The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-24-2001, 09:42 PM
Major Feelgud Major Feelgud is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
And did cavemen make them any different from people in the middle ages?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 08-24-2001, 09:50 PM
CrankyAsAnOldMan CrankyAsAnOldMan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Are you asking about the arrowheads themselves, as opposed to all the components? Well, I thought they made them with obsidian and other rocks that could be broken to form a sharp edge. They struck the rock in such a way that the edges sort of flaked off, didn't they?

The only old arrowheads I've seen up close and personal were from about 1000 A.D., and this is how they appeared to be made. I guess that's not "ancient." I'm also not an archeologist, something that is probably becoming increasingly apparent as I keep typing.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-24-2001, 09:55 PM
xcheopis xcheopis is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
They used flaked rocks. Their arrows differed from those of the middle-ages in that they did not have worked metal.

I'm assuming that cavemen, to you, means archaic homo sapiens.
__________________
Flame-throwers. Machine-gun fire. Torpedoes. Panic.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-24-2001, 10:53 PM
Major Feelgud Major Feelgud is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Sorry, should have been more precise. How they made the straight wooden part. Since they didn't have lathes and the arrows weren't made of bamboo, how did they make a lot of small straight wooden sticks from a big tree?
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-24-2001, 11:07 PM
CrankyAsAnOldMan CrankyAsAnOldMan is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Oh. Well, some species of tree have very straight branches. I think that one could start with these, and then sight down the shaft and use a scraper to make it straight and true.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-24-2001, 11:10 PM
astro astro is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Re the "straight wood" issue. As a WAG I would imagine it's tedious, but technically not that difficult, to use a sharp edge to carve a relatively straight stick out of a larger slightly crooked one. You can also use soaking the wood and working the wood next to a fire to correct slight bends.

Hmmm... after my WAG I Googled and here is everything you ever wanted to know about making arrows from scratch the way good 'ol Og did.

Here is just a small portion of that article...

Arrow Making

http://emuseum.mnsu.edu/prehistory/a...ow_making.html



"The first thing that needs to be done when making an arrow is the selection of the wood that you would like to use for the shaft. The most common wood used today is Port Orford cedar, but the Douglas Fir, Norway Pine, and Birch are also fine sources to use. Birch is a hard, tough wood that is better to use for making hunting arrows, while the Port Orford cedar is a soft but generally straighter wood and is better for target arrows. The wood you choose can be purchased in blocks that you can shave down and shape into a shaft yourself or you may purchase them already made and ready to go.

Some enjoy the process of making the arrow from scratch by making their shafts from saplings that they cut down. When selecting the saplings the straightest one should be selected and if straight ones are hard to come by you should find ones that are fairly thick so that you have more to work with. Seasoning must also be done when using saplings. Seasoning is a drying and prepping process that can take from one to six months depending on the wood and the moistness of that wood.

The first thing to do is bundle all your saplings together and let them dry in a humid environment allowing the wood to dry without splitting. Shrinking of the wood will probably occur as they dry, but you can compensate for this shrinkage by using water soaked organic rope that tightens very hard while it dries. After a few weeks you should undo your bundle and peel any bark that remains then rebundle them and let dry until they are ready. Then they can be worked down to the desired size. You should always leave a few extra inches in length so that you have some room for error. Most arrows are 28- 30 in length and 5/16 in diameter. The size may differ depending on what the arrow will be used for, the person using the arrow, and the bow in which it will be shot from.

Once your shafts are chosen, dried, and shaped they are then ready to be straightened. A good straight arrow is very important, especially when it comes to a target arrow. When it comes to hunting arrows, you have a little more leeway. Since you are usually shooting at a moving target any flaws in an arrow will usually equal out any inaccuracies involved in the shot itself.

There are a couple of methods that you may use to straighten your shafts. The first method is straightening them by hand and is referred to as the green method because it is used on saplings or any wood that is fresh and still moist. Basically you straighten the shafts as they dry. As soon as the bark is removed you take the shafts and bend them until they look straight. This bending process should be rather slow and gradual. If the wood does not bend the way you would like or if it feels like its going to break, then the next method may be better to use."
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-24-2001, 11:25 PM
justwannano justwannano is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
I'm glad you asked.
Gives me a chance to brag a little.
It just so happens that there is an article in our local newspaper about archaeologists searching for remnants of a native american settlement near Rome Iowa.Its a little town in SE Iowa which sits on the Skunk river. Their thinking the site may possibly be dated back 7000 to 5000 BC.
OK so now for the question.
I've seen artifacts claimed to be arrow making tools.They are just a piece of rock with a U shaped groove in them.The natives just sanded them until they were correct.
As far as points go there are lots of them found around here. The older they are the more crude. That doesn't mean they aren't sharp they just aren't as precisely made.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-25-2001, 02:11 AM
Major Feelgud Major Feelgud is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
It sounds like a fairly involved process (6 months?). This begs the question then, in movies such as Braveheart and presumably the real battles they are based on you see that each man has maybe 100 arrows, so there must have been a huge arrow making industry, with literally tens of thousands of man hours invested in arrow making. How come we don't read or hear about this in history? I mean you hear of wonderful blacksmiths who made such and such a sword, but no word on what must have been hundreds of arrow makers sitting patiently in their huts making hundreds of arrows.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-25-2001, 02:38 AM
Tedster Tedster is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Blacksmiths and Saddle makers...

