Making arrows, with pictures.
A short bit on how I made arrows from “scratch”, so I don’t have to type it out everytime someone asks. From “scratch”, because I order bare shafts all ready and sorted by spine, as well as plastic nocks, arrowheads and coloured (full-lenght) feathers online.
The paintjob definitely is not the best, especially the ones I’m showing here (I really should have made this tutorial with another set of arrows). But it shows the idea of how to make your own arrows, so I think you can take this as a basis and make something a bit nicer.
Don’t read everything: I’ll go into too much detail at some places, I overwork my arrows (you can skip the whipping if you like, for example), and some things will not be done in the best and most efficient way possible: I will not claim I’m doing this correctly, and you should look at how other people do this as well.
Most materials came from Fairbow, for those who are interested. Though the tools, the glues, some feathers, paints and whatnot come from various other places.
Click on the chapters below to get started:
1. Stuff you’ll need:
Points: I used 11/32 inch, 125 grains fieldpoints (one of the more commonly used weights). Get the screw-on ones, which are threaded on the inside: glue-ons tend to come off after a while and stay behind in the target (though a good trick is to drill a small hole and secure them with a tiny nail if you have to). Also called target points or sometimes stopper points, these are appropriate for indoor target archery and outdoor 3d archery. You could also use bullet-points, though for 11/32″ wooden arrows the range where I shoot at they are slightly less enthousiastic (but they’re still allowed and a few people use them). Anything else (technically, anything with a cutting edge) is illegal in the Netherlands, and the target ranges definitely do not appreciate it if you show up with medieval bodkins and leave big gaping holes in the wal (yeah, it happened).
Shafts: can be ceder, birch, oak. There are also bamboo shafts, which works very well if you can get them straight (you’ll also need to fill up the ends by glueing in a toothpick before tapering). I’ve used Northern Pine so far, and I’m happy with it. The differences are in price, density (e.g. oak is very heavy) and spine (bendiness or floppiness). <This Reddit comment was interesting too>.
The most important thing about shafts is their spine. It needs to be fitted to your drawlenght and -strength: a 50lbs bow needs stiffer arrows than a 30lbs bow, and the closer you get the spine to fit your bow, the straighter your arrows’ll fly (the Archers’ Paradox). You can work out the spine you’ll need through various tables; I used this one, and there’s another one here. Scroll down for the table on Wooden Arrows. Remember that the spine is influenced by both the length of your arrow (if you make longer arrows, get stiffer shafts), and by the weight of your point (a heavier point will bend the arrow more when released (inertia): if you get a heavier point, you’ll need stiffer shafts). You’ll find the spine you’ll need for your bow, arrow-lenght and point-weight in those tables: the shop I get my shafts from uses those same values. For the arrows I’m making here, I’ve used Northern Pine shafts.
Nocks: I use plastic nocks here, the simple glue-on ones for wooden arrows. Nothing much else to tell. Though the basic design is the same, the ones here are from Bohning (so I could order everything from one place), but personally I like the Bearpaw nocks slightly better: they feel a bit sturdier. But if you start breaking them a lot, the problem is more likely to be your technique (pinching the arrows on the string when drawing), as long as your nocks are properly mounted. You could also try your hand at self-nocks, if you’re so inclined, but they are a bit more work to get right.
Feathers: so much to say about feathers. I’ve used full-length Right Wing feathers, and cut them to the shape and length I liked. You could also use left-wing, as long as you do not mix them up. Use either one or the other! Whether you’re left- or righthanded doesn’t really matter for this (according to people with high-speed cameras: the spin either clock- or counterclockwise imparted by the shape of the fletchings only really starts after your arrow is clear of the bow), but it may matter to your mental image of how your arrows flies to the target.
When you want to use off-set, or use helical-fletching (see the fletching jig bit below), you do have to use the right feathers (right-wing feathers for a right-wing helical clamp). Here, I’ve used Right Wing feathers (most people do), and put them on at an off-set. I like getting full-length feathers, so I can cut them into a custom shape myself, and put in some feather-splicing with colours I like, which looks really nice if done right. You could also just get pre-cut feathers, and save yourself a lot of time and work (most people do: few are so insane as to to spend their time making custom spliced feathers). Most popular, I think, are 4.5″ shield-cut fletchings, for traditional archery (recurves tend to go towards 4″, or slightly shorter). Very long and big fletchings stabilise your arrows quicker, making them more forgiving of mistakes in your shot, but they’ll slow down very fast. The cutting template I’m using here is a 4.5″ “Indian” profile.
