Monday, 12 July 2010

Making Your Own Arrows In Four Easy Steps

This blog entry was originally published on my Sun blog back in 2008 but I have since decided to republish it here to provided consistency across my Archery Entries. In addition I will be linking back to this entry from a future entry on my experience make British Longbow Standard Arrows.
This article is aimed at those longbow archers, or those with an interest, who would like to starting making there own equipment. Personally I think their is a big difference in shooting equipment you have made rather than bought and simple act of working, in my case in the garage, on something associated with you chosen pass time is a pleasure in itself and a good way to relax after the working day. So less of the waffle and on with the article at hand, which I hope to be the first of many, covering the simple steps of making your own arrows and in truth the hardest part of this process is choosing your fletching colours.

The Makings Of a Longbow Arrow

This article describes the 4 easy steps to making your own longbow arrows and should be considered an introduction because once your have been bitten by the bug you can experiment as much as you want. Ultimately all you need are the right tools and the correct accessories all of which can be purchase from any archery store. To start with the equipment you purchase need not cost you an arm and a leg but as you become more experience you may well decide to upgrade.
The key components you will need are :
  • Shafts : These come is a variety of woods (Ash/Pine/Spruce), which all have their own unique properties but the most popular is pine, and diameters (11/32, 5/16, ) measure in good old imperial inches. It is important to have your shafts spined correct and matched (although for your first attempt you could get away with not matching them). That is to say the spine (strength / flexability) of the shaft must match your bow. The simplest way to achieve this is to discuss it with whoever you are buying the shafts from and they will happily match your shafts. An incorrectly spined shaft will pull either left or right depending on whether you are left of right handed and if it is over or under spined. My preference, for target arrows, is 11/32 Boyton Pine spined for an 85lb bow.
  • Nocks : Your nocks tend to be plastic and come i a variety of colours and diameters. The most difficult part about choosing the nock is picking you colour. They all tend to be tapered fit and this fitting is achieved as with the piles.
  • Piles : Piles (points) come in a variety of shapes, diameters, metals an weights (measured in grains). The preciece shape and weight required depend on the type of shooting and your personal preference but generally you will see brass bullet points. In addition Piles come in one of two different fitting styles and these are tapered or parallel (although you may see some screw fit). I have, and do, use both but I would recommend for first time arrow making your go for the tapered fit because they are easier to work with. You can see in the picture below what looks like a simple pencil sharpener and this is how you achieve that tapered fit for both the Piles and the Nocks.
  • Fletchings : Fletchings (Feathers) come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and picking the correct length is probably the most important aspect of choosing the fletching. Picking a large fletching will slow the arrow and generally cause it not to fly as far but will steady the arrow, in the air, a lot quicker that a smaller fletching. So picking the correct length is important and ultimately you will be making arrows with differing length fletchings based on the type and distance you are shooting. Personally I have arrows with fletching of 5, 4 and 2.5 inches and shoot the one appropriate to the distance of the target. If you shoot indoors over the winter I would recommend you old 5 inch fletched arrows and a 450 Portsmouth is perfectly achievable.
  • Glues : You will end up with a variety of glues each with its own purpose. For fixing your piles you can use something like Araldite or Hot melt; although this can melt when the arrow enters the target. For the nocks simple all purpose clear glue whilst for the fletchings their are a number of types you can buy from you archery supplier.
  • Sundries : In addition to the above you will pick up a variety of bits and pieces along the way. The include Varnish / Oil for protecting the arrows, paint for cresting and veneer pins for fixing the piles.
Arrow Parts

Step 1 : Preparing the shaft.

