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Make an authentic Native-American arrow

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

 

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

  • 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!

229 Comments on Make an authentic Native-American arrow

  1. martial-artist // June 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm // Reply

    and what type of metal? what if someone used steel instead of iron? and where am i supposed to get bone?

  2. martial-artist // May 30, 2010 at 7:14 pm // Reply

    i cant find the right type of rock… all of the rocks here are not flint, obsidian, or jasper… what type of rock should I use?

  3. CC da man // May 18, 2010 at 5:47 pm // Reply

    Do they have a site to make a bow to go with it?

  4. chees nips // April 16, 2010 at 5:35 pm // Reply

    this is asome

    • lakota warrior forever // April 21, 2010 at 9:14 pm // Reply

      this arrow is good yes but it isent truely authentic ….i am full blooded lakota sioux and i make a liveing on makeing arrows and bows and dream cathcers etc…u need three fletchings to make the arrow be stable and truely u should use boneglue or pitch glur to hold every thign together of sinew

  5. sounds good,but chewing on sinew sounds kinda gross

  6. Now I know how to make an arrow, but please can you show me how to make a bow

  7. bow and arrow geek // March 18, 2010 at 9:04 pm // Reply

    So cool i use all natrall materiealls – good for envoirement.

  8. Hunter ben // March 6, 2010 at 6:19 am // Reply

    this is so helpful and so accurate keep it up

  9. obsidian works well, but flint is the best. when u r making the arrow, u dont want the wood to be too light, or the rock too heavy, it will have a negative affect on the flight of the arrow. if possible, have the thicker end of the arrow head be bigger than the shaft, this way the arrow will go farther through the target

  10. I would like to try this project.

  11. UNKNOWN PHANTOM OF DOOM (NOT REALLY) // January 15, 2010 at 8:25 pm // Reply

    so totally awsome really fun and instrutions r very clear sucess!!

  12. doing this at a campout

  13. awsome

  14. For target practice arrows, you could sharpen the end of the shaft, but if you wanted to hunt with the arrows flat, hard arrowheads would make a bigger entry wound and the animal wouldn’t suffer as long.

  15. night crawler // December 15, 2009 at 4:41 pm // Reply

    This is so cool and I am going to do it.

  16. It looks like a project i might give it a try!!!

  17. i am totally going to try this

  18. spartan master // October 27, 2009 at 7:41 pm // Reply

    can i buy wooden shafts

    • Pre-made arrowheads and shafts can be found at a local hobby/hardware store. The shafts can also be made out of wooden wood lengths, which are found at most hardware stores.

  19. Awsome

  20. walk-by-night // October 7, 2009 at 6:43 am // Reply

    this is awesome ,got to try it.

  21. might have to try that

  22. cool i want to do this

  23. in stead of using a stick you could us a dowel rod

  24. I like to try but not for killing animals

  25. aztec archer // July 26, 2009 at 9:58 am // Reply

    i found a cow bone for my arrows

  26. its fun making an arrow

  27. I know how to make a tomahawk.

  28. instructions are sharp

  29. looks expensive

  30. this is awesome!!!!!!!!!i love it!!thanks! >>——> 0)>
    `
    ! !

  31. i think I will try it, and hope it works

  32. Red-horn Hawk Eyes // June 3, 2009 at 1:50 pm // Reply

    This was the first time i ever tried fletching my own arrows and i was very successful. The instructions are clear and are very good.

  33. Fly like eagle-Eats like Man // June 3, 2009 at 1:49 pm // Reply

    the Arrows really work. i enjoy fletching my own now ^u^
    —–

  34. i find real arrowheads and use those on my arrow and besides wooden bows are kinda rare well a little bit o yeah u should make one about bow makeing and explain the sinew a little more and how to get it and where to get it o and plus if u were to walk into my room its like an indian paradise o and remember this message dont forget.

  35. i tried it and it worked

  36. Elk hunter // April 15, 2009 at 8:19 pm // Reply

    I am a bow hunter and have killed two elk, a deer, a bear, and tons of small game animals. I just got a longbow like the Indians used and I think this was pretty helpful because i make arrowheads out of a type of flint called Obsidian. I use a deer horn and a round rock to shape and sharpen the rock but i couldn’t figure out how to make the shafts so i read this page and tried it out. IT WORKS! i was also impressed with how strong the sinew was.

  37. i am 1/4 kumeyay native im gonna try this looks fun, haha idk bout the boiling animal fatpart though kinda gross oh and were do u get a bone from

  38. I’m going to try this as sone as possible.

  39. does the metal point have to be flat??

  40. prety good i use bone arrow heads

  41. ummmm how do you get stright sticks? haha

  42. how to you find or make a good enough broadhead while still being able to fit it in the notch of the shaft?

  43. THIS DEMONSTRATION IS TOTALLY AWSOME.

  44. this arrow demonstration was the best I have have ever encounterd

  45. just use a can or some sheet metal a million times easier

  46. O.M.Gosh i mean u dont u just find a stick…. and then chisil it… and then find any …. stone put it to the gronund and there u go…

  47. Sure, it’s cool to have a rock arrowhead. But other people before me commenting, it takes a long time. I suppose you could use metal instead of a rock. I don’t know what kind of metal, though…

  48. I am using a real native point on an old port orford cedar shaft. I am using the existing fletching but am dying them . I will then decorate using a variety of paints. I am 1/8 Cherokee native. I am making the arrow to be mounted on a Black walnut board and will give the arrow to a friend that is part Ojibwe native. He teh en aye

  49. creek wolf // August 6, 2008 at 6:19 pm // Reply

    it was fun! i had a hard time doing it though,but really fun! i used quartz (the clear kind) and now i have super arrows!, i havnt used them cause there too dangerous and

    so you get it

  50. bowmarster // July 18, 2008 at 1:25 am // Reply

    do you have to paint the arrow shaft.!!

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