The Straight Arrows of Padre Island




© 2012 Steve Hathcock

Stone scrapers are found in a wide range of sizes, shapes and forms. Depending upon its function, the scraping edge can be on either end or, in the center.

I received the following email and photo from Judie Somereset. “I was walking the beach at South Padre Island with a friend of mine. We were throwing flat stones and clam shells against the tops of the waves to see who could “skip” their stone the most times before it sank. It was only when I had this stone in my hand did I realize it was different. Can you tell me anything about it? Is it valuable?

What a great find Judie, the stone in the photo is a very nice example of a spoke-shave. For thousands of years, arrows were made from cane and wood. The arrowhead was fastened on with sinew; the other end had feathers, and was notched for a bowstring. Arrows were often decorated. Each hunter may have had his own design. In order to make the arrow fly true, it was necessary to have as straight a shaft as possible.


Stone Shaft-Straightener

Stone Shaft-Straightener

Several tools were use to accomplish this end. First, a shaft-straightener was used. This was a stone with a hole or groove in it. Green wood was placed in the groove and bent to shape as the stone was heated. After the shaft cooled and seasoned for a few days, it was time to use the spoke shave.

With a pronounced concave working edge, the spoke shave was used for scraping and shaping arrows, darts, spear shafts and bows. It could also be used to scrape the meat from bones or to shave thin strips of bone for making fish hooks and needles. With its sharp edge a skilled craftsman could fashion buttons or talismans and a multitude of tools from deer antlers. Its intrinsic value would be around $150-$250 but its historical value is much higher. (I am vice chairman of the South Padre Island Historical Foundation and would love to see that item on display in our future museum. Please let us know if it becomes available.)

Today, we have modern tools to ensure perfect symmetry in our arrow shafts. Modern arrow-straighteners do an excellent job of getting aluminum shafts straight within .005 inch over the span.  At worst, this may translate into a few thousandths of an inch of bend over the entire shaft length, certainly within the tolerable range.  By slowly turning the shaft, the dial indicator on the straightener will show the severity and location of bends.  A built-in lever allows for over-flexing the shaft in the opposite direction to straighten it.  Extremely crooked shafts can’t be straightened effectively in this manner and are better off in the garbage. Most archery catalogs offer straighteners. Your local pro shop is sure to offer a straightening service.

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Cutline Spoke-Shave found on South Padre Island by Judie Somerset


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