Atlatl Dart Points Revisited

I’ve written about this before. I use copper points. Each of my darts are bamboo or river cane and have a 12 inch X 1/2 inch diameter poplar foreshaft. I use 1/4 inch diameter copper rods to make my points. I pound one end of a 1 1/2 inch long piece of copper rod flat, use a cold chisel to cut a point shape into the flatten end, and file it sharp. I drill a 1/4 inch diameter hole into one end of the foreshaft, use a rasp to cone shape the end, glue and insert the rod end of the copper point into the drilled hole, and glue the wood around the point, wrap it cotton string, spread glue on the string, then spin the glued surface into a folded paper towel to smooth it out. After it dries, I glue and insert the other end of the foreshaft into the big end of the dart shaft.

For a better copper point, see This is AJ Bagg’s web site. He sells bullet swaged copper points that are real easy to mount for about $3 each.

Balance Point of an Atlatl Dart

Fletched darts need only have a balance point that is 6 to 8 inches forward of center. The 2/3 thing applies to unfletched darts. An unfletched dart will fish tail through the air unless the balance point is 2/3 forward. Such a dart, having so much of its weight forward of center will be “point end heavy” and will tend to drop like a rock, need a higher trajectory of flight to get to the target. The purpose of the fletching is to make the dart’s flight more stable. The bigger the fletching, the more stable the flight, but, the bigger the fletching, the slower the flight, so, eventually, if the fletching is too big, you get the same result of having to have a higher trajectory to the target.

My fletching (feathers) are 10 inches long, by 1 1/2 inches wide. This gives me a flat trajectory flight at 15 meters, while I have to aim 6 inches above the bullseye at 20 meters, and 1 foot above the entire target at 25 meters. My darts are 6 feet, 10 inches long, and weigh about 6 ounces.

“Tuning” an Atlatl Dart Shaft

One does not actually “tune” a dart shaft. Many people feel that a dart has a “spine” and that it is important to establish where the spine is and align the bi-face point and the fletchings to the spine.

First, the “spine”.  Think 2 X 4 board. A good carpenter will tell you to align the 2 X 4 stud “crown up” when laying out a wall, meaning, you hold one end of the board up to your eye, look down the board and determine which edge side is curving.  (All 2 X 4 boards curve a little.) The object of this game is to put the curve on the outside of the wall.

The same is true with river cane or bamboo darts. Try as you might, you can never get them perfectly straight. They will always curve a little.  This curve is the “spine” and you should always load the dart into your atlatl with the curved or spine side up. Most people use three feathers on their darts, sometimes with two of the same color and one different. The single different feather should be placed on the curved spine side of the dart so that you know right off the bat which way to load the dart onto your atlatl.   Likewise, the two bladed dart point should be attached so that blades are perpendicular to the “spine”, or so I am told.