Making Your Own Arrows, A Hobby or Nightmare?


Making your own arrows can be a great hobby and be very rewarding and relaxing or it can turn into an expensive nightmare.

The difference is in the information and tools that you have. As always the case, a little planning and thinking, can save you from making expensive purchases that will not be used or that will be used very little.

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Decisions like what type of bow will you make arrows for, what kind of shafts will you use, what type of fletching is needed, how fancy do you want you creation to look, and the biggie, will your friends talk you into making shafts for them?

You should consider all of these questions before you start buying your tools and components. We speak from experience, it is much more cost efficient to buy quality tools that can be used for several applications, than it is to buy a new specialty tool each time you decide to try something different.

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Besides specialty tools for finishing shafts, you will need a few general tools that can be used for several chores around the place. May we suggest, Tools For Everything.


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What Type of Bow?

Your bow type may dictate how you finish your shafts. Most compound shooters use aluminum or carbon shafts although a properly spined woodie should work just fine. The rest on a compound bow can "force" you to use feathers rather than plastic vanes because of bad shaft flight.

If you use a long bow, you may want to go with the wooden shafts for the traditional type of shooting. As for the recurve shooters, we have seen all three types of shafts being used. Heck, you may want to make a dozen or so shafts from wood, aluminum, and carbon, just to see what works best for your situation.

Before you start buying shafts, you should know the correct spine size for each of your bows. We recommend taking a look at the Easton site and downloading their free booklets. This will give you a good starting point.

Another thing that you should do before investing much $$$$$ in tools and supplies is to get a book or two about how to set up a bow properly.

Knowing how to properly "tune" your archery equipment is absolutely necessary if you expect to be a successful bow hunter or target shooter.

For a quick over view on how shaft length and point weight can help tune your bow for accuracy, see our page on the subject.

We have also added a page on tuning bows that explains bare shaft testing.

In addition to the information on the Easton site mentioned above, we recommend these two books.

One is "On Target for Tuning Your Compound Bow "by L.Wise and the other is "Bow Hunting Equipment Skill" by Fred Asbell and several other bow hunters. These books have been around for a long time and may be hard to find.

These 2 books will give you valuable information as to the how and why of bow tuning and the selection of arrows and other archery accessories.

We would like to recommend a few item that you may want for your arrow building journey:


What Type of Shaft?

After you know which type of bow or bows you will be using, and know the approximate spine needed, you can choose the type of arrow shaft. Knowing the spine allows you to shop for the availability of that size. The spine recommended by the charts is a starting place.

To get the spine correctly tuned for your bow, accessories, and shooting style, you will need an arrow spine tester, and/or try the bare shaft testing method of cutting the shaft 1/2 to 1 inch at a time. This will tell you when you get to the correct length shaft.

We recommend the Archers-Friend Spine Tester. Using a good spine tester is the only way to get your shafts as close as possible to being identical (matched).

Having your arrows match as much as possible will result in shooting better scores and being a more successful bow hunter.

Whether you choose wood, aluminum, or carbon does not matter as much as having the correct arrow for the way your bow is set up. Good books, patience, and practice are necessary to bring all the parts of the puzzle together for the final masterpiece.

It is important to know which shaft type you will be using in order to purchase the materials and tools to begin making your own arrows. If possible, why not try all three to see if your bow and shooting style has a preference?

If it is within your means, we suggest purchasing tools that can be used for any of the 3 types of shafts whenever possible. If you know in your mind and heart that you will only be using one of the types, you can save a little bit of money.

Feathers or Vanes?

The type of rest you use will in most cases determine whether you must use feathers or vanes on your arrows. It is so important to realize this and the reasons why. The books recommended above will give you a good understanding of this.

There are many places on the web that profess to provide this information, but the second book above has well made photographs on each subject and it is so much easier to see as you read rather than just trying to imagine what a writer is trying to explain.

After you decide which is best for you, feathers or vanes, you will need to decide on the twist of the fletching. Straight, left, or right are your choices.

We have seen it written that right hand shooters should use left wing feathers and we have seen it written that right handers should use the right wing feathers. The reason given is that the spin that the twist puts on the shaft helps keep the fletching from hitting the rest or shelf in some way.

