Introduction: Building a Primitive Arrow

Picture of Building a Primitive Arrow

So finally, the much needed sequel to the bow making tutorial is done. For the longest time, I didnt know exactly what to use for an arrow. I wanted it to be pretty cheap and easily done and I finally figured that some kind of cane or bamboo would be perfect.

Step 1: Trim Down Arrow

Picture of Trim Down Arrow

Now, the first step in making the arrow from this cane was to trim down the joints. All of the knobby joints on this cane would slow down the arrow as it made its way out of the bow.

Step 2:

Picture of

Then, I cut a nock on the back end. Really the only thing thats important here is that you cut the nock to end right on a joint. If you dont the force of the bow string could eventually split the cane. The joint kinda gives it something to push against. I arranged the arrow so that the thickest part of the cane was in front. I think this would put the weight up front more and just let the arrow fly better.. I may be wrong on this one.

Step 3:

Picture of

The fletching presented quite a few problems. First of all, I needed to find feathers. I knew of a small cave in a nearby cliff that used to house some vultures, so I climbed over to it and got inside, but the vultures had been long gone and there were only a few unusable feathers left. After that, I figured I could go to the lake and get some from where all the geese hang out. Before I got there though, I had to go to walmart and I just picked up a bag of feathers for under a buck.

I thought of splitting the rear end of the arrow and sliding feathers or leaves through it but that didn't seem to be a very strong situation. So, after cutting the feathers to shape and splitting the spine, I glued them to the arrow. Starting with the bottom, I just kept gluing them up and straightening out the feathers as I went. If you have thread, you could wrap the front end of the feathers down around the shaft. This would just make it a little more durable.

Step 4:

Picture of

Cut a similar nock in the front to hold the arrow head. I made my arrow heads out of glass this time since its really similar to flint or obsidian, and Ill add a tutorial on that here in a bit.
Fit the arrow head in the front nock and wrap it with bark or string. I tried several things here; first, I used a sliver of the cane to wrap it like I did on my bamboo bow. That worked alright, but it just didnt seem to be strong enough to hold up to abuse. After that I just wrapped it really tightly with a piece of bark and glued the whole thing together. Thats what is shown in the pictures and it worked pretty well.


PENNY1999 (author)2011-12-22

i just put a steel nail in the end of mine for the tip is there a problem with that

therealblueduck (author)2011-12-08

I have found that steel banding used to bind lumber, heavy industrial equipment etc. for transport is excellent for broadhead construction. It is also easy to obtain at any lumber yard, or shipping yard. Concerning the river cane arrow shafts, a good way to smooth down the nodules or joints is to use a thick, flat piece of steel and a hot iron. Roll the shaft back and forth under the hot iron while pressing it firmly into the steel plate. This will compress the joint to match the shaft diameter. This method is much better than sanding or any other method used to remove material. Heat compression makes the nodules stronger, and avoids the loss of durability that occurs with sanding.

Don,t try this at home (author)2010-09-30

You should post how to make a glass arrowhead i need help.

Robotrix (author)2006-06-13

You're not far off here from how arrows are actually fletched. Usually you leave a bit of the feather spine in the front, wrap it in thread, then continue to wrap the thread along the feather to the back. Obviously you don't want to wrap on top of the feather, but if you use a sewing needle you can pierce right at the bottom of the feather and not disturb its stickiness. Once you get to the end, just wrap a bunch of thread around the end of the feather as well, and tie it off. Ususally the wrapping is used with glue anyways.

schmidty (author)Robotrix2010-07-31

one more thing you should consider is that real feathers are different from the left wing to the right. mixing the two would be worse than simply not using them at all. you can tell which are different by how they curve while looking down the feather lengthwise.

greymatter21 (author)2010-05-21

now this is an arrow head!!!!!!!!!!!!!!;D

slaitch (author)2010-04-19

 While I realize it's not especially traditional or primitive, you can make a truly excellent broadhead by pounding a teaspoon flat and cutting off most of the handle.

octo137 (author)2010-03-13

I make my own flint arrowheads and honestly all you need is a large chunk of flint. if you hit it consistently with something hard like a hammer or blunt hatchet you can get some shards that would serve as okay arrowheads even if you don't shape them, which can be done with a screwdriver and needle-nose pliers. Also,  on ebay, i buy 18 pounds of flint for only about 20 or so dollars.

sirbunch (author)2008-07-27

This is a good start, but I do think it's important to stress using protective gear when making your arrowheads. Flint knapping is quite an art and you should learn from someone qualified, but in the spirit of you can probably get close enough through trial and error. BUT don't forget to wear safety goggles and thick leather over your hands. And put down newspaper or a tarp so you clean up everything. You'll find glass/obsidian etc. goes flying.

