Ray’s Atlatls

Atlatl Pics

Here are some of Ray Strischek’s atlatls, pictured below.

Would you like to buy an atlatl or darts?  Contact Ray for a quote.  Most builds range $20 – $80.  Please be sure to describe the kind of atlatl you’re interested in — beginner or competition-grade, woods, larger or smaller hand, etc.

We’re also glad to provide free advice on building your own atlatls and darts.  Please feel free to ask if you have any questions.

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Atlatl and Dart Research

I have been throwing, building and studying atlatls and darts for fun and sport since the early 1990’s.  During that time, I’ve watched, learned from, and taught a number of great crafters and throwers in the United States and other countries.

Much of that knowledge I log and snail-mail out in a periodic newsletter called The Dart to anyone who asks for it.  I’ve also collected some ideas and observations here in two PDFs — one about atlatls and one about darts (spears):

“Atlatls” by Ray Strischek (PDF download)

“Darts for Atlatls” by Ray Strischek (PDF download)

Atlatls

An atlatl is a tool that uses leverage to achieve greater velocity in throwing darts, and includes a bearing surface which allows the user to transfer energy derived from muscular energy during the throw. It consists of a shaft with a handle on one end and a spur or cup on the other, against which the butt of the dart rests. The dart is thrown by the action of the upper arm and wrist in conjunction with a shift of balance of the body. An atlatl can readily cast a well made dart to ranges greater than 100 meters.

Atlatl Grips: In the course of 10 years, I started out with a rigid, hammer grip atlatl but within two years, switched to a flexible, weighted, hammer grip atlatl (which provides greater throwing control and a smoother throwing motion). However, a foolish mistake experimenting with heavier weights gave me a very painful dose of “atlatl elbow” for nine months. Desperate, I switched to a basketmaker grip, flexible, weighted atlatl, and the pain was gone in three days.

The difference between hammer grip and basketmaker grip. Hammer grip provides greater control of elevation, but less control of direction. Basketmaker grip provides greater control of direction, but less control of elevation.

Three years ago, I switched to a single hole, flexible, weighted atlatl. The single hole splits the difference between pure hammer grip and basketmaker, giving me all around better control of elevation and direction. Now when I miss, its pure pilot error.

Dart Rest: A dart rest allows you to use all your fingers and thumb to control the atlatl handle. No need to hold the dart to the atlatl with some fingers before the throw, then have to reset the fingers on the atlatl handle during the throw. With the dart rest, you hold the atlatl, the atlatl holds the dart, and you don’t get in each other’s way.

Flexible Atlatl Shaft: Think shock absorber. During the throwing motion, the dart is flexing. The atlatl shaft flexes during the throwing motion, preventing an annoying, slightly painful strain that would normally run from your wrist to your elbow. Some people say the flexing atlatl shaft provides more power to the throw. I say the flexing atlatl shaft acts as a shock absorber, providing a smoother throwing motion.

Atlatl Weight: So many theories! Some say the weight provides more velocity, or a stealthy throw, or helps balance the weight of atlatl and dart together so a person can hold same in readiness to throw for long periods of time. I think it has more to do with the advantage of centrifugal force. During the throwing motion the dart is flexing and at the top of the throw, the spur of the atlatl is no longer inside the hole in the back of the dart. The dart is resting on the top side of the spur, connected to the spur only because the atlatl is moving faster than the dart. The atlatl weight, provides enough centrifugal force to counter the forces of the flexing dart, to provide a well controled, smoother throwing motion.

All of the atlatls and darts sold in my Etsy shop are handmade.

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Ray Strischek

ray-and-woogie

Ray Strischek lives in Athens, Ohio, with Connie and “HP.”

Ray has been atlatling since 1992 when he and his father, Martin, and his son, Cory, drove out to camp on a mountain in New Mexico. Somewhere along the way they visited a museum that featured an exhibition on atlatls. A couple nights later, they made a simple atlatl out of a stick and a dart out of a dowel rod they found in the truck. The rest is pre-history.

Here’s a PDF of the article on the Gallina stone towers that drew us to New Mexico.

Ray also served in the Vietnam War and has been active in Vietnam Veterans for America.

The Virtual Vietnam Memorial Wall

Even More About Ray and Atlatls

Here’s a little interview Cory gave Ray about his atlatling experience:

Why do you think atlatls are so cool?

In my youth I participated in sports like football (right guard and center), wrestling (133 and 145 pound weight classes), weight lifting, and track (pole vaulting). I also trapped. I preferred the loner sport (wrestling) because it all came down to what you alone could do.