I’ve made some big, 6″ helical banana fletches, as a sort of experiment; they always land straight, and fly beautifully, but beyond 20 meters the difference in aiming compared to my 4.5″ straight fletches becomes very noticable.
Tools: you’ll need an exacto knife or other hobby-knife/scalpel. A onesided razor-blade also works. A taper-tool (bit like a pencil sharpener), to taper your shaft to fit a nock and head (they have two openings: one shallow taper for the nock, and a longer taper for the point. Make sure it fits your shaft (11/32″, in this case).
A cutting template and rotary cutter (bit like a pizza knife for clothing/sewing), if you are going to cut your feathers to shape yourself. You could also make your own cutting template, out of thick plastic/cardboard, if you feel like it (I made my own custum banana shape for example). Other options are e.g. a bearpaw feather cutter (theirs is called “Little Chopper”, looks a bit like a cookie cutter with a hinge) which works very well. Some people also make a jig with a heated iron wire to burn their fletchings into shape: even more work, but the results looked nice (I never bothered). Do not use scissors to cut your feathers: it will look ragged and you won’t get a sharp edge.
Brushes and paint. The paint is optional, but I do recommend putting on lacquer at the end. Use Yachting Lacquer, is it seems to made for this (waterproof, obviously, but just like arrows a wooden boat keeps moving, twisting and bending). I used Epifanes Blanke Bootlak (clear yacht varnish). It’ll keep protect your arrows from moisture so they’ll stay straight longer.
Glue: I’m still looking for the perfect glue! If you find it, let me know! I’ve tried compound-glues (the two component stuff you mix on the spot), which was sturdy, but became too hard and eventually I started loosing arrowheads. Others expand too much when setting, pushing the nocks off the arrowshafts. Others still just wouldn’t dry, and after two days, the fletchings just would fall off again (and this was “special fletching glue”!). Currently, I’m using Bison “Max Repair extreme”, which dries relatively quickly (so I don’t have to sit for fifteen minutes holding the nock in place; ten minutes in the fletching jig is enough for the feathers), and it keeps everything well in place! It’s pretty thick, so you won’t get the absolute nicest looking fletchings and it’s slightly tricky to apply, but everything stays where it should! Experiment untill you find what you like. I’ve also heard many good things about fletching tape, so it’s worth considering giving that a try.
You’ll also need a fletching jig: I like the Bitzenburger jig, because it’s got a lot of screws and turns to adjust the clamps. A simple plastic jig will work just fine, and will be a lot cheaper! However, besides standard three-feather fletching, it also does four-feather fletching at straight 90º angles and at 75/105º angles (which is nice for horse archers). More importantly, you can adjust the clamps very neatly to get exactly (and consistently!) the off-set you like, as well as different clamps: a straight clamp with a little off-set (meaning your feathers are not straight on the shaft but at a small angle, which imparts arrow-spin stabilising the arrow more quickly in flight) is all you need, but I also really like using a helical clamp: it looks nice, but it also has a significant impact on arrow-flight: they don’t get as far, but they always fly very nice.
So do get a nice jig; it doesn’t really matter which one, just make sure it’s long enough (some only fit up to 4.5″ fletchings), stays in the same place everytime (as an archer, you’ll know consistency is key) and preferably is capable of putting the fletchings on at an off-set.
2. Assembling the shafts:
Finally, we can get started. First cut your shafts to your desired length. If you’ve got a very consistent draw-length (i.e. you’ve been shooting for more than a week), make it so the back edge of the arrow head extends only a little bit past your bowhand. Otherwise make it a little longer, just in case. I make mine a little longer, so I can draw past my ear instead of to the corner of my mouth for the occasional clout or flight shoot. You’ll see I also didn’t need to take much of (I’m 6’6″ tall).
Next, we’ll use the taper tool to taper the ends to fit the nock and head. Note the taper tool has two openings, and makes two different tapers: a sharper angle for the nock, and a shallower angle for the head, which is a longer taper. On the picture below, the blade for the nock is on the top (opening on the left, blade on the right: you can see the difference in angle) and the one for the head is on the bottom.
After you’ve tapered the shaft, I like to score the taper lengthwise in a slight spiral with the scalpel: slightly more grip for the glue, but more importantly it helps to let excess glue and air-bubbles escape when you press on the nock (and head): otherwise the trapped airbubble and excess glue tend to push the nock back of the shaft as it dries. Just push the knife straight into the wood, without removing anything, to make a bunch of near-vertical cuts.
