Page:Firemaking Apparatus in the U.S. National Museum.djvu/5

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FIRE-MAKING APPARATUS IN THE U.S. NATIONAL MUSEUM



BY WALTER HOUGH.


 Man in his originals seems to be a thing unarmed and naked, and unable to help itself, as needing the aid of many things; therefore Promethius makes haste to find out fire, which suppediates and yields comfort and help in a manner to all human wants and necessities; so that if the soul be the form of forms, and the hand be the instrument of instruments, fire deserves well to be called the succor of succors, or the help of helps, that infinite ways afford aid and assistance to all labors and the meachanical arts, and to the sciences themselves.―BACON.―Wisdom of the ancients, Prometheus, Works, vol. iii. Lond., 1825, p. 72.
 There is a prevalent belief that to make fire by rubbing two pieces of wood is very difficult. It is not so; the writer has repeatedly made fire in thirty seconds by twirling sticks and in five seconds with the bow drill.
 Many travelers relate that they have seen various people making fire with sticks of wood. The most common way, by twirling one stick upon another is well described by Pere Lafitau with reference to the Hurons and Iroquois.
 They take two pieces of cedar wood, dry and light; they hold one piece firmly down with the knee and in a cavity which they have made with a beaver-tooth or with the point of a knife on the edge of one of these pieces of wood which is flat and a little larger, they insert the other piece which is round and pointed and turn and press down with so much rapidity and violence that the material of the wood agitated with vehemence falls off in a rain of fire by means of a crack or little canal which leaps from the cavity over a match [slow match]. This match receives the sparks which fall, and preserves them for a long time and from which they can make a large fire by touching it to other dry materials.[1]
 All these descriptions omit details that are essential to the comprehension of the reader. There is a great knack in twirling the vertical stick. It is taken between the palms of the outstretched hands, which are drawn backwards and forwards past each other almost to the finger tips, thus giving the drill a reciprocating motion. At the same time a strong downward pressure, is given which may be called a rotating pressure. The hands move down the drill; when they nearly reach the lower end they are brought back to the top with a quick, deft motion. This is repeated as rapidly as possible. If the lower part of the drill is observed when the motion begins it will be seen that powder is ground

  1. Lafitau.―Moeurs des Sauvages Ameriquains. Paris, 1724. II. p. 242, 243.