sirbunch (author)sirbunch2009-10-13

I should add that, in a pinch you can knapp the bottom of a Coke Bottle. Also there is a great video on making a broad head from a tin can lid.

miandor (author)sirbunch2008-09-28


mtm101097 (author)2008-08-06

i looked on ur site and i didnt see any tutorials about glass arrowsheads...... pls help

o shut up

boabab95 (author)2009-07-02

ya even a piece of square rock or wood can be used instead of animal horn.

btfloyd (author)2008-10-12

I've recently used river cane to construct arrows. They are rather easy to straighten with a little heat - outdoor fires work well. When the cane begins to appear waxy, it's ready to bend. Be careful not to char the cane though. Dowels are not usually straight, and seem much harder to straighten. Natural canebreaks are few and far between now, so I recommend NOT harvesting more than a few shoots. As for a tip, alligator gar scales are shaped like sharp points and are actually made of bone. Try using a little beeswax to help seat the point before lashing with sinew. This makes a fairly simple arrow to construct, but the accuracy and strength are amazing.

Paul the Mole (author)2008-06-20

All info on making arrowheads from stone/glass can be found in the "Traditional Bowyer's Bible". Every traditional bowyer should have these books in my opinion. I still use them a lot when building bows and arrows. And I'm building bows for over 10 years now. Now I'm working on a yew 85 lbs longbow. Let's see how this one turns out :p

rocketkid (author)2008-06-18

TopDollar is right. when the fletching is slighly offset, it makes the arrow spin so if one side has more drag, it will move the arrow in a circle instead of veering one way.

Tigarzzz (author)2006-10-23

Hey i made my own bow out off a branch and a shoelace and i made arrows too and for flight feathers i just used plastic and i bent the tips of it so the arrow would fly straigter. It actually worked pretty well and flew atleast 360ft

Kingbow111 (author)Tigarzzz2007-05-30

360 ft? I realy dont think so...

rocketkid (author)Kingbow1112008-06-18

i wouldnt doubt it. depending on the thickness of the bow and weight of the arrow, its perfectly possible.

MOBucky (author)2008-01-22

OK, y'all are far ahead of me. I can't make heads nor tails out of much of this. lol I've never played (er, worked) with a bow before. I have a neighbor who will help me out, though. I'm interested in the feathers. I live in the country in Missouri (near the center of the US) and my dogs regularly kill or find turkeys. Does it matter what sort of feather you use? I can find millions of smaller feathers or goose feathers if necessary.

blademaker (author)MOBucky2008-05-26

for an easy but primitive arrowhead try using bone, you can use a sander or file to do it quickly but it will still be pretty accurate to what they used to look like. For your fletchings try goose or turkey feathers, but when you put them on make sure the feathers you use came from the same wing or face the same way i.e. the glossy side should be on the right side of the fletchings and so on. If you used one feather from each wing the arrow would curve and go almost anywhere but to your target.

Primitive Archer (author)2006-10-01

I use dowel as they are perfectly straight, however you could use small bamboo canes. I am also in the prossess of making a bamboo cane bow. My first bamboo bow was two 8', 1.5cm wide (sorry about the imperial/metric cross over there!) canes bound together with a thinner, 0.5cm cane bound in the middle to stop it bending too much in the middle (and to increase fire power). That bow shot about 50 meters, but I didn't try it out for accuracy.The problem was that with such large limbs most of the energy was put into throwing the limbs forward instead of transfering to the arrow. My friend made a bow, the same design however with only one 8' cane, and it shot just as far! Shows how much mass effects arrow speed. Therefore I am making a bow with the mini canes (0.5cm x 50cm). The outerlimbs are just the one cane, and I bind progressively more canes towards the centre. The bow is 6'5" and I have tied 6 canes together so far, however I intend to bind another 2 or 3 or even more. This bow will hopefully shoot much further than my original bamboo bow (even though it will be lighter to pull!) as it has such a low mass. I will probably post my first Instructable on this bow, so stay tuned (It should be here by the end of October). P.S. About the arrows - I use Turkey feathers (which I got while on holiday in Canada). You need all the feathers to be from the same wind, as they cup with air in the same manner, otherwise they will be fighting against each other and the arrow would fly smoothly. I have sawn out a feather template from a simple sheet of thin plywood, which I put up against the arrow when I cut it (so every feather is teh same shape). My knife isn't sharp enough (too much bow making!) so it just ruins the feather while cutting; I am currently researching how to make a hot-wire cutter to cut the feathers. This will make a clean cut, however will smell a bit.

be wary of dowels as they are often warped. i know this because i have been makeing bows and arrows for years and while i use dowels i must be carful because they tend to warp in the shipping process or something. also if you want to make an arrow and you have green straitish grained wood, what you do to make it straiter while it is drying is to hang it verticly by one end and hang a heavy weight on the other end.

