Crafty: French Arrows

On Sunday, Ben went about gathering things: bamboo canes, a pack of cards, string, tape, a couple of nuts (of the “& bolts” variety) and a knife. Then, he had me make a flask of tea and bundled me into the car. I had no real idea where we were going, or why, and what the hell connects a pack of cards with bamboo garden canes anyway?

But I was study-fatigued, so I just went along with it.

We shortly arrived at Wimbledon Common. Yay! Cue me singing the Wombles song, over and over.

After a short walk, we came to an empty clearing by the rugby/football pitches, and sat on a log. Ben started getting out his kit, and crafting what we would later name his “Foxy Lawn Darts”. They are more colloquially known as “French Arrows”.

Ben learnt this technique from a workmate back when he was doing manual labour for British Telecom – he says it’s based on some neolithic spear, but I can’t find any evidence for this and I’m feeling lazy today (post-exam complacency?). If anyone else is any the wiser, please let me know, so that I can inform my readership.

What follows is a basic “how to”, but you can also find a nifty little guide on this website, which helpfully has a cute, low budget animation to make things a bit easier.

First up, select a nice, straight, strong piece of bamboo cane. You’ll need to cut a cross in one end – two vertical slits, about 3 inches deep, which cross over. This will be to insert your fletching! Please watch what you’re doing with your knife. I have a classical “don’t run with scissors!” type photo of Ben cutting whilst looking in the opposite direction.

Next, your fletching! This involves bastardising a pack of playing cards. You’ll only need 2 cards, so you could make 27 arrows out of a whole pack! You could do the whole “cut a slot in each and slot them together to form an x”, but we just folded each card in half.

Then, slide the cards down the cut slots at the top of your bamboo, so each card is like a corner. Line them up so you have your cross.

And now, bind it tightly shut! You could use string. We used tape.

Now, go to the other end of the cane. If you can fit a nut (of the “& bolts” variety) snugly over the end (so it stays put) then great. We had to whittle the bamboo a bit so that the nut only just slid on, but that was great because it meant it fit nice and tight, and didn’t come off when it came to throwing the arrow.

And, if you want, you can sharpen the end to a point, so that when thrown, it will stick in the ground. NOT ADVISED IF THERE ARE CHILDREN OR PETS PRESENT. Or, indeed, if you are a prat like me, and can’t throw.

The “stringing” of the arrow is a bit tricky to explain via text, so I advise you watch the animation on the aforementioned website to get to grips with that – they make it shockingly easy to understand.

Of course, what you really want to see is if it flies or not. Well, it does. And I can prove it, because we took video footage of the damned thing in action. Enjoy!!

P.S., If you make your own French arrows, I would LOVE to see the results. Photos, videos, or even just anecdotes. I’d never heard of them before Sunday, but they are AWESOME.

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6 thoughts on “Crafty: French Arrows

  1. I used to play with these amazing MIY toys in the 70’s,we used bamboo pinched off the local allotment hahaha,any sort of card we could find & a peice of string,hours of summer school holiday fun on burley rd village green,leeds.

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  2. Hiya
    My dad and I used to make these when I was a kid, and I have made a few since.
    The best ones that we made were made out of old crossbow arrows with an old walking stick end instead of the sharp tip. Only about 8 inches long in total, but boy could they fly…. With a bit of welly and a good shoelace you could throw them a good 100 yards or so .
    Used to spend ages trying to get them from one end of my local park to the other in as few throws as possible….

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