Friday, February 4, 2011

Copper Inuit Arrow Reproductions

Copper Inuit Arrow Reproductions
I finished these arrows this week for the Central Arctic artifact set. They are based on Copper Inuit arrows in the Canadian Museum of Civilization's collection.  You can see the original artifact they are both based on in the CMC's online catalogue:

Arrow: IV-D-75 e2

The Tuktut Nogait Bow and the new arrows - 25" and  30" long
The longer of the two is for the client, who requested a 30" arrow.  The shorter of the two is for me. I made it 25" long so that it would work with the Tuktut Nogait bow, or so I thought.  I made the bow this time last year, and this is the first arrow that I've made since then that is more-or-less the correct style and age to match the bow.

I'm happy with the antiquing
Both arrows have a copper arrowhead riveted into place with a single copper rivet.  They have identical antler foreshafts - the difference in length between the two arrows is entirely in the length of the pine main shaft.  Since the draw on my Tuktut Nogait bow reproduction is 24", I thought that a 25" arrow would be a good fit, but it turns out feeling a bit short.  The distance form the inside of the nock to the base of the arrowhead is closer to 23" so I can't get a full draw on the bow with it.

This is the 25" arrow drawn in the Tuktut Nogait bow.  The bow could be drawn a little farther, but I've run out of arrow.
This is the draw of the 30" arrow.  The bow is close to full draw and there is still some arrow to spare.  This one feels like a better fit.

Detachable foreshaft
Fortunately, the two part design of these arrows means that I'm not stuck with an arrow of a fixed length.  The next time I make arrows of this style I can can create longer pieces to fit each half of my short arrow and make it into two longer arrows.  Or, I could add a third section to this arrow in the middle.  One of the cool things about bows and arrows made north of the treeline is that they are designed to be spliced together out of whatever scraps of driftwood or other material might be at hand.

Two feathers tied down
The arrows are fletched with two feathers.  I'm not certain of the bird species used for the feathers on the actual artifact, but I know they were white.  I've read that owl and goose feathers were preferred.  I don't have owl feathers and the goose feathers that I use are all grey or brown, so I had to dig deep in my feather box to find these white ones.  I think they are gull feathers.  The feathers are tied to the shaft at the top and bottom with sinew, but not glued down, so there is space between the shaft and the feather.  The sinew wrapping at the nock end of the feather extends right to the base of the nock and serves double duty holding the feather in place and helping to keep the nock from splitting.  The shaft cross section changes from round to rectangular under the feathers, where the arrow is flattened and thinned towards the nock.

A wide nock for twisted sinew bowstring
Its difficult to see much feather detail in the online reference photo that I had to work from, but there are other arrow fragments belonging to the same hunting kit that this particular arrow came from, so I referred to those other arrows from time to time.  One of the other artifacts in the set was actually a single feather, which was fantastic - I could see exactly how to cut and trim the feather to match the artifact.  There was even an artifact in the kit identified as a feather trimming template - but I'm not sure how it was used.  I'd be interested to hear from anyone who does.

Antler Foreshaft
The foreshaft is made from antler, and is designed to fit into a socket in the main shaft.  Sometimes foreshafts were permanently fixed in place, but I made these ones to be interchangeable.  The sinew lashing in the area of the join between the antler and the wood is there to prevent the wood from splitting - it doesn't actually do anything to hold the foreshaft in place, which is held in place by friction.  Although, I did put a bit of hide glue in the joint of the arrow that I sent to the client, because its going on display and they'd prefer it to be permanently fixed in place.

Multi-part design
There are a lot of benefits to making arrows in separate pieces.  Otherwise unsuitable materials can be used, meaning that you can do more with less.  Before a hunt, you could swap out your foreshafts for prey specific arrowheads; broadheads for caribou, blunts for birds, barbed bone points or harpoon heads for fish, etc.  During a hunt, the foreshaft will stay embedded in the prey and the mainshaft can be reloaded with a new foreshaft and re-used.  After a hunt, when its time to repair broken arrows, you don't have to replace entire arrows because one part is damaged and you can mix and match the undamaged components so that you are still able to hunt while you work on repairing or replacing the damaged pieces.

Copper Inuit Reproduction Arrows

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Dig your blog. You made it onto the list of the top 30 archeology blogs of 2011 at Congrats!


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