Next, apply glue to the arrowhead, and screw it on firmly (don’t overturn it: get the thread of the head to dig into the wood firmly, but don’t keep turning untill you’ve smoothed it out again). Hold it in place for a good while untill the glue sets a bit and it doesn’t fall off again. If you’re in doubt, you can roll the shaft over the table to make sure the arrowhead is put on absolutely straight.
As a sidenote; you could also consider looking into the TopHat arrowheads. I haven’t used them yet myself, but people seem to like it.
Also glue on the nocks, and push on and hold firmly untill you’re certain it won’t come off while the glue dries. Important to note when placing to nock is the grain of the wood: you’ll want to put the slot of the nock perpendicular to the grain. Imagine the wood like a stack of planks; if you pull a rope horizontally through the stack it’ll slip between planks, while if you pull it vertically against the stack you’ll move the whole stack (I hope this makes sense). This is especially important when making self-nocks, to stop your bow-string from splitting your arrow as you release, but it is important when using plastic nocks as well to prevent your arrows breaking.
Another thing someone pointed out to me is explained in this movie: those nice “flames” or “feathering” you see in the wood is where the arrow will break (they may look pretty, but in fact you want as few as possible: good quality shafts have as few as possible). It’s good practice to arrange your nock orientation so that when the arrow breaks, the break will point away from your bowhand so you’ll have less risk of burying a broken arrow in your hand. However, this is more often than not impossible, since the pattern may reverse halfway through the shaft. But if it happens to turn out nicely, it certainly doesn’t hurt to orient the shaft that way…
All done. You should now have a bunch of bare shafts.
3. Fancy feather splicing:
You can skip this part if you have pre-cut feathers and save yourself a bunch of work and time. But it does look fancy, and you might seem like you know what you’re doing.
Some people just cut up a few different coloured feathers, and glue the different sections on behind each other, but this has never given me a result that looked nice to me (in fact, it hurts a little when I see it done like that). The nice way to do this and to end up with a feather that’s still one single whole, is to strip the skin and “hairs” of a quil and glue that onto the other quil of a different colour. This video is the one that helped me the most on how to do this (he’s got a part two somewhere too, using fletching tape), and explains it well enough for me to just say “just watch that, and you’re good”. But I’ve written down how I did this below anyway…
I’m making four red and four green arrows, with two little white inserts in each feather (you’ll see what I mean at the end). But you could go as crazy as you can, or just put in a little white indicator on the cock-feather and be done with it. At the beginning of this page I’ll put in a picture of all my own arrows; one set (the two in the middle) has a big insert, because I could. The other set (second-last on the right) is helical fletched, and big inserts did not work here as the heavy twisting of the feather pulled the different colours apart and the feathers would not interlock (or “zip up”), so the biggest I could get away with was just the little cock-feather indicator there. The last one is a flu-flu (look here if you’re interested). The internet is also full of examples of really beautifull feather-splicing, for inspiration. We’ll just keep it simple. Also, I will admit I could have done this a little neater, if I had the patience for it.
Either way, first thing is to strip a feather away from the quil to use it as inserts: the way to do this is to pull the skin with the hairs (the actual feathers) away from the quil. It’s a bit tricky to pull off a whole feather at once without the quil snapping after a few centimeters: it takes a few tries before you get the hang of it. The way I do this is by taking the scalpel, making a little cut at the thin end, and lifting up a tiny bit of the “skin” to get grip. Then I just use my fingers to slowly pull the skin away from the quil. Try to keepthe quil straight, so it doesn’t snap. I’ve also found it’s slightly easier to do with plain and white feathers rather than the coloured ones: perhaps the painting process makes the skin and the quill slightly more brittle.
I’ve also already cut a few inserts of 0.7cm; I made a drawing of the fletching shape first by tracing the cutting template on a piece of paper and colouring it in, and thought I’d put the first insert at the double distance from the end (1.4cm), then put in a white bit of 0.7cm, leave a bit of green (or red) of 0.7cm, and put in a second insert. Why 0.7? It looked nice when I drew a sketch…
Also trim the edges of the insert right up to the hairs, so you get a good fit when you put them in and everything closes up tightly.
