Arrow Building Prep Sheet
by Lord Conor
(Subedei Qorchi)

The arrow building workshop conducted by Lord Conor is really a fletching workshop. Participants are expected to attend with their shafts ready to be nocked, cut to length, fletched and pointed. The instructions provided herein lead the arrow builder through the steps required to prepare their shafts prior to attending the workshop.

The cost for building 1 dozen arrows is approximately $35.00 based on Three Rivers Archery. The following chart gives a break down of the cost.

Item Unit Cost/Unit Qty Total Notes
Shafts Doz 17.50 1 17.50 Canadian Pine (not tapered).
Points Doz 2.75 1 2.75 100 Grain Field Points.
Nocks Doz 1.00 1 1.00 Mercury "speed" nocks. "Pinch" nocks cost $1.25 per dozen.
Feathers Doz 3.00 3 9.00 5" Left Wing feathers. My clamps are left helical. Only Left Wing feathers will work with them.
Misc   1.00 1 1.00 Chip in for glue, spare blades for tapering tool
Total 31.25  

If you're ordering your materials from a catalog, there will also be shipping and handling charges. You may be able to save a few dollars if you combine your order with someone else. In addition, there is a cost of about $10.00 for paint, polyurethane and sandpaper. Use a good quality, exterior grade, high gloss enamel. Get the smallest can you can. I have an eight ounce can of pain that I've used to build 6 - 8 dozen arrows and it doesn't look like I've used any paint. The polyurethane I use is a rub-on made by Minwax. Finally, the sandpaper should be about 220 grit. It comes in packages of about 4 or 5 sheets.

There are 6 steps to building your own arrows. These are:

    1. Finding the grain of the shaft.
    2. Painting and polyurethaning the shafts.
    3. Setting the nocks.
    4. Cutting the shafts to length.
    5. Fletching the shaft.
    6. Setting the points.

You will perform steps 1 and 2 prior to the workshop. Steps 3 through 7 will be done at the workshop.

Finding the Grain of the Shaft

Before you do anything to the shafts, you M U S T determine which way the grain of the shaft is running. This is extremely important from a safety perspective. The grain will determine how you position your nocks. You need to position your nock so that when you nock the arrow, the grain of the shaft is perpendicular to your bowstring! Look at the end of the shaft and note which way the grain is running. Using a fine tipped felt pen or marker, draw a line in the direction of the grain across the end of the shaft. You may need to dampen the end of the shaft a little to do this. Do this with all the shafts.

Preparing Your Shafts

This step may take a few days, depending on the weather. If it's damp or humid, the paint and polyurethane will take longer to dry. First lightly sand the shafts. Take a small piece of your sandpaper, wrap it around the shaft and pull the shaft through the sandpaper, O N C E. You don't want to cut gouges in the shafts, you just want to remove any roughness. After you sand the shaft, wipe it clean of all dust. A tack rag is perfect for this, if you have one. However, a tack rag will leave a residue so be sure to wipe off the shaft after using a tack rag. Next apply a T H I N, L I G H T coat of paint. I use a throwaway sponge "brush" for this. Use long light strokes. Don't dab the paint on. Brush off any drips or runs. Paint all the shafts and let them dry completely. Remember damp or humid weather will lengthen the time the paint needs to dry. When the paint is completely dry, sand, clean and apply another thin, light coat of paint. I use three coats of paint. Don't paint the ends of the shafts. You made a mark on one end indicating the grain direction and you don't want to cover it.

However many coats of paint you use, when the last coat is completely dry, sand and clean the shafts and apply a T H I N, L I G H Tcoat of polyurethane. I use a piece of cheesecloth. A paper towel will also work fine. When the shaft is completely dry, sand, clean and apply another thin, light coat of polyurethane. I use 3 coats of polyurethane on my arrows. However many coats of polyurethane use, make sure the shafts are completely dry before continuing with the next step.

