Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bow Strings and Cables

If you bend a bow too far and the angle that the string meets the tip of the bow exceeds 90 degrees, then the string is likely to slide off and the bow will fly forward until it hits something, like a solid oak chair or your dining room wall (photo). For that reason, the Tuktut Nogait bow has a maximum draw of 24 inches. If the bow is drawn farther than that,
then the string slides off the end.
Its possible to make nocks that will hold a string on so that the string angle can exceed 90 degrees, and there are bows made in the Arctic with flaring or T-shaped nocks that were probably designed for just that purpose, but the Tuktut Nogait bow didn't appear to have that style of string nock.
For the bow string, I made a 2 ply cord of twisted sinew. The sinew fibres are separated into very fine silky threads that are twisted together while wet into a thread that is about 1/8th of an inch thick. This thread is made a little over twice as long as the finished string needs to be. I let that thread dry over night and then looped it in the middle and twisted it into a simple two ply cord. While that was drying I twisted the two ends together to create a second loop at the opposite end of the cord and let it dry under tension.
The end result is a continuous loop of sinew thread which has been twisted into a cord. As it dries it shrinks and everything sticks to itself. I didn't cut any loose threads off, instead I smoothed down any loose ends with warm water and hide glue. The final length of the bow string can be adjusted by twisting or untwisting it, although it can never be untwisted completely.

To add tension to the cord backing of the bow a sinew twister is used. The antler sinew twister is slid through the middle of the cord bundle and used as a wrench to twist the cord into a cable. To hold tension in the cable, I tied a leather lashing through the middle of the cable around the handle of the bow before removing the sinew twister. While the bow is strung, I can put two full twists in the cable, however, if I unstring the bow I can twist the cable three times.
The sinew twister is also handy to use when twisting the bow string and you can slide the string right off the twister onto the bow just like slipping on a shoe with a shoe horn. The tension in the bow string and the tension in the cable backing make a big difference in the performance of the bow.

I shot the bow with some store bought arrows yesterday. The first attempts were with the sinew cord untwisted and the bow string just tight enough to brace the bow (bracing the bow means stringing it so that the wood is flexed and it has the classic D-shaped profile). The arrows were travelling about 50 paces. I unstrung the bow and added a half dozen twists to the bowstring to make it shorter and added a couple full rotations of tension to the cable. With those two little changes the bow started shooting arrows 85 paces.

Tuktut Nogait Bow
from top; the original Inuvialuit artifact, with the Parks Canada reproduction sitting behind it.
The unstrung bow with the cable backing on (Western Yew, 50 inches, 127 cm long).
The braced bow.
The bow at full draw - 24 inches.

The effects of the cable backing are shown in the graph below. This time I was testing the draw weight of the bow by drawing the bow using a fish scale, and recording how many pounds were needed to pull it to 12 inches, 14 inches, 16 inches, etc. The red line shows the draw weight of the bow with no twist in the cable and the green line shows the draw weight of the bow with two twists in the cable. In both tests the tension in the bow string was the same. Without twists in the cable the draw weight of the bow at 24 inches is 28 pounds, with two twists in the cable the draw weight of the bow at 24 inches is 32 pounds - a 14% increase. The 3 twist test was done this morning, so the tension in the bow string might be different, but the results are consistent with the first two tests, this time it draws 34 pounds at 24 inches - a 21% increase. At the moment, 3 twists is pretty much the maximum tension that I can get in the cable.

Its a fun bow to play with because it has so many little ways to adjust it. I'll need to make some reproduction arrows to experiment with. Partly for authenticity and partly because the sinew bow string is thicker than commercial bow string and the little plastic nocks on the store bought arrows don't fit on it properly, so they break a lot.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
First: The bow string at 90 degree angle to the limb - any farther and the string slips off.
Second: Holes in the wall and a dent in the chair from the bow flying across the room when the string slipped off.
Third: 2 ply sinew bowstring loop
Fourth: drying the twisted sinew bow string with tension
Fifth: Sinew twister in the braided sinew cable
Sixth: Tying down the cable using leather lashing
Seventh: Composite photo of the Elfshot reproductions and the original Tuktut Nogait bow
Eighth: Graph showing the effect of cable tension on bow draw weight
Ninth: Wrapping the sinew backing. 70 feet of braided sinew was used.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Dress Rehearsal for the Tuktut Nogait Bow

The Tuktut Nogait bow is very nearly finished. I had all day Thursday to work on it and made some good progress and a mistake or two. I cut the notches, put the recurve in the limbs, started the sinew bow string, did more tillering and tried a test wrap of the sinew cable.

