On 19th July (Day 41 of hand drill practice) , I successfully created my first ember using the hand drill without using any thumb loops! I used Elder spindle on Clematis hearth, and I managed to create 3 embers in total that evening, without much effort. I thought I had cracked it! But it took me another week of practising everyday until I could get another ember which was on 25th July. For this ember, I used (what I think is) Willow (which I found in the car) on Clematis and again I created the ember without too much effort in a few minutes.
But I don't seem to be getting consistent results, and so I'm trying to figure out what is different on the times I don't get an ember as the woods are the same, and my technique is the same (or I think it is!) Is it the notch (width\depth)? Is it the humidity? etc
I've not figured it out yet, but I'm on the right track and it feels amazing to be able to create an ember by just using your bare hands and two pieces of wood, and the hand drill makes me feel connected to our ancestors.