Spear Thrower Follow Up


A quick follow-up on yesterday’s post in the wee hours of the morning.

Hook engaged.

Hook engaged.

Based on a question that came in yesterday it seems appropriate to show the thrower in use.  This is my favorite dart but I’m a little embarrassed by the sloppy fletching.  The base (proximal end) of the dart is carved out in a shallow cone and reinforced with some very fine hemp, coated in hide glue.  The indent should not be too deep or the hook only catches the rim and will break off bits when thrown.  It should “bottom out” for best contact.

DSC_0002 (16)

Hook detail.

The hook is pulled out here to show length.  I find that if the hole and pin are too deep, the release is not smooth as it binds up during the throw.

DSC_0003 (12)

Hole oblique.

Nothing magic, just a technology we all knew back in our family past.  I should say that there are three primary types if connection for spear throwers; this on just seems the most popular.  I hope to address the others sometime down the road.

Spear Throwing Time

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.

DSC_0002 (9)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.

DSC_0003 (8)

Side profile of the nearly finished antler hook.

The hook above is held by elk sinew and hide glue. It may need another round to smooth it out.

DSC_0002 (10)

Sinew coated in hide glue drying on the spear thrower hook.

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.

DSC_0001 (8)

Grip wrapped (half-hitched) with buckskin lace and ornamented with some hackle feathers.

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.



They work!


Spear Thrower

And in some spare time, I carved a spear thrower inspired by the an Old World Upper Paleolithic design.  This one is made from seasoned shagbark hickory (carya ovata) from my old farm.  It would certainly be handy as a multi-purpose tool to a hunter-gatherer and could easily serve as a club or throwing stick for small game.  At least some of the early ones were from more durable materials such as antler or ivory.

A close-up of the hook.  The thrower was burnished with bone to create a nice finish, then coated with walnut oil for protection.



Photos from the October 2010 Atlatl Competition are up.  Windy weather added a new level of difficulty to the target throws.  The turnout was excellent with participants traveling from as far as Roswell, northern New Mexico, and Austin to take part in our event.  Thanks to everyone who came.