Legend (author)Primitive Archer2007-01-07

I've reacently found out that the feathers on the arrows dont need to be straight, they are just there for drag to keep the back end of the arrow at the -back-. For beginners just a clump of feathers or material will keep your arrow going striaght. The straight feathers are for the more advancers bowyers or hunters, who want speed. The basic method I've discribed is an easy alternative, however you pay greatly with arrow speed. Native people (of where, I don't know) used this method for shooting birds; If they missed, the arrow wouldn't go too far.)

DBOSAGE (author)2008-03-19

Hello Fellas I think it is great that your trying to make arrows and Bows. I am a boyer, through my expierence I have learned that to make an arrow one first must ask these questions. What is the poundage of a bow your using, two what is the proper grain size for the bow. I just finished a bow that I made out of osage and it pulls 85 lbs at 28 inc. draw. However I also have to make new arrows because my arrows for the 60 lb bow is too small and those arrows will definatley split. I can use cedar saplines wich I enjoy, however I want to shoot my bow now so I dont want to wait a few months for these saplines to dry. So I want to buy some dow, however the type of would that dow is makes a differenceso usually though cedar is a predominatly a fit. Then I am going to look at the dow make sure the dows grain goes from one end all the to the other otherwise good chance it will break. once you have comfirmed that then make sure the dow that yaou have will support the poundage of your bow. Remember all the energy from your bow is going into you arrow and if you try to shoot a 30 lb arrow from a sixty pound bow well your either going to split the arrow or it will fly to the side.

fork me3 (author)2008-01-28

looks kool let me know how well it goes guys also if u have the spare time check out my instructable

MOBucky (author)2008-01-22

Another question in keeping with the idea of primitive. I realize that I'm old enough that you folks think my childhood was primitive, but I want really old. . .like when my Dad was young. I know that arrowheads were usually made of stone as they're all over out here. However, I don't have the where-with-all to make stone arrowheads. Any ideas on other natural materials that would work?

Pudge (author)2007-07-28

note to world: Railroad spiked are to dense for Fudal age Ballistias, but not impearial age ballistias. Pet Parrot/Parakete feathers are good for fletching

Pudge (author)2007-07-27

I might try this as ballistia ammo. (But i am going to try dowel rods first, or old railroad spikes)

Bert2368 (author)2007-03-06

Generally the primitives (or English fletchers prior to gunpowder!) would put a little piece of animal horn at the front of the nock and then wind sinew or other fiber and glue around the front part of the split to prevent the bow string spliting the shaft in use. Hazel wood wands were a popular shaft material in England- I've used lilac sprouts a few times.

tjsdaname (author)2007-01-15

where can you find this cane that your talking about?? by the way grate instructable

Vendigroth (author)tjsdaname2007-02-16

's bamboo cane, you can find it in most all garden centers, or anywhere for gardeners. It's used to give plants something to grow up. And for arrows.

Jesus10555 (author)2006-10-01

i play on making some arrows soon.... once i get a bow :) but what i planned on using for my head is one of those circle things that roofers use, that go between the nail and the tar paper, and just hammerin it down, pinching it in, and then shaping the front

Primitive Archer (author)2006-10-01

There is a good tutorial on 'self-bows' here (home made bows):

And how to make arrows here (I haven't read this yet but it looks good):

salamanyon (author)2006-07-11

where is the bow tutorial?

Corvidae (author)2006-07-06

Flecthings are actually slightly skewed so the arrows spin in flight to give greater penetrating power. Some thing funny about arrows is that they actually wiggle in flight but bending back and forth a little bit. This is why the straightest shaft you can get is best, if its already bent a bit then the mid air wiggle will put it off target due to not reflexing to an exactly opposite vertex. For a homemade bow that wont likly be for target the bamboo should be fine though.

Hugo.B (author)2006-06-30

(refering to dejapong) I'm no expert, but the arrow(s) you made look quite ameteurish, there being a visible wiggle in the arrow displayed...Although llama13 suggested dowel, I gather that you are going for the stone age type stuff. From my experience, (I live in the G.B.) wild raspberry canes (provided they quite straight), make splendid material for this. The bow is very good though, I have never got around to making a two-ply one.

dejapong (author)2006-06-13

wow, that makes sense, It would probably be pretty strong too.

Asmalldharma (author)2006-06-13

Isn't the fletching on arrows set at an angle so that the arrow spins to improve accuracy?

ll.13 (author)2006-06-13

have you tried useing dowel it is pretty good but hard to put the fletching in as it doesn't split easily

About This Instructable




More by dejapong:Build your own car seat coversBuilding a Primitive ArrowEmergency Pants Button
Add instructable to: