The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Books > Bows and Arrows > Making Arrows
Chapter VIII
Making Arrows
Part 2 of 5

The professional arrow maker works in direct opposition to the foregoing directions right from the start. His first task is to select his arrow staves, weigh them out to approximately the same weight, making weight by use of a plane. All will, of course, be cut to the same length. This done, he rounds the shafts. And having little faith in a machine-turned arrow shaft, he does the work by hand (I being the exception here too). In this he uses two casement planes, sizes 3/4-inch and 1/2-inch, for the final touches, the whole job being quickly done and worked with the grain of the wood. In-cidentally, it is well to mention here that the handling of these planes appears to be a source of worry to most amateur makers. They declare that the plane runs the shaft down too much at the far end and spoils the work. In such cases, the trouble is the worker is bearing a little too heavily on the front of his plane, and not on the rear as he should do. If the latter is done nothing can prevent making a perfectly straight shaft.

To the amateur arrow maker this contrary way of ours may seem absurd, and perhaps it does take up more time. But there is method in it just the same. After the shaft has been turned and before the footing is attached, we test the shaft and discard it if it is found un-satisfactory. As no perfect test of an arrow shaft can be made before it has been rounded, this prevents waste of time and material in footings put onto unfit shafts. So if our method takes a little longer it nevertheless is the more practical one for the worker who must conserve his time and materials.

Having rounded, weighed, and sized a collection of shafts, the next work is to attach the footings. This is done as already described. However, considerable more may be said about footings and putting them on.

Satisfactory footings may be made of quite a variety of woods; but there is a limit. For instance, such hard woods as snakewood, iron-wood, washaba, will never prove satisfactory for this purpose. They are exceedingly hard and will not act in conjunction with the softer woods used for arrow shafts. A hardwood will take a set in opposition to the pine or spruce, with the result that the arrow will warp. Every year I receive numerous arrows to straighten which have gone wrong from this defect. Arrows, by the way, that I would rather have made in the first place; because the only cure that I know of is to remove the footing and substitute one of suitable wood. In my experience lancewood, lemonwood, beef-wood and others of similar character are the best for making footings. They are not too hard and should be used in preference to any other wood.

The most desirable length in a footing is about 7 1/2 inches. This seems to give the arrow the most satisfactory balance. If a shorter footing would do, then one might as well abolish its use and instead add weight to the point of the arrow. However, when the latter is done the balance is not well distributed. (An arrow, by the way, must balance at a point forward of its middle.) It is claimed that this has been proved by actual experiment; but I have no actual knowledge of the details of this demonstration.

With shafts and footings at hand, we first cut each footing down the center till there is but 2 1/4 inches of solid footing left. For this any suitable saw may be used, but the cut must be very carefully made, to get it straight down the middle of the footing. The footing, of course, being merely a short shaft of harder and heavier wood than the main shaft, but as yet left square with a diameter of 3/8 inch.