How to Make an Atlatl

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Introduction: How to Make an Atlatl

About: I am a high-school aged home school student currently residing in the state of Texas.

This is an instructable on how to make an atlatl and a dart to go with it. The atlatl and dart were once used as a hunting weapon, and are now used for sport. In this instructable, I will show you how to make an easy atlatl that can be done in a day. I am going to call the throwing part the atlatl, and the spear-like part, the dart.

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Step 1: The Atlatl.

The first thing to do is to get a branch selected for the atlatl. The one that I selected was forty centimeters (sixteen inches), but the main thing to do is to get the size that fits you. The piece that I selected had a bit of a natural curve to it, which in my opinion is good for an atlatl.

Step 2: Cutting.

After that, cut off all the little branches.

Step 3: Thinning.

Then start thinning down the sides. Once you are done with that, start thinning down the top and bottom. Make sure that you know where you want your handle to be so that you don't accidentally carve it some of it off. If you are wanting a curve in the atlatl, then this is where you want to start carving it.

Step 4: The Stop Cut.

Next, start making the stop cut that the dart will rest in. 

Step 5: Last Refinements.

Next, make the last refinements, sand the whole thing down, and voila! You are done with the atlatl.

Step 6: The Dart.

Now, it is time for the dart. I cut a long, straight piece of wood, and then cut it down to the length that I wanted. It was about ninety-three centimeters (thirty-six inches)  

Step 7: Trimming.

Then I trimmed off all the little starts of branches.

Step 8: Shaving Off Bark.

Then I removed a bit of bark off of the end that will rest in the stop-cut of the atlatl, for the feathers.

Step 9: Tying Feathers.

I then got three feathers, cut off the smaller sides with a pair of scissors. After that I glued them just enough to hold them on, got some string, (I would have used twine if that had been available to me.) and proceeded to wrap the feathers onto the now-fully-fledged-dart. Also, when you are doing it, try to make to end of the feathers curve to the side a bit, and it will spin when thrown.

Step 10: Carving a Tip.

I now took the other end of the soon-to-be dart, and carved a tip, making sure to make it off-center so that the tip was not made out of  the fluffy inner wood.

Step 11: Hardening.

Then I hardened the tip with fire. 

Step 12: Have Fun!!!

Have fun throwing the dart with the atlatl! Here is a diagram that I found on the internet that shows how to throw it. And also a picture of the completed project.

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    17 Discussions

    0
    Jaygo
    Jaygo

    6 weeks ago on Step 12

    Nice little article. I can add a few things to improve it for you. Btw, I am a fellow Texan!
    One little thing you might keep in mind, just a minor FYI for you; You allowed you used "string" in lieu of "twine." For this purpose (there being many different uses of the words) string and twine are basically the same thing, long, thin cord made up of multiple fibres twisted together. "Twine" is simply an older word for the stuff not used so much these days.
    Your atlatl is fine. But, your dart could use some more work for any practical use. As is, it won't be so accurate, it really needs to be straighter. Being a bit longer and thinner wouldn't hurt either. Watch some videos of Matt Graham (among others) using his. The dart needs to be somewhat flexible, it 'wants' to flex when launched, much like you see an arrow do in "archer's paradox." Also, trying to avoid a soft center isn't necessary if you make your shaft this way because there won't be one. Find a (near as) straight piece of wood about an inch or so (say 2"- 3" max) around and about 4'- 5' feet long. Try and split it as straight as you can down the center. Then, depending on the original diameter, split the two halves once or twice again each. Then whittle them down to the desired thickness leaving a little extra for finishing and sanding. The "soft center" is no issue now.
    There will be some bends. These can be easily straightened. You will want some tool to grip the shaft, pliers, channel locks, a split stick doubled over or, if you want to get fancy, make a simple tool often used by Native Americans. Make/get a flat piece of wood big enough to make a hole that will let your shafts pass easily through. You will want it sized and shaped to hold easily in your hand. Length will want to be about 6"-10." Heat up the bend you want straightened about hot enough to be uncomfortable to touch but not so much to scorch or dry out the wood. Put your tool in the center of the bend and twist the tool counter-bending the shaft a little past straight, then remove it from the heat source and hold it til the wood cools. You need to twist past straight as you will get a little spring back when you release tension on the shaft. Just keep that up till it's as straight as you want. Then sand to finish as you will. This will leave your dart straight and strong. You don't want to cut away bends because that will break the run of your wood fibres weakening the shaft.
    You can whittle and heat a point as you described or put in/on a better point if so inclined. Another option from feathers to fletch your dart is to spit the top of the shaft and and slide a green flat leaf* (or two or more if you don't have anything very long) in the split making a two fletch end which will work just fine and is a lot easier than trying to accurately space 3 fletches. Of course you can use paper or any other such like material to fletch. Glue the fletches in and tie off the shaft at the front and back of your fletching. You want to tie the front to discourage the split you made from running down the dart's length. Back in the bad old days, rural Vietnamese made small (and very effective!) crossbows. They used a split length of bamboo for the shafts of their quarrels or bolts with a bamboo leaf folded in half which made a very nice triangle.
    * Leaves of cane or other such plants found around steams or low slow moving water work great.
    Didn't even mean to make this so long. Much of this can be done in less time than it takes to "tell." Anyway, I hope this helps somebody along the way.

    0
    Shadowalked
    Shadowalked

    4 years ago

    thanks. I'm doing this for a project for class

    0
    unicornDIY
    unicornDIY

    4 years ago

    Thanx! I needed to figure out how to make an atlatl and this helped me a lot!

    0
    flattail
    flattail

    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you!

    0
    Old cooper
    Old cooper

    5 years ago on Introduction

    A project just made for a drawknife and a drawknife bench.

    I saw an atlatl today in a state park collection made from a piece of bamboo or cane. I'll be making one this weekend.

    0
    flattail
    flattail

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Sounds awesome! Hope yours turns out better than mine! Don't forget to post pictures somewhere when you're done!

    0
    Malhecho
    Malhecho

    6 years ago on Introduction

    cool stuff I've been interested in bush craft since starting to take anthropology this semester

    0
    Mr_Rep
    Mr_Rep

    5 years ago

    What did you use to do the carving?

    0
    triumphman
    triumphman

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! I just posted my 'ible an "Making the Ancient Atlatl". Yours is so much easier to make than mine. I like the way yours could be made in a "Survival " situation to hunt game. Thanks for sharing yours !

    0
    flattail
    flattail

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! I'm glad you like it. I actually saw your instructable the other day and thought, "Man, I wish mine was that good." I've been meaning to do a remake for this for quite some time, because it doesn't work as well as I'd like it too. Maybe someday I'll get around to it...

    0
    LiftAndLove
    LiftAndLove

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Well someone posted on Bushcraft about making atlatls, and his post looked like a copy of yours.

    0
    Jamman01
    Jamman01

    6 years ago on Introduction

    nice! i just made my own design and it was an absolute fail!haha i'll make both of your's and see how they turn out! thanks