The best time for cutting the wood for arrows, as well as for anything else, is during the autumn season when the leaves have fallen off the trees and the dampness of the branches has diminished. The wood should also be hung in a house wherein a fire is lit, so that the heat of the fire may remove the remaining dampness of the wood until it is completely dry. It should then be left hanging for at least two months.
The making and shaping of arrows may follow one of three modes: the first [or barreled] arrow is thick at the upper trunk like a snake; the second [or cylindrical] arrow is even throughout the whole length of the shaft; the third [or tapered] arrow is thick at one end and gradually becomes thinner down to the other end, like the tail of a mouse.
The barreled arrow [muṣaddar—literally: broadbreasted] is of two kinds. One has the first third of the arrow thin, the second third thick, and the final third terminating with the nock thin like the first. This kind is used by the Egyptians and by many in the East, and is by far the best kind of arrow. The second kind of barreled arrow has one half of the shaft thin and the other half thick up to the place of the feathers, where it becomes thin again.
The cylindrical arrow, of even thickness, is shaved down uniformly, being of the same size from its head to the place of the feathers, where it becomes thin. In this connection we might say that all archers are agreed concerning the fact that the place of the feathers should be thin in all kinds of arrows.
The tapered arrow, which resembles the tail of a mouse, is thick at the fore end and gradually becomes thinner and thinner down to the place of the feathers, where it becomes thinner still.
Thin and light arrows are more penetrating and faster in their flight, while thick and heavy arrows offer greater accuracy in hitting the mark.
The correct method of fashioning arrows is shaving along the grain of the wood and never turning in a lathe, because turning in a lathe enters the arrow broadwise and cuts its straight grain and does away with its strength and opens its pores so that air enters into it when it is shot and spoils its course, dissipates its strength, and makes it wobble in flight. Therefore the correct method of fashioning it is by shaving and no other should be used.
Among the things which should be known and by all means remembered in connection with the making of arrows is that the beginning of the arrow where the head is should be toward the root of the tree and the arrowhead should be inserted in that end, while the nock where the string is should be cut in the end of the stave which has been nearest in the tree to where the leaves grow. This is a principle which has been forgotten by many an archer. Some are completely ignorant of it; others are aware of it but have ignored it and chosen not to bother themselves with it. It is one of the secrets of the art. Another is paring the arrow rather than turning it.
Even when you cannot readily tell which end is the base of the branch and which end is the upper part where the leaves grow, you can determine which is which by shaving the branch evenly throughout and placing it in a vessel of water. The end which tips down in water is the base of the branch where the arrowhead should be inserted.
Another way to determine which end of the branch is its base is to take the branch and shave it evenly throughout as has been mentioned already, find out by careful measurement its middle point, mark it, and then lift the branch with your hand from this middle point. The end which tips down is the base wherein the arrowhead should be inserted.