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Chapter VIII
Making Arrows
Part 3 of 5

Next we take up a shaft and draw a pencil line across the footing end, dividing it exactly in the center, with the line drawn with the grain, never across it. This in order to make the grain side the striking side in passing the bow, as the return will be much quicker than if the rift were to pass next the bow. Again, in the case of a splinter developing, it would be most unlikely to appear in the grain, but nearly always on the rift. An arrow with a raised or splintered side passing the bow in shooting will fly anywhere but true to the mark.

With an iron plane set rather fine, we proceed to taper the shaft from each side of the line drawn across the end. This taper must measure 1/4 inch less in length than the saw-cut in the footing. It must be a straight, flat taper with an edge at the end the thickness of the saw-cut made in the footing.

I have discussed glue in a previous chapter, and need only say here that any glue the arrow maker prefers may be used. I am partial to the best hoof glue, which I am particular to get only from one source overseas. As to using this, I know it is true that there are many glues that are superior to it in that they will allow of an arrow lying out all night in the rain without the footing coming off, which hoof glue will not. But my opinion is that in such a case the arrow will suffer more than the gluing, and if it were mine I should prefer that the footing did come off. Because in most cases it would have to come off anyhow, to enable straightening. And if it were put on with casein glue I would be at a loss to know how to remove it. Doubtless I would have to resort to the method of straightening so often recommended but never a cure: warming the arrow over heat, then bending.

Having applied the glue to the wedge-shaped end of the shaft and the saw-cut in the footing, the former is to be forced into its position in the footing, spreading the latter apart. Bind with cord to hold in place, then align carefully so that when the glue has set and the cord and the surplus wood of the footing have been removed the footing and shaft will run together evenly. We all too often see arrows having a longer footing wing on one side than on the other.

A binding of hard-twisted linen or cotton fishing line is the most satisfactory for wrapping around the footing wings after the gluing. I have observed the use of various clamps and rings, devised to help the arrow maker in this detail of his work, but never have seen anything so practical as a few turns of this light strong line. Twelve-thread Cuttyhunk is about right, and a dozen or two short lengths will serve the purpose for years.

Two difficulties are liable to crop up at this point, to force the footing out of true with the shaft. One will come from the saw-cut not being in the center of the footing. One wing of the latter being stronger than the other, this forces the alignment to one side. While the glue is soft the stiffer wing may be bent to line things up; but you must make sure the binding holds that position while the glue sets. The other cause of difficulty will be in the taper of the wedge end of the shaft not being centered, or cut equal on both sides. It can be remedied in the same manner, but with less certainty of success.

Then, of course, there also is the trouble to be expected if the footings are not of the right kind of wood.

When the glue of the footing joint has dried and the wrapping is removed, the first thing is to take off the wings. (I am getting used to this modern name; nevertheless it is well to mention that until lately all arrow makers spoke of the protruding ends of the footing as tails.) They may be sawed off or planed off. The average archer will do best to remove this surplus wood with a jack plane and finish with an iron plane, at the same time taking off the square edges of the footing and rounding it to match the shaft.

To fit the arrow point, some professionals use the little cue-tip fitting machine, previously mentioned, with great success. But with patience and care an ordinary knife or a chisel and a file will serve very well. The footing must be socketed—that is, shaped down and fitted snugly in the hole drilled in the metal arrow point—and fastened in with cement. I find that Collins cement, costing 10 cents a tube, serves as well as anything I have used. This can be had in any 5-and-10-cent store, and a tube will fix the points on a gross of arrows. It is a good plan to fill the hole with cement and insert the end of the footing, then heat the point over a gas jet and press it home when the cement begins to boil.