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Sticks and Stones: birth and journey of an arrow


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Those of you who know me, know I enjoy making and hunting with primitive and traditional archery equipment.  As a “mountain man” and naturalist, I enjoy testing my primitive skills and using as much of my harvests as possible.  And as a Geologist, I like rocks and have been learning how to knap stone tools and points.  I thought some of you would like to follow as I construct and hunt with a primitive arrow (using one of my selfbows).

The arrow shaft:

I cut red dogwood or ash shoots for my primitive arrow shafts.  I sort them based on diameter and flaws (knots, etc.), bundle them tightly, and let them air dry.  Each day or so during the drying process I hand straighten the shafts and rebundle. Once dry, I scrap the bark off with a piece of sharp chert and carefully harden the shafts in a fire.  I’ll then pick out a few of the best shafts for my arrows (based on spine weight and straightness).  As I am currently low on shafts, I’m going to use a cedar shaft for this arrow.

The arrow point:

I typically hunt with 2 blade (or 3 blade) fixed broadheads as my bows are not fast enough to open mechanical broadheads...plus I like to keep things as primitive or traditional as possible.  I have not yet harvested a deer with a stone point although I have had a couple clean misses over the past several years.

As an aside, when I say primitive and traditional; I define primitive as using a selfbow or stick bow and wood arrows with selfnocks (nocks cut into the arrow shaft and typically wrapped with sinew to prevent splitting).  The points can be made of steel, rock, bone.  Traditional refers to a laminated (typically with glass and wood veneers) long bow or recurve bow and wood, aluminum, or carbon arrows with plastic nocks and a steel points.

I have been learning how to knap stone points and tools for several years and am nowhere close as skilled as others I have mentored under.  With that said, I will be using a stone point for this arrow that was knapped by one of my friends (much more symmetrical than some of my own that I currently have).  Fact: stone points can be sharper than surgical steel as when you knap a flake, the stone fractures along its concoidal  cleavage plane (in the case of chert (quartz)) leaving an edge at the molecular scale.
 

Stay tuned!

 

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Those of you who know me, know I enjoy making and hunting with primitive and traditional archery equipment.  As a “mountain man” and naturalist, I enjoy testing my primitive skills and using as much o

After stripping bark off about 1/3 cord of wood this evening for my sugar shack/trapping outpost remodeling project, I got back to my arrow. Earlier I reinforced the fletching and nock with sever

Well no go with locating my rendered bear fat.  So plan B was to use some tallow from a deer I recently harvested.  I rubbed the deer tallow on the shaft to condition the wood (water proof it and hope

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Can't wait to see how your primitive arrows turn out, I am going to try to do something similar but am going to cheat big time lol as I do not have the skill to do everything from scratch.

I purchased some half way decent Turkey fletched primitive style wood arrows and some knapped arrowheads, will remove the field points and cut some slots and hopefully attach the points solidly myself. Doubt that I will ever actually hunt with them but when I have some free time I like puttering around doing stuff like that.

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...I choose my lucky point and picked out my straightest shaft.  After I determined which was the front and back of the arrow (based on the direction of the grain), I cut my nock.  
 

When you cut a nock you need to align the nock opening orthogonal to the rings on the shaft or your bow string will split the arrow shaft.  I then measured the point to my shaft so I could determine how deep to make my notch for the point.  My words of wisdom when working with wood....it is easy to remove wood but you cannot put it back if you remove too much!  I typically use a couple hack saw blades taped together to initially  cut my nock and point notch and finish with sandpaper (I keep folding the sandpaper it to widen the cut).

It took a while to keep measuring and sanding to get the point to fit properly to the shaft.  The back of the points are not perfectly symmetrical so the notch’s you cut need to be point specific.  I put charcoal or pencil on the back of the point when I slide it into the notch so when I remove the point, I can see where I need to remove wood.

After I cut my nock and notch for the point, I stained the shaft by rubbing a walnut hull on the shaft. After I applied a few coats, I left the arrow to dry.

Stay tuned!

 

 

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Now that the walnut hull stain has dried, I started to attach the stone point to the shaft.  It is not advisable to force the point into the notch or it will spit the shaft like driving a wedge into a log.  With that said, it is also beneficial that the point fits snuggly in the notch.  After a little more sanding I was happy with the fit.  
 

Next I melted a mixture of pine tar and rabbit droppings and apply to the back end of the point and in the notch.  I apply the “glue” to both parts (called sizing) to assure good coverage for a good bond.

Sometimes I “cheat” and use a dab of epoxy.

While the point dries to the shaft I picked out some feathers for fletching (and many thanks again to those who gave me their turkey wings!).

Still looking for my Bear fat for sealing the shaft...it’s hidden somewhere on my bench...if I cannot find it, I’ll need to move to plan B.

Stay tuned!

 

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What a great thread !  Enjoying watching and learning how the real primitive weapons were made. They had to make them because their sheer existence depended on it.

Question : What is the significance in using rabbit droppings  mixed in the pine tar to make the glue ? Does it act as a hardener or is there some other reason .

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Thanks! 

Fresh sap is too sticky to be used as is and needs a temper added to increase its strength and make it harden properly...rabbit droppings have partially digested vegetable fibers and makes an ideal tempering agent.  Charcoal is also used as a tempering agent.

Hopefully I can harvest with this arrow...it would be my first stone point harvested deer!

