I'm not sure whether failures are okay to be shared or we should only post how we had success. Well, I apologise for this topic if the latter is true.
I was impressed with Sprey's post: http://forum.multitool.org/index.php/topic,67483.0.html
Not only did he succeed, he also recorded/wrote good explanations and instructions.
So, most of us grew up reading comics and watching movies where the hero make a fire like Sprey did (the first example that comes to my mind is Tom Hanks' Cast Away: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0162222/
). That is why his post encouraged me and during my camping trip few weeks ago, I diligently gave it a try. I failed like a proud general
but here's my experience:
1) I picked a dried a palm leaf stem (i.e. the thick, woody section running in the middle, along the leaf) and carved its thick end like to a canal-shape. This shape would work as an oxygen gate, I was hoping.
2) Found some dry branches lying around. I actually do not know what kind of wood this is. They were quite bleak, white in colour and had been there for quite some time. They were kinda soft and the had a spongy core.
3) One of these branches had a C-shape, to which I tied a rope. The set-up looked like a bow, you can see in the photos.
4) I rounded the ends of a straight branch and was careful not to oil up the ends with my fingers. That one would be my spindle.
5) Since it would not be possible to hold the end of the fast rotating spindle with my bare hands I improvised: First I used the bottom part of a squeezed plastic bottle (the bottom section of plastic bottles are kinda thicker than the rest and also have an indentation (huh?) which I hope would hold the spindle). When the spindle drilled into the bottle during my first attempt I used the open mouth of the bottle. Well, that did not work well, because the spindle frequently would get stuck in the bottle. Finally I used the universal holder of my Primus cooking set, which worked fine. Sprey used a bearing for this purpose which is a very smart idea IMHO. Tough material and almost zero friction
6) I put very fine (sometimes to the extent of being powdery) pieces of wood and pine needles at the point of the rotation.
Well, I did not even have smoke.
I guess I tried for 15 minutes and then gave up. I gotta say that it was not a steady and constant rotation. The tight rope sometimes was not able to force-rotate the spingle, maybe because I pressed it down too hard with the Primus handle or it would sometimes get stuck in the handle. Maybe I used a wrong type of wood. Maybe I should have picked a tougher spindle, one without a spongy core.