The hardest part was bending the limbs. I soaked the areas that I want to bend with water and then used a blowtorch to heat them. That's how I bent the limbs on the non-functional version of the bow that I made last fall and it worked great. It worked nicely on one limb this time, but on the other limb there was a swell in the grain and the point that needed to bend was thicker than the wood on either side of it. When I bent it, tension cracks formed on the belly of the bow. They ran flat and followed along two growth rings, so I ground down the excess wood below the depth of the crack and I think everything will be alright. The original bow that I'm copying was in two pieces and the splice in the limb is exactly where this crack happened. I keep telling myself that if a working bow can be made in two pieces like that one was, then this little crack is something my bow can recover from. However, when I filed through the cracked wood to get to the solid wood underneath I rapidly thinned the limb at that point and the tiller was thrown way off. Its still noticeable at the end of the day, but there were times when it was really horrible to look at.

In the photo of the bow in the tiller, the limb where the crack happened is the one on the left. When its drawn, the recurve almost vanishes, whereas the recurve is still visible in the opposite limb. Its a tough sort of discrepancy to fix, but hopefully I can get things looking more symmetrical today. For the bow people out there, it currently draws 22 pounds at 18 inches, with the untwisted cable backing on.

I wrapped the braided sinew cable around the bow to try to figure out a good pattern and sequence of wrapping. In the version shown in the pictures I used about 69 feet of cord, with a couple feet left over, but I think I know how to use up those two feet the next time I wrap it. I started with 30 tight wraps around the elbow in the limb that gave me the problems and then ran a line along the back of the bow to the opposite elbow and did 30 tight loops there. If this bow was made in separate pieces, then these lashings would be important to bind together the spliced joins. From the second elbow I ran the cord to the nearest end nock and stretched six long strands back and forth to the opposite end. After that, I ran 8 cords from elbow to elbow, securing them with half-hitches, so that the cable in the two thirds of the bow has a total of 15 strands (8 running from elbow to elbow, 6 running from end to end, and 1 that runs from the first set of elbow lashings to the second set). I wrapped the final bit of cord around the 15 strand cable in the middle of the bow.

I studied a lot of reference photos and drawings to come up with this pattern and it accomplishes a few things that show up in ethnographic and archaeological bows.
  1. The splices on the elbows of the bow are lashed first and separately. Sometimes this is a different material.
  2. Some strands run end-to-end through the nocks.
  3. The cable bundle in the middle is noticeably thicker than the cable towards the ends of the limbs. More strands run through the middle two thirds of the bow than along its entire length.
  4. The cable bundle is wrapped in a spiral pattern. Again, sometimes this is a different material.
I was surprised to see how much of the belly of the bow is still exposed using this sequence of binding. Granted, some of the crucial thinning that I need to do on my bow is under the lashings, but there is also a lot of tillering that can be done with the cables on. I also didn't expect to be able to fit the bow string on over top of the cords through the nock. It seemed like all the space in the nock was used by the sinew cord, but it wasn't.
The green tillering string fit on without any problem. I'm not quite sure how to proceed, the nocks seem like a good match for the nocks on the artifact at this point, but there is so much force being stored in the bow now that for safety and comfort, I'm tempted to carve them a little deeper and give the bow string a little more wood to grab. Although it certainly looks secure in the photos.

