The most effective method of hafting stone and bone points is with cellulose based fiber and glue. The glue can be modern or traditional. I use hide glue, pine or copal resin, or modern glues like Elmer’s, Carpenters Glue or epoxy. Animal fibers tend to fail faster when they get in contact with water. Cellulose fibers like yucca, basswood, hickory, flax, hemp, dog bane, and cotton have proven to be better than sinew each and every time I have used them in real hunting situations. I prefer flax, hemp and dog bane fibers. Rain, dew, blood and wet earth get in contact with sinew and it turns to slime and releases the haft. It also turns a hafted point into a dog bone. Something will eat it sooner or later. Hide glue is also affected by water.
Tree resins are very water resistant and work well if they are not too brittle. Pine resin can be tempered with charcoal, dung, bees wax and fats which make the resin less likely to be brittle. Many different recipies have been used for this purpose.
The combination of hide glue and cellulose fibers shrinks and tightens up the hafting. If you saturate linen cloth with hide glue and stretch it on a frame it is drum tight after it dries. I learned this from making canvases for oil painting. I also read, but have not confirmed this with my own experiment, that linen cloth saturated with hide glue applied to glass will actually break the glass when it dries.
I also have been experimenting with pine and copal resin as a sealant for hafting. After the glue dries I apply several coats of thinned pine resin or copal resin to the hafted area. This makes a very hard, smooth, and water resistant haft. The reason I like this method is that the surface of the fiber, after it is coated this way, offers little resistance to penetration. Copal resin is fossilized pine resin that gets very hard after it is dry. Pine resin remains sticky for a long time. I don’t know whether this method is “traditional”.
I use turpentine or alcohol to thin the resin. You can melt both resins over heat to apply them also but this is more difficult. It is also possible to use runnier fresh pine sap, then heat the finished piece to encourage drying. I also use the copal resin thinned into a “shellac” on the thread whipping that holds the front and back of my fletching down. A thin coating of the thinned resin on the dart shaft itself makes it virtually water proof and will adhere the fletching to the shaft.
To make the thinned resin put a few pieces of pine resin or copal on a square of cloth, tie it closed with string, place it in a glass jar of turpentine or denatured alcohol with the lid tightened. Every now and then shake the jar. After a while the resin will be dissolved. The bark and dirt will remain in the cloth. Copal resin works a lot better than pine because it dries in a half an hour or less.
-Some thoughts about the atlatl Bob Berg-
Posted by Robert Berg