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How to make decent arrows

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posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 05:18 PM

The first thing I do is order up some pre-cut and rounded arrow shafts that suit the bow you’ve got.
Ebay is where I get my supply's currently...

Note: If you have a timber supplier nearby and your own electric band-saw you could try making your own shafts for arrow-making. This is advanced stuff though and for another guide.
For this guide I've assumed you've got a pre-cut and shaped arrow shaft.

Having the correct ‘spine’ or stiffness counts here. If you don’t get the right ‘match’ your arrow will veer off to the left or right.
The more powerful your bow, the more ‘spine’ or rigidity it needs.

Once you’ve got a bundle of arrow shafts (buying in bulk is cheaper) check each one for straightness, if it’s badly bent try and straighten it (sometimes steaming can help with this).


Next step is making the nock, where you notch an arrow.
You can do this the fancy, easy way, or the old-fashioned way.
The former is where you stick on an external plastic nock. To do that you should taper the last half-inch of the shaft to accommodate a plastic-nock.

The old-fashioned way is to make your own nock out of the wood itself. This my way of doing it as you don’t require purchase a nock. It also means there’s no nock piece to ‘fall-out’ during the course of the arrows life being shot etc.

The grain of the arrow is important, you must go at a right-angle to the grain. That is to say cutting across it.
A vice for this part is real boon. One guy online doesn’t use one (no access) so he just uses his knee’s and his free hand to steady it!

Now, using a hacksaw or equiv. Make a notch that’s about a ¼ of an inch deep or so.
Basically deep enough to get an arrow string into.
A hacksaw is good (what I use and one I made as a teenager at school!). Also a padsaw is fine, possibly a bit more easier to work with for notch-making.

Now widen the thin notch with a file set. I use two tools for widening it.
A small, slender file and a strange coping saw with a circular file-blade in it. It’s a strange little thing
but it is well-versed for this kind of work.
You can make your own shape for the nock edges. Or just leave it rough-cut.
I try and make a ‘bell’ pattern so that the string goes into the notch with a mere smigen of resistence. That way an arrow will stay nocked even on ‘stand-by’
But not so tight that it could throw the arrow awary once it’s released from an arrow.
You’ll want to reinforce the nock with binding, so use Somax thread or similar to wrap around underneath the nock. About ½ inch should be ok.

[B]Arrow Lore: [/B]The Fletching / Arrowsmith guru’s use horn inserts for the nocks, this allows greatest of warbows to safetly use arrows without risking nock failure....

Once your nock is complete you can weather-proof it.
I use Danish Oil for this. But any wood-stain should do the trick.
After it dries (3 – 6 hours) you ought to reinforce the nock with strong thread.
Not only will it strengthen the area, but it make’s the arrow have an area you can take a purchase on a bit better.


Next stage is adding on your arrowhead.
The arrowhead is a class all on it’s own. You can add an array of heads to arrows. Bone, flint, obsidian, metal etc.
Securing it to the shaft can be done in a variety of ways.
One item you will need is a fairly decent glue.
Super glue works, araldite does to.
I haven’t tried locktite and others though.
As long as one surface is porous a bonding glue should work fine.
IF you don’t have a strong glue then making a binding around the arrowhead can reinforce a weak ‘join’.
Normally this is essential if you are ‘hafting’ an arrowhead (with bone, flint etc). Pinning is another way.

Archers Lore: [/B]In times of war some archers arrows would have a weakish glue on their arrowheads.
That way an enemy could not remove an arrowhead by pulling out the shaft...

For my arrowheads I’ve got some semi-armour-piercing ones known as Modkin’s.
These are some of the most affordable one’s available outside of forging your own.

These one’s are at 3/8’s diameter (which is about 12mm or so).
The shafts I ordered already came tapered one end which allows easier insertion.
If your shaft’s aren’t taperd then either a careful eye and a file is needed OR a bench grinder (much easier).

Add glue onto the arrow, I have it tight in the vice for this bit.
Then insert the arrowhead and screw it on tight.

Curing time vary’s but after a couple of hours you can start thinking about getting the fletchings done...


Good resources on arrow and bow making:

(In Italian but little dialogue).

You’ll need a fletchers jig to easily fletch the arrow shaft.
Or you can mark 3 x 120 degree points on it and glue it manually. In days of yore they’d bind arrow-fletchings onto the shafts, possibly glueing them as well if they had time.
I used basic superglue, then for some I bind them as well.
You will want to reinforce the ‘throat’ of the fletchings once they are glued in place.
That way you can reuse them without the likelihood of the fletchings coming off at the narrowest point. This is also where the air-resistence meets them so it’s a good idea doing this.
I use a spot of superglue to stick the thread then wind it up over the fletchings. Then another spot of glue to hold it in place.
After that I PVA over the thread and also the nock thread as well.

Finishing touches.

