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Thread: Seal hunting harpoon

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    Member Nukalpiaq's Avatar
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    Default Seal hunting harpoon

    Planning on making a seal hunting harpoon, was wondering if anyone knows of a source in Alaska for sanded white ash poles? seen some listed online which measured 84" long, 1 1/4" diameter, believe these would work good for my use, but would like to find a source for them in Alaska. Thanks

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    I can't help...but like to see what you start with and then what the finish product looks like. Sounds interesting.

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    Member Nukalpiaq's Avatar
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    Default Toggle harpoon head

    JamesM
    Here is a pic of the toogle type harpoon head that I made yesterday. It is made of brass, for the blade I cut a piece from an old hand saw and ground it to the right size and shape on my small belt sander. Belt sander worked great for shaping the main head too. Note the slightly curved spur, designed it this way so when a seal is harpooned the spur will catch underneath the blubber and skin and turn the head horizontally, securing the head so that it does not pull out when the hunter pulls back on the line. For the line hole it needs to be drilled in the middle which aids in the toggling action. This hole is drilled just above the base hole, preferrably you want to drill your base hole only as deep as you need it, usually leaving some metal between your line hole and the base hole. For my line I used plastic coated wire and connecting sleeves, also attached a rotating swivel to attach my main line too. Line length from head to swivel is 18 inches. So far so good, thanks for asking.
    Last edited by Nukalpiaq; 08-02-2009 at 22:06.

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    Sponsor ADfields's Avatar
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    Very cool!

    How about a replacement yard rake handle? They are a bit shorter and thicker than what you found, but the extra mass may help drive the point in.
    Andy
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    Default black spruce shafts

    ADFields, that was what I was thinking about today, would work during the interim until I can find a good pole that is a lil longer, also am gonna keep my eye out for a straight black spruce pole that I can work over with a hand plane. I think people here in my area used black spruce for making their harpoon shafts, and since we dont have that species of tree here in my area I will have to search the beaches along the coast to locate one, good time to do that now since fallen trees are drifting out in the bay from the big rivers up north where they do have black spruce forests. Thanks

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    Cool job Nukalpiaq.

    Were getting ready as well.

    Our river is in the process of breaking up.
    Soon, well be playing along the seaside....

    The oldest son was making new blades for his harpoons, 2 of each size, S,M, L.
    Its good to have a reload, even with spears.



    Beginnings of a Black spruce shaft, for a new spear.
    gotta have new rope as well, each spring.

    The small ones have no float, just the shaft bobbing about showing whare they are ,and slowing down their swim. Great for Beaver, Otters and Seals, as my sons use them. Medium ones for Medium and Large seals, and the large for Walrus and Beluga.
    I have a nice lance as well, though I cant find it, so Im sure its with the big boat
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    Ash is not a typical "pole" wood in Anchorage. There are several sources for fir closet rods up to 1 1/8" diameter and 10 to 12 feet long. However, they are not very straight after about 6 feet.

    If you have any standing dead fire killed black spruce that would work very well. I have used this to make some rustic chalk board frames. Light weight and very strong even with all the cracks and splits.

    To make your own ash pole, you can buy three 4 inch wide ash boards from Hardware Specialties (907 563 1312) and have them shipped out.

    Rip the boards into strips to make up a multi cored lamination that is about 2 inches square. Use Titebond III glue. Plane down the corners to make an octogon shape. This can be done on a table saw with the blade tilted to 45 degrees, on a jointer, or by hand plane. If hand planing you need the plane to be really sharp. The rays of the ash will dull it quickly.

    Once you have the octogon you can use a hand plane or a spoke shave to round the wood.

    I used this method three years ago to make my kid an ash bo staff for karate, but I also tapered it. I did not completely round the shaft and left some of the octogon edges there, but really softened. It feels really awsome to hold. It was high enough quality that her Japanese instructor was speachless when he saw it for the first time.

    The methods for tapering and shaping the pole come from hand tool oar making.

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    strangerinastrangeland, nice ivory harpoon heads. I made one out of ivory years ago but never had a chance to use it for harpooning a seal. Bet it works just as good or even better than the brass or aluminum ones.