I have a bit more tillering to do and a sinew bow string to finish, but once that's done, the bow should be ready for final assembly. I haven't twisted any tension into the cable yet, but just tying it down to the bow makes things pretty tight. I'll explain how a sinew twister is used to tighten the cable in a future post.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
First: The bow with a trial wrapping of braided sinew cord in the tiller
Second: Successfully putting the recurve in a limb
Third: Failing to put the recurve in a limb - these are the cracks I had to fix
Fourth: The cabled bow in the tiller drawn to 16 inches
Fifth: The unstrung bow with the cable backing described in the text
Sixth: Detail of the limb - you can see the initial wrapping around the elbow, the six long cables, the bundle of shorter cables tied from elbow to elbow and the wrapping of the 15 strand bundle in the centre of the bow.
Seventh: The green tiller string fits on the nock with 3 loops of braided cord underneath.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tillering a Bow and Opening Minds

The Tuktut Nogait bow is starting to bend and look like a bow. I've been spending an hour or two a day working on it for the past week. I'm a little paranoid about making a mistake that I can't undo, but I've also been busy with other work, so that helps keep me from working too quickly. The slower I go, the better chance I have of keeping everything in one piece. The tillering is going well, although I'm still only halfway there. I feel like I want to put the recurves in the limbs before I go too much farther on the tiller. That will affect the way the bow bends. I also think I want to put the cable backing on before I try drawing it to its full weight. The original bow that I'm using as a reference was in two pieces, so I'm sure that it was never drawn without the cable in place. Although once the cable is on I won't be able to tiller it anymore, at least not without unwrapping everything to expose the wood again.

The photos of the bow today are taken while its set in the tiller. The tiller is a stick with a v-shaped notch in the end to hold the bow and notches cut to hold the bow string at two inch intervals. Mine is made on a 2 x 4, which is a lot heavier than it needs to be and the first notch is 12 inches from the end. So in the photos the string is pulled back 14 inches. While its strung like this you look to see how the limbs are bending. They should bend evenly with each other and in a gentle arc, that differs depending on the style of bow you are making. You mark out areas on the belly that are stiffer than others and mark them with a pencil to file or scrape down. Once those small adjustments are made you string it in the tiller again and keep checking. When everything is even at one notch, you draw it back to the next notch and work on it again, until you get back to 28 inches, which is the full draw for most bows. The fish scale is there to pull on the string to check the weight of the bow. Mine isn't ready to test yet, but when it can be stretched to 28 inches, I'll pull it to that draw with the fish scale and the weight registered on the scale will be the weight of the bow.

This afternoon I'm going to be doing a flintknapping demonstration for a grade 5 class participating in the Open Minds program at The Rooms. Open Minds is a pretty cool concept. Instead of going to school for a whole week the class and teacher go to the Provincial Museum, Archive, and Art Gallery and get to do all kinds of cool behind the scenes activities. This morning, they'll be with the Archaeology Curator getting a tour of the museum and hanging out with the Archaeology and Ethnology Collections Manager in the super cool archaeology lab in the basement. It makes me wish I was in grade five again. When I was in grade five I did a science fair project on catapults and ballistas. Dad helped me make little wooden siege engines by copying drawings in the encyclopedia. That's when I decided that I wanted to be an archaeologist.

Some of the seconds that The Rooms bought last spring are used in the Open Minds program. Its better to use reproductions than actual artifacts to show the kids how archaeology is done in the lab. It doesn't matter if they get broken or damaged. Elaine's labelled them all and given them an imaginary Borden number* for an imaginary site located in the Atlantic Ocean several hundred miles south of Burgeo. It reminds me of an e-mail I got once from a guy who was convinced that he'd found Atlantis while looking around Burgeo on Google Earth. He wanted to know what kind of temples and burial complexes I'd found while doing my MA fieldwork. I'll have to send him an update.

* Borden System: Archaeology sites in Canada are given a code that contains 4 letters and a number. The four letters refer to the site's position in a giant grid set up over the whole country and the number is the order in which that site was discovered within that grid square. Here's the Wikipedia entry and here's a fun blog where some folks are looking for four letter words in the Borden grid.

