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Primitive Archery: Making Greasewood Foreshafts

Billy Berger collects greasewood shoots to make primitive arrow foreshafts. The shoots of this marginal shrub make tough and beautiful shafts.

Greasewood, a decidedly unfriendly western shrub armed with thorns, is what Billy Berger is after while on a visit to Colorado. Greasewood, while marginalized today, was a valuable wood to the Anasazi and Freemont Indian cultures of the arid deserts of the western U.S.. Wood from the durable shrub wood was fashioned into digging sticks and foreshafts for arrows.

What you’ll need is a pair of heavy duty gloves and a long sleeved shirt, to reach into the shrub and confront the thorns. Strip the shoots, then let them dry for weeks or months. Once dry, you can begin to fashion them into resilient arrow foreshafts.

This process requires some elbow grease. Maybe that’s why they call this woody shrub greasewood. In any event, you’ll first need to strip the bark from the inner wood. You can do this any number of ways, but Berger used a stone to scrape it away. Then he rubbed the shoots on a concrete surface, and then, finally, he sanded the shoots with progressively finer grit sandpaper.

Once he got the shoots smooth and uniform, he cut them to length using a sharp stone flake. He followed that by creating a shoulder in the foreshaft with the stone flake, carving away enough of the greasewood so the foreshaft would fit into the arrow.

Next, he carved a notch for the arrowhead, heated some pine pitch glue and fit the arrowhead into the glue-laden notch, making sure to center it properly. Then he reinforced the arrowhead with sinew and hide glue. Essentially, that completes the process.

Berger takes the time to admire his handiwork and remark on how beautiful the greasewood foreshafts are. And beautiful they are, with noticeable grain and a lovely blonde color.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

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Primitive Archery: Making Greasewood Foreshafts