Making Wooden Arrows

The first thing to do when making wooden arrows is to select the shafts. If you are buying from a dealer you will need to know what spine (stiffness) you need, as an arrow that is too stiff will usually fly to the left, whereas a weak shaft will fly to the right. (Assuming a right handed archer.) The shafts are usually graded in weight ranges, but this can be deceptive, If you are shooting a 28" arrow from a recurved bow then the weight should be right, but for an English Longbow you will probably only need 1/2 to 2/3 of the bow weight. e.g. for a 50lb longbow shooting a 28" arrow I would start with a set of arrows for a 30 - 35 lb recurve.

When you have decided on what weight range to have, then check the straightness of the shafts. I end up rejecting half of my shafts here. Then the shafts should be weighed (for physical weight, not spine) on a grain scale. After that you need to ensure that they are all the same stiffness on a spine meter. I buy my shafts from Quick's as they have a glass table for rolling the shafts and a set of grain scales and a spine meter available for use. I spend about an hour selecting 12 shafts. One thing to be aware of is that the spine will vary as the shaft is turned. You need to measure the spine so that the grain at the end of the shaft is running horizontally.

Now you have the shafts you need to select points, nocks (if you are using them) and fletchings. For these things personal preference plays a large part. A heavier point will cause an arrow to fly as if the spine is weaker than a lighter point that will cause the arrow to react as if it is stiff. You must find the weight that works for you. I use around 100 grain points depending on the shaft size. I am assuming that you are making target arrows for use with an English Longbow, and therefore, you must use feathers. Plastic can cut your hand if your knocking point is out or you have a bad loose. Also for competition in the UK feathers are the only fletchings permitted. The size is again a matter of personal taste, but bear in mind that a small feather will give a longer range, and faster flight, but be less stable than a large feather, which will straighten quicker from the bow, but be more affected by the wind and have a shorter range. I use a very small feather for long distances, but a large one for shorter ranges.

We will now get to the point where we start to put the arrows together. The first thing to do is to cut the arrow shaft to length. It is best to cut a little off each end, because if the shaft is bent it is likely to be the ends that are worse. Once that is done we fit the points, if you are using taper fit points, as I do then you can use a taper cutter from Quick's to sharpen the end to receive the pile. Do not use a pencil sharpener as a taper cutter will stop when it reaches the full taper. A pencil sharpener will not do this so you may end up with shafts of different lengths. Glue the piles on using Epoxy resin. Hot melt can also be used, but do not use impact adhesive or super glue as this is not strong enough.

If you want to paint the shaft, now is the time to do it, a coat of varnish at this point is advisable too.

The next thing to do is the nock. If you are using a plastic nock it is easy, use the other end of the taper cutter to cut the taper and glue the nock on so that the grain of the shaft is at 90 degrees to the slot in the nock (Marked by the red line below):

End of an arrow shaft

If you are cutting a nock into the wood, the same rule applies, but you may want to strengthen the nock by either letting in a horn strip at 90 degrees to the slot, (black line) or by binding the shaft tightly just in front of the nock. Now for the fletchings, to put these on you need a fletching jig. Make a mark on the clamp if there is not already one there so that the feathers are all in the same place. We will do the cock feather first. This is the one that is 90 degrees to the nock; you may want to make this a different colour to help with putting the arrow on the string. When putting this on ensure that the grain is pointing forward on the top of the shaft and backwards on the bottom. This is to ensure that if the shaft snaps on loose the sharp end will fly up away from your arm.

View of the top of an arrow shaft
Top of arrow shaft with grain pointing forward
Rear of arrow Front of arrow

Place the feather in the jig, and smear a small amount of glue down the length of the quill. I use Super Glue, but impact adhesive works just as well. Leave the glue to set then remove the clamp, place the next fletching into the clamp. Turn the arrow in the jig until it clicks into the next position and repeat the process until all 3 fletchings are done. When this is done, with a sharp knife cut the front of the feathers quill into a point and then place a small blob of glue over it to stop it from lifting. You may want to add a binding at this point, but it is not necessary.

Your arrows are now ready to shoot.

When you shoot them, watch how they fly. If they fishtail and fly to the right (assuming you are right handed) then they are too weak. There are a few things you can do about this;

  1. Replace the point with a lighter one
  2. Alter the string, by adding more strands and/or changing the fistmele or bracing height
  3. If you have left the arrows too long. Cut them down to nearer your true draw length
  4. Make a stiffer set off arrows
The opposite applies to arrows which fly to the left and are therefore too stiff, i.e:
  1. Use a heavier point
  2. Less strands in the string (be careful not to use too few)
  3. Make a weaker set
At this point I also number the arrows and mark where they fly so that if there are any that are out of the group consistently I can put them to one side and not shoot them in competition.

With a little trial and error you should be able to make a set of arrows that fly perfectly straight so that you can aim directly in line with the target at all distances.