Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Making Bone Arrow Points with Hand Tools

I imagine a number of you have made bone arrow points using stone tools.  That’s an interesting exercise and I have enjoyed going primitive on several occasions to fashion arrows and arrow points, bows, strings and the like with rocks and teeth.  But this post is about using conventional steel tools like files and rasps and also store bought sandpaper.  Likewise, it’s about keeping things quiet.  I live in the woods where there are no sirens, car horns, diesel trucks, lawnmowers or any of those other obscenities associated with “modern society.”  And I’m not about to destroy this peaceful milieu by introducing motorized racket: No belt sanders, rotary tools or whatever else passes for construction in that other world beyond the gate.

Anyway, a neighbor’s cow went to bovine heaven a few months ago.  The vultures, coyotes and various beetles had a great feast and now the bleached bones lie randomly scattered and ready for various projects—in this case arrow points.  I began by gathering the ribs.  Cow ribs are tough structures and make excellent tools.

The above photo shows a cow’s rib that’s already been cut into a section and is ready for further cutting.  I’m holding a blank point in one hand and you can see another blank point on the table.

Using a coping saw I cut the rib in half lengthwise.  Be careful you keep the cut in a straight line so you can use both halves to make points.

These are the tools I generally use.  I won’t necessarily use all those tools on every arrow point but I have the option to choose various implements as need be.

Once I’ve cut the rib in half lengthwise (or at least a piece I intend to make into a point) I’ll begin removing the spongy bone within the rib.

I use a rasp to scrape off the spongy bone.

Here you can see how the rasp is removing the spongy bone.

Now that the spongy bone has been removed I’ll start to shape the point using a fine mill file.

Here you see the bone point is starting to take shape.

Because the rib is slightly convex the arrow point must be carefully filed in order to eliminate the curvature and give the arrow a straight profile.  Go slowly here because if you overdo things you’ll just make the curvature worse.  Remember also to go in reverse to what might seem the logical direction.  In other words, you will straighten the bone by going up against the curvature in order to obtain the straight line you are seeking.

The above photo shows the back of the point.  Again, the rib’s shape in cross-section is thicker on one end and thinner on the other.  You will want to even out the profile.  You will use both a fine mill file and sandpaper to get the lines straight and even.  Don’t be impatient.  File or sand a little bit and then check the results.  Go slowly!

Here I’m using 80-grit sandpaper to flatten the outer part of the rear section of the point.  Again, it’s important to go slowly and check your work frequently.

I use various grades of sandpaper ranging from 80-grit to 500-grit.

Now it’s beginning to look nice.  I’ve got the proportions top to bottom, left to right and in cross-section all worked out and have smoothed out the bone using increasingly fine grit sandpaper.

I use a fine rat-tail file to fashion the notches on either side of the point.  Make sure you get the notches even on both sides or the point will not be symmetrical.

A labor of love: Bone points are actually stronger than stone points and nearly as strong as steel points.  The above points are suitable for medium or large game up to the size of white-tailed deer.  Using fine grit sandpaper I’ve honed the edges to a razor sharp finish.  These points will cut you!