Atlatl Kit

For Christmas, Atlatl Ray, my father, gave me some wood blanks cut and taped together in the form of an atlatl. Over a month, I carved, sanded, glued, shined, and tied it up.  I hope spring gets here soon so we can try it out.  Check out my progress below.

STEP 1  // UPDATED 01/23/2011:

Glueing up a mess

The basics are:

Take off the tape, glue, sand, sand some more, and eventually treat the wood (I think?).

At no surprise to myself, I’ve already had some trouble with the basic gluing and sanding. But, overall, it still looks nice and the progress — half an hour, half an hour there — is encouraging.

This is Dad’s “keyhole” style. At least, that’s what I call it. The minor troubles I had were gaps in the glue filling and just … sorta … not knowing how much to sand where. But it looks good! 😀

STEP 2  // UPDATED 01/30/2010:

Carving and Sanding

I spent some time in the “solarium” grinding away away at my atlatl kit this fine Sunday afternoon. Previously, I had fixed the spur head to the shaft and the shaft to the handle with PC-7 glue and sanded … and sanded … and sanded. Today I whipped out the shinto rasp, bastard file, and PC-7 glue to prep and fix the nook and spur to the atlatl. That glue will set overnight and maybe next weekend I’ll do some final sanding and brush on some lacquer. Not sure I have the expertise to tie a river stone weight onto the shaft with tendon (or waxed hemp twine or whatever) the way my dad does it, but we’ll see.

Hear are some photos from today’s progress with the atlatl kit:

Atlatl Nook - Make an Atlatl

This is the nook of the atlatl. You set the middle of the spear here. My dad gave this to me as a separate block with a peg on it and a hole in the atlatl handle. I simply rasped the base a little, smeared glue on the peg, and shoved it in the hole. The duct tape is holding a little wedge of wood against some leather strips against glue against the crotch of the wood block. After the glue dries, I’ll take the tape off and file down the excess leather.

As you can see above and below, crappy gluemanship is a recurring theme of this project.  Probably should have learned this the right way back in kindergarten but I shall brave on …

Bottom of Atlatl Handle - Making an Atlatl

This is where the little peg sticks out of the bottom of the atlatl handle.  I’ll sand the protruding nub and mess of glue off next time.

Atlatl Spur - Making an Atlatl

This is the spur of the atlatl.  I used the bastard file to run a channel in some layers of wood I’d previously glued onto the end of the shaft.  Then I just smeared glue in that channel like a five-year-old with a handful of pudding and plopped the peg in on top of it at a 30 degree angle.  I think I’ll sand its rear end off next time — maybe saw and sand.

Atlatl Spur - How to Make an Atlatl

Another view of that dirty, dirty spur.

Atlatl Shaft and Handle - How to Make an Atlatl

You can see here the crap job I previously did gluing the shaft to the handle.  I’ve since sanded it furiously to no avail.  The unsightly seam of PC-7 runs deep.

Atlatl Handle, Nook, Shaft

This image shows that the atlatl handle, shaft and nook are roughly in line.  I’m worried that the nook will be offset a bit and will make the dart fly off in one direction or another.

STEP 3  // UPDATED 02/11/2010:

Shellacking and Stone-Tying

Tonight I finished the atlatl!

OK, it’s not as good of a job as I my dad would do but it’s my first kit.

The really fun part for me was applying the polyurethane stain or whatever you want to call it.  I used wipe-on polyurethane after I sanded multiple times with multiple grits, stepping up from 50 – 220.  There was a lot of fine-tuning with the Shinto rasp too but I really should have done that earlier.

It took me a few days to get four coats of polyurethane on the atlatl.  Soon as I had a gloss I liked, I tied a stone weight near the spur with some waxed twine.  The twine I used was really thin so I would recommend something a little thicker than what’s shown in the image below.  Also, I tied it the only way I could figure.  My dad has a different way of doing that looks a lot better but I couldn’t get it right.  I’ll post his method soon.

Tied atlatl weight

Tied atlatl weight

STEP 4  // UPDATED 02/12/2011


PC-7 Glue Playstation

Here’s the mess I made with a screwdriver and my PC-7 glue.


This is a blurry photo of a bastard file.  I used this to file a channel in the spur head.  The bastard file has a cool name and looks like a wizard’s wand.  Woodworkers everywhere are shaking their heads in embarrassment.

There’s my shinto rasp.  The shinto rasp is a pleasure to use.  It makes quick, clean work of anything.  The beer is Dogfish Head’s Chicory Stout, my beer of choice for sanding work.  I also recommend NPR and loud music for sanding.  It’s boring work!  Today I listened to reporting on the unrest in Cairo, Egypt, and Fire in My Bones: Raw, Rare & Otherworldly African-American Gospel.

Bicycle by Ritchie

This is a bicycle that my friend Ritchie helped me restore (or, rather, I helped him restore it) for my girlfriend’s birthday present.  I’m making the atlatl a present for Ritchie to thank him.