Tips and Tricks
Making Cane Arrows
Cane arrow were an alternative to using all hardwood shafts. Sometimes it was a preference, other times it was availablity of materials. Examples of cane arrows are found all over the world. I first saw them many years ago while in Brazil. I had the opportunity to visit with a professor of archeology at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil about 40 years ago. These and most cane arrows are of three part construction. While the shaft is of light cane, the foreshaft and nock are usally of hardwood. The arrows I brought back from the Amazon used crocodile teeth as points and were treated with a poison. When an animal was taken with one of these arrows, the foreshaft would detatch from the main shaft. Hunters would then track their prey untl it died. Native Americans also used this three piece design, but most I've seen used fixed foreshafts. Below is a description of how I make my replicas, using materials and design as best as I can duplicate.
River cane is very common in southern Oklahoma. Along roadways as well as in river bottoms.
I like to 'harvest' the cane during the winter when it's dormant. Try to select shoots about 1/4" to 5/16" in diameter and as straight as possible over a 4-5 foot length. I try to find shoots that were 'green' when they went dormant, and have dried a bit. Old completely dried shoots will be hard to straighten later.
Rough Cane Shafts
This is a group of 'candidate' shafts. Once they've been stripped of dried leaves and bark, they can be further sorted. Look for uniform diameter and select the straightest shafts to continue with.
Good and Bad Cane
Here is an example of ''Bad' and 'Good' cane. The top picture is a shoot that is really too dry to use. It will be almost impossible to straighten. The bottom picture is an example of a shoot that went dormant this year. It's the right diameter and still 'green' enough to straighten easily.
Green and Dry shafts
Another example of a slightly green (good) shaft and a dry (bad) shaft. Notice the scorching that occurred on the dry shaft. Hard to clean and also weakens the shaft at that point.
I made a small alcohol burner with a cotton wick as a heat source which I use to heat and straighten cane shafts. 90% Isopropanol (rubbing alcohol) will burn very cleanly with no odor or soot at about 900 degrees. The small flame allows very localized heating when straightening these shafts.
5/16" hickory foreshaft about 6" long. About 3" of one end of this piece will be trimmed down to fit into the cane shaft on the projectile point end.
Here the foreshaft has been turned down, tapered and shows the nock for mounting the projectile point.
Here the foreshaft has been inserted inside the cane shaft. The end of this shaft has been slotted prior to mounting the point.
This piece , which is about 1-1/4" long, has been turned down and nocked prior to inserting into the fletched end of the arrow.
Nock is ready to insert and glue into the cane shaft on the feather end.
Foreshaft with Point
This shows the foreshaft mounted, wrapped and glued into the cane shaft. Obsidian point is glued and wrapped into the slotted end of foreshaft.
Closeup view of point mounted on foreshaft.
Close up view of nock glued into cane shaft. The purpose of this hardwood nock is to reinforce the cane at the nocking point to prevent splitting. Fletching shown glued but not wrapped.
This shows the fletched end of the arrow, complete with 'continuous' wrapping using sinew.
This arrow, with cane shaft, hardwood foreshaft and nock, is now ready to shoot or mount on the wall!