We have recently added new tutorial videos where Bob Berg explains how to put together our most popular atlatl kits: the Catatonk, Catatonk Hunter, Kanakadea and Nanticoke. (All of our kits are available to purchase in the Shop.)
Now you can follow along step-by-step as Bob shows you how to put your atlatl kit together.
You can find the videos (with accompanying text instructions) under the “Kit Tutorials” heading to the left. They’re also right here:
Our individually made premium bamboo darts are state of the art and the best you can get, with our money back, no questions asked guarantee, just like all the rest of Thunderbird Atlatl products.
I start with bamboo that I select myself from cultivated stands of Japanese Arrow Cane often called Yadake, grown in Georgia, USA. Each shaft is carefully selected, sun dried, then fire straightened and trimmed. The outer skin is scraped off, the node area is filed smooth, and then the shafts are reheated and straightened once again. After that the shafts are sanded then polished. The finished shaft is a golden brown with a lustrous copal varnish finish that is applied to the finely polished shafts. I make the copal varnish myself using traditional techniques and materials. I use many of the same techniques used in making Kyudo arrows.
The Japanese bamboo used in making these darts is one of the finest natural dart materials that we have worked with. The way I fasten the conical copper points directly onto the ends of the shaft without an intervening fore shaft has proven to be the most effective method, both for accuracy and durability. We have found through experimentation that darts that are designed with a joint, where the fore shaft and main shaft come together, have an inherent weakness. We have experienced that darts with fore shafts generally fail at the joint. We have chosen to avoid fore shafts in favor of accuracy and durability.
At the spur end of the dart shaft is a fiber binding that creates an attractive and durable dimple that is finished in pigmented copal varnish. The fletching is wrapped with fine silk thread and glued. I finish by trimming the feathers with sharp scissors to create a very fine dart. –Bob Berg
Making your own atlatl or spear thrower and darts is a satisfying experience plus it saves you money! We make great atlatl and dart kits here at Thunderbird Atlatl. Our kits have been featured in Make Magazine.
Now, thanks to the efforts of our webmaster and videographer Peter Berg, we have posted our atlatl kit instructions to our website. We are also uploading instructional videos on each of the kits to You Tube and posting them on our website. The first video on making your own dart kit is now available.
Below is an example of a dart and a Wyalusing atlatl made by one of our customers. The second picture shows participants in one of our workshops making their own darts. This workshop takes place every year at the Chimney Point Historic Site in Vergennes, VT.
Cutting cane on Gardenia Island and Tortuga Island is the high point of the year for me because it is an escape from the torture of Arctic air that we experience this time of the year up here in the snow belt of Upstate New York. It almost seems like spring time when we step onto our favorite island sanctuaries, where bamboo grows like giant stalks of grass waving in the soft warm winds of the Okeefenokee Swamp.
The bamboo grows strong and straight in those parts and makes outstanding dart shafts that fly like the Thunderbird. It takes a lot of hard and careful work to harvest, season, heat treat and straighten these shafts but the effort is worth it. It is always kind of a downer as we travel north through Pennsylvania on our way back and start seeing the snow again. Oh well, it’s back to winter.
Okay so it’s snowy and cold in a lot of places but we can dream of what awaits us (or if you live in a warmer climate, get ready for an adventure)! We’re already getting seed catalogs in the mail so think spring!
Fishing with atlatls and harpoons is exciting and fun. It’s one of the most satisfying uses of an atlatl even if you don’t get anything. We and our customers have experienced atlatl harpoon fishing in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, on lakes in Kentucky and New York, Michigan, Florida and Michigan. Thunderbird Atlatl’s harpoons have proven themselves over and over again.
Last July just off of Drummond Island in Lake Huron, Michigan, a group of us spent an enjoyable day and night making our equipment and preparing for atlatl fishing. We fastened two canoes together to make a pontoon so people could stand up in the boat safely so they could see into the water to shoot fish. This was all part of the Great Lakes Traditional Arts Gathering which will take place again in July 2014.
One of our canoes used battery powered lights. The other more traditional setup used birch bark torches. The piece of birch about the torch is a blind to keep the harpooner from being blinded by the light.