We have not seen any slow motion movies of arrows being shot, but find it hard to believe that the very short time and distance that the arrow travels from the time it leaves the string until it passes the rest or shelf can allow for any twisting to begin.

We think that using fingers rather than a mechanical release will cause more concern. We suppose several other archers agree, because many well known bow shooters and authors say that it makes no difference whether you use left or right wing feathers, just do not mix them.

Later this year, we hope to do a test on shooting both types, from the same bow, using the same everything other than changing the wing type.

That will give me the excuse I need to buy more arrow making tools. Speaking of tools, do you know how many tools are needed to make your own arrows? Well, we would like to cover a few.

Yet another decision on fletching is what style and length. The various shapes are mostly for the shooters eye but the length will depend on what you are doing and the kind of point on your arrows. The books that we recommended, will explain when to use what and your personal taste will dictate the color and style.

Tools for Making Arrows

In addition to the Archers-Friend Spine Tester to get your shafts as close to matching as possible, you will need some way to cut the shaft to size.

For woodies you could use a knife to "ring" the shaft and snap it, if you are careful. For the aluminum's and carbons you will need some type of saw, either hand or power. We use a large cut off wheel on our Dremel type tools. There are several commercial brands of arrow cut off saws available from the merchants below.

For woodies, you will need some method to taper the nock end and the point end.This tool is called a taper tool (go figure). These tools some times are not worth their hefty price. We have one of the "Tru-Taper" ones that gouges the wood on the nock end, but does great on the point end. We think that the cost of this brand demands much better performance.

The plastic ones (like a pencil sharpener) seem to workmuch better. The best taper tool is the electric type that has a guide and stop and is adjustable for the style taper you need. These are quite pricy though.

Another suggestion for a taper tool, is to get a small power table sander, the kind with both the belt and the round disk.

Some of these have a small "work table" for each part that allows you to make a jig to control the taper. You may have one of these already in your shop and that will save you some bucks on your tools to make arrows. These tools and others are available from the merchants below.

No matter which shaft type you choose, you will need to purchase a fletching jig. There are many types to choose from. Some are inexpensive plastic ones that are really fast to use.

Some are single station and single clamp which means that you will be a long time making arrows.
Some are single station and multi clamp which means you can do all fletching on one arrow at once.
Some are multi station and multi clamp which means that you can do 1 fletch on several arrows at the same time.

The choice of which works best for you may be made by the price or just the speed that you need. Two things to considerwhen choosing a fletching jig. One is which twist to use, straight, left, or right. You must specify which clamps you want. If you will be doing all three types, then you will need clamps for all three.

It may be cost efficient to use the plastic jigs for straight fletched arrows and use the fancier brands for the helical (left or right) wing fletches. The other thing to consider is whether you will be making arrows with the cock feather (or vane) out (to the side) or if the cock feather will be up or down. Some of the jigs allow for the nock to be turned for either way and some jigs do not. Be sure to ask the merchant before you buy. We suggest the adjustable ones, but they cost more.

To use hot glue for the points or inserts, you will need some way to heat the parts. While a match or lighter will work, we suggest one of the small propane mini torches that stand on their own and allow your hands to be free.

You may want to invest in a tool to remove damaged fletching (a de-fletcher) or you may just want to use a knife very carefully.

If you are making wood arrows, you will need to put a finish on them to keep them from warping. This is done by hand wiping stain or varnish on them or by painting.

A neat device called a dipping tube is just the thing to save material and time. There are several types available or if you are the inventive type, you canmake your own.

Some of the finishing products will react with certain plastics, so be careful or you will have hell to pay when your spouse sees the coloring on the floor from a leak. Some of the merchants below will carry these items.

If you are the perfectionist type that wants to have fancy arrows with cresting, then you will want a cresting machine.That is a machine that turns the arrow slowly while you apply the "racing stripes". It is possible to make one if you have a do it your self attitude. Or, there are commercial built ones at the merchants below.

Places For Arrow Making Supplies and Tools

Site 1. Archery Spoken Here

Site 2. Want complete arrows or just shafts?

Site 3. Here are some general archery tools. The selection changes almost daily.

Site 4. If you just need a taper tool.

Places for Saws or Sanders to Make Your Own Arrows


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