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General >> Other Primitive Weapons >> Making an Atlatl
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Message started by cpman on Jul 30th, 2018 at 4:28pm

Title: Making an Atlatl
Post by cpman on Jul 30th, 2018 at 4:28pm
Iíd like to learn how to use an atlatl, so I decided to try making one. I got a new knife for my birthday, so I cut a piece of yaupon and started turning it into one.

I need to finish cleaning off the wood and to shape the little knob that the darts sit on.

Do yíall have any tips for making/using one?
Thanks!
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Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by vetryan15 on Jul 30th, 2018 at 8:25pm
Cut a small groove on the front to fit the dart. I actually just had mine out today, showing my new neighbor

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by Morphy on Jul 30th, 2018 at 10:09pm
Bills given me some good advice on atlatls in the past. Wish I could remember it now to pass it on. I look forward to seeing what you come up with. 

What do you plan on using for darts?

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by Mersa on Jul 31st, 2018 at 4:47am
Wrap the end in strin to stop to wood grain from splitting

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by kicktheotter on Jul 31st, 2018 at 4:50am
Atlatls have come up a few times in the forum. If you search around you'll find a lot of information. I've made an atlatl buy have never got around to making the darts :D I've tested it with a very rough dart which was basically a a long pointy stick ascend out worked alright. I feel atlatls are easy to make, hard to perfect.

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by Bill Skinner on Jul 31st, 2018 at 10:45am
Rub it down with cooking oil to stop it from cracking.  Vegetable or animal based is fine.

Do you have access to river cane or bamboo?

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by walter on Aug 1st, 2018 at 8:54am
Lot of different styles on the net. Pick one or combine several. This stick was laying on my driveway.† It is a little too short , but I had fun carving it :)



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Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by cpman on Aug 25th, 2018 at 5:39pm
I do have easy access to bamboo: I could probably even be paid to take it out :p

I did wrap the ends in jute to keep it from splitting. Iíve got to do some more detail work and to really get off two little knobs of dry rot where old branches were attached (the rot hasnít progressed at all, though). Iím then going to finish those details, then finish it ó probably with mineral oil ó then rebind the ends.

I went out today to do some preliminary testing ó the first ďdartĒ was the stem of something called frostweed. It broke immediately ó the force was far too much. I then walked out to a bamboo grove and scouted for a skinny, standing piece that was dead. I didnít want to bring out a saw if it didnít work, which is why I was looking for a dead one. Unfortunately, most were too big (2Ē around), but I did find a few dead stalks about 7í long of the right width and cleaned off the branches.

I threw them a couple times and holy cow! Even without a point or flights, they flew beautifully straight and fast. IDK how far they wouldíve gone (because of stuff around me), but even without much effort, they were going 15m or so before hitting stuff. It was also way easier to aim than I thought itíd be. Iím not all that good at throwing stuff, so Iím also impressed with how far they went. I also really like the little knob at the handle end ó it helps line the thing up. It makes a perfect pocket for my thumb.

Iím really, really excited to finish this and make some quality darts for it.

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by cpman on Aug 27th, 2018 at 11:38am
Well, the atlatl is done and treated with mineral oil. It took like 20 coats, but it should last longer now. The twine wrapping wasnít a good idea ó it came loose the first throw even though it was tied on very tightly with constrictor hitches...

I also discovered that standing, dead bamboo is not a good dart shaft. I was trying to tune a piece, and on the 4th throw, there was a sickening snap and two pieces of bamboo were thrown forward...

I guess Iíll have to cut some living culms to make the darts.

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by cpman on Sep 2nd, 2018 at 5:32pm
This is getting annoying. I've now snapped 3 pieces of bamboo while trying to tune them. 2 were alive and dried until they were light, and one was the dead one I mentioned. Any idea why? I  attached a frame from a video I took showing the issue -- see the break?

Also, I think the bamboo I'm using is too wide for the spur on this atlatl -- from my iPhone videos, it seems to be slipping off early.
IMG_4247.PNG (280 KB | 21 )

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by kicktheotter on Sep 3rd, 2018 at 3:34am
Maybe thinner pieces would be more flexible. It does seems they are just too stiff to withstand the force so go much thinner would be my suggestion. I think if you went thicker that would also work but then you end up with heavier darts.

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by Morphy on Sep 3rd, 2018 at 10:39am
Either too thin or not actually bamboo. Bamboo is used in arrows which have a much greater degree of acceleration. I can't understand how you could be breaking it. A too thick dart won't flex enough based on my limited understanding and should fly upwards I believe. If it's extremely narrow it might flex too much and break but it would have to be really, really weak for bamboo to break.

Someone put an APB out for Bill.

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by cpman on Sep 3rd, 2018 at 12:53pm
Itís definitey bamboo, and itís not all that thin either. This ďsnapĒ was one of one of the† internodes breaking ó here are some pictures.

Could this be caused by improper drying? To let it dry, I just leaned it up against my house in the shade, with all the branches/leaves cut off until it wasnít heavy anymore. But, itís been ~100įF in the afternoons.
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0F1ABF81-7D4A-4E21-8131-2A35AF2EB62D.jpeg (2028 KB | 19 )

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by Morphy on Sep 3rd, 2018 at 2:52pm
There's lots of different species of bamboo and cane. Maybe it's a mechanical issue but it could also very well be an issue with that species. Either it naturally grows very thin sidewalls or some other issues.

Bamboo can be bent with heat or tempered without losing a serious amount of strength and that is a much higher heat than 100 degrees so I would say it's unlikely heat is the culprit.

Title: Re: Making an Atlatl
Post by Bill Skinner on Sep 4th, 2018 at 4:49pm
OK, I use river cane, which is in the bamboo family.  River cane dies after three years, it gets denser and thicker walls as it ages.  At a guess, you used bamboo that is too young and the side walls are too thin.

Second guess is that the bamboo is still too green.  I put my river cane on the barn roof in the sun, I rotate it every couple of days until it's yellow.  That takes about two weeks down here in Alabama in the summer.

Third guess, you're putting too much of a "snap" in your throw.  Think pushing the point at the target instead of throwing it.  Is your Atlatl flexing as you throw?

I make Atlatls' out of the same piece of cane that I make the dart out of.  The base section and about three nodes, depending on length, the remainder of the shoot is the dart. 

You are launching the large end as the point?  Your dart should be your height or a little more, if your Atlatl is rigid, you will need a shorter and thicker dart.


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