Good. Now that you have the inserts, let’s put them into a coloured feather. Take your feather, and mark the back end (closest to the nock) where you’ll cut, then put a mark where you want the first insert to start. Take your scalpel, and just cut of the hairs where you want the insert to go. Be very careful here! You can always take away more, but you can never put anything back! I usually take away less then I need, than take my insert and try to fit it in. Then I just take away a few more at a time, untill I get a good and tight fit.
When you’ve made room for the insert, scrape the little gap on the quill clean with your scalpel or razor untill you can see the white underneath: you want a clean surface with no bits sticking out, so you can glue on the insert snugly so that in the end you can hardly see the difference. Then just apply a little glue to the insert, and slide it in there. A like to use a pair of tweezers to hold it in place for a few minutes untill the glue sticks (I’ve got big clumsy fingers). Press it tightly and clear away the excess glue, so you get a very neat fusion. When you’re done, take your tape measure and mark the beginning of the next insert: repeat and stick it in there. Take your time to make sure the fit is perfect; too much room, and the feather won’t “zip up”; not enough room, and the insert will push away the coloured hairs, and the feather won’t properly “zip up” either, or make a tiny bulge. Lastly, try to take inserts that are the same thickness as where you’ll put it: the back of the quill is much thinner than the front, and a mismatch is not horrible, but the difference will be notable.
Next, we’ll use the cutting template and the rotary cutter to cut the feather to shape. You could also make your own template, or use a “feather chopper”.
Just line up the marks you made on the base of the feather with your template, and make sure all the hairs are zipped up and lying in the natural relaxed position: hold it down firmly so it doesn’t move when cutting. Then you roll the cutter along the edge, from back to front, to slice through the feather. Use the scalpel to slice through the quil, and voila: a sharply shaped fletch!
You now have a whole load of fletchings: good on you! Ofcourse, you can simultaneously do the next step of glueing the ones you made to the shaft, and keep making more while the glue is drying!
Now we’ll get all those fletchings onto the shaft! Insert your bare shaft into your fletching jig, and line up the indicator on the nock (if it has one) with where the clamp will be: you can see in the first picture below, the first fletching we’ll glue on will be the cock feather, at the same position as the little indicator on the nock. The cock feather will be horizontal, perpendicular to the nock and thus the bowstring, while the two hen-feathers will be at an angle relative to the nock (but if you’re an archer, you already knew this).
Put your cut feather into the clamp, and line up the back with one of the spacing indications on the clamp (second picture), so they will always be at the same height. You’ll want to leave some room between the fletchings and the nock, so you leave enough room for your fingers so you can draw your bow without the fletchings getting in the way: with a shape like this, where the fletching project backwards a little, you’ll need plenty of room so you don’t damage the ends when drawing your bow. After taking the second picture below, I moved it even further away, so the fletchings won’t get in the way of my fingers.
(In the top picture you can also see the drawing I made by tracing the template and colouring it in; that way i can see if I like the proportions, and then measure it out).
Next step is to put on the clamp (these ones are magnetic), and align it to the shaft. Do this while you have a fletch in there, so you can see how it fits. I used the big screws at the back to rotate the clamp to get a slight off-set to the right (with right-wing feathers), instead of putting the fletchings perfectly straight on the shaft. . Look closely, and keep adjusting untill you’re positive the quill sits flat on the shaft. That way you have a good surface contact area to glue it on: the first time it looked good, but later I realised I was only making contact with one edge of the quill, and it didn’t glue on the way I imagined.
Tighten the jig down so the clamp doesn’t move anymore: that way you’re sure all your fletchings are put on at the exact same height and angle.
Next, take of the clamp, apply a line of glue to the base of the quil (don’t get any on your clamp!), and put it back. Make sure it presses down along the whole base of the quil, and than wait for it to dry. (Meanwhile, go make more fletchings. Or get one of those jigs that does six arrows at the same time). After the glue is set sufficiently (for me it was ten minutes), open the clamp carefully, and lift it away. Rotate the shaft holder untill the next click (it clicks every 120degrees, or 1/3rd of a rotation), and put on the next feather. Repeat one more time, and there you have it: one fletched arrow!
The reason I’m putting the fletchings on at an off-set, is that it makes your arrows spin quicker after leaving the bow, and helps to stabilise the arrow in flight. How much off-set depends on your preference, and I judge it by eye (the first one that is; obviously every arrow in the set should be exactly the same!). It also depends on the circumstances under which you’ll be shooting: a bigger off-set will make the arrows spin quicker and faster, making them stabilise earlier in their flight, but it will also slow them down. You could also just put the fletchings on straight (mostly on flight arrows), or use a helical clamp to get true helical fletchings for even more spin. Note in the last picture below you can see the off-set, as the fletchings twist slightly around the shaft.
