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Make an authentic Native-American arrow

SAFETY FIRST: Ask an adult to help with tools you haven't used before.

Click here for a PDF version of these instructions.

I make arrows the way my Iroquois ancestors did long ago. You can, too.

In our modern world, the hard part is getting the material, but you can use some alternatives that I’ve suggested.

Just remember: These arrows might look crude, but they’re not toys. Use them for target practice only, under the supervision of an adult, or display them in your room. Be careful!

The finished arrow



  • Adult help and/or supervision.
  • Quarter-inch or 5/16-inch dowels.
  • Bone, metal or slate, ground to shape, for arrowheads.
  • Stout thread or cordage to attach feathers and arrowheads to the shaft.
  • Hot glue, wood glue or ferrule cement.
  • Wing feathers from a craft store.
  • Water- or oil-based paint.

Step 1STEP 1: Shafts should be about as thick as your little finger and a couple of inches longer than the distance from your armpit to your fingertips. Make sure they’re straight as an arrow! After you gather them (get permission before cutting any growing thing), bundle them in groups of five and let dry for a few days. Dowels can be used as a substitute; they are available at lumber and building-supply stores.


Step 2STEP 2: Once the shaft is dry, scrape off the bark until the wood is smooth.]


Step 3STEP 3: Cut a notch (about as deep as the diameter of the shaft) for the bowstring by scraping one end with a sharp stone. To get a sharp stone, find a piece of quartzite cobble (river stone) and break it in half with another rock. At the end of the shaft that receives the arrowhead, scrape out a notch that is 3/8 – to 5/8-inch deep. You can also use a knife, small saw or file.


Step 4STEP 4: Grind an arrowhead into the right shape by scraping the material against a sidewalk until the arrowhead has a point and a sharp edge. It’s a simple but tedious process. For safer arrowheads, you can round off the point.


Step 5STEP 5: Using the sharp rock, gouge a notch on either side of the wide end of the arrowhead for holding the cordage.


Step 6STEP 6: Place the arrowhead in the notch, wrap it with a piece of cordage 8 to 10 inches long and glue it with hot glue. I use resin, which is made from boiling pitch (sap) from trees. Making resin can be dangerous because natural turpentines must be burned off. For cordage, I use sinew, which I prepare by pounding deer tendons between rocks, then separate them into long, stringy fibers. Before I can use the sinew, I must chew it. The enzymes in saliva help dissolve the collagen that holds the tissues together, and this is what makes it work like glue. (Soaking it in water won’t work.)


Step 7STEP 7: For fletching (arranging) the feathers on your arrows, make sure each vane comes from the same side of the wing. Split each feather down the middle of the spine (use scissors or pocketknife) and trim it to size.


Step 8STEP 8: Glue the feathers onto the shaft, making sure the top feather is aligned with the bowstring notch, then space the two others equally from the first. Wrap more thread around each end of the feathers and set the arrow aside to dry for a day.


Step 9STEP 9: Once the wrappings are dry, the arrow is ready for painting. I put animal fat in a tin can and melt it in the sun. Then I mix in some reddish earth and daub it on the arrow with a paintbrush. You can use watercolors or oil-based paint.


Now it’s time for target practice!

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16 Comments on Make an authentic Native-American arrow

  1. are you serious about the PVC pipe to make a bow with ? Kinda defeats the purpose. I thought that people interested in this sort of thing LIKED the idea of making stuff that is historically accurate and close to nature…. ?? just sayin ‘ ………

  2. I make these and mount them on a plaque for my Webelos who earn the Arrow of Light award.

  3. I need to make some of these. 🙂

  4. Use deer, elk antler, to nap or chip you flint if flint available,use antler to chip out pieces slowly till arrowhead is formed, use unworked flint, after making arrowhead put in fire, to harden flint, let cool before use,

  5. cool! I will try it out it was useful for a school report.

  6. The arrow it worked out great for my son he just got his hunting licence.

  7. It really works

  8. awesomeness:o // March 28, 2014 at 7:50 pm // Reply

    i like weapons too I find arrows down at my creek that real Indians had made cause my dads great great grandmother was an Indian who lived there.

  9. why, comatose, why??? // March 19, 2014 at 12:26 pm // Reply

    This looks awesome! totally gonna get the metarials from the woods (branch, rocks, feathers)… but i have a question:

    what type of feathers should i use? large owl feathers? or smaller, goldfinch feathers? maybe robin feathers? or hawk feathers? chicken feathers? …

    any help would be appreaceted! Thanks!

  10. awesome6150 // January 6, 2014 at 2:31 pm // Reply

    this could be very useful because I am running out of arrows

  11. To make a bow use piece of white pvc pipe. It helps if you heat it up over a fire and flatten it

  12. This looks fun!

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