    AK RAY, thanks for the information, sounds like the method you used for making your son's ash bo staff would also produce some super harpoon shafts, just wish I had the tools to make one for myself. The source I found out of State for ash poles wanted $22.00 for an 84" ash pole 1 1/4" diameter and a lil over $40.00 for shipping. Shipping is outrageous, so that is why I was looking for a source in Alaska.
    I found some suitable wood yesterday, don't know what type of wood it is but it was fine grained and had the length and weight that I was looking for. Had to cut it to size; 84" x 1 1/2" on my small table saw then used an electric plane to round off the corners, still needs some additional work. Wasn't able to finish the pole work yesterday since my 16 yr old nephew came over and wanted me to show him how to make a toogle harpoon head, great feeling when kids are interesting in your projects and want to learn how to make them too. I am still keeping my eye out for a nice straight black spruce pole, will be out boating this weekend so I am hoping to find one along the beach somewhere.

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    Willow could work if you have it in your part of the bush but takes time to get it straight. I find it long and without hard kinks in it but bends are okay. I then lash them to a 2x4 to hold them as straight as I can get while green with bark on so they don’t check as bad. When all lashed I stand them in the corner of my shop by the wood stove to dry a year and tighten the lash 6 or 8 times as needed over that time. I do this with birch mostly but also willow here. I started doing this with mesquite and iron wood in Arizona for Apache stile bow wood and have found hundreds of other uses for straight hart centered springy woods like this.
    Andy
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    Here are a few pics of the semi-finished harpoon. Still needs more work, but for the time being it will work. Planning on heading out to the bay tomorrow, weather permitting. Would be nice to see a few seals.
    Last edited by Nukalpiaq; 08-02-2009 at 22:06.

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    Looks great, good luck on the hunt!

    By chance do you have a piece of walrus ivory big enough to make a pair of grips for a small S&W Ladysmith? Maybe 1 inch thick by 1˝ wide and 4 inch long or there about. The wife’s birthday is coming and she wants ivory grips with a scrimshaw rose on them.
    Andy
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    Sorry ADFields, but I don't have any walrus ivory that has been cut up. I do know of a source where you may be able to find what you are looking for though, here is the weblink: http://www.boonetrading.com/index.html
    This company has a lot of really neat material for carvers.

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    Cool, thanks! I see they have what I need but now I got to wonder what the price is till they open Monday or Tuesday.
    Andy
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    Very cool posts. I really like it that you guys use some of the tradition methods for hunting. (I am assuming these are traditional...what do I know?) I don't know, just seems right. Plus to have the kids come up and want to learn...really neat that the methods, knowledge gets passed down.
    Make sure you guys post the completed harpoon. Maybe you could also explain how it works. It looks like the tip detaches from the spear and a line is attached to the tip. I see that a float is attached to the line. I assume this is to slow the seal down and to allow you to follow them. Do you drag the seal in or let him run to tire out... So correct me where I am wrong....and how does the tip connect to the pole so that is detachable?

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    JamesM, the head is attached to the shaft by way of a stationary foreshaft, traditionally harpoons had loose foreshafts. Nowadays most hunters just drill a hole in the shaft and insert a threaded bolt that is the right diameter for the base hole on the harpoon head. If the bolt diameter is a lil over I just work it over on my belt sander to make it fit. When I taught my nephew how to make the foreshaft I cut the head off a bolt and attached it to a drill and screwed it in that way rather than using a screwdriver bit. To determine the right length for the foreshaft for a toggling harpoon setup you need to measure the fat thickness of a seal preferrably a bearded seal since they are larger than the spotted and ringed seals. A good measurement for a foreshaft would be the distance from the tip of the spur to the front of the socket well in this case the front of the metal tubing, ideally you want to drive the head deep enough to detach underneath the fat layer. As for the socket piece, hunters in earlier times used ivory or heavy bone, nowadays most hunters when making their harpoons don't even make socket pieces anymore, some just slip a piece of metal tubing over the end of the main shaft like I did on mine, gives it a lil additional weight and additionally prevents the wood from splitting when inserting the foreshaft and/or when harpooning a seal.
    On my main line just back from the riggings for the harpoon head I attached a small spongy cord, I first cut the ends off the spongy then tied each end to the main line with a modified hangman's knot leaving some slack in the main line between the two knots, approximately 2 to 3 inches. The main line is then tied to the harpoon shaft just back from the section where you attached the spongy cord and when you pull forward on the harpoon head to attach it to the foreshaft the slack gives you enough room to slip it over the foreshaft then the spongy cord automatically pulls back preventing the head from slipping off the foreshaft, if you just used the main line and tied it down tight with no slack there may be a chance the toogle head would not detach from the foreshaft when you harpooned a seal. Keeping the main line tied to your harpoon shaft also provides some resistence to the seal if he is still alive and swimming. The net cork replaces the traditional float, helps in locating the harpoon if the seal dives. My main line is 30ft long, which I believe is sufficient for seal hunting harpoons.