Now, most people almost stop here (you’ve still gotta apply varnish/lacquer!). I recommend to do at least one common whipping (see chapter 6 on whipping) at the front of the fletchings, and then you can skip ahead to the chapter on lacquer. This is both for longevity, but it also helps to prevent the front bit of the quil from jabbing into your hand when releasing, because through wear and tear or aging of the glue, the fletchings might come lose (especially the front), and lift up slightly. Other people just put a big dab of glue at the front of the fletchings to create a smooth bubble, which also works fine and is perfectly acceptable.
Otherwise, just continue reading.
Now we’ll put some paint on the arrows. I don’t really need to say much here (but I’m gonna); I’m hoping you know how to paint something yourself.
Some people like the bareshaft look, and you can skip straight to the next chapter. But I like bold colours; besides making it easier to find your arrows in the woods (unless you use shades of green: obviously that only makes it harder), it also makes your arrow stand out and easily identifiable. Most people use a bunch of thin lines in a specific pattern (like this, for example) to mark their arrows (or just put on an “arrow wrap” that’s prepainted). I like big bold markings better; much easier to quickly spot your arrows.
I’ll admit I did not do this in the sharpest and neatest way possible, and painted them out of hand. Especially the green didn’t really take/cover all that well, and the edges aren’t straight, but I like how it turned out, kinda weathered and rough (or really amateurish and home-made, take your pick). Use some masking tape to get sharper edges, and perhaps better paint or extra layers. A good brush that makes clean lines also helps a lot.
Usually I go to the paintshop around the corner, with a feather, and ask them to mix me up a small can of paint that exactly matches the fletchings (I did this for the orange fletchings at the beginning of this page, for example). This time however, I used a red and green (and white) I already had lying around; they don’t match exactly and it’s not the best paint, but it’s close enough and I’m making these for a friend who doesn’t really care anyway, so I could do whatever I liked. He just wanted a bunch of arrows because he’s lost all his current ones: pearls for the swine, I guess.
Anyway; a good way – apart from building a self-rotating cresting jig out of lego’s and a small servo – is to get an old shoe-box, cut out the front so you have room to paint, and poke a few holes in the sides to hold the arrow. Mark where you want the colours to be, and rotate the arrow while you paint. I just did a few simple rings, with the white first, and then green over the top, but ofcourse you can go as crazy as you’d like. Make it special. I didn’t use masking tape here, but maybe I should have; it would have looked a lot sharper. Also, some people paint their arrows first, and then put on their fletchings; it really depends on what you prefer/think is better. I personally find it hard to align the splices in the fletchings with the colours on the shaft if I paint those first.
There are a LOT of examples of beautiful arrow cresting on the internet and instagram; do google around for some inspiration, and good ideas: some people make fantastic art out of their arrows
“Whip it, whip it good!”. The name comes from the knot we’ll use, which is the “common whipping” (“takeling” in Dutch). It’s a usefull knot, and worthwhile to know. It’s very similar to the “hangman’s knot”, which is used to tie a noose, and is also the knot you should use to tie a fishing hook to a line (or a rope to an arrow).
Most people use just one common whipping on the front end of the fletching, which is perfectly fine; the front end has to endure the most wear, and is the first to come loose. Moreover, if the front edge of the quill comes lose, it will stand up and jam into your hand on releasing the arrow. If you’re having a hard time, or a fear of knots (I used to sail, a lot, with passengers; working with rope comes easy to me, but I know it’s sometimes hard for people to wrap their heads around), just a common whipping on the front end is sufficient. As mentioned before, some people make do with just a big drop of glue on the front end, which also works fine to cover the sharp front bit of the quil.
However, we’re gonna do the whole thing; it looks nice, and it looks traditional threaded through the feathers. It also helps to keep the fletchings and nock in place, in case the glue starts to age and the fletchings start to come loose (re-fletching is a thing).
As a side note, there are special whipping threads (or fletching threads) for this, but using other good quality and strong thread works just as well for me (and they come in more different colours, so I can colour-match the whipping to the fletchings). For historical accuracy, you could use sinew or silk thread. Artificial sinew is another thing which I’ve heard nice things about.
