Make a Cane Arrow with Split-Shaft Fletched
The split-shaft fletched cane arrow is one of the quickest and easiest types of arrow to make. You will need the following tools and materials to make this arrow.
A piece of cane (bamboo or river cane) that is about three feet long and about the size of your little finger on the large end
A dried hardwood shoot about three-eights inch in diameter and about a foot long
A wild turkey tail feather
A yucca leaf
About a teaspoon of pine sap
A sharp knife
A cane arrow shaft consists of two parts; the main shaft which is made of cane and the fore-shaft which is made of hardwood. The cane portion of the shaft will be twenty-four to twenty-eight inches long, depending on your personal draw length. To make the cane portion of the shaft you will need a piece of river cane or bamboo that is about the thickness of your little finger on the large end. It should be several inches longer than you need the finished shaft to be. This will give you some leeway in positioning the cane joints on the finished shaft, and it will also make the shaft easier to straighten.
You want to select the straightest canes that you can find for making arrows. This will save you a lot of work when you straighten the shafts. To straighten the shafts you will need to heat them gently over flame or coals and then bend them straight and hold them until they cool. Canes can be straightened at the joints or in between the joints, whichever is necessary. Be sure and heat the shafts slowly so the do not scorch or burn. Rubbing grease or oil on the shafts before you heat them will help keep them from scorching. To check the straightness of a shaft you can sight down the shaft and turn it slowly. Any kinks or curves will be quickly visible. Be sure and wear gloves or use pot-holders when straightening the hot shafts.
Now we need to cut the shaft to length. It is very important where you locate the joints in this kind of arrow. The large end of the cane will be to the front of the arrow, and the hardwood fore-shaft will fit down into the hole in the cane. In order for the fore-shaft to have a solid base to rest on, you want to have cane joint located about two inches back from the front of the cane. The back of the cane is where we will have our nock, and where we will insert our fletching; so you need to have a joint about an inch from the back of the shaft.
The string nock at the back of your arrow can be created by shaving of a about a half inch sliver of the cane on opposite sides of the cane. This will leave a nice little nock. You will need to use your knife to smooth down and flatten the part of the nock that comes into contact with the string. If it is left sharp it may cut the string. Pictured below: top, straightened and smoothed cane; bottom, close-up of the finished nock
Now place you knife blade down into the bottom of the nock and very carefully split the cane down to the last joint on the back of the cane. This is where you will insert your fletching. Pictured below: splitting the cane
We are going to fletch this arrow with a wild turkey feather. Be sure to select a feather that has a good vane on both sides of the quill, and make sure that the vanes don’t curve too much.Take your turkey feather and cut a five inch section across the width of the entire feather. Pictured below: top, Wild turkey feather; bottom, section cut from whole feather
Very carefully open up the split in the back of the arrow shaft and slide the quill of the feather into the hole in the cane. The vanes of the feather will stick out of the splits on each side of the shaft. Pictured below: feather in place in cane shaft
When you have the feather positioned where you want it, take some yucca leaf fiber and wrap it tightly for about a half-inch in front of and a half-inch behind the feather. Coat the wrappings with a little pine sap to help hold them in place and protect them from moisture. Use a sharp knife or a flint flake to trim the fletchings to the desired shape. Pictured below: finished fletching
Now we need to put a fore-shaft into the front of the cane. The fore-shaft is the only part of the arrow that will penetrate your target so it needs to be long enough to do some damage. You will want about six to eight inches of fore-shaft to stick out of the cane. Since you need to add the two inches that will fit down into the cane, the total length of the fore-shaft needs to be eight to ten inches. You can just cut a fore-shaft to length, sharpen the point, and call it done; or you can use a larger diameter stick and whittle out a wooden broadhead type point. Drop a little pine sap in the front of the cane and insert the foreshaft. That’s it. Pictured below: front of cane shaft with foreshaft glued in place