Thursday, March 11, 2010

some finished projects and some ongoing

a lot of class time in the last couple months has been designated to workshop, time set aside for working toward finishing up those pieces, of which there are many, that can not be finished in one day of class or within the schedule constraints of our personal lives.

this is the final product from the blacksmithing weekend. ive actually had the knife and sheath finished for a while but forsome reason failed to mention it until now. thank you for your patience. i realize many children went hungry because of this. but better late than never.

this is the wing bone yelper, also a project finished a while ago which i mentioned in an earlier blog but never put up a good picture of. since making them,  about 15 minutes to half an hour of every class session is spent practicing the basic hen yelp. we will rotate around the class giving each student the floor to give their best yelps, then the whole class will practice belting them out. its hard to explain how loud and surreal this noise can become as the cacophony is pulled through the body parts of a once living bird. it is a great way to start the day. and believe it or not, there is more sincerity in that statement than sarcasm.

the yelp is attempting to break the natural order of the mating ritual. usually the jake(male) will draw in the hen by doing a puffed up, feather shaking, gobblygook dance. when hunting you are basically pretending to be stuck up hen who is too lazy to make the effort to see the show. maybe this hard to get attitude is what lures the jake to you. considering the relative savvy bird brain on a turkey i think there is testament to human ingenuity that this works at all. or perhaps a testament to the power of lust.

a couple of fun projects here. at the top is a net shuttle, hand carved from a piece of cherry wood. wrapping it is cordage made from the dog bane plant. using our shuttles, the entire class is contributing some of their cordage to a communal dip net. hopefully it will be finished in time to be used on some upcoming primitive style fishing trips. the folded envelope was crafted during a day of working with rawhide. a few small items were made as an introduction to the material but the where about of my thimble and needle are currently unknown. sad face.

the bow has come a long way. as of now i am ready to cut in the knocks and begin the process of tillering. this is the process where the bow aquires its flex, draw length and draw weight. in some ways i am almost done. in some ways im just getting started. either way its starting to look like something other than a chunk of a log and i can now die happy.

that is if arrow straightening doesnt drive me insane

so a primitive arrow shaft starts as the straightest, pinky thick piece of green wood you can find. shave off the outer bark and then start straightening any major kinks. the best method, the only method to my knowledge, for getting pieces of wood to straighten is to heat them to the point of being too hot to touch but not hot enough to scorch. this may sound relatively straightforward but let me assure you it is not. its like being lied to. the arrow shaft mocks you with its failure to heat in the appropriate areas. you think you are heating one area but come to find out a spot further down the wood is getting hotter than the part over the flame! now watch it go from bone cold to scorched in .0000006 seconds! i swear i can hear someone laughing.

steaming is supposed to be a good way to get the job done. supposedly an open pot should develop enough steam and heat to bend make the arrow shaft flexible. well, anyone who thinks they have gotten that to work for them is either crazy or magic. in the first picture you can see my creative solution to the problem of an open boil in a pan failing to heat the stick properly. the hole in the tin foil was intended to focus the steam to one spot. this did not work. next you see a strange contraption of various kitchen aids layered on each other with the arrow shaft sandwiched in between. my hopes was that this tent like structure would concentrate the steam and heat around the shaft, making it hot enough to bend. this did not work either.

finally i was only left with the option of holding the shaft over the direct open flame of my gas range. this worked. sort of. the arrow shaft was not the only thing getting hot. i ended the night with chapped lips, dry eyes, red fingers but only a couple of light scorches on the shaft. im sure practice will result in a more refined technique and im told that a steaming kettle does the job for sure.

fletching the arrow is much more fun

we used some of the feathers from a bird we had butchered in another class, split them down the middle, scraped the central vein flat and then lashed them to the shaft

once i had the feathers secured with some deer sinew it instantly transformed from an implement of mental anguish into a piece of art. thats not tooting my own horn, its just that its hard to make it look ugly.

in the coming weeks we will be learning percussion flaking and flint knapping. stay tuned for arrow heads coming up....


  1. simply amazing... i want to trade some dylan time for a chance to gaze at your arrows.

  2. this is really impressive and funny. only funny because i can totally see your agonized face while doing some of these things and then have them turn out to be impressive and because you used the word shaft so much... and it was actually appropriate. I'm happy you have a new passion. p.s. I need an arrow.