Introduction: The Pathfinder Dart- Atlatl Using String(With Duct Tape Fletching)

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Most people have heard of the atlatl (AT-latl). For those of you who haven't, it was the method of hunting in between the spear and the bow & arrow. It was simply an extension of the arm to help throw the spear, increasing range, speed, and accuracy. In this case, however, we are replacing the atlatl with a string. You just throw, following through, and the knot lets go of the spear.
Here is a good ebook on archery. It includes arrowheads, fletching, and making arrows. If you view one on making arrows, simply make the arrow longer than the Instructable says.

Step 1: Materials

The materials for a pathfinder dart are the following:

  • A straight stick, anywhere from three to five feet

  • Duct tape or arrows for fletching

  • (Optional) An arrowhead

  • Any cord or string, paracord being ideal

Step 2: The Shaft

You can make the shaft- the actual spear itself- out of any straight branch or plant stalk, as long as it has sufficient length. It also has to be very straight, as imperfections can affect the flight. So sight down the shaft, rotating it. If the wood is green, you can heat bends over a fire and/or coals, and when it's hot enough, you can bend it so it's straight, and then let it cool.

I used mullein, which is an invasive species. It was very straight, although it's somewhat difficult to take the leaves off.

If it doesn't have a pith, and mine did, you can sharpen it.

Step 3: Fletching

I had no feathers, so I made my fletching out of duct tape. First, I put a piece approximately six inches long, starting about a quarter inch away from the back. I doubled it, putting another piece on the back. Then I "scored it" with my knife, simply making a line about halfway through, just to estimate how the fletching would look. I made it to about a third from the back. Once I was happy with it, I cut deeper, and on both sides. Then it was just a matter of tearing and extra cutting a the tough parts. Man, duct tape really deserves its reputation! 

I repeated this three times, spacing three fletchings evenly. Make sure to look from the back to make sure they are, in fact, even.

I am open to suggestions and would love to learn how to fletch with feathers.

Make sure to click on the pictures for notes and detail.

Step 4: The Notch

The notch is where you will eventually tie the string. To start, saw less than halfway through the arrow, less if it is weak. Do this cut about 3/4" to an inch above the fletching. Then, cut away most of the material between the fletching and the cut, using your fingers to guide the knife (keep them behind, not in front). This will make a half triangle shape when viewed from the side. Again, look at the pictures, and sorry for the bad quality.

Step 5: The Knot

The knot is the most important part, as it will release the arrow at the perfect moment.

To begin, hold the arrow with the tip pointing away from you.

Lay the cord over the notch, with the knotted end on the right and with just about a quarter inch of space in between the knot and where the cord touches the wood. We'll call the knot the standing end and the cord to the left of the wood the working end.

Take the working end underneath the arrow. This is the first picture.

Take the working end over the knot towards you, then under the knot away from you. This is the second picture.

Pull the knot snug, so that you cannot see any cord between the knot and where the cord touches the arrow.

Pull your hand down the arrow, keeping tension on the rope. Otherwise, the knot will untie. This is the third picture.

Wrap the cord around your hand until you can hold it between halfway down the arrow and three inches from the end. I urge you to experiment with where you hold it and report your results. I found holding it just past the middle worked well.

Step 6: Throwing It

Throwing your newly made pathfinder is easy. Simply hold it in your throwing hand, reel back, and throw it like a baseball. Remember to follow through. There is a lot of instinct involved, and you will be able to figure out anything I can't explain through trial and error. Enjoy!

The video is of me tying the knot and throwing the pathfinder.

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