I recently got around to repairing my partner’s atlatl for an upcoming throw at the Landmark. It’s been in use for seven years now and suffered some dings as well as losing it’s wooden hook. The handle is oak and the original cocobolo hook has been replaced with antler which will hopefully last a lifetime.
The hook itself can come under a lot of stress, especially if it lodges in a too-deep socket on the spear or dart. I started keeping them fatter and flatter, more like Upper Paleolithic specimens from Europe, making them stronger with a smoother release. This design works well for me.
The hook above is held by elk sinew and hide glue. It may need another round to smooth it out.
Sinew is an amazing material to work with. I learned about it when I was a teenager by reading Larry Dean Olsen’s classic book Outdoor Survival Skills and have been a proponent ever since. Real sinew has many advantages over modern materials including the so-called “artificial sinew” in that it adheres to many surfaces, bonds perfectly with hide glue (sharing much of the same chemistry), and shrinks as it dries making for a tighter bond. Another advantage to sinew as a survival tool is that every animal has it, so watch out.
Finally, a lot of folks prefer a leather gripped handle for a better hold when wet or sweaty. This thrower has won quite a few competitions in the past and I hope that tradition continues in it’s newest reincarnation.