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Chapter VIII
Making Arrows
Part 1 of 5

AN arrow is such a little thing, and so simple, that the reader who has made no study of arrows and is without experience in making them must surely be impressed by the number of pages occupied by this chapter and the next. I admit I would rather say less. For the purpose of the average reader, too, I might indeed cover the subject in half as many words. However, this is the only book I shall ever write, and being a professional maker of arrows and an archer of standing, I am expected to do more than merely give instructions for making a dozen or two of arrows. If for no other reason, I must air my views and tell my own methods to prevent it being said that to judge from my book I know mighty little about making arrows.

To begin with, I must at the very outset confess to occupying the unenviable position of finding myself a minority of one. Up to the time of writing this, every other writer on the subject of arrow making is opposed to me in my views as to how to start on the making of an arrow. The methods of the great arrow makers of times gone by are all ranged against me too. I speak now as a professional maker, not necessarily as instructor for the amateur. Up to the time of this writing, so far as I have read, no arrow maker who took pride in his work ever would attempt to turn a shaft on a lathe. The claim always has been that any tool cutting against the grain tends to weaken the shaft; or if the process is a grinding one then the heat engendered injures the surface wood. Whether this be so or not I am not in a position to say with any degree of certainty; although I have studied work done by turning which passed very careful tests. But, anyhow, I approve the use of a machine. In my opinion there is not a reason in the world why the arrow's shaft should not be turned down to nearly the desired diameter, for the considerable time and labor saved. Moreover, machine work might go further and aid in fitting on the point, the insertion of the nock, and more. Strangely, though, it is necessary to remark that such use of machinery tends to increase cost; this for reasons touched upon in the chapter on bow making.

Under the orthodox method of the majority which so vastly outnumbers me, the first process in arrow making is to square the shaft, seeing that it is perfectly straight. This is accomplished with a plane. Next, the orthodox maker takes the footing (in the case of a footed arrow) and with a band-saw set to gauge runs a cut down the center. Yes, our exclusively hand-work arrow maker actually does use a machine, you see. He cuts his footing. Then taking the squared shaft he tapers one end nicely to its exact center, and after that forces shaft and footing together, fastening them with glue, the taper in the saw cut of the footing. Next he saws off the wings, or surplus ends, of the footing, and the arrow shaft is ready for rounding. If the maker has a lathe or other machine, you may be sure he uses it to do the bulk of this work. Rounding completed, the arrow point is fitted, and this can be done with the aid of a cue-maker's tool, a little machine which permits of adjustment to a thousandth part of an inch. Next follows inserting the nock, and making the notch. Then, though I have not seen it mentioned in what I have read, I presume the arrow should be weighed out to the desired weight. After that, and the feathers are attached and cut, when the arrow is painted and polished it is ready for use.

If I have appeared somewhat hurried in passing over the above description it is because the method given is that which the archers have been instructed in many times. And, if I must say so, also because it is not the method used by the professional makers.

And now, as one who has little time to spare in experimenting—as the leading amateur makers do, with profit even to us professionals —I give the professional's method, and some explanations for his using it.