into the hearth board. The next step then is to make the powder we need. Take a knife and cut a notch into the hearth right next to the hole you burned. There's a lot of debate about this, so try various differences, but cut a narrow notch going almost but not quite half-way across the hole you burned. Several people have told me to make this notch wider at the bottom than the top - I suspect though that this only matters for hand-drill (where the drill is thin), not so much for bow-drill where you have plenty of space.

If your spindle is pointy, cut the tip of the point off (so it will rub on the edges more instead of sitting on the tip. The wood is moving faster at the edges). If the wood of the spindle is starting to fire-harden and shine, cut it off and reshape the tip again. If you had any issue at all with fire-hardening, take a pinch of gritty soil (preferably silt) and drop it in the hole in the hearth, this will let you wear off the shiny layer as you go.

Now get a surface of some kind. A rock or a leaf works well. Carefully place this under the hearth board where the notch is. This will catch the dust and let it build up in the notch into a packed pile ready to ignite. Make sure you get the hearth-board stable again so that it doesn't rock at ALL. This is *really really* important. If your hearth moves, you basically start over (you will start over a few times, but keep that in mind).

Get back in the stance and start back at it with slow long even strokes, As you go you should be building up powder in the notch. If it squeaks push a touch harder. Keep it easy and slow, but try not to stop. That powder is already warm, and if you lose that warmth you have to get it back, why do that? If you take off now though you'll probably wear out before you have a fire, or more likely not move smoothly enough and all your drill will go flying again. Only speed up if you go for a couple of minutes and are getting no powder, no smoke, no burn-in, and no squeak.

Once you see you have good powder buildup, it should mostly fill the notch, try and speed up a little. Keep it smooth and even with long strokes, but try and get a little more speed without losing that smoothness. Think about form not about power. About now you'll start to see smoke coming from the board. That's AWESOME! Don't STOP! Also, don't breath out really deeply looking at the board, you'll blow all the powder away! Keep breathing, and keep it going, don't speed up, don't go crazy, don't use up all your energy. Now you've got a continuous stream of smoke coming out the whole time. Keep going! At some point you'll have a significant amount of smoke coming out and hopefully you will even start to see red.

Once you see a bit of red in the powder... stop. Very very carefully take the board and lift it off your catching surface. flick the board with your finger to get it to drop the cinder you've made.

Take the cinder and drop it in the center of the best tinder bundle you could possibly have gathered (which I'm sure you were meticulous about with wonderful fluff in the center and maybe some good dry grass or shredded dry inner cambium etc.) Take the tinder bundle and hold it *tight*. You want to make sure a decent amount of material is touching the cinder in the middle. It should be just starting to smoke. Blow on it very lightly but with a thin stream of air. As more smoke comes out blow harder on it (still with the thin stream). At some point you'll start to see flames, you may want to put it down somewhere now before you burn yourself :). CONGRATULATIONS, you've just made fire from nothing but some wood and twine!

If you fail (and you will, if not now than later), don't throw it all away. That powder is a damned good start. If your last hole is going to wear through make a new one, and stick the old powder into the new notch yourself. This may save you a lot of extra work. Go back to all the checks you did before, check your technique, make it smooth and comfortable.

Handdrill technique

Hand drill is all of the same concepts, except now you don't get the mechanical advantage that the bow gave you. Why would someone do this you ask? With bowdrill you need a bow, you need twine, and you need a knuckle. That's a lot of extra complexity. Twine isn't always easy to make everywhere you go. A hand-drill requires 2 sticks, and that's all.

A few tips for handdrills though.
- Before you start, try clapping your hands until they are both slightly red. This sounds silly, but many find that it helps stave off blisters... others find it makes no difference. Personally it seems to work for me.
- you'll want to put the skinny end on the bottom, DON'T! The reason we're using a skinny drill is actually a matter of gear ratios basically, you want your hand on the skinniest part of the drill, as the same motion will then move the wider part of the drill farther.
- As you spin the drill notice the downforce you create on the spindle. You'll need quite a bit of pressure. If you focus on pushing down your hands will slide down the stick. Focus on form and push *in* pretty hard, this will let you slide downwards less for the same downwards force. Use as much of your hand as you can, as again this is less work. Some people find they can do it with just their palms, but just like the longer stroke with the bow-drill, you get more cooling time this way. Note that the bottom of the palm continuing into the pinky is the easiest place for most people to get the needed friction ('cause of the muscle structure there).
- Finding a sufficiently straight stick of the right wood is extremely difficult in modern times. Natives used to coppice buckeye and other plants to get straighter sticks, but we don't do that these days. So, find something relatively straight, preferably with a fairly simple bend (not many small bends). If you have a fire already (it's not like you're trying to start one or anything :P) hold the spindle over the fire (preferably coals) and warm it up. With it pretty warm try bending the wood straight. Keep bending and warming. Surprisingly the wood will actually straighten this way.

In closing

One last note for all of this. Don't rush. Spend the time to get the right materials, this makes all the difference. Spend the time to flatten the hearth properly. Spend the time to find a straight spindle, and straighten it more if you can. Make sure to get a spindle that's long enough in either case. Take all the little knobs off it so you can work it smoothly and not hurt your hands. Keep trying and keep experimenting.