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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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25 Comments on Make an authentic Native-American arrow

  1. nice arrow but u need like months the grind the arrow head to goos shape with hands

  2. giggidygoo // June 10, 2008 at 9:16 pm // Reply

    bowman13 the correct way tomake the notches is to simply use a nail filer this will create a simple but yet affective arrow.

  3. where do u get fethers¿

  4. ace of spades // May 17, 2008 at 8:49 pm // Reply

    if you live in ohio simply go down to flint ridge.there is tons and tons of flint there but if u find a flint arrow head keep it dont put it on the arrow oh and this really helped me out thanks!

  5. how do i tell different knids of wood apart

  6. flintstone // April 24, 2008 at 5:57 pm // Reply

    is it ok that I use flint rock?

  7. crackerjackzach // April 11, 2008 at 12:41 pm // Reply

    its a good method but it looks hard

  8. i use deer antlers for my arrow heads…i have way to many antlers hangin and i cant find any good sharp rock so i though of the antlers…they work if the antlers are fresh or they lose the wieght from age…

  9. BigPapaSmurf // March 9, 2008 at 12:10 pm // Reply

    thx…. this info will help me to create an arrow for my NAS 200 class

  10. this is a good usefull way to use up boring hours u spend on playing computor games and watching tv, i like being creative and this is a good fun way to waste boring t.v time.

  11. Natives had glue

  12. This is a good experiment but it is hard to make the cut in the back so that the bow string can hold it.

  13. where do you get the flint for the arrowhead tips? ive looked everywhere! could you possibly make the arrowhead out of something else, like stone or even hardwood??

  14. I DoN’T get it

  15. runninghorse1 // January 7, 2008 at 9:02 pm // Reply

    i make arrows alot and this guide was very helpful. instead of using real glue though , my grandfather showed me the way to make hide glue which we used to use. i have also made various bows of ; osage orange , hickory , and oak (all sinew backed which makes it stronger)

  16. The natives used animal sinew to bind the feathers to the arrows

  17. Thank you. This is very useful information and the directions are straight forward & easily understood. Although I will have to adapt for time & age constraints for my Wolf Scouts; I intend to use this tonight for a den meeting. Wolf Den Leader.

  18. ok glue can work but what about somthing different, how did the native’s do it they well i dont think they had glue did they?

  19. could you teach me?

  20. this is really cool but have you tryed to make a bow before

  21. Derrick, Age 10, Florida // July 26, 2007 at 2:41 pm // Reply

    This is a great project that I really enjoy doing beacuse Native Americans interst me. It’s not that hard and a great way to spend an afternoon on a weekend or in the summer that really beats playing video games inside! I didn’t have any problems with it and am going to try it again with my scout troop later this summer. Thanks! 🙂 😉

  22. Derrick, Age 10, Florida // July 26, 2007 at 2:37 pm // Reply

    This is an awesome way to make arrows and I like to do Native American projects, so this one was perfect for me. It’s not that hard and a great way to spend an afternoon on a weekend or in the summer. My only problem with this was that it is really hard to find arrowheads, so I had to use one from my dad’s collection. Are there any fake arrowheads you can buy because my dad has said if I want to do this project again, I can’t use one of his because his collection is really important to him! Suggestions please!! 🙂 😉

  23. great idea

  24. cool duddde // June 25, 2007 at 10:10 am // Reply

    you are not chewing the intestine, you are chewing the tendons, which is pretty much just like chewing really tough meat

  25. taht was fun

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