Jeffers Petroglyphs Historic Site
February 16, 2003
The handle, or grip of the atlatl, is a fairly vital piece. If it doesn't fit your hand comfortably, you won't be able to throw effectively. It doesn't have to be fancy, or even wrapped -- plain wood works fine, but leather wrapping gives a better grip and is easier to use for long periods.
Whether you cut out finger grips or not is up to you. If the width of the handle is less than 1 1/2" wide, you probably don't need them unless you use a knuckle grip. In that case, you'll need to thin the handle to less than 3/4" to fit between your fingers. The finger grips should be at least 4" from the end to give you enough room to wrap your hand around the handle.
Finger loops are another option. While they're not essential, they give you much better control and keeps your hand from cramping. Ones have been found made of shell and antler, but the most common by far are leather straps. There are a lot of ways to make finger loops, but there are five main styles that are both easy to make and comfortable to use.
|On all of these, the handle end is on the right.|
While I'm constantly referring to the finger grips, if you're not using them just put the loops about 5" from the end.
This is just a strap of leather, between 1/2" and 1" wide and about 10" long. All you need to do is fasten the ends above the finger grips. Glue the ends on first, then wrap them with either sinew or leather.
This uses two straps of leather, from 1/2" to 1" wide and about 5" long. You simply put one on either side of the handle and fasten it above and below the finger grips.
This uses one piece of leather, about 1/2" wide by 11" long. Put one of the ends on the shaft pointing towards the handle end, then simply make a bow and bring the other end back on the shaft. Glue it and strap it down tightly with sinew.
This uses one piece of leather, from 1/2" to 1" wide and about 11" long. Put the ends above the finger grips like the simple loop, but bring the middle back up and bind it in place as well. The ends can go on the sides or on the top of the atlatl, or even crossed if you want.
This uses two straps of leather 1" wide by 5" long, and one long piece for the handle wrapping.. Put one end of both pieces on the handle below the fingergrips and wrap it in place with leather. After a couple of wraps, bend the other ends down and wrap them down. Keep wrapping to the end of the handle.
This takes one piece of leather, 1" wide x 7". It is commonly used on Basketmaker-style atlatls and works best on thin, wide grips. You simply cut a slit in the middle of the leather strap, then slide that on over the handle and bind the ends above the finger grips. A variation of this "sews" the ends around the handle.
This uses one piece of leather, about 1" by 11". Mke the ends about 1/2" wide and cut a hole in the middle, large enough for the handle and the ends. Slide the piece on, then pull the ends up and through the hole and bind them in place.
You can also come up with your own style, of course. Something I've done is drilled a hole through the shaft from side to side, then laced a piece of thong through and knotted it for a simple loop. You could also use a piece of dowel (as in the Ozark Bluff Dweller atlatl). Whatever you decide to do, though, make sure it's comfortable, secure, and thick enough so that it won't break. Have fun!