Photo Credit:
Photos 1-5, Tim Rast
Photo 6, from the Wikipedia entry on the Borden System

Photo Caption:
Photo 1: The Tuktut Nogait bow reproduction in the tiller
Photo 2: Marking an area that needs wood removed
Photo 3: The Tuktut Nogait bow in the tiller drawn to 14 inches
Photo 4: Elfshot seconds in their cases at The Rooms
Photo 5: A broken Maritime Archaic comb reproduction, with its imaginary cataloging information
Photo 6: The Borden Grid for Canada - the imaginary site is in block AB, south of Newfoundland

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Monday Morning That Feels Like a Monday Morning

I wound up working a few hours each day on the weekend. I normally try to enforce some time off on the weekend, but I spent days dealing with some really annoying malware and spyware infecting my computer during the end of last week. I finally got rid of the last of it on Saturday morning, but from Wednesday to Saturday, I lost a lot of productive time and felt like I needed to get back into the workshop.

On Saturday night, Lori and I went out to see the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra at the Arts and Culture Centre. It was a Christmas gift and my first time seeing an orchestra perform. It was pretty cool being able to see every note being played.

As far as work goes, I've got lots of little projects on the go. I have a few pieces of chert and caribou bone jewelry to finish. The sinew arrived over the weekend, so I can finish braiding my 70 foot line for the Tuktut Nogait bow backing. I've started tillering the bow this weekend. Tillering is the process of slowly removing wood from the belly of the bow and starting to bend the limbs. There are lots of little knots in the limbs that are slowing things down. It shouldn't be too bad when the cord backing is on - that will take a lot of strain off the wood, but for now I'm taking things really easy. Most of the work at this point is being done with files and cabinet scrapers.

I'm really keen to finish the bow, but I think I'd be better off getting the jewelry order finished up today. I've got a Craft Council meeting this week and a flintknapping demo at The Rooms to prepare for and I could really use a bit more space in my head to keep track of everything. I need to finish something today to make room for the new stuff. Oh yeah, we're also waiting for Staples to deliver a printer. We waited all day Friday for them to show up and they never did. Alledgedly, they'll be here sometime between 9-5 today to deliver it. Great. Trapped in the house waiting for the door. We get to start the week the same way we ended last week. If this post seemed rambling and without a point and gave you a little headache reading it, then that's because that's how my Monday morning feels.

Photo Credit: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
First: Bone pins and Dorset Endblades that need finishing
Second: box of neatly packaged sinew
Third: The bow and 60 feet of braided sinew
Fourth: Files and Cabinet scrapers used for shaving down the belly of the bow
Fifth: The Tuktut Nogait bow grip at the moment

Friday, January 22, 2010

February Flintknapping Workshops Registration

The rock came in for the percussion workshop - 90 pounds of Mahogany Obsidian, Black Obsidian, and English Flint. I spent a couple hours yesterday cracking it into softball sized cores and sorting it into 5 pound groups. This is the stone that we'll be using in the Flintknapping Workshop - Percussion on February 11th, 2010. This should be a fun workshop for first time knappers where you get to make the really big flakes and learn how to make bifaces from a core.

One week prior to that I'll be leading a Beer Bottle to Arrowhead workshop on February 4th, 2010. This is also a beginner class where participants will learn to knap their first arrowhead from a beer bottle bottom using a pressure flaker. Registration for each workshop is separate. Both classes will be held in QC-2013, Queen's College on the Memorial University of Newfoundland campus, St. John's. To register, you can either RSVP through Facebook, or by sending me an e-mail.

Beer Bottle to Arrowhead

Introductory Flintknapping Workshop - Pressure Flaking

Thursday, 04 February 2010
18:00 - 21:00
QC-2013, Queens College, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Prince Phillip Dr.
St. John's, NL

Learn to flintknap. This is an introductory workshop that teaches the basics of flintknapping, by chipping an arrowhead out of a beer bottle bottom. No previous knapping experience is necessary.

