Workshop Update 2014

Atlatl Ray’s been busy in the workshop.

[UPDATE: $80 Master Atlatls are done!]

$80 Master Atlatls

Contact me via my form if you’d like to buy one.

$80 Master Atlatls, Flexible and Weighted with dart rests, single finger hole style. Hardwood handles, hardwood flexible shafts, hardwood dart rests, oak spurs.

From bottom to top: Walnut handle with Osage flexible shaft. Next is Cherry Handle and Rose Wood flexible shaft. Middle is Elm handle with Rosewood Flexible Shaft. The top two are Walnut with Brazilian Cherry flexible shafts.

I am currently working on three of Walnut handle with Rosewood Flexible Shafts. I like Walnut and Cherry best. I like Rose Wood flexible shafts best. I have been using the same Walnut and Rose Wood atlatl for 10 years. Very dependable, very durable.

The weights are river smoothed cobbles and are lashed on (no glue) in such a way as to not slip. The rocks sit on a piece of leather and I wrap several winds of fake sinew around the stone and atlatl, leaving two feet of sinew dangling on both sides. I then use a repeated half hitch from stone to wood on both sides. This bunches the wrappings together making them even tighter than I can do by pulling with my hand. The weight I have on the atlatl I have been using for 10 years has never slipped. In fact, the bindings get tightened so much that on two occasions in the last 16 years the tightness gained from this method put so much pressure on the stone that it split the flexible shaft.

$40 Weighted, Flexible Atlatls — See pics below. A cross between beginner atlatls and master atlatls, a way to give someone an affordable opportunity to experience the flexible weighted atlatl.

$20 Beginner Atlatls — See pics below. A 1 inch diameter poplar shaft, oak dart rest and oak cross bar set at 5 1/2 inches from the front.  The spur is oak.  Atlatl is 22 inches long.

$20 Atlatl Darts —  See pics below. Approximately 7 feet long, with bamboo or river cane shafts, 3 feather tied on, not glued, water proof reinforced front and rear ends to  avoid splitting, and copper points also using water proof glue. All my darts have a 12 inch poplar foreshaft that holds the point and is permanently glued into the dart shaft. Upon request, I can make dart foreshafts that will hold a regular arrow insert so that a customer can buy hunting points from an archery store for use in hunting.

Beginner Atlatls
Beginner Atlatls
Fletching Style for Atlatl Darts
Fletching Style for Atlatl Darts
Beginner Atlatls
Beginner Atlatls
Atlatl Darts
Atlatl Darts

Until such time as such time as my son drags my 66 year old carcass kicking and screaming into the 21st Century all sales must be via check or money order.  Someday I will figure out pay pal but for now, while we still have one, lets use the US Post Office.

Please contact me via my form to let me know what you’re looking for…

Thud’s Cave Recommendation

For those of you who want to make your own atlatl, you would be hard pressed to find a better, more informative site than “Thud’s Cave”.  The plans are fine line drawings with all necessary measurements given.  The tools you would need to make any of these designs are:

  • Table saw
  • Band saw
  • Drill press
  • Belt Sander or at least an oscillating electric sander
    Electric hand drill
  • Wood Rasp  (I prefer the shinto rasp.  Look it up on the internet.)
  • Round Bastard File – 1/2 Diameter – (I found mine on the internet. Local hardware stores, even the big box ones don’t have it.) I use this file exclusively for making a 30 degree channel in the rear of the atlatl to receive  a 1/2 inch diameter oak dowel rod spur.
  • Lots of sandpaper,  40 grit, 60 grit, 80 grit, 100 grit, 150 grit, 220 grit.   (You’ll be pleasantly surprised how well 40 grit sandpaper can make your worst cutting mistakes disappear  Then its just a matter of sanding your way through the grit levels until you reach baby bottom smooth at 220 grit.
  • Duct tape.  You can back long strips of paper back sandpaper with the duct tape and “shoe shine” the atlatl while its in a vice.
  • A good glue.  I prefer PC-7 glue. Its two cans, white and black, mix it on a piece of cardboard with a flat stick. it has a fudge consistency.  It does not run, it does not shrink. Takes 12 hours to cure so you got plenty of time to work with it. When it dries, its as hard as wood but sands easily.  (You can find it on the internet.)

LINK: http://www.thudscave.com/npaa/designs/

Ray Strischek, Athens Ohio

Dowel Rods

Daryl Hrdlicka posted on Facebook about a good source for dowel rods, something all atlatlists will likely make use of at one time or another…

Daryl Hrdlicka posted on Facebook about a good source for dowel rods, something all atlatlists will likely make use of at one time or another:

For people looking for 1/2″ x 72″ dowels for darts: I’ve found one source where you can buy fewer than 100 at a time. Try this link. I’ve ordered from them a couple of times, you get 20 dowels for about $65 with the shipping.