Adding fancy decals and ‘ring’ patterns are what some do.
I don’t bother with faffy things like that though, I prefer to ‘proof’ test my arrows with a clout-shoot. That way I can check they pass Watch Ryders 200 Yard requirement of shots 'on target'

edit on 21-1-2012 by WatchRider because: Typos

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 05:28 PM
That is great and all, but I was expecting to see how to make one from scratch since in a survival situation there wouldn't be any stores, shops, etc.

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 06:03 PM
Bows and arrows can be made fairly easily in the bush (especially small ones for small prey such as the varying hair). The difficult part is good arrow heads and bow string so I pack my own broadheads and for bowstring and halfting/fletching I carry heavy multi-filliment fishing line (which can also be used for fishing, fire starter, and shelter building).  The size and weight is minimal so I even keep a few broadheads in my day pack when out for a hike. I tried finding ones that would mount on a makeshift arrow but most have a threaded mount so I ended up making my own. I get them laser cut out of 0.05 stainless steel so they are tough and consistent. Because they are flat they store easily. They are designed to fit on arrow shafts from about 6mm to 10mm. I spend time occasionally in front of a movie with a small grinder and sharpening stone putting edges on them and they can be used as a makeshift knife or spearhead or fishing lure.

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 06:15 PM
good info .. but also good to know how to find and shape arrows from scratch as shops not available everywhere ... also to make a good bow like the japanese bow or the mongolian bow can take up to one year to make proper from scratch .

posted on Jan, 21 2012 @ 06:35 PM

Originally posted by sligtlyskeptical
That is great and all, but I was expecting to see how to make one from scratch since in a survival situation there wouldn't be any stores, shops, etc.

I know what you mean, I am working on getting to that level of craft but it's not easy.
The closest way, without using a band saw, is making arrow blanks by hand, then 'quartering' the corners in a special vice.
Once you have an octagonal shape, then it's a case of 'rounding' the shaft with sandpaper/tools.
What some folks do is use a drill and special holes to 'spin' an arrow blank through...

posted on Jan, 22 2012 @ 05:43 AM
reply to post by WatchRider

Cool thread!
For anyone wanting to make shafts from scratch,you want a "dowel cutter."
Here is the one I use,and the best wood I have found to get spine of approx 75lbs comes from old broken pool cues or old broom handles(But any close grained hardwood is a safe bet.)
These are great tools to have in your backpack IMO:

You can use them by hand,kind of like a giant pencil sharpener,or you can attach your blank shafts to a drill and power them through the tool.

I have made a load of arrows with mine,and the finished result is often as good as if not better than some of the ready made cedar shafts I have bought.
I have posted info on this tool before on ATS,because it is such a handy device.

posted on Jan, 23 2012 @ 01:04 PM
That's a handy bit of kit, the only problem is they don't seem to offer any other size but 3/8.
For 3/8 size of wood you end up is at the top range of the draw weight.
For example, unless it's maple wood you looking at arrows 'spined' to about 75 - 85 lb draw weight. Doable on lesser bows but there will be 'arrow drift' either to the left or the right (depending on which hand you draw with)...

posted on Jan, 23 2012 @ 01:17 PM
reply to post by WatchRider

You can buy them in different diameters,although maybe not on the link I posted.
But looking at them,they are thicker so not as much use.

But if you were to consider using a softer wood as the shaft,and do some extra sanding,you could still make different/lower spine weight arrows with the 3/8' version.

I have made a few from a pine plank for a 30 lb bow,and they seemed pretty good in flight-although I have not tested the spine weight of them,they would certainly not work on my higher power bows.

posted on Jan, 23 2012 @ 01:50 PM
reply to post by sligtlyskeptical

Primitve Ways has great instructions on how to make arrows, bows, bowstrings and pretty much everything you need to survive without modern materials. Check the "tools" section and search for arrows

posted on Jan, 23 2012 @ 02:14 PM
reply to post by RedParrotHead

Nice1,that site looks very good.
Never heard of it before,Can't wait to read it on my day off on wednesday.

posted on Jan, 25 2012 @ 08:52 AM
multi-branched wild rose offers great shaft material, and if you cut and dry them on your own, you can have an unlimited supply growing just about anywhere...

You can do bows from lots of different woods, too. Crepe myrtle is a good one that is in most suburban and urban. Mesquite in the south, live or red oak just about anywhere....

I made broadheads from soup cans and a die before. I have the die set aside in my BOB, I convinced a blacksmith friend that it would be a good idea to make one for me. Cost me $50, mainly because he had to cast it, not just smith a piece of metal for me.

(No, you can't have his name. Yes, you can find your own smith. Contact your local historical reenactment group, SCA or otherwise - they will know of a local smith)

posted on Feb, 8 2012 @ 04:40 PM
Just an update for those that are interested.
Some more info on reinforcing the self-nocks...

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