I recently finished another Paleolithic inspired spear thrower (a.k.a. atlatl). This came about due to some throwing over the past year that re-energized my feelings about this technology and it’s sporting aspects. As usual for this type of project, I made several at once since the tools were at hand. Here’s a quick rundown on the process of connecting an antler hook to a wooden handle.
I cut the antler and rough out a notch for the hook. A few hours soaking in water will soften the cancellous core for easy working.
Drilling can easily be done on the softened antler with a narrow knife, stone flake, or tapered drill bit.
Argh! A moment of distraction means the snap of a stone bit! However, the show must go on.
Once the hole is drilled (I take it down to about 3/8 inch or a little thicker) the handle can be roughly whittled, testing periodically for fit.
A process of trial and error will eventually make a tight joint.
Cleaning of the shoulders of the joint makes for a much neater look and solid connection.
If the fit is tight, the drying cancellous tissue in the horn sticks surprisingly well. However, I want this to be maintenance-free for the owner so a drop of wood glue will insure decades of strength. Now the slow and tedious shaping can commence.
Antler hook after shaping.
Here is the hickory handle after being painted with red ochre.
And, for mine, I added a turk’s head knot in vegetable-tanned leather to keep hand placement consistent.
My favorite style is the Western European Upper Paleolithic “hammer-handle” style thrower. It works well with heavier darts and is a solid companion.