Participants receive a basic flintknapping kit including a pressure flaker, leather palm pad and instruction booklet. At the end of the evening this kit and whatever you make in the workshop are yours to keep. There will be obsidian available if you'd like to try a different material after you finish your beer bottle point. Bandaids and safety glasses provided.

If you already own one of Elfshot's "Beer Bottle to Arrowhead" flintknapping kit and don't need to have one supplied at the workshop, bring your kit along and save $20 on the cost of the workshop.

Please RSVP ahead of time to guarantee a space. Maximum 15 participants. RSVP on facebook or by e-mail.

Workshop and Materials: $40 tax inc. ($20 if you already have a Beer Bottle to Arrowhead Kit)
Ages: 12 and upClass size:
6 to 15 people
Instructor: Tim Rast

Flintknapping Workshop - Percussion

Introduction to Hard and Soft Hammer Percussion

Thursday, 11 February 2010
18:00 - 21:00
QC-2013, Queen's College, Memorial University of Newfoundland
Prince Phillip Dr.
St. John's, NL

This is a beginner class in flintknapping that teaches the basics of knapping with antler soft hammers and stone hard hammers. Participants will learn the fundamentals of creating flakes, bifaces, and unifaces from a core of stone. No prior experience is necessary.

tools, goggles and bandaids will be supplied for use during the workshop. Each participant will receive 5 pounds of rock and a rubbermaid container that are theirs to keep.

We'll be using Black Obsidian, Mahogany Obsidian and English Flint in the workshop.

You'll want to wear jeans and close toed shoes for the workshop. Leather work gloves are optional, but recommended.

I have enough stone for 15 people. Please RSVP early to guarantee your spot. RSVP through Facebook or by e-mail.

Cost: $40/person tax inc.
Age: 12 and upClass size:
6-15 people
Instructor: Tim Rast

Photo Credits:
1,2,4 Tim Rast
3,5 Eric Walsh
6 Lori White

Photo Captions:
First: Unpacking the boxes of black obsidian, mahogany obsidian and English Flint
Second: a typical core of mahogany obsidian that we'll use in the percussion workshop, 5 pound boxes of rock in the background
Third: a beer bottle arrowhead
Fourth: Flintknapping Kit
Fifth: A hand-axe reproduction made from flint using only hard and soft hammers
Sixth: striking a flake from a core using a hammerstone

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bonding with Baleen

Baleen hangs from the roof of a whale's mouth and acts like a massive filter that holds food in and squirts water out when the whale gulps in a mouthful of fish and seawater and presses up with its tongue. Baleen is made from hard keratin, like horn, hair or fingernails. Its made up of long fibrous strands that are fused together into sheets with a surface that looks like a vinyl record. Historically, it was important in fashion to make the ribs of corsets, fans, and parasols. At other times in the past it was used to make everything from bows and bowls to traps and string. I'm using it as a lashing material on this project.

The baleen I'm using came from a beached humpback whale. It was a younger animal with relatively short plates - about 2 feet long. A Bowhead Whale can have baleen plates up to 13 feet long!

You can cut the baleen into strips running the length of the plate. When its thin enough you can cut it with a sharp knife, but as it gets thicker towards the middle I find it tough to control the knife and make even strips. So on the short humpback plates I use a scroll saw to cut the strips and then sand the edges to even them out.

To make the baleen flexible you need to boil it. That's when you know whales are mammals. In addition to the usual fishy smell of whale bone, boiling baleen gives off a greasy, hairy, musk smell that could only come from a hairy animal. The thin strips can be bent and twisted into shape and as they dry they return to their hard plastic-like rigidity, but hold their new form. The thicker strips can be split apart like spruce roots, to create two flexible halves. I didn't know that was possible until this weekend - I guess I've never had thick enough baleen to try it. You start the split at the base and carefully pry the two halves apart. The split runs neatly along the inner fibres of the baleen. You can tell split baleen because it will have one flat shiny side and one ridged stringy side. Un-split baleen will have a flat shiny surface on both the front and back.

