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Make a Throwing Arrow

January 2, 2013

This is a hunting arrow that my old mentor taught me how to make.  Some people call it a Swiss arrow; others call it a Yorkshire arrow.  He always called it a throwing arrow, so that’s how I refer to it.  The throwing arrow works on the same principle as the atlatl, but instead of using a solid stick as a dart thrower, you use a piece of string.

The arrow or dart is much like a regular arrow except it is a little larger in diameter and a little longer.  The arrow that I am making here is about 3/8 inch on the large end (back), 5/16 inch on the small end, and around 36 inches long.

So, let’s make a throwing arrow.  The first thing that we will need is an arrow shaft.  I found a nice straight shoot of Yaupon Holly that I cut for my arrow shaft, but any good solid, straight wood will do.  If you don’t have access to any wild material, you can buy a 3/8 inch dowel rod at the hardware store.  After removing the bark, I let the shaft dry of a couple of days so that it wouldn’t be too sticky.  I did a little gentle hand straightening to take a couple of small kinks out of the shaft.  Pictured below: Yaupon Holly arrow shaft. 01 shaft

Next is the fletching.  I split a couple of wild turkey wing feathers and cut them to length for fletchings.  I am going to use four fletchings on this arrow.  Don’t ask me why.  That’s the way my mentor did it, so I’m just continuing the tradition.  I’m sure it will work just as well with three fletchings. Pictured below:  Turkey feather fletchings.

02 fletchings

After the fletchings are cut, they need to be attached to the shaft.  In this case I used glue and deer sinew to attach the fletchings.  After the sinew is dry you can cut the fletchings to shape.  Here’s a hint, don’t leave the fletchings too tall or they will slow down the speed of your arrow, kind of like a floofloo arrow.  Pictured below:  Two views of the fletched arrow.

03 arrow fletched

04 four fletchings

Because I am going to use this arrow for target practice I attached a commercial field point to the front.  For actual hunting you would want to knap out a nice broadhead from flint or glass.  Pictured below:  Field point attached to front of arrow.

04a field point

Now the last step.  Come down about an inch below the front of your fletchings and cut a notch in the shaft.  The notch should be cut to a depth of little less than half way through the shaft.  The front side of the notch (the side toward the front of the arrow) should be straight up and down.  The back side of the notch should be sloped back toward the fletchings.  The picture below gives a good illustration of how the finished notch should look. 05 notch cut

Now you need a string to throw the arrow with.  I twisted one up out of yucca fiber, but a piece of para-cord or any other similar size string will do.  The string needs to be about one-and-a-half times the length of the arrow.  You will need to tie an overhand knot in each end of the string.

These directions for attaching the string to the arrow are for a right-handed person:

1. Hold the arrow in front of you in right hand with the notch facing you.

2. Lay the knotted end of the string into the notch from the left with the knot ending up about 1/8 inch to the right of the notch.

3. Put your left thumb on top of the string in the notch to hold the string in place.

4. Using your free right hand, wrap the string in back of the arrow and then pass it over the top of the string between the arrow shaft and the notch.

5. Pull the string tight in order to lock it in place in the notch.

6. Use your left hand to keep the string tight while you wrap the loose end of the string around your right hand two or three times.

7. Now pull your right hand to the front of the arrow (keep tension on the string so that it doesn’t fall out of the notch).

8. Grip the arrow shaft between the thumb and fingers of your right hand about three inches back from the point.  You may have to wrap or un-wrap a little more string around your right hand in order to have your hand in the right place on the shaft.  You are now ready to throw.

This process sounds kind of complicated, but it really only takes about three seconds to get the string on the arrow and have it ready to throw.  The pictures below are probably easier to understand than the written explanation.

06 string in notch

07 cord wrapped

08 cord around hand

09 gripping arrow

Throwing the arrow just takes practice.  You want to throw it with an overhand motion, not side-arm.  Your arm should be fairly straight but not locked at the elbow.  I find that I get the best results if I just forget about the string and act like I’m trying to throw the arrow with my hand; and then keep my throwing hand moving in a follow-through that ends by my knee.  Pictured below: Throwing the arrow.

10 throwing the arrow

I can throw one of these arrows about 40 to 50 yards, but I have to admit that my accuracy is not that great.  It’s like anything else; practice makes perfect, or at least better.

  1. we always called it a French arrow, due to the French never had long bows. As children we had tournaments that lasted days, after the war toys were just not available so we improvised. I now run an army cadet force in Estonia.

  2. StewMc permalink

    Yip! We called them French Arrows too. They had a resurgence in the late 60’s,early 70’s up here in Geordieland when it seemed every kid had one. Large groups of us would roam the local fields and compete to see who could throw their homemade arrows the furthest. We got pretty technical when I think about it; discusing weight, flights (fletchings) shape, length of arrow and where to put the notch. we found It travelled further if you put the notch behind the fletchings as it improved the mechanical advantage. Didn’t even know we were doing physics haha!

  3. brian triffitt permalink

    Now seems to be a lost art, but all the kids of our generation had one, and what good times we had.

  4. sun, wu-kong permalink

    I remember a large format paperback book about archery from the 1960’s that had an article about this. Back in the 1870s it was a professional sport. The “arrow” was about 35~37 inches long, made of willow it was held by a chord wrapped around 1/3 rd from the back with the other end wrapped around the hand and index finger between the thumb and middle finger. The record was 273 yards (or so). It was called “wand tossing”.
    I think the title of the book was field archery.

  5. Chris Corbett permalink

    was trying to explain French Arrows to an American and found this excellent article thanks, definitely French Arrows in Co Durham in the 1960s. We were regularly exceeding a football fields length which is 120 yds plus with arrows that had playing cards for flights. Home made throwing string? We used boot laces!

  6. B Eltringham permalink

    I live in Yorkshire but did not know them as Yorkshire arrows they were called Bobby arrows.

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  1. What is an Atlatl / Spear Thrower? – Ben Gordon Outdoors

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