How to Start a Fire with Sticks

Sharing is caring!

Whether you want to prepare for a survival situation or just thinking about going full-on caveman on your next camping trip, learning how to start a fire with sticks is an essential skill to learn. But it’s difficult and requires plenty of practice before you can get it right. So, here I’m going to teach you exactly that so you can start practicing right away. 

You can start a fire with sticks using three methods. The hand drill, the bow drill, and the fire plow method. They differ in technique but have a similar objective. Which is to create friction to form embers that will help ignite a flame. 

Depending on the circumstances you are in, the resources you have, and your preference, knowing how to do any one of them can become useful. That is why it’s best that you learn all three. So, read till the end to learn how to do each one of them properly. 

What You Need

Unless you’re a sorcerer, you will be needing some resources to make your fire. Here, are the common items that you will need no matter which method you follow –

1. A wooden stick

Select a comparatively smooth stick as thick as your pinkie finger and about 15 inches tall and make sure that it’s straight and pointy. This stick will serve as your drill for the whole hand drilling process.

Note: If you can’t find a pointy stick then use a sharp rock or a pocket knife (If you) to shape it. The sharpening will help to exert more pressure on the wooden slab.

2. A fireboard

You must go for a wood block with a thickness of half an inch. If your board is too thick, it won’t catch fire. On the contrary, if it’s too thin, it will burn through without lighting up. So, choosing the right thickness is a vital step in the process. 

You can use wood such as cypress, cottonwood, cedar, yucca, and so on. But it cannot be from a resinous tree. Make sure to hold the wood steady and dig a diameter wide depression in the fireboard you picked. Use your pocketknife or a stone with sharp edges for this and ensure that it’s bigger than your drill. This will help keep the stick in place without slipping out of control.

Next up, cut a notch at the edge of the depression you made into your firewood. The notch will create an exit for your ember to fall upon the tinder.

3. Tinder

Tinder is what you’ll burn to create the fire. This has to be something that easily lights into the fire. Dry grass, dry leaves, cattail fluff, etc. can be used. 

4. Firewood

You will need firewood to feed the fire and keep it alive. Obviously, there isn’t going to be any flames if there is nothing boring. Maple, birch, oak, ash, and other sorts of dry hard wood would do. 

The Three Methods of Starting a Fire with Sticks 

Now I will explain how you can create fire using the three methods I’ve mentioned earlier. You’ll need a fair bit of practice before you can do them right. So, make sure you follow my instructions and practice in your back yard or somewhere open and safe.

The Hand Drill Method 

This is probably the most ancient yet common method of starting a fire. Using your hands, you will need to rotate a stick vigorously on a piece of wood to create embers which you will later transfer to your tinder to produce fire. 

The best part of this method is that you can start a fire with absolutely no tools at your disposal. Which is the more likely scenario if you are in a survival situation. Though not the most efficient nor reliable method, this is probably the most useful one if you find yourself stranded somewhere.

The Process –

● Take the fireboard you just prepared and put thin slices of wood under it to collect the embers.

● Put your stick into the depression and start rotating it between your palms fast while holding the board steady. 

● Soon, you’ll start seeing smoke and dusting from the pointy edge of your stick. The smoke indicates that the coal is forming. At this point, you’ll want to rotate the stick fast. 

● Once you see the board is starting to glow a bit, shift the formed ember on the ember collector to the tinder. 

● Now, gently blow on the embers. As the smoke increases blow harder and harder until the tinder catches on fire. Then use the firewood to feed and keep it aflame. 

The Bow Drill Method 

The bow drill method is almost identical to the hand drill method. But it is a bit more advance. Starting a fire is a bit easier using the bow drill method. But it does require you to have a few tools or make them. In this case, the extra tool you are going to need is a bow which I think you probably guess from the name of this method. 

The Process – 

You can also make your very own bow by tying a shoelace at the ends of a strong yet flexible stick. 

● Wrap the string of the bow around the stick. Ensure the string is not touching itself when you wrap it around your drilling stick. This will keep the string from ripping. 

● Now, take the right posture and prepare the firewood, ember collector, and stick just the same way in the hand drill method. 

● Grasp hold onto the handle of the bow and start creating friction by pulling it back and forth. Make sure that the stick is upright and the handle parallels to your board.

● Soon. the ember will form which you will need to transfer to your tinder to create the flame. 

The Fire Plow Method

The fire plow method uses a different technique. In this case, you will be creating friction by rubbing instead of drilling. For this, you’ll need a flat piece of wood to cut a pathway along the wood length. You can do this with a sharp knife or dagger. The wood you pick as your fireboard should be soft enough for you to be able to use your fingernail to bruise the wood. 

The Process –

● Prepare the firewood and your drill the same way as mentioned previously. Then, start running your drill back and forth on the cut pathway. 

● Eventually, you’ll want to create a long groove in the middle of the fireboard by causing friction. 

● Consequently, you’ll need to keep rubbing the trip of the stick with force. Make sure the angle is no more than 45 degrees. 

● Soon, you’ll start seeing sparks of flames. At this point, quickly move the formed ember to the tinder to start the fire.

Here’s a video that should give you a proper idea of how to do it –

Precautions for Starting A Fire

There’s nothing more enjoyable than starting a cozy fire in the woods. But that enjoyment can quickly turn into a hazardous situation if you don’t take the necessary safety precautions.

  1. Make sure the fire pit is at least fifteen feet away from all tents.
  2. Stay away from dry areas.
  3. Wear safety goggles or glasses to prevent the fire sparks from blinding you.
  4. Start the fire in a clean place without dry leaves or vegetation. 
  5. Take the wind and its direction into account while starting the fire.


Sure, starting a fire on your own can seem a little daunting. But how cool is it to know how to create a fire with sticks and actually do it? After reading this article, you should be able to start a fire from scratch in three different ways. And I, for one, think you need a pat on the back for such an achievement. 

So, thanks for staying here till the end, and I hope it has helped you on your next adventure. Till the next time, be safe and sound!


Shanna is the 2nd half of Top Outdoor Survival. Like Forest, she has a passion for guns and knives. They love to go on a survival trip at least once a year. They love to go camping, hiking, and traveling.

Recent Posts