Baleen starts to harden almost immediately when it hits the air. But it softens again just as quickly when its put back into the boiling water. The baleen spring in the above video was wrapped around a handle for about half an hour before I decided to retry the wrap. Watch it hit the water! It reminded me of a particularly gruesome wolf killer that was used in parts of the Arctic. A piece of baleen is sharpened to a point on both ends and fan folded into a small parcel. When its cooled it will hold its shape. You wrap it in fish skin or meat and place it somewhere that a wolf will eat it. In the warm wet wolf's stomach the baleen straightens out and punctures the wolf's organs. Pretty unpleasant way to go. If you want to go hug your dog now, I'd understand.

After the baleen set, I sanded it down and used hide glue to fill in the gaps between the bands. The sanding neatens the look of the baleen up, but it also smoothes down the sharp edges. I haven't used them yet, but I suspect that the baleen will be much less affected by moisture than sinew. I think they should be more useful for working wet materials.

The five tools I made are all based on Saqqaq tools from Greenland, although the endscraper handle is a more generic style. The Saqqaq scraper handle from Qeqertasussuk was bow shaped and mounted with a scraper on each end. The three knives are faithful reproductions of the originals, as is the side scraper.

Left to Right:
Saqqaq Palaeoeskimo Side Scraper (Spruce, Chert, Baleen, Hide Glue): $152.50 Cdn (tax inc.)
3 Saqqaq Palaeoeskimo Knives (Spruce, Chert, Baleen, Hide Glue): $197.75 Cdn (tax inc.) each
Palaeoeskimo Scraper (Spruce, Chert, Baleen, Hide Glue): $152.50 Cdn (tax inc.)

Photo Credits:
Photos 1-5, 7-9, video: Tim Rast
Photo 6: From Handbook of North American Indians, Vol 5. Arctic, 1984

Photo Captions:
First: Finished Palaeoeskimo reproductions using baleen as a hafting material
Second: A humpback whale baleen plate with lashing strips cut from it
Third: Splitting a baleen strip
Fourth: Outside of the baleen strip (left), inside of the baleen strip (right)
Fifth: Baleen lashings set out to dry
Video: A baleen lashing unravels in the boiling pot
Sixth: Baleen Wolf Killer
Seventh: Finished side knife with baleen lashing
Eighth: Saqqaq style knife with baleen lashing
Ninth: Finished Palaeoeskimo tools

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sinew and Ergonomic Stone Tools

Here's a look at the completed sinew bound Palaeoeskimo tools. There are so many interesting little quirks in these tools' design and manufacture that I'm just going to talk about the 4 tools that were hafted with sinew and leave the 5 baleen wrapped reproductions for next time.

The new piece for me in this set is the stubby handled side scraper based on a 3900-3100 year old Saqqaq side scraper found at Qeqertasussuk in Greenland. I wasn't quite sure what to make of the handle from the drawings (last post), it kind of looks like the tools would be hafted crooked. The side scraper hafts I've made in the past look like scalpels and everything is in a straight line. If the reference drawings of the original artifact weren't so thorough I might have convinced myself that I'd assembled it wrong. But when its all fit together and you hold it - wow - its the perfect little scraping and carving tool. If Lee Valley ever starts selling stone tools, this would be the first in the catalog. When you grasp the tool to use it, the handle just disappears into your hand.

There are lots of Palaeoeskimo handles that I've thought of as "functional", "expedient", "symbolic", or "clever" but this is the first one that I'd describe as "ergonomic". Leave it to the Palaeoeskimos living in Scandinavia to come up with it. Side scrapers are such handy little tools, too. Prehistorically, this would have been the primary tool used to form all these wooden handles. Palaeoeskimo side scrapers are prefectly designed for scraping and shaping hard organic materials, like wood, antler or whalebone. Its kind of a crooked knife, cabinet scraper, small gouge and plane all in one.