Dowel Rods at Hector’s Hardware

Tools for Making Atlatls: The Shinto Rasp and Horseshoe File

If you sculpt wood for whatever reason, you’ll tend to need a tool that takes off a good amount of matter and can also navigate slight angles.  When I make an atlatl, I start with cut blanks that I glue together and end up with zero right angles.  I swear by the shinto rasp, horseshoe file, and a heck of a lot of sanding to get these forms.

The Shinto Rasp

Shinto Rasp

This wood carving tool, named after the indigenous spirituality of the Japanese people,  is perfect for making/shaping atlatls.  (I’ve had a few spiritual moments with it, myself.)  It consist of many hack saw blades welded together in a network.  It has a coarse side and a fine side.  A Google Images search for “shinto rasp” will reveal many pictures of it in various forms and two sizes — big and small. This is a good way to find one to buy, as well…

Note:  I buy only the replacement blade and not the whole rasp/handle combination. I find the handle to be clumsy and something of an overkill. If you have tender fingers, wear a glove.

The replacement rasp should be available for around $20.00,  they last for a long time.  The only thing better than a shinto rasp for taking off wood in a hurry is a horseshoe file. However, I find that the shinto rasp is more maneuverable on round or small projects.

The Horseshoe File

Horseshoe File or Horseshoe Rasp

I use the horseshoe file (or “horseshoe rasp”) to file down atlatl shafts to make them flexible. You can find them for sale on Amazon.com or Google Shopping.

They last a long time even if you are thinning harder woods like Purple Heart, Rosewood, Osage, Hickory, or any other “dense, heavy, fine-grain, needs-sharp-tools” kind of wood.

You can get a handle for these things, but why bother?  Got tender fingers?  Awww… Wear a glove. After you have worn this thing out, get a charcoal grill, an anvil, and a heavy hammer and make a sword out of it.

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

CLEAN UP TIME!

PC-7 Glue Playstation

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

BASTARD FILE

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.

Summer 2010 Inventory: Atlatls and Darts

The atlatls and darts are made.  Now Ray just has to buff and polish, take some pictures, and upload to the Etsy account … Tick, tick, tick.

5 X $50 Atlatls

6 X $80 Atlatls

2 X $80 Atlatls (version 2)

20 X Bamboo Darts

SOLD OUT (Already!) – Carbon Fiber Darts

Happy to say, the first round of new carbon fiber darts are already sold out.  Taking them up to Columbus this weekend while I do some refletching work ($5/dart).

Glue for Wood Atlatls and Bamboo Darts

photo from flickr user iamsalad -- thanks!

I use PC-7 glue to make my wood atlatls and bamboo or river cane darts. It helps to attach parts that need to be flexible … but eternally united — like where the handle of my atlatl meets its shaft or where the point of my dart meets its shaft.

PC-7 looks dark grey/green when it sets.  It comes in two cans; mix the two together on a piece of cardboard in equal amounts with a pop-sickle stick flatened at one end. You will need a roll of paper towels handy. The glue is a fudge consistency and does not run or shrink or expand. Dries hard but can be rasped and sanded like wood after it dries. Takes 12 hours to cure. If you come back to it after six hours it is firm enough (like rubber) to cut with a knife or have the excess removed with a scrapper.

I also use strips of duct tape to hold pieces of glued wood together until they are dried, rather than clamps. The roll of duct tape is 1/2 inches wide but you can tear 1/2 inch wide strips off easily enough.

I use the glue on both atlatls and darts…

If you look at my darts, you can see I use string covered with PC-7 glue to firm up the point attachment to the foreshaft, and the again at the receiving end of the dart where the foreshaft enters the dart, and at the end of the dart where spur of atlatl meets dart. Just wrap a strip of duct tape around the shaft where you want the glue to stop. Put the glue on, wrap the string around the glue, then using a folded paper towel, spin the glued shaft lightly into the paper towel to smooth everything up and remove the excess wet glue. PC-7 is absolutely waterproof and dries strong as a rock. Its like putting a cast on a broken arm.

New Atlatls Coming Soon!

If you’re looking to buy an atlatl, please bookmark this site and our Etsy site.   Last year’s inventory sold quick!

Ray’s been freezing his fingertips off working in the woodshop through the recent Snowmageddons and Snowpocalypses and we’re gearing up to sell off another volley of Ray Strischek atlatls and bamboo river cane atlatl darts very soon … just in time to practice up for Flint Ridge and all the other events this coming summer.  (Although it’s looking like a new Ice Age is upon us … perfect for the atlatlist!)

