If you’ve ever dreamed of the bygone days, and ever yearned to know how to make a primitive arrow, look no further.
Knowing how to make a primitive arrow is a skill fast vanishing in the world today. One man, Shawn Woods, has recently made a name for himself by preserving these old skills. His series of YouTube videos show off his ability to make and use primitive archery equipment at a high level.
Here he demonstrates how to make a primitive arrow for hunting by crafting a Comanche-style arrow.
Select Your Shaft
For the Comanche-style arrow in the video Mr. Woods uses dogwood. If your goal is to simply learn how to make a primitive arrow, there are several other types of materials that work as well.
Wild rose, willow, wild plum, and choke cherry all work well in addition to others. These species are typically abundant in many areas. The Comanche arrows were cut to between 22 inches and 24 inches in length.
Another method for choosing length is to place one end on your sternum and stretch one arm out in front of you. Where the fingers of your outstretched hand meet the shaft is where you cut.
Preparing the Shaft
Once your shafts are cut, most bowyers suggest letting the materials dry for a period of time. The length of time can vary from a few weeks to several months depending on time of year and species cut.
Once dried, you should next strip the bark from the shaft. This can be done quickly with any standard knife, or a stone tool if you wish to keep the process as primitive as possible.
Carve the Nock
Shawn Woods cuts a very specific type of knock on his Comanche arrow, since he is trying to duplicate a very specific piece of equipment. Different tribes of Native Americans had different nock types, and if your goal is to replicate a specific tribe you need to do some homework.
If your goal is to simply learn how to make a primitive arrow, you can carve any type of knock that will accept a string. You can simply cut a deep nock like modern arrows have, however the arrow should be bound beneath these types of nocks to prevent splitting.
One step the video leaves out when teaching how to make a primitive arrow is fire straightening your shafts.
By building a fire and heating your shaft you can bend the shaft straight if it happens to be crooked. Be careful not to get the material too close and scorch the wood.
For truly authentic Native American arrows you need to carve the straightening grooves down the length of the shaft. Also called lightning grooves, or blood grooves, they were popular within many different tribes.
Carve the Slot for Your Arrowhead
Depending on the point style you will be using, you need to carve a slot to accept the arrowhead. In the video Shawn Woods is using a deep-seated steel point. You may be using something of this nature, or you may be using a stone point you knapped yourself. Make sure the depth of the slot reflects the particular size you will need.
One thing you will notice when you see Shawn Woods create his products is his attention to detail. Filing the front of his arrow down is not a 100 percent necessary step, but will allow for better penetration and accurately recreates the arrow he is aiming to build.
Painting is an unnecessary step in when learning how to make a primitive arrow, but can add a lot of flair to your gear.
Prepare the Fletching
By now your primitive arrow should be coming along nicely. The next step when learning how to make a primitive arrow is to begin fletching. Many different types of feathers will do, but turkey seems to be a popular choice across America.
Whatever type of feathers you use make sure they are stiff and strong. You will also want to make sure you are using either all left wing feathers, or all right wing feathers on the same arrow.
Splitting, or stripping, the feather can take some practice. You can use a knife like the video shows, or you can grab the end of the feathery part in your mouth and peel away both sides. The feather should release from the quill easily. Once stripped you can cut your feathers to the length and width you want.
Attaching the Fletching
Are you ready for the tricky part? Attaching the fletching to the shaft can be a frustrating process.
Try your best to keep the fletchings spaced equally around the shaft while you lash them down. One trick is to lash your sinew, or other binding material, around the shaft a time or two, then capture one feather. Take one wrap around your shaft with only that fletching. On your next wrap pick up another feather, and on the third pass pick up the final feather. It may be helpful to hold them in place.
One step Shawn Woods skips to maintain historical accuracy is the gluing. Some tribes would glue their fletchings on, and some may not have. If you are making a primitive arrow you can go either route and still call it “primitive.”
Make sure to wrap the front of your fletchings as well. Ensure they are lying straight when you bind them.
Attaching the Point
The final step in how to make a primitive arrow is to attach the point. Simply wrap the point with your sinew or other binding material. For both the fletchings and point you can use a common whip knot to bind.
There you have it, 10 easy steps for how to make a primitive arrow. The process is fun, fairly easy, and can be done in a relatively short period of time.