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Home > Books > The Essentials of Archery > Making Self Arrows
Making Self Arrows


Plate 8. Making Self Arrows

The simplest way to make a dozen plain, self arrows is to buy a set of arrow materials intended for this purpose. They may be bad already nocked and headed. All that is necessary is to fletch them, or put on the feathers.

Casein, waterproof glue is recommended for feathering arrows. This comes in the form of a white powder, which is mixed with cold water. It should be thick, creamy and free from lumps. It should stand for fifteen minutes after it has been well mixed to allow the ingredients to set. Prepare it in small batches—it will not keep overnight. Good casein glue is really waterproof. Feathers, on arrows that have been lost for months, are likely to be still on.

There are two common shapes for feathers. The balloon shape, as shown on Plate 8 is used on target arrows. The long, low, triangular feather is used on field, roving and hunting arrows. You may buy feathers already prepared or you may make your own from the whole turkey wing feather. Stripped feathers are those which have been stripped from the quill. See Plate 9. Cut feathers have been cut out with a sharp knife and have a thin portion of the quill remaining. Either sort is good.

Arrows should be the right length for your bow. The table given under "The Arrow" ("Fundamentals of Archery") should be followed. These sizes are not absolute, but it is well to follow them. Arrows entirely too long for your bow will result in breakage.

The first step in making self arrows is to put on the head. Plate 8 gives various types of target heads, and your shafts should be shouldered to fit the head used. They should be pinned or knurled on when firmly seated. After your heads are on, cut off your shafts to the desired length. If you use birch, cut the notch in the shaft itself. Notches should be ¼" deep, wide enough for your string, and should be sanded smooth and be nicely rounded. If you are using a soft wood-Port Orford Cedar or imported Norway Pine, it is well to reinforce your nock with an inlay of fibre or hardwood, as shown on Plate 8. Then cut your notch across both the grain and inlay. Sandpaper all your shafts very smooth.

Feathers come in pairs, and an archer's pair is three. A pair of feathers consists of two of any color and one of another. The odd colored feather is called "the cock feather" and is to be put on first, whether it is balloon shaped or triangular. Feathers go on 1" below the bottom of the nock. A pair of three must all be from feathers from the same side of the bird. You cannot mix lefts and rights.

Feather shapes are given on Plate 8. Balloon feathers are 2 1/8" along the vane and ½" high at the highest point. A good size of triangular feathers is 3½" along the vane, 7/8" high at the back or nock end, and 3/16" high at the lowest point.

With your feathers cut and ready, lay out six pairs. If they have a tendency to curl, place them between warm, damp cloths for a couple of hours. This takes the curl out of them and they will go on straighter. Apply waterproof glue liberally to the vane of all six pairs. Pick up a cock feather and glue it to the shaft 1" down from the bottom of the nock. It is well to run a pencil line around the whole batch of shafts 1" down from the bottom of the nock, so you'll get all your feathers on evenly. The cock feather goes on at right angles to the nock. The other two are spaced equi-distant around the shaft, as shown on Plate 8. It may be necessary to pin them in place as shown. Large headed pins are best, since they can be stuck into the wood better, but any pin will serve. After your shafts are feathered, varnish or shellac them and decorate or crest them to suit your taste.

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