Obsolete technology gets put out to pasture pretty quickly. There were millions of horses and people employed in their ancillary industries just 100 years ago. All gone, pretty much. Millions of TV/Radio repairman in the US just 50 years ago, while there are a few holdouts, it's nothing like it was.

You can bet Arrow making is a *lot* harder than it looks- just like every idiot thinks they can really build a fire without matches or a lighter because they 'read about it' once or twice.

The first thing most people realize when exploring these old technologies is that 'primitive' man wasn't stupid by any means- I'd bet that making good quality arrows was a specialized skill, much in demand throughout the tribe. What good are arrows that don't fly true? Worse than useless, if you think about it.
__________________
Everyone has a natural right to be stupid, but beyond a certain point it becomes an intolerable privilege.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-25-2001, 08:51 AM
DanBlather DanBlather is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
I have seen "shaft straighteners" in museums. It's a stone with a channel in it that is heated in a fire and used to straighten the shafts.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-25-2001, 10:26 AM
justwannano justwannano is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
DanBlather
Quote:
I have seen "shaft straighteners" in museums. It's a stone with a channel in it that is heated in a fire and used to straighten the shafts.
Damnit dan.
Now I have to rethink my simple method.:-})
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 08-25-2001, 12:23 PM
mbh mbh is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Posts: 2,577
Quote:
there must have been a huge arrow making industry, with literally tens of thousands of man hours invested in arrow making. How come we don't read or hear about this in history?
Look in the phone book. Count the number of people surnamed "Fletcher".
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08-25-2001, 12:43 PM
astro astro is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally posted by mbh
Quote:
there must have been a huge arrow making industry, with literally tens of thousands of man hours invested in arrow making. How come we don't read or hear about this in history?
Look in the phone book. Count the number of people surnamed "Fletcher".
But there's still only one SHAFT!

Ya damn right!
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 08-26-2001, 09:41 AM
justwannano justwannano is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
spears

Are the same methods used in the construction of spears?
I would think that throwing spears need to follow the same "rules" that an arrow does. Especially one used with a Throwing device whose name escapes me at the moment.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 08-26-2001, 10:17 AM
DanBlather DanBlather is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Re: spears

Quote:
Originally posted by justwannano
Are the same methods used in the construction of spears?
I would think that throwing spears need to follow the same "rules" that an arrow does. Especially one used with a Throwing device whose name escapes me at the moment.
From Encarta
Quote:
For example, spear tips were attached with binding material to spear shafts, which were flung using spear throwers (sometimes called atlatls). A spear thrower usually took the form of a length of wood or bone with a handle on one end and a peg or socket at the other to hold the butt of a spear or dart. When swung overhand together, the spear thrower provided greater thrust on the spear.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 08-26-2001, 12:24 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
Out of the slimy mud of words
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between pole and tropic
Posts: 6,594
How did they get the arrow head to stay put on the shaft (and make it secure enough for reuse)? "Binding materials"?
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 08-26-2001, 12:30 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 52,755
You split or carve a groove into the end of the shaft, and fit the arrowhead in there. Then, you wrap some sort of cord (originally a leather thong) tightly around the shaft and head, which has notches in the base for this purpose.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 08-26-2001, 12:46 PM
Lemur866 Lemur866 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: The Middle of Puget Sound
Posts: 16,549
You can also use some form of natural glue, either derived from plants or from boiling hoofs as a supplement to the binding.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 08-27-2001, 08:07 AM
Guy Propski Guy Propski is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 1999
Major Feelgud--you have to keep in mind that, prior to the Industrial Revolution, many people knew how to make their own home products. Yes, there were fletchers, carvers, coopers, smiths, and so on, but your average person could also, in a pinch, make some of these items themselves. Maybe not as well as the guys who made them everyday, but since they couldn't go out to the Home Depot and buy one, they had to learn pretty damn fast.

As for arrows, that's an interesting story. I remember seeing in that wonderful show "Connections" a bit about arrows. During the time when arrows were the major weapon of choice (i.e., the Middle Ages), archers had to be able to make their own arrows and other bow related material. Naturally, they were a bit secretive about how they did it. Once guns moved in as the primary weapon of choice, the knowledge on how make arrows was all but lost, the exception being a few well-placed fletchers (like ones working for the royalty).

There's a fascinating museum outside Philadelphia called The Mercer Museum that houses a collection of handmade items. You'd be surprised as to the number of specialized tools that were needed to make simple items like arrows, candles, brooms, and barrels; you'd be even more surprised to see how many of those tools are no longer used.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 08-27-2001, 11:10 AM
Balance Balance is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Dallas, TX
Posts: 6,801
Quote:
Originally posted by Major Feelgud
It sounds like a fairly involved process (6 months?).
Bear in mind that a good bit of that time was just waiting for wood to cure--not something that requires a great deal of active involvement. Presumably, those specializing in the art spent some of this time straightening and finishing arrows from the last batch of cured wood, and the rest in other pursuits. It was unquestionably labor-intensive, but not as overwhelmingly intensive as that "6 months" figure suggests.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 03:59 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.