Also, if you’re looking for a custom atlatl, please feel free to let us know by using our contact form on this site.   We’ve done it before and we could be persuaded to do it again!

Live flame! The secret to quickly straightening bamboo / river cane for atlatl darts

Sometimes I could just kick myself when I think how long it takes me to try new things out. For all the experimentation in atlatl and dart making I have done over the years, straightening cane has always been a loathsome chore of my own making. But now, thanks to trying out the propane cook stove, straightening is quick and easy-peasy!

Sometimes I could just kick myself when I think how long it takes me to try new things out.  For all the experimentation in atlatl and dart making I have done over the years, straightening cane has always been a loathsome chore of my own making. But now, thanks to trying out the propane cook stove, straightening is quick and easy-peasy!

I’ll tell you how, below … but if you don’t want to bother — please do buy some of my fine, home made river cane atlatl darts over at Etsy.com!

My old (SLOW) method of straightening bamboo / river cane for atlatl darts

For years I have used my electric kitchen stove top and hot plates. The problem I have with hot plates and even electric stove tops is the amount of time I spend heating up the cane.  It normally takes me about 20 minutes to straighten a piece of cane (river cane or bamboo) and 90 percent of the time is spent waiting for the cane to heat up.  Recently, my son Cory bought me a hot air gun to replace the plate.  It was as effective as a hot plate but not any faster.

My new (FAST) method of straightening bamboo / river cane for atlatl darts

I have (all these many years) put off using real fire (from a propane camp stove) out of fear of burning or scorching the cane.

However, today I became impatient because my shop is without heat.  It’s cold this time of year and this week’s “snowmageddon” made the experience particularly frigid.  I just don’t enjoy standing around waiting for the cane to heat up.  And being impatient is the quickest way I know of breaking cane.  Luckily, I’ve found impatience is also one of the greatest forces in finding new solutions!

So, out of impatience, I got out my propane stove, fired it up and was immediately tickled pink at how fast the cane sweated up. You see, when heated, cane sweats. The surface takes on a wet shine because cane has silicone in it. Heat applied to the cane causes the silicone to melt onto the surface — wet, sticky stuff.  Sweating is also a sign that the cane is hot enough to bend.

To avoid scorching I held the cane about an inch above the flame and spun it back and forth rapidly through the heat. The cane heated FAST!  I was able to straighten 6-foot lengths in about 5 minutes instead of the usual 20 minutes!

Here’s exactly how I straighten cane for atlatl darts:

  1. Employ lesson you’ve ever learned about fire safety for the following steps, including, “STOP > DROP > AND ROLL!”
  2. Dry the cane. (about 4 -6 weeks, the green turns to yellow).
  3. Set the propane stove on a sturdy table or work bench. Park a half-round log in front of the stove. You will use the half-round to roll the cane back and forth on.
  4. Put on a pair of cheap, thick leather gloves.
  5. With the gloves on, fire up the stove, and start heating up the cane. Remember to spin the cane and move it back and forth through the heat rapidly. When it starts to sweat and the surface is shiny, push the cane down onto the half round (node) or push down and slide it back and forth (section between the nodes).

Types of cane bends

To be honest,  I normally straighten the node areas first because if anything bad happens, like breaking the cane at the node, I would rather have that happen before I have invested a lot of straitening time in the piece.  As you will discover, cane can grow relatively straight (really rare), or in a general curve (maybe 20 percent  of the time) or it can grow zig zag from node to node (most common) with curvy sections between nodes (happens a lot) and even twisted sections between nodes (sadly, not all that rare).  Its the thin end of the cane piece that is most likely to break and the second most common hard spot is the mutant node. Nearly every cane piece I have ever tried to straighten has at least one mutant node where all things are crooked and twisted and fragile, and seemingly impossible to straighten out.

Remember, push down gently, push a little farther than necessary as the cane will spring back a little. When straightening out those sections between the nodes, push down and slide the section back and forth across the top of the half round briskly several times.

“Twisted” cane

There is no way to untwist a twisted cane. The best you can do is straighten it in line with the rest of the cane shaft.  When I think I am done with straightening, I look down the length of the shaft and see how wrong I am. Always, there is this or that section or node that needs a tweak, sometimes two or three tweaks. This is (sad to say) normal.

Straighten your cane crown side up

Remember, perfectly straight is the wistful goal, straight enough to fly right is the achievable reality. No matter how hard you try (and trying too hard usually results in broken shafts) you may never get perfectly straight but you will get close enough. Just remember, “crown side up.” If you have a slight bend in the shaft, be sure you throw the dart with the bent side up.