Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Making Of Bamboo Arrows

As I mentioned in my Wellington Bowmen report I was considering buying some of the Tonkin Bamboo arrow shafts and so I did. Now having never worked with Bamboo shafts before, well not strictly true because I remember using Bamboo garden canes for arrows as a child, I thought I would blog about what I found.

I've been making arrows for a number of years, given the amount I break on field shoots I'm quite good at it, and traditionally I use either Boyton Pine or Port Oxford Cedar (these smell good when the break) so Bamboo was going to be something new. The first thing you will notice is the beautiful red / brown colour of the heat treated smoothed lacquered Bamboo. The second thing you notice is that your shafts are not all identical or of a consistent machined diameter. Given that these shafts are simple cut Bamboo you will also notice that each of the shafts has a natural taper and hence my shafts were approximately 11/32 at one end (pile end) and 5/16 at the other (nock end) give or take and 39" in length.

So with these beautiful reddish / brown shafts in had it was time to decide what to do and how to do it. I decided that I did not want to shoot 39" arrows (although I noticed they would be the perfect length if I had a draw to my ear) and would shorten them to 36" because that way I would have some breakage room before passing them on to Fred. Because the shafts are spined at the centre to 28" if I wanted to keep the same spine rating I needed to trim the same amount of each end so hence it was 1.5" off each end. To cut these hardened shafts I found that a sharp fine hacksaw work best cutting through the shafts slowly. Id did initially make the mistake of doing it to quickly and split the outer part of the shaft but a bit of wood glue seems to have resolved that issue.

If you read the information Mark (Mahill-Archery) provides on line at the store he recommends self nocking the shafts but given that I want to shoot them this Sunday at Raven I decided the simple plastic nocks would do which required a tapered fit and in addition I decided to fit tapered piles (although Mark does provide piles for the shafts). One of the things about Bamboo is that it is hollow and hence their is a hole running through the middle so tapering the shaft, as is, will not work to well. To resolve this Mark sells plugs that can be simply insert and glued into the holes prior to tapering the shaft and these work well.

As I mentioned the shafts vary in width slightly so you will need a variety of tapering tool sizes (I have a metal tool that will do a variety of sizes). In addition to get the best results sharp blades are required because the Bamboo is quite tough to cut through. Once I had plugged and tapered the shafts fitting the piles and nocks was quiet simple (as always with tapered shafts) and then simply fletch and away we go.

I would say it is definitely more time consuming and harder work preparing the Bamboo shaft but they do look good when finished and I now have a dozen Bamboo shafts ready to shoot on Sunday. As part of the Raven shoot report I'll let you know how they performed.


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