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.
1. They are cool because not everyone has one!
Fewer than one out of a thousand people in the United States have one and many people don’t even know what they are.
2. They are fantastic wall decorations. Atlatls and darts make great conversation starters because they are rare, interesting and not many people know what they are.
3. There’s two ways to say atlatl. You can say “at-latl” or “atl-atl”
4. Atlatls and darts are a great family activity. You and your children will enjoy atlatl outings or backyard atlatl activities. It will get you all out of the house and away from your electronics.
5. Atlatls are just plain fun. It is fun to shoot something that goes farther and faster than you would expect it to.
6. Great way to make new friends. People who come to atlatl events are just fun to be around. Remember they are cool to begin with.
7. Kids can cast them. We have seen children from 3 on up casting darts with atlatls.
8. Old people can cast them too. We have seen people 80 and older using an atlatl.
9. Intergenerational sharing. People of all ages can enjoy atlatl events together.
10. It’s a gift you can’t get at a big box store. When was the last time you found an atlatl in your local shopping mall? Atlatls are what you get for the person who already has everything.
11. They have history. Atlatls have been used for more than 12,000 years. That’s a lot of history. Cortez fought against the Aztecs who used atlatls.
12. They’re primitive. Atlatls and darts were one of the first weapon systems ever devised by humankind. All of us have ancestors who survived, nay thrived because they were masters of the atlatl and dart.
13. They’re survival tools. You can learn to make an expedient atlatl in almost any location for hunting, fishing and self-defense to help you survive in adverse situations.
14. You can hunt with them. People have been using atlatls to hunt with for at least 12,000 or maybe at least 60,000 years. New laws allow atlatl deer hunting in Missouri, Alabama, and Nebraska. Many states allow small game hunting and wild boar hunting.
15. You can fish with them. Atlatl fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish. Instead of the fish choosing you, you choose the fish. Atlatls cast harpoons much deeper and with more penetration than can be achieved with bow fishing. Check your local fishing regulations first.
16. Amaze your friends and confound your enemies with your atlatls and darts! Show your friends your new skill.
17. You can go places with atlatls and compete in contests. You can compare your score to everybody else’s in the world through the World Atlatl Associations International Standard Accuracy Contest or ISAC.
18. There’s a World Atlatl Association that ties everyone who plays with atlatls together in a network. You can join for a year for a very minimal amount and receive a newsletter.
19. You can do atlatl physics. Who says physics is incomprehensible. With an atlatl you can see physics in action! Energy equals the velocity squared times the mass.
20. You can use an atlatl as sculpture piece, woodcarving or woodworking project. Atlatls and darts are beautiful.
21. You can learn how to knap flint so you can tip your darts with stone points like the Native Americans did long ago. Isn’t that why many people start using an atlatl in the first place?
22. You can test your math skills by scoring contests. When a group of eager contestants surround you after a contest, you will have all your calculations completed!
23. You can make your own atlatl. Go out into the forest and you can make a great primitive atlatl or better yet, check out one of our atlatl kits.
24. Take your date on an atlatl outing. Your date will be astounded by your romance, creativity and innovation.
25. Fantastic educational devices. Teachers, you can teach history, archaeology, anthropology, physics, math and more with an atlatl.
26. Atlatls are great for Summer Camp. You can entertain a group of youngsters at camp with ever increasing enthusiasm. Youth can spend hours of sheer joy with an atlatl at the range.
27. Atlatls make great school science projects for school. Just think of all the science lessons you can build around the atlatl. They make a fascinating display that your teachers and parents will be thrilled with for an A+.
28. They are interesting to discover in museums. It is amazing to see how many different types of atlatls were used by our ancestors, the kinds of darts our ancestors used and view the collections of projectile points on display.
29. Atlatls and darts can help you develop a healthy low impact exercise program. You will get plenty of walking and arm exercises, and you can do it with a small group of your friends
The conical copper points that are found in the Great Lakes area of the United States were originally produced by people from The Old Copper Culture. The copper “culture” began as early as 7000 years ago by some estimates so it is likely to have embraced many cultures over dozens of centuries. The conical copper point was used for the entire time so it must have been a very successful design. Not only are they a good design but the color of the copper is beautiful.
My experiments using this style of copper point have proven to me that they are also a very successful modern atlatl dart point design as well. An interesting quality of copper is that it work hardens. As you create the point it makes it very hard and resistant to damage. The tips of copper points will often bend but it is very easy to straighten them out even while you are afield using a couple of rocks; one as a hammer and the other as an anvil.
I have experimented with natural copper nuggets several times but it is rare and expensive to get so I use modern copper sheets to produce the conical copper points I make. The thickness of the copper I start with is usually 1/16” or thicker. I start by cutting triangles of copper with a tin snip that are about 2 ½” long by the diameter of the dart times three and one half. The next step is to hammer the three edges so they taper down to almost paper thinness. The reason for this is that in forming the cone the two sides need to overlap. I use a ball peen hammer and an anvil. In addition to these tools I use a mandrill and a wooden block with a half cone shape carved out that matches the mandrill shape.
After hammering out the edges I anneal the copper in a fire or in the flame of a torch. I then use the mandrill and wood block to begin rolling the cone, and then finish it by hammering the cone around the mandrill. The ancient Old Copper Culture People used mandrills hammered from copper. I use iron mandrills that I make on my metal lathe. I have also used temporary mandrills made of hardwood like Osage or Hard Maple.
Conical points have an added advantage in that they have a very large glue surface area which means that you can use traditional pine resin glue to fasten them onto your dart shaft.
I have had a few darts last several years without the copper points coming off. When copper points are new the tips are so pointy that they will penetrate as well as stone points or broadheads and it is very likely that people of the Old Copper Culture used conical copper points for hunting and fishing.
Pictures and stories were all over this week of a 10,000 year-old atlatl dart which showed up after an ice sheet melted near Yellowstone National Park.
Craig Lee of the University of Colorado at Boulder discovered the dart. The three foot long dart was bent with a sharp kink in it when discovered. It had a projectile point on one end and a cup or dimple on the other end. It is a birch sapling. To read more about this find and to see a photo, check out this link: Atlatl Dart Discovered
If you are ready to check out some newer atlatl darts, Thunderbird Atlatl has wooden and cane darts available in sizes ranging from five foot to seven foot. Darts are sold individually or in bundles of seven darts. It’s best to order at least three darts as shipping is based on length rather than weight and it’s difficult to ship one dart.
You can order through our web page or give us a call at 800-836-4520 or try our cell phone at 607-743-4379.
Some of the darts manufactured by Thunderbird Atlatl
Prelude to Traditional Fletching is a new video just completed by Thunderbird Atlatl. The video shows how to make traditional thread using hemp fiber. This is a great video for those wanting to learn the techniques for traditional fletching.
We’re planning to release new videos on this site so be sure to keep checking back.