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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

 

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!


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38 Comments on Make an authentic Native-American arrow

  1. 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.

  2. my arrow shot a bird quite accuratte

  3. 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

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

  5. Guys,is it worth trying?

  6. 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.

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

    they realy work i made 2

  8. 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.

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

    IT PRETTY COOL

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

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

  11. 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.

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

    it’s really cool!

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

  14. it lookse asame

  15. 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!!!

  16. AWESOME!!!!!!!

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

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

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

  20. Cool

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

  22. 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!

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

  24. 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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