To bind the stone tools to the handles I used sinew and hide glue. I tend to use Knox gelatine for hide glue, although I go through enough of it now that I've started getting bigger bags of the stuff from Lee Valley. Knox comes in handy individual use sized pouches. I dissolve one 7 gram pouch in about 80 ml of warm water. When you first mix it there tends to be air bubbles in the mixture, so I let it set for an hour or so, then microwave it for 12 seconds and slowly stir it again. If the bubbles are gone, then its ready to use. If the bubbles are still there I continue to let it set and reheat until they are gone. If you don't get rid of the bubbles the glue will dry frothy with the bubbles and holes still intact.

I described in an earlier post how to process sinew from a dried tendon to usable string. I've braided all my long sinew, but I still have a lot of shorter 6 inch lengths that are ideal for this sort of hafting. I pull apart the amount I need and chew it until it softens. You can soak it in warm water if you don't like holding sinew in our cheek for 10 or 15 minutes. I'm not sure why I don't use a little cup of warm water. To be honest, I think its because fishing around in the water for the wormy little wet sinews is kind of gross and once you suppress the gag reflex, it really doesn't taste that bad.

To set the blade In the handle I dip the hafting area of the stone in the runny hide glue (microwave the glue for 12 seconds on high if it has set and you need to make it liquid again) and press it into the handle. Then wrap the sinew tightly around the join. The sinew shrinks to about half its size as it dries so you don't need to wrap it too tightly and more sinew is better than not enough. The best part is it sticks to itself and there's no need for knots. Just smooth it down on itself and it will hold. If you need to add more sinew, just keep wrapping threads until you have enough.

If you are working from an artifact as reference, the width of the hafting area on the handle or the notches on the tool will give you an indication of how much binding material you'll need to add. You can tell the hafting area on a stone tool because it will be ground down a bit. A knapped edge is sharp enough to cut through sinew as it dries, so you need to abrade your hafting area.

It'll take several hours to set. I usually leave it overnight to dry and then put on a coat of hide glue over the dried thread the next day to seal everything in. Loose threads can be pressed into the new glue to hold them in place and if there are really unruly threads you can trim them off with nail clippers. Store unused glue in the freezer and microwave it when you need it again.

Pros, Hafting with Sinew:
  • Simple to use. No knots necessary.
  • Works perfectly with hide glue, cleans up with warm water.
  • Shrinks as it dries to form tighter bond.
Cons, Hafting with Sinew:
  • Water soluble. If you use your tool in a wet environment, then your lashings will dissolve. (Idea for a future experiment: its not really a Palaeoeskimo solution, but I think that one function of red ochre on Beothuk tools would be to help waterproof rawhide or sinew lashings.)
Here's the finished Palaeoeskimo reproductions. The stubby handled side scraper is based on Saqqaq artifacts and the scalpel hafted side scraper is more Groswater Palaeoeskimo. The Knife is a Groswater Palaeoeskimo Asymmetric knife hafted in an Avayalik Island inspired handle. The end scraper is a triangular endscraper that shows up at many different times in Palaeoeskimo collections.

Back to Front:
Saqqaq Palaeoeskimo Side Scraper (Spruce, Chert, Sinew, Hide Glue): $113 Cdn (tax inc.)
Groswater Palaeoeskimo Side Scraper (Spruce, Chert, Sinew, Hide Glue): $85 Cdn (tax inc.)
Groswater Palaeoeskimo Asymmetric Knife (Alder, Chert, Sinew, Hide Glue): $113 Cdn (tax inc.)
Palaeoeskimo Scraper (Spruce, Chert, Sinew, Hide Glue): $113 Cdn (tax inc.)

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Photo Captions:
First, Palaeoeskimo reproductions hafted with sinew and hide glue
Second, Saqqaq style side scraper. My thumb and forefinger are pinched together in the working postion.
Third, The handle fits perfectly when I close my hand.
Fourth, Ready to haft - that's a big bag of sinew above the tools.
Fifth, Dried sinew ready to chew.
Sixth, dipping the hafting area of a scraper in hide glue before inserting into the wood handle
Seventh, wrapping the sinew into the groove of a Groswater Asymmetric knife (I usually use two hands, but someone had to hold the camera)
Eighth, The hafting area of the end scraper is bound by sinew
Ninth, Ready to go!
Tenth, The finished tools
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