Setting the Nocks

When the shafts are completely dry, you can attach the nocks. Make a mark on the side of the shaft about 2 inches below the end with a removable marker to keep track of the grain. Using the nock cutting end of your tapering tool cut the nock taper. Put a small amount of Duco cement on the taper, push the nock on and twist the nock to distribute the glue. Continue to twist the nock until the line you made on the side of the shaft is perpendicular to the opening (where your bowstring goes) of the nock. This will make your bowstring perpendicular to the grain of the shaft. Attach all the nocks in a similar manner. Use a rag to wipe off any excess glue before setting the nock on the next shaft.

Cutting the shafts to Length

After the nocks have been set and before you start attaching your feathers is a good time to cut your shafts to length. This is so that you don't wreck your feathers. In order to be able to cut the shafts accurately, I use a jig.

You make this out of a piece of 1 x 3 lumber. To make the jig, determine your draw length. Get a 1 x 3 from the hardware store and cut a piece 42 inches long. Make a small, light mark in the center of the 1 x 3. Measure 16" back from the center mark and draw a line across the board. Make sure the line is square to the edge of the board. Place the board against the back of the miter box and position a shaft with a nock on it along the back edge of the board. Take a small, thin finishing nail and hold it so that the point is on the line you drew and inside the nock of the shaft. Now position the nock so that the bottom (the part that goes against the bowstring) is snuggly against the nail. Tap the nail a few times so that it doesn't fall out of the board. Don't hammer it all the way in! Now, add 3/4" to your draw length. Measure down from the inside of the nail to this new measurement and make a line across the board, making sure the line is square to the edge of the board. I'll call this the "cutting" line.

To use this jig, place it in the miter box. Take the miter saw and place it in the slots for making straight cuts. Adjust the board so that the "cutting" line is on the nail side of the saw. Clamp the board to the miter box.

Set up your cutting jig as described previously and cut all your shafts to length. If you're using cedar, save the scrapes and put them in a dresser drawer or in your closet. Come on, you've never heard of a cedar chest or a cedar lined closet before?

Fletching Your Arrows

This is what you've been waiting for. Set up you your fletching jig according to the manufacturers instructions. If you're making 3-fletched arrows, the first feather to set is known as the nock fletch. This is the "odd" colored feather. Every fletching jig has different instructions for its use and you should follow those instructions. The only thing I can add for this step is advice. First, take your time. The most important thing is to allow the cement enough time to dry and set. Also, I like to set the top (nock end) of by feathers about an inch down from the bottom of the nock. I use a back quiver. Setting the feathers an inch down from the bottom of the nock allows me to grab an arrow without grabbing feathers. This is a personal preference. However, if you want to try this, measure and mark the fletching clamp so that you position your feathers in the same place every time. If you use a file folder label (that's what I use), you can remove the mark if you don't like my technique.

Whatever your preference as to the position of the feather down the shaft, the procedure is the same. The techniques will be explained at the workshop.

Setting Your Points

We're in the home stretch. Using the point end of your tapering tool cut the tapers for your points. Apply some of the 2-part epoxy to the taper on the arrow shaft. There's no such thing as too much glue! Push a point onto the taper and twist it to distribute the epoxy. Hold the point on for a few seconds. Wipe off any glue that oozes out with a clean rag. Do the other 11 arrows.

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of one dozen arrows that you built yourself. However, wait about 24 hours before shooting them. This way all the glues will have time to set and cure.

Contact Information

Here are some of the suppliers I use. I listed as much information as I could.

Three Rivers Archery Supply, Inc.
PO Box 517
Ashley, IN 46705
Phone: (219) 587-9501
FAX: (888) 329-9872

They carry all the supplies and arrow building tools listed above. They have an online catalog. A printed catalog is $2. They don't list cedar shafts in their online catalog. They also seem to cater to the SCA.

Bowhunter's Discount Warehouse, Inc.
PO Box 158
1045 Zeigler Road
Wellesville, PA 17365
Phone: (800) 735-2697

They also carry all the supplies and arrow building tools listed above. They also carry cedar shafts. There is no online catalog, but the printed catalog is (or was) free if you call them. This is where I purchased my Jo-Jan Multi-Fletcher.

Rogue River Archery
Grants Pass, OR

They only seem to have shafts. However, this is where you can get extra long shafts if you need them.

This page written by Lord Conor ©1999

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