8 – Arrow Points

This chapter is meant to define the making of metal style trade points or other non-stone points. There are many books available for making flint and other knapped heads. There is entirely too much subject matter to cover on knapped heads that I could fill this entire book with just the information on knapping. If your interested in learning to make these stone heads I would like to recommend two books that you may wish to read that cover the subject. The first is “The Art of Flint Knapping” by D.C. Waldorf. He covers what you need to know as a beginner and covers all the basics. The second is “The Basics of Biface Knapping in the Eastern Fluted Point Tradition” by Dr. Errett Callahan. Dr. Callahan’s book would better be described as a technical manual for knapping. I would recommend this book to some one who already has a comprehension of most or all of the basics and has done some knapping but it is definitely not for a beginner.
Now to start on of the first things we need to talk about is what materials we could use for the points. When making broadheads we would need to use a strong enough material to be able to take the stresses of hitting a bone, which we will go into later. Some of these materials could be steel, iron, bronze, copper, bone, shark’s teeth and a few other items. If you are just looking to make points for shooting you could use bone, sting ray spikes, antler or a knob of wood even made from the end of the arrow as long as it was thick enough.
Let’s start to talk about metal broadheads. Most of us will use them because the metal is more available than Flint. Or maybe we have not learned to Knapp yet. Or even that stone heads are not legal for hunting in the state in which you live and or hunt. I have personally used metal heads for their durability and fine cutting edge which I think is a great combination.
When designing a broadhead you need to take into account strength of the material. How strong the metal is and how thick it is. You would also need to consider the shape of the head in which you want. This shape may depend on how strong the material is and just how you might want your heads to look. We all want heads that are really cool and grab other people attention, but we are here now to consider the functional aspects of making heads work properly. We can learn how to make them look cool later.
One of the first aspects of head design that you might think about if the affect of the cutting surface on the animals you might be hunting. I am sure some of you have heard of the broadhead cutting ratio. It refers to bow long a blade is into how wide it is. For instance a blade that is 3 inches long and 1 inch wide is considered to have a 3 to 1 ratio or referred to as 3:1. A three to one ratio helps in penetration of the flesh when the arrow is shoot into an animal. By the sever angle of the blade to the flesh it will cut much better than if it was just held sideways to the flesh and pushed in. You can try this yourself buy pushing a knife on a card board box. Push the sharp edge of the knife flatly against the box. It is very hard to make it cut into the box. Now if we turn the knife sideways to the box and slide it along the box we will notice how it cuts right through the box with very little pressure. Now with this little test we can see that we have a amount of angle variation that can get up to 90 degrees. When we where at 0 degrees to the box we could not cut into it very well and when were are 90 degrees to the box it cut it with very little pressure. This is what we need to work out. How can you get a high angle to make the head cut through flesh easily, but still have the head strong enough to survive hard contacts?

8 - Head 1
Picture 1
    This broadhead has a 2.5:1 ratio for it’s cutting surface. As you can see it has a very good cutting surface but extends the tip a long way out. This head was made by Steve Coote from New Zealand..

Now the three to one ratio on a broadhead makes a very good cutting blade, but it does not always make a strong blade. The longer and less wide a head is the longer and thinner the point will be. On a long thin point you have less metal to reinforce the strength of the tip. The longer a tip is on a point is the more leverage force can be applied to make it fail or curl. In picture 1 below we can see a broadhead that struck a rib of a deer and failed on impact. It is most likely that this head hit on a similar shot to a quartering away so it hit the rib on an angle. If this head was to hit a rib and glance of the flat side of the head and not more of the edged sharpened side it would be very possible that it could fail in this manner. This was a good head that just had a freakish accidents conditions set upon it. If you look at the tip you can see very hard abrupt angle at the very point followed by the curling of the rest of the tip.

8 - Head 2
Picture 2

Now if this good broadhead failed on a tough situation are you really ready and willing to take a weak material or a poorly designed head out hunting? I have tried many materials and found some to be great and some to be lacking. One of the materials I found to be lacking was the head shown in picture 2 later. It was made from metal banding used to bundle pipes together. It was a little thin and a little flexible but when cut into broadheads it seemed to be stiff enough to take the stress. I made a few tests with this style and material and had it fail several times. It was thin enough to have a good long angled cutting edge with out adding a lot of weight to the point. This design was a copy of a Bear Razorhead. It failure was not the Bear head design but the weakness of the material. The length of the extended tip only helps to weaken an already weak material. A head of shorter design might have helped to sure up this broadhead, but I did not like this material and gave up on using it.

8 - Head 3
Picture 3
This broadhead is made from metal banding used to hold equipment together. The particular banding came from a sprinkler company. It was used to bind 6” piping into bundles. It is very easy to cut, as the material is thin and shapes well. It also did not tempering with heat very well and would not hold its edge for very long. I found this design I used to be very weak easy to bend or curl on hard impacts.

We need a broadhead that has enough of an angle to cut through flesh easily and be tough enough to also punch through ribs or possibly another hard bone. Now if you look at the design of the head in picture 3 once more. We can see that the heads design is trying its best to accommodate the three to one ratio. Now on a long thin point the tip would be very vulnerable to leverage stresses as we discussed earlier. This point has a chisel point, which helps to reduce the length of the tip but does not reduce the angle of the cutting edges. Also notice how the back edge is slanted forward. They are designed here to be able to pull out of a target easier. Imagine how a head could be designed with long sloping back barbs as part of the cutting edge. It could have a shorter tip more protected tip and have a very high cutting angle. Unfortunately, Most states have some kind of a law forbidding barbs on arrowheads.

This metal point is made from a saw blade like a circular saw blade. These points are already tempered and very hard to saw out. This one was made by Larry AKA “Caveman”. The tool steel of circular saw blades lends it self very well to broadheads. The only problem with saw blades is that they are tempered to be very hard steel. You need professional grade hack saw blade to cut them out. I have tried professional labeled blades from the home supply type stores and they will not do the job. The best blades for this, in my opinion, are the Greenlee line of hack saw blades. They are very hard and cut hard steel like tool steels. The only warning is that since they are tempered harder to cut harder steel the can snap if any side pressure is placed on them.

8 - Head 4
Picture 4

8 - Head 5
Picture 5
This broadhead is made from a steel circular saw blade as well. A hole is drilled through the head at the point where the shafting ends. It is lashed in the Susquehannock style I have seen and adapted for my own use. The broadhead also has a tang in the shaft to help hold it from side movements.
8 - Head 6
Picture 6
This bone broadhead point is made from an Elk leg bone. It was hafted in to the shaft and is held in place only with sinew. As the sinew dried it snugs the head back into its seat and holds it firmly in place. This style of hafting is a copy of some copper point found in Susquehannock Indian escavations. This point style matches the Brass points in style more than the steel head in Picture 5. The brass heads that were excavated did not have a tang but were shaped flat on the back like the bone head in picture 6 but had a more straight triangular point like the steel head in Picture 5.

Primitive peoples may have used bone as a broad heads but I would not recommend it for use now. It makes a very nice primitive arrow for display use. Bone is light in weight and would raise the dynamic spine of an arrow some. You could offset this buy adding weight to the tip by sliding a nail in the pith to using wire to wrap the head in place. It also does not develop a very good cutting edge especially when thick enough to make a strong broadhead. It would still kill a large animal like a deer on a double ling type shot, but if you were to has a not so accurate shot you might just wound the animal.

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