In the new edition of Mason's "Burma" we read that among other uses to which the bamboo is applied, not the least useful is that of producing fire by friction. For this purpose a joint of thoroughly dry bamboo is selected, about 1½ inches in diameter, and this joint is then split in halves. A ball is now prepared by scraping off shavings from a perfectly dry bamboo, and this ball being placed on some firm support, as a fallen log or piece of rock, one of the above halves is held by its ends firmly down on it, so that the ball of soft fiber is pressed with some force against its inner or concave surface. Another man now takes a piece of bamboo a foot long or less, and shaped with a blunt edge, something like a paper knife, and commences a sawing motion backward and forward across the horizontal piece of bamboo, and just over the spot where the ball of soft fiber is held. The motion is slow at first, and by degrees a groove is formed, which soon deepens as the motion increases in quickness. Soon smoke arises, and the motion is now made as rapid as possible, and by the time the bamboo is cut through not only smoke but sparks are seen, which soon ignite the materials of which the ball beneath is composed.
The first tender spark is now carefully blown, and when well alight the ball is withdrawn, and leaves and other inflammable materials heaped over it, and a fire secured. This is the only method that I am aware of for procuring fire by friction in Burma, but on the hills and out of the way parts, that philosophical toy, the "pyrophorus," is still in use. This consists1 of a short joint of a thick woody bamboo, neatly cut, which forms a cylinder. At the bottom of this a bit of tinder is placed, and a tightly-fitting piston inserted composed of some hard wood. The tube being now held in one hand, or firmly supported, the piston is driven violently down on the tinder by a smart blow from the hand, with the result of igniting the tinder beneath.
Another method of obtaining fire by friction from bamboos is thus described by Captain T.H. Lewin ("Hill Tracts of Chittagong, and the Dwellers Therein", Calcutta, 1869, p. 83), as practiced in the Chittagong Hills. The Tipporahs make use of an ingenious device to obtain fire; they take a piece of dry bamboo, about a foot long, split it in half, and on its outer round surface cut a nick, or notch, about an eighth of an inch broad, circling round the semi-circumference of the bamboo, shallow toward the edges, but deepening in the center until a minute slit of about a line in breadth pierces the inner surface of the bamboo fire-stick. Then a flexible strip of bamboo is taken, about 1½ feet long and an eighth of an inch in breadth, to fit the circling notch, or groove, in the fire-stick. This slip or band is rubbed with fine dry sand, and then passed round the fire-stick, on which the operator stands, a foot on either end. Then the slip, grasped firmly, an end in each hand, is pulled steadily back and forth, increasing gradually in pressure and velocity as the smoke comes.
By the time the fire-band snaps with the friction there ought to appear through the slit in the fire-stick some incandescent dust, and this placed, smouldering as it is, in a nest of dry bamboo shavings, can be gently blown into a flame. - The Gardeners' Chronicle.
It is also made of a solid cylinder of buffalo's horn, with a central hollow of three-sixteenths of an inch in diameter and three inches deep burnt into it. The piston, which fits very tightly in it, is made of iron-wood or some wood equally hard.