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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 70

3. The Drill

3. The Drill.

The description of the drill is singularly interesting. The fly-wheel was originally a couple of very heavy stones, of which I have several in my collection. Mr. White's description suggests the top of the drill-spindle working in a drill-head or mouthpiece. Mr. Wohlers makes it work without this support. Whether the primitive Maoris ever had a mouthpiece is doubtful: to any one who has used a drill it would seem incredible that a man who had once used one should ever try and work a drill without one. The late Mr. I. N. Watt, Sheriff of Otago, who was a very clever mechanician, told me that when he first went to Taranaki, of which province he was Superintendent, the Maoris had a very primitive drill. He taught them to make and use the bird-cage drill, and they at once abandoned their own. The primitive drill was identical with the balanced drill described by Mr. Wohlers. Mr. Watt informed me that the first he saw was steadily and accurately worked, boring a piece of greenstone, by a blind old man. The statement as to the character of the drill is confirmed by my brother-in-law, Mr. M, Cook, of this city, who tells me that in 1888 he saw an old Maori at Rotorua, in the North Island, sitting on the ground, holding down a hei-tiki by means of his two great toes, and drilling a bole through it, using such a drill as is above described, supporting it by merely balancing it.

This is the answer to Mr. Tylor's remark upon an apparent omission m Thomson's description of this drill ("Story of New Zealand," vol. i., p. 203): "There must, of course, be some means of keeping the spindle upright" (Tylor's "Early History of Mankind," p. 242). "Captain Cook could not ascertain how holes were bored in the handles of greenstone meres, as he saw no instrument sufficiently hard for that purpose. It is now known that these holes are drilled with a sharp wooden page 50 stick 10in. long, to the centre of which two stones are attached so as to exert pressure and perform the office of a fly-wheel The requisite rotatory motion is given to the stick by two strings pulled alternately."

Thomson, in his account of the drill, obviously draws upon Dr. Shortland, who, describing his visit to Waikouaiti, the whaling-station of the late Mr. John Jones, says, "Here, also, I saw the drill with which holes are bored through this stone. It is formed by means of a straight stick 10in. or 12in. long, and two stones of equal weight, which are fastened about its central point, one on either side, opposite each other, so as to perform the office of the fly-wheel in machinery, and to exert the required pressure. One end of the stick, or, as we may call it, shaft, of the instrument is applied to the pounamu where the hole is to be bored. Near the other end are tied two strings of moderate length. One of these is wound round the shaft, close to the point of its attachment, and its extremity is held in one hand while the extremity of the other string is held in the other hand. A motion is now given by pulling on the former string, which, as it unwinds, causes the instrument to revolve, and the other string becomes coiled round the shaft. This is then pulled on with a similar result, and so the motion is kept up by alternately pulling on either string. The point of the instrument can thus be made to twirl round backwards and forwards as rapidly as the point of a drill moved by a bow, and merely requires to be constantly supplied with a little fine hard sand and water in order to eat its way through the pounamu or other stone, on which steel would make no impression." (Pl. XXXVIII.)

It is noteworthy that Dr. Shortland is the only authority I have quoted who describes the drill without a stone point, the grinding being done by sand alone.

Brunner, in his journey down the West Coast in 1846, found at Pahutani limestone rock containing pure flints, which he erroneously thought occurred nowhere else in New Zealand and ascertained that presents of this stone were carried by the natives to all parts of New Zealand as material for boring greenstone. His companion Major Heaphy's account of the drill then used has already been quoted.

The Rev. R. Taylor, in his celebrated work, "Te Ika a Maui," says that to drill a hole the Maori ties a small piece of basalt or obsidian firmly to the end of a stick the sides of which are weighted with two heavy stones. Attached to the other end of the stick is a string, by which it is made to revolve; and, to keep the point of the instrument constantly on the same spot, a piece of perforated wood is placed over it. Thus ornaments in the shape of human figures are formed. It page 51 appears to me evident, however, that the piece of perforated wood is by no means always used; hence the clumsiness of many holes.