Making Fire has been one of the skills I find myself using most. For the most part I use ferro rods but I had wanted to learn how to use the hand drill for fire by friction. I met Erik from burntmud.com last summer at the great lakes skills gathering and he was putting out hand drill coals in under 10 seconds with a mullen stalk and a paw paw base. He made it look way too easy.
I gathered some mullen stalks and some cedar for a base as we dont have any paw paw in the area. I clamped the base to a work table and practiced every now and then for 6-8 weeks. I was really working hard at it and kept getting sore hands and blisters, but I did get the motion and the rhythm down. I soon realized by doing some reading that I was pressing my hands way too hard and by doing that I was getting tired quick and getting blisters. This was kinda the same thing I went through when learning the bow drill, I just figured I could muscle my way through it when in fact I needed good form and some patience to get the thing going. The trick seems to be to keep a good rhythm and pace that does not ware you out until you get the thing warmed up and smoking, then you speed up and add more pressure until you see constant smoke...then you give it all you got and hope for the best!
I now have a few coals under my belt, but am not sure as to what position I like the best, I have done it knealing and on one knee like the bow drill, none of them seems comfortable to me. Once I get some more experiance I will post my other findings...thanks Ben