Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Copper Inuit Arrow Reproductions Almost Done

Copper arrowheads and
antler foreshafts
 The Copper Inuit Arrow reproductions are almost complete.  I blame the snow for them not being finished today.  If I didn't have to shovel, I think I could have got them done this afternoon.  They are very close, but I'm not going to show them assembled until everything is done.

Close, but I need to trim and add a bit
 more sinew at the bottom of each feather.
The main tasks left at the start of the day were riveting the arrowheads onto the foreshafts, tying the feathers on to the main shafts and some final sanding, filing and antiquing.  Right now the ptarmigan feathers are all tied on with sinew, but there is a little bit of trimming left to do on the ends of the feathers and possibly the feathers themselves.  The fletching that I've seen on Copper Inuit arrows tends to be long and very narrow.  There are only two feathers on each arrow and they are tied at each end without being glued down the spine.

The thin copper rod is just the right
diameter  to fill the hole in the antler
foreshaft and copper arrowhead.
The riveting went alright. I used thin copper rods for the rivets that I cold hammered out of heavy copper ground wire.  I find that I need to switch between hammering and filing the rivets frequently.  The antler is easy to crack and will split if you just try to hammer the copper ends flat.

The finished rivet is hammered and ground
flush with the antler.  A bit of red wine
vinegar and miracle grow will help antique the
copper overnight.
It takes very light tapping and frequent pauses and grinding to keep the rivet head mushrooming out without creating a lot of internal pressure on the antler.  I broke the first one that I tried this afternoon because I was too impatient and tried to hammer without enough breaks to check and file the copper heads.  Eventually they all got done and I'm happy with them.  The bond on all six of the new arrowheads is nice and secure.

Whalebone blunts on antler foreshafts.
They've been glued in to place, but
I'll add a sinew or gut wrapping to
secure them before I try using them.
I also took a bit of time today to work on the blunts for small game.  I used the bird blunt from the Ivavvik National Park collection that I worked on a few years back as my inspiration.  I made mine from whalebone and am hafting them on to antler foreshafts so that they will be interchangeable with the copper tipped foreshafts.  In demos I like to mention that interchangeable foreshafts could alter the function of a projectile to suit the specific game that the hunter wanted to pursue and now I'll have an example of that to show people.  I guess the next thing I should make are some fish arrow attachments.

The mainshafts have a sinew reinforced
socket on the distal end that fit the
end of the foreshafts.  You can change the
foreshafts and if one part of your arrow
is broke or lost, you don't have to start
again from scratch.
Anyhow, I should qualify this composite blunt foreshaft design by saying that I haven't actually seen it in archaeological or ethnographic collections.  The bird blunts that I've seen are either attached directly to the main shaft or have been carved in one piece at the end of the wood arrow or as a single piece foreshaft.  I haven't found an example of a two part blunt foreshaft like this, so take it with a grain of salt. I suspect they exist, and I just can't find an example, but who knows, maybe there is some functional or ideological reason that blunts are not made this way that I'm not aware of, yet.

Regardless of the length or details of the design, all of the foreshafts have the same conical base so they will all be interchangeable on the wood mainshafts.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast


  1. Tim are you using artificial sinew or the real thing on these arrows?

  2. I use real sinew and hide glue. Its a lot easier to work with and a lot less messy than artificial sinew and epoxy. I avoid artificial sinew as much as possible, but in some situations it makes sense to use it for the added durability. It depends who is using it and how they intend to use it.

  3. February is a while back but still...I am currently making a copy of a Aglegmiut arrow with antler foreshaft and slate stone head. These arrows are pretty similar to Copper Inuit arrows but the sinew lashing is always a thin twined string, I noticed you haven´t twined yours?

    1. I've noticed the use of a thin sinew twine on some Copper Inuit arrows as well, especially for tying on the feathers. Something for next time, I guess.

    2. Maybe some eskimo/inuit prefered using untwined sinew if they had ready access to long whole back sinew strands? Or does twined sinew have some advantages to simple strands such as better and thighter grip around the shaft when no glue is used? Maybe the feathers were tied with twined sinew because it provided a better grip?

    3. I'm not sure, I haven't experimented with it enough to know all the advantages and disadvantages of using sinew twine, but I've noticed it showing up on Inuit, Palaeoeskimo, and, here in Newfoundland, Beothuk artifacts. My suspicion is that it removes the mess and drying time of working with glue and may make it easier to replace and re-tie components that need repair. It may also be simpler to carry a coil of twined sinew than to keep unprocessed strands and glue on hand in every situation.

    4. Curiously I haven´t seen any real evidence for the use of glue and sinew on Alaskan eskimo aritfacts such as harpoons or arrows. I have noticed that the Aleut and the Alutiiq used to add birch bark on their harpoon shafts before tying the sinew string on the the bark. I guess this creates additional friction for the sinew string to hold on to.

    5. Twine might be the norm in the north.

    6. I'm glad you mentioned this. The twisted sinew threads have been nagging at me for some time now, but artifacts with sinew preservation are rare enough in the collections that I'm familiar with that I've tended to just pass of the twisted threads as an anomaly, peculiar to the individual artifact that they are found on. I think I need to examine how I use sinew on a lot of reproductions from now on.

  4. One other thing came to mind. Your foreshafts are really nice and straight. Did you use heat to straighten them or were you able to find some straight pieces of antler?

    1. I was lucky to have good, straight pieces of antler for these pieces. I've had to warp antler on occasion, but not these pieces. In those cases I soaked them in vinegar to soften them. I haven't tried heat.


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