Atlatl and Dart is like that — it’s all about what you can do on your own and even in competition; you are always only competing against your own last best round. Atlatl and Dart is such a mind over matter challenge with so many steps in the throwing motion, so many chances to muck it up. But it feels so good when you hit what you aim at or otherwise have a real good day throwing.

When did you start competing?

I started competing in 1997, the first year after I first saw the atlatl and dart contest at Flint Ridge in Ohio. I was there with my late father, Martin. We saw. We told each other that we could do better. We went home, made our first atlatls and darts (after many trial and error experiments), and went back to Flint Ridge and did pretty good.

When did you start building atlatls?

I started making atlatls and darts right after my first trip to Flint Ridge. I went to the Library at Ohio University and plowed through all the archeology articles on atlatls and darts, and all the primitive society magazines until I came across Anan Ray’s “The Performance and Function of the Atlatl Weight” and finally started making atlatls. My first atlatls were really crappy. The biggest problem I ran into was getting a good grip in a handle. During the throwing motion, the atlatl handle tended to slip and slop around in my hand which caused and equal wobble up at the spur/dart end. After many configurations of leather straps, pegs, holes, and ergonomic sculpturing, I finally came up with a single-finger-hole, flexible, weighted atlatl design with a fluted, blunt pointed spur that cured all my blues or otherwise cut down on the number of bad things that go wrong during the throwing motion.

How long you’ve been active in atlatl communities?

I have been in the atlatl community since 1997 when I, Bob Berg, Bob Hunt, Skeeter Kish and some others from Flint Ridge started the Ohio Atlatl Association for the purpose of putting on atlatl training and competition events at the Flint Ridge flint-knapping events.

Since then, the Ohio Atlatl Association has expanded to 60 members and stages about a dozen events, mostly in Ohio, every year with the help of a core group of die hards consisting of myself, Connie Harse, Steve Barnett, Debbie Andrews, Rick Shepherd, Mamerto Tindongan, and Mike Glenn.

Weren’t you a “world champion” at some point?

I have ranked in the Top Ten of the World Atlatl Association nearly every year since 1997 and was World Champion one year. I can’t remember which year that was but it was a while ago, with a score of 93XX. (Maximum possible score is 100 with ten Xs).

My highest WWA score is 97XX.

Who do you associate with now as an atlatlist?

The only atlatl association I am a member of now is the Ohio Atlatl Association. I am on the board of directors and am the editor of the OAA newsletter, THE DART. This consumes almost all of my remaining spare time not directly related to making atlatls and darts for sale.

What do you want to see in the atlatl community?

I would like to see other state ataltl associations in all 50 states and every foreign country. Right now, there are maybe only a dozen other ataltl associations in other states, and a few in Europe. There are maybe two dozen of us atlatlists who make and sell atlatls. I don’t know about them but I am pretty busy keeping up with the orders I get. The Internet has been a big boon to the spread of the atlatl and dart. More and more, boy scout groups are taking on the atlatl as a project. I get about three or four calls a year from people/institutions that would like me to come set up a training and competition show at their events.

The Ohio Atlatl Association always sets up a training range to teach visitors how to use the atlatl and dart. We supply the equipment and teach for free. It is a very popular attraction at the kind of events that include flintknappers, Pow Wow dancers and crafts people making all sorts of Native American or early European/American wares.

I would like to see all state atlatl associations do the same thing OAA does at their events. OAA generally has 6 training stations set up side by side so 6 people can throw at a time. I have seen some kids and adults come back and end up throwing all day long. With OAA members trading off on the training duties, we all just manage to get in our rounds of competition each day. Sometimes we have upwards to 300 people go through the training each day. Those who show some ability are encouraged to go participate in the competition rounds. This is how we get new members. This is how people get attracted to and hooked on the atlatl and dart.

The very first Flint Ridge event I went to in 1997, Bob Berg (look up Thunderbird Atlatl on the internet) had a little training station set up at his sales booth where he allowed people to use his equipment. That hooked me even more so than just watching the atlatlists there doing their thing. That got me started. As OAA, we simply expanded on Bob Berg’s theme of providing the equipment and training to hook as many people as we could. It is a proven system and I would like to see it taken up by others, if only to take some of the load off OAA.

Yeah, but what’s your, “atlatl dream?”

The one thing I would like to do that I have not done so far is to get paid to go to some place for say 3 days or a week and actually teach 10 to 20 people how to make and use atlatls and darts from scratch. That would include them actually carving the atlatl out of wood, straightening river cane or bamboo to make the darts, and throwing.

What if you teach someone to beat your high score?

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Contact Ray

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