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    Default Net cork/float use

    Just an addition; seals after being shot float for a lil while sometimes only for a few minutes, then they sink. That is why the harpoon is so important it helps to secure and retrieve the seal. The float can help to locate the seal if it dives or sinks once it has been harpooned. If a hunter does not have a harpoon, after killing the seal he can very slowly motor up along side the seal and put his hand in the general area of the front flipper (seals float belly down) then gently roll the seal over on it side with his hand grabbing the flipper when it appears. This is the method that my uncle taught me since he did not use a harpoon. He did not like to have any holes in his seal hides when he got them tanned.

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    Default Nukall'

    Why not use an old oar shaft which has a damaged blade? They are usually made from ash.

    I too used to make the toggle-heads out of saw steel and brass, though I only made them for others and never used them myself. They said they worked well. I patterned them after examples found in "Inua". I have also made them from antler and ivory with a walrus hide bridle and hafted onto an ivory foreshaft as museum examples.

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    sayak, now that is a good idea, an old ash oar would find new life made into a harpoon shaft, probably can be trimmed down and even tapered a bit on a table saw, corners rounded with my electic plane, then sanded smooth. Inua is also a book in my library, made my first ivory toggle-head based on a design from that same book. I would really like to make a harpoon with an ivory socket piece. Walrus hide line, now that would take some time to make. How did you make the line, was there a specific method for cutting it up? I was also thinking that a finger rest would be a good addition too. Did your museum pieces have finger rests on them? thanks

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    Our boys with a nice Harbor Seal, a few years back.
    They brought it home from checking the net. The oldest boy is most always the driver, and youger is our resident "Spear Chucker", holding his spear, because he can score a perfect hit 9 outta 10.
    The spear is a spruce shaft with a rod and a cap of copper 2" pipe and a finger rest on the younger, right side boys left hand (Facing us)to give it good throwing ability. I dont see the head or rope, but I'll look for another pict.
    Seals are round and rubbery with a thick hide, so you have to have a sharp blade and a solid centerd hit.
    I love watching the action when the guys are at it.

    My wife makes Seal rope by cutting the fresh Seal into "Rings" of skin, around the seal, and taken off like a shirt or skirt. The head is cut around the ears, across and around back of the flippers, and again around the lower legs. You get two tubes from there, and they are cut with the blubber on the skin, and removed as a tube. They are each then cut in a 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide spiral strip for rope.

    Great thread. Id love to see the book and sayak's finished spears.
    Weve been busey lately and have not completed our gear yet.
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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    Default Finger rests yes...

    Quote Originally Posted by Nukalpiaq View Post
    sayak, now that is a good idea, an old ash oar would find new life made into a harpoon shaft, probably can be trimmed down and even tapered a bit on a table saw, corners rounded with my electic plane, then sanded smooth. Inua is also a book in my library, made my first ivory toggle-head based on a design from that same book. I would really like to make a harpoon with an ivory socket piece. Walrus hide line, now that would take some time to make. How did you make the line, was there a specific method for cutting it up? I was also thinking that a finger rest would be a good addition too. Did your museum pieces have finger rests on them? thanks
    ... bridle, yes, line and float, no. I was teaching traditional carving for the school district at the time, and the museum in Dillingham got a grant and asked me to make a butt load of examples of Yupik stuff, including harpoons, a bird dart, bola, recurve bow and arrow (boy I had a hard time self teaching myself to twist and braid sinew!), atlatl, masks, story knifes and lots of other examples. I did tons of research! I took no pictures!

    I bought the walrus line from ANAC; that was back in the 80s.

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