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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. I read online that if you are using sinew to strengthen your bow you should use hide glue instead of elmer’s glue. The hide glue and sinew shrink at the same rate, but the elmer’s glue doesn’t. The shrinkage is supposed to make the bow stronger and able to bend more.

  2. How do you make Bow

  3. wooden archer // September 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm // Reply

    I crafted a recurve bow from an oak branch but it didn’t shoot. So i took a few hours whittling and now it could be very suitable for hunting. I don’t hurt animals though so i just sport shoot.

  4. I am 8 and I made mine own homemade bow

  5. katniss everdeen // August 12, 2012 at 4:41 am // Reply

    Its really cool , I almost shot deer yesterday

  6. billlllllllllllly // July 30, 2012 at 10:51 pm // Reply

    Almost shot my toe about two inches away work great arrows almost brought deer down but I tripped hit it in the leg it got away thoufh

  7. awsome girl // July 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm // Reply

    My dad made me a bow out of a straight, flexible plastic rod with a shoe lace string. It is very powerful. For this arrow, instead of gluing the feathers, I tied them with fishing line.

    • I am native american and have had several ways of making arrow heads past down to me but the best way to get your arrow head on the arrow shaft the most authentic way is to chew tree sap. Get it nice and stick and place it on the shaft then stick the head on. After you do so tie is off with a small vine or weave strans of bark to make string.

  8. I love this i am doing great with my arrows because of boys life thanks! I’m an archer! This is totally worth trying and making.

  9. I used shells for the arrowheads.

  10. This is very good thanks

  11. i’m making a crossbow so i think if i make the arrows shorter they will work.

  12. This is great, I am using it in a school report on native Americans. I am not done yet but so far so good.

  13. Where is the best place to get supplies

  14. How do you make an authentic Native American bow and arrow

  15. someone should post how to make a bow an arrow

    • I know how to make a bow and arrow, I have one at my house, and it fires very well. One way is, get a strong stick thats curved, then get a rubber band and break it in half, so you will have a long rubber string. Then you tie an end to each end of the stick. And BAM you have a bow.

      • Actually you don’t want to use rubberstring, get a
        Straight stick and then bend it, then use strong
        Unstretchable string. The power comes from the
        Wood, not the string.

  16. i tried to make the arrow head by using rock but it is really hard

  17. Primitave interactions // February 22, 2012 at 9:37 pm // Reply

    Awesome I’m workin on a bow to shoot these arrows

  18. so there are three feather slices?????

  19. I made a bow out of a mimosa sapling.. It works good with those arrows

  20. how can i make an arrow head?

    • There are several ways to make Arrow Heads. You can use bone, hardwood, metal or you can flintknap. Flintknapping is the more difficult path. I have been at it for a year and I’m still learning.

    • jkaldjflakjdf // May 24, 2012 at 5:57 pm // Reply

      To make an arrow head use the top of a tin can. draw a line down the center with a sharpie. this is hard so i use a hammer and a flat head screw driver to pound the line into the center. keep folding until it looks like a triangle. ( to make it stronger u can superglue it together at the end ) u can use a strong pair of scissors or gardening scissors to cut notches into it and make it straighter.

      • Hawkeye Girl // October 25, 2012 at 1:54 pm //

        Would the aluminum can arrowhead be strong enough for actual shooting practice though? Just curious.

  21. THAT IS SWEET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!:);) <3

  22. Happy Penguin // November 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm // Reply

    I have a Banshee Bow and I made this arrow for it. Shot it at a styrophome target and the arrow shattered. I’m a girl by the way.

  23. really helpful in making the arrow you want. thanks to all who has prepared this page.

    • I found this website while looking up the Seneca Indians bow to replicate one without the arrow head due to school policy. I of course am not a guy but found this very helpful. I didn’t follow these steps for my project but will be soon with my brother.

  24. born survivour // September 5, 2011 at 6:12 pm // Reply

    you can make a BOW by using a yew tree 1st you need to find a sapling and cut it down then u need carve it with a rasp until it actualy looks like a bow then boil some deer hide in pine pitch (or any white glue will do eg.woodglue)then get some seniw from your local buchers use the glue to stick it on leave it for a few weeks (or else the seniw might not set right and you might ruin your bow)p.s u dont have to use the glue and seniw part if you dont want to it just strenghtins it more

  25. I used a dremel rotary tools sander accessory to make my arrowheads

  26. Vary the size of your arrowheads,fish half inch long and quarter inch wide,birds slightly larger, and deer arrowheads 2 to 3 inches long and 1 to 2 inches wide.

  27. my arrow shot a bird quite accuratte

  28. Iron Archer // June 29, 2011 at 5:24 pm // Reply

    I made a bow with a pvc pipe about a yard long.The arrows really work. >() <- fish

  29. Does it really work and is it worth doing?

  30. Guys,is it worth trying?

  31. Beatlesfan // June 25, 2011 at 8:48 am // Reply

    cool but how do u make a bow

    • to make a bow,cut a straight branch about 5 feet long,then peel off the bark and let the stick dry, then you whittle the stick so it tapers towards the tips, but the front of the bow cant be cut or it will snap, once that is done cut notches for the string and your bow is finished.

  32. yo yo king // June 24, 2011 at 9:58 pm // Reply

    they realy work i made 2

  33. Mr.Unknown // June 20, 2011 at 10:50 pm // Reply

    Great post with very good instructions. I am having a bit trouble finding some rocks to use.

  34. THE REAL ARCHERY MASTERS // May 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm // Reply

    IT PRETTY COOL

  35. sharpshooter // May 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm // Reply

    COOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

  36. One way to make a bow.1-get a thin hickory stick(about 1/4inch thick) 2- Get a spool of braided-nylon cord at a sporting goods store or Wal-Mart(150-lb test.) 3- notch the end &tie the cord on note:it is not very accurate.

  37. i am ninja and anonymous // May 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm // Reply

    it’s really cool!

  38. what happened to the bow the arrow was cool but now the arrow is now useless

  39. it lookse asame

  40. archery master // January 31, 2011 at 6:44 pm // Reply

    We can make spears almost the same way just a wee longer and bigger tips!!!

  41. AWESOME!!!!!!!

  42. I’ll like instructions to make a bow!

  43. how do you make a bow to shoot the arrows out of

  44. they work better if u use cattail stems for the shaft thats rilly authentic!?!

  45. Cool

  46. Yeah…the arrows are cool but what about the bow?

  47. To bad it dosn’t tell you whow to make the bow. but thats ok, my sisters make bows all the time, its farly easy I gess. P.S. Sory if my spelling is bad, guys!

  48. THEY WERE NOT HARD TO MAKE AND THEY WORK!

  49. martial-artist // June 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm // Reply

    but… i also used quartz and am buying arrowheads at local museum gift shop. i use hammer to hammer quartz into shape… i also recommend using lk. superior agates.

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