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Chapter VIII
Making Arrows
Part 4 of 5

Next comes making and inserting the nock, if the orthodox method of arrow making is followed. But here again the professional goes a different way. With us, the nock waits while the arrow is weighed out to the weight prescribed. The maker sets out his scales, with the proper weight in place (I use the English coins themselves), and with his finest casement plane carefully works down each arrow to the right weight. It is common knowledge among archers that arrows are slightly tapered at the feathered end, and for some reason not so well known. Not a little profound comment has been written about this puzzling feature. But the only thought in the mind of the non-comittal arrow maker when doing the tapering is to take off a little weight where it will least disturb finished work. The shaft being considered just right, and the arrow still being found too heavy to match the others, he planes off the excess from the part which will be feathered, that being where thinning down will make the least difference in the arrow's performance.

For the nock, a wedge-shaped piece of horn or of compressed fibre is wanted, to reinforce the soft pine or spruce. In the shop, machinery can best be used to cut the V-shaped mortise in the end of the shaft; a special cutter should be used for the purpose. But the average archer must depend on primitive methods, and the nocking should be done somewhat as follows: Draw a pencil line across the end of the shaft with the grain, or in line with the wedge end glued in the footing. Continue this line down each side of the shaft to the depth it is intended the nock is to occupy. With a very fine saw, such as dovetail saw or the finest hacksaw, cut out the V, as shown in the accompanying diagram. Cut out the nock to fit, fix it in place with glue and bind with the same cord used for wrapping the footing.

fig. 16
Click for a larger image

  1. Wedge of fiber.
  2. V-shaped cut sawed into shaft.
  3. Fiber wedge glued into shaft, nocked and rounded off. Nock is cut across top, at right angles to taper of wedge, from 4 to 5, and so cuts into extremities of wood of the V.

When the glue has hardened, finish up with the casement plane, round off the end of the nock and then cut the notch. Here again a machine can do the work better than it can be done by hand; but the notch can be cut satisfactorily with a hacksaw. Use a blade 1/8 inch thick, or better still, a number of thinner ones with fine teeth that together make a 1/8 inch cut. The depth of the cut should be about 5/16 of an inch. Use a flat file to clean out and smooth off the cut. The inside should be slightly rounded and perfectly smooth. Finish the outside with sandpaper. Oil is to be used inside the nock, but never varnish or shellac.