 

Airedale, please reach out to me if you have specific questions hafting your stone points...I would be happy to help!

 

Wolc123, my neighbor texted me the other day...he found a stone point while he was tillering his garden...doesn't look like mine LOL!

 

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34 minutes ago, dinorocks said:

 

Wolc123, my neighbor texted me the other day...he found a stone point while he was tillering his garden...doesn't look like mine LOL!

 

 

Back when my father in law lived on Lower Mountain road in Cambria, he found a native American stone hand axe when he was tilling his garden.  Someone told him it might be a thousand or so years old. 

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Well no go with locating my rendered bear fat.  So plan B was to use some tallow from a deer I recently harvested.  I rubbed the deer tallow on the shaft to condition the wood (water proof it and hopefully decrease the friction when I zip it into a deer!).  By rubbing the tallow up and down the shaft quickly with some pressure, the tallow gets heated from friction and basically melts into the wood.  It worked great!

I'm processing my quartered deer later today and will save the backstrap sinew...the backstrap sinew is longer and less fibrous than the leg sinew and can be used as thread to sew, or in my current application, to wrap my selfnock, attach my fetchings, and reinforce the stone point to the shaft.

Stay tuned!

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Thanks!  Just finished processing my deer...I saved the sinew and it’s currently drying.  I have a small stockpile of dry sinew but want to use the sinew from my recent deer...will need to wait until at least tomorrow before it is ready to use.  
 Too much rain for an afternoon hunt...contemplating making a small pressure flaker from one of the spikes from my recent deer...and maybe a pick for my flintlock with the other.

Stay tuned!

 

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Back when my father in law lived on Lower Mountain road in Cambria, he found a native American stone hand axe when he was tilling his garden.  Someone told him it might be a thousand or so years old. 

My friend finds lots of heads on Hen Island and was told they're 12,000- 20,000 years old


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The photo below is a pressure flaker I made with a piece of copper rod and one of the spikes from the other day.  I’ll carry this into the field in the event I need to fix an edge on my point.
 

(The sinew is drying nicely...Laying it out flat on the counter will help it dry nice and straight...it will peel right off...glad my wife is so tolerant of me!)

 

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The photo below is a pressure flaker I made with a piece of copper rod and one of the spikes from the other day.  I’ll carry this into the field in the event I need to fix an edge on my point.
 
(The sinew is drying nicely...Laying it out flat on the counter will help it dry nice and straight...it will peel right off...glad my wife is so tolerant of me!)
 
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Nice countertop!

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The sinew dried according to plan so I'll have that ready when I need it.  I previously picked out a few turkey feathers so the next step is to process the feathers so I can use them as fletching for my new arrow.

As an aside regarding feathers, turkey and goose are the main type of feathers that are used for fletching arrows.  There are "right wing" and "Left wing" feathers and there are "primary" and "secondary" wing feathers.  There are many debates regarding using right or left wing feathers but they all fly fine to me...maybe if I was using beveled broadheads, the rotation of the arrow might matter.  Regarding primary and secondary feathers, primary are much stiffer and in my opinion, make better fletching.  There are about five primary feathers on each side of a turkey wing.  I use secondary feathers for my flu-flus.  Goose feathers are nice because they are waterproof.  Pict below shows primary right and left wing feathers and a secondary feather.

There are a few ways to process feathers for an arrow...the two methods I use include "stripping" and "cutting/grinding" (picts below).  To "strip" a feather, simply grab a few barbs from the tip of the rachis (center shaft of the feather) and slowly peel toward the calamus (the part of the feather that is connected to the bird).  The final product is a fletching with the barbs connected to a very thin other layer of the rachis...this is a great way to make arrows that would be shot off your hand (I.e., no arrow shelf on the bow).  The other method I use involves cutting the rachis lengthwise down the feather with scissors or a razor blade and then putting the feather in a clamp and grinding the inner part of the  rachis with sandpaper to the desired thickness.  PLEASE NOTE, THE DUST GENERATED DURING THE FEATHER GRINDING PROCESS IS HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH!  The proteins in the feather rachis is undigestible and causes issues in your lungs...furthermore, feather dust gives off naphthalene, the same chemical that is in moth balls.  I know of several people who are in very rough shape as a result of commercially grinding feathers for many years (also, avoid breathing in antler or bone dust).

Once the feathers are processed, they need to be cut to length and potentially trimmed.  I used untrimmed fletching for my flu-flus because of the extra drag they generate.  Note a nicely tuned arrow doesn't need fletching...I tune my arrows without fletching, adjust the shaft length and point weight as needed, and then add fletching.  The fletching will help stabilize the arrow in flight to make up for potential irregularities.  I have trimmed the feather barbs with scissors, red-hot stick from the fire (burnt feathers smell terrible) or a feather burner (electricity is used to heat up an element (thin wire) that is bent to the desired fletching shape...the hot element cuts through the barbs like a hot knife through butter). I also have an assortment of feather choppers that I typically use. 

Now that I finished processing my fletching, I will next be attaching them to the arrow shaft.  Again, many ways to do this...various glues, fletch tape, sinew, silk thread, etc.  On my non-primitive arrows I like to use fletch tape (double sided tape) with a small dab of Duco cement added to either end of the fletching...much quicker than waiting for glue to dry.  For my primitive arrow, I think I will use hide glue and tie the ends of the fletching to the shaft with sinew. 

Stay tuned!

 

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