Your shafts will generally be supplied in a standard length, about 32 inch for Boyton Pine, and hence will need to be trimmed to the appropriate length. Having identified the length of arrow you require cut the shafts to the length required using a fine toothed saw, which will stop the wood splintering, and then quickly sand the cut ends.
Bare Shaft

Step 2 : Fixing the Piles and Nocks

For each of the shafts you will now need to taper the nock end and the pile end, assuming you are using tapered pile, using you tapering tool. You will notice that the tapering tool has two different holes the longer is for the pile end and produces as more elongated taper. To decide which end to taper for the pile you should look at the grain within the shaft and if you see any feathering this should point down to the pile end of the shaft although this may not be present in shafts with nice straight grain. When fixing the nock to the shaft place a reasonable amount of glue within the nock and push on to the tapered end. Twist the nock around the shaft and finish with the nock position so that when on the string the string will be positioned across the grain. To fit the pile follow a similar procedure to the nock only you will not have to specifically align it just twist and make sure it is sat straight on the shaft. One the pile has dried I would recommend pinning it to the shaft with a small veneer tack. This is best achieved by drilling a small hole in the pile, until it reaches the shaft, and then tapping it the pin until it is about half way through then clip the end of the pin and hammer in until flat with the pile. This will provide additional strength to the pile mounting it is important though that you pin across the grain so the shaft does not spit.
Piles not nockPiles and Nock

Step 3 : Waterproofing and Cresting

Once you have completed fitting the piles and the nocks you will need to waterproof and protect you shafts. This can be achieved by either varnishing the shaft of oiling the shaft. If your preference is for varnish then apply 3 coats of good varnish rubbing down the shaft between coats with some wire wool. If applying varnish I would recommend doing so with a soft, lint free, cloth because the shafts are too thin for easy application with a brush. Personally I prefer to oil my shafts with good quality "Danish Oil", because it enhances the grains of the wood, applied with a soft cloth. I use 3 coats of oil allowing the shafts to dry between each coat and then leave to cure overnight. Once you have waterproofed you arrows you can then optionally crest the shafts and personalise them. Cresting can be done using a number of methods, pre-made wraps, dipping (although this should be done before fitting the nocks) and painting. You can experiment with a number of these methods but I prefer to paint mine keeping it fairly simple and applying some chosen transfers to personalise my arrows. Personally I alway make mine 6.5 inches long because this is the recommended bracing height of my bow and cresting gives me a quick and simple indication of whether my bow is braced correctly.

Step 4 : Fletching

Fletching is best done using a good quality fletching jig I start with a jig that allowed me to fix one, short, fletching at a time moved up to one that allowed me to do one large one and finally invested in a 3 fletch jig. To start with it does not matter which you use it only affect the amount of time required to complete and arrow. You will need to make sure the fletches are all positioned the same distance from the nock. This is easily achieved by marking the clamp on you jig with a permanent pen and making sure you always line the base of the fletch to this mark. Place your arrow in the jig glue the fletch and fix to the arrow. I use HMG glue for the fletching and generally leave it about 30 minutes to dry. Once all your fletching is complete you will need to cover the leading edge of the fletching to stop it lifting when shot. The simplest method is to use some thin electrical tape wrapped around the base of the fletching. You may want to make the arrows more decorative and bind them using good quality cotton thread, you can just see it in the picture below although I use black to match the cresting paint, to protect the leading edge of the fletching. Once bound a tough of super glue or varnish on the binding will stop them fraying.

Four Steps

Arrow Stages
Four simple step and you have your own arrows more fun to shoot but more distressing to break. But given that the pleasure is in the making as well as the shooting a broken arrow or two just means you get to make more.

Useful Links

This is not and exhaustive list but sites I use.


Anonymous said...

Nice tutorial thanks.

I'm trying to decide between Tung oil and Danish oil - are you familiar with Tung oil...?

Also, you mention painting after applying the oil - are you using acrylic paint...?


Anonymous said...

Sorry for the late reply I missed the original email that said I had a comment. I have not come across Tung oil so don't know anything about it. As for painting I do use acrylic or if I want to be quick some, car, spray paint with works well. If I'm using the spray it's a case of masking the area with tape.