How to Make a Zulu Iklwa

Written by dan antony | 13/05/2017
How to Make a Zulu Iklwa
The shape of this spearhead (on a Maasai tribesman's spear) closely resembles that of a Zulu iklwa. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

The Zulu iklwa is the fearsome stabbing spear, named for the sound it makes when drawn from its victim. (It is alternatively known as the assegai.) King Chaka Zulu of South Africa designed the iklwa in the early 1800s. He believed that hand-to-hand combat was more effective than was fighting with throwing spears; he took his iklwa to war against other tribes, and against the British military. Each iklwa is hand-forged by a Zulu blacksmith, but you can make a realistic presentation or costume iklwa with a few materials from the hardware store.

Cut the dowel to a 2½-foot length.

Measure 3 inches from one end of the dowel. Trim this 3-inch section to a blunt point, using a heavy-duty craft knife or a lathe.

Cut across the blunt point to make a slot to insert the blade. Cut 2 inches into the length of the tapered shaft.

Draw a blade shape onto the metal, using a wax pencil. The iklwa blade is a long leaf shape, wide toward its base, tapering to a fine point. See Reference 1 for photos of iklwa spears.

Cut the blade shape using tin snips.

Insert the base of the blade shape into the slot on the dowel.

Drill two holes through both the dowel and the metal, and use two ¾-inch screws to fix the blade to the shaft.

Spray the metal lightly with black spray paint to give it an aged look. Alternatively, use a hand-held torch to scorch the metal.

Colour the shaft with brown shoe polish or wood stain.

Wrap the tapered end of the dowel in leather lacing or copper wire. Practice wrapping until you achieve a neat braid.


Customise your iklwa as a Zulu warrior might, by tying feathers to the shaft near the base or wrapping part of the shaft in a cowhide grip.


While this is a reproduction, this pointed metal implement can be dangerous; keep it out of the hands of children.

Things you need

  • Dowel, 1-inch
  • Craft knife or lathe
  • Hacksaw
  • Wax pencil
  • Heavy-gauge steel, aluminium or tin
  • Tin snips
  • Hand drill
  • Screws, 3/4-inch
  • Spray paint, black, or hand-held torch
  • Wood stain or shoe polish, brown
  • Leather lacing or copper wire

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