I’ll try to walk you through it. The first step is to tie a common whipping on the front end of the fletchings. Start just below the fletchings, and continue untill you’ve covered the first few millimeters of all the fletchings. Finish off the common whipping, but without cutting of the end; we’ll use that to thread through the fletchings. A way to cheat (which I did for this first arrow to show you) and make the first few tries easy on yourself, is to just throw a bunch of “clove hitches” (“mastworp” in Dutch, another even more usefull knot you should know!) to secure the beginning, and start to thread the fletchings; when you’re done, you can then throw the common whippings over the ends to make it look nice and neat. This first photo is a couple of clove hitches, and the beginning of the thread through the fletchings. Note the direction: the off-set is a little to the right, so we’re going across it to the left to thread the string as straight through the fletchings as possible.
Rotate the arrow in one hand, and with your other hand hold the thread and slide it through the hairs on the feather. If you like, seperate the feather with a needle or something first: I find it quicker to just use the thread to seperate the feather as I work my way up (be carefull not to damage the hairs too much, or they won’t join together again). It does take a bit of practice. Try to establish a spacing or rythm that you like; for example, replica medieval arrows do 4-6 turns of winding per inch, based on archeological finds. Don’t do to many turns per end, but don’t do to few either: you’ll want the thread to go straight through the fletching so it doesn’t seperate the feather and you’ll see big gaps. Just experiment with it untill you get what you like.
As it happens, I ended up doing four turns per inch… more or less.
Lastly, try to time it so that you get at least one thread through the spliced in inserts, to help secure them (last picture). Keep tension on thread and tighten it as you go along.
Throw a couple of clove hitches when you get to the end of the fletchings, to secure the thread and keep it taut (first picture below). There’s a way to do another common whipping at the end of the thread, but I find it easier to just tie it down like this, and then throw a new common whipping over the top to make it look nice and finish it off. You could also use a different colour thread for this.
It’s not necessary, unless you’re making self-nocks, but I like to continue up after tying it down and also throw a common whipping over the base of the nock (second picture below, from just below the nock on the shaft up to the nock indicator) to reinforce it, if only just for a little piece of mind (and it doesn’t look bad either; for self-nocks you’d do this too).
I’ve noticed a few of the nocks made from softer plastic on older arrows were pushing down and started widening/cracking a little at the base after prolonged use, so I started doing this. The downside is that if you put thread over it, you can’t see the beginning of any damage developing. I’ll leave this up to you; it’s not that much trouble to glue on a new nock… Either way, nothing is as bad for your bow as the nock snapping of on release, which is akin to dry-firing your bow (or even worse).
Now, all that’s left to do is to throw a common whipping over the front and back end of the fletchings (and over the base of the nock, optionally). I’m hoping you can figure out how to throw one; you could watch this youtube video (yes, it was actually the first hit on google), or this infographic.
Start a little bit below the fletchings, and work up untill you’ve covered the first few millimeters of all three quils of the fletchings (or whenever you feel it looks nice). Pull the ends under the wrappings when you’re done, and burn away the lose ends (the synthetic thread I use also melts a little, so I push it in to stick it into place). The last picture above shows the top end with whippings, and the first one below shows the first whipping at the front. Like I mentioned before, you could also directly throw the first whipping and use the loose end to continue up. The purist also could do everything with a single thread. I’ll admit I did this little chore (as I do usually) when I’m on the couch watching a TV-show, and it’s easier to throw the whippings seperately.
Or Varnish. I’ve used a varnish here (there is a difference between varnish and lacquer, but between common usage and language differences, I gave up. Whatever.). I like to use Epifanes’ blanke bootlak (clear boatlacquer in Dutch, clear yachting varnish in English), and most sources I’ve seen on the internet (reliable as random strangers are; double-check everything I’ve claimed in this guide, however well-meant it is!) also seem to recommend using some yachting lacquer or other. It’s thick and gloopy, and closes up pretty well encasing the whole arrow. As it’s a varnish, it doesn’t dry up as hard either (and just like the the woodwork on a boat keeps moving, it takes a bit of bending).
I apply two layers. The first layer is pretty thick (not too thick!); pay attention it closes everywhere, and soaks a bit into the wood (some people like to work it in with a cloth; I felt this one didn’t need it). Use a smaller brush to do the area between the fletchings. I apply it over the whipping (giving an extra drop to let it soak through the thick parts of the thread thoroughly). Most other people apply the lacquer first and then do the whipping (or crest & varnish the bare shaft before putting on the fletchings). I’ll leave it up to your preference, but I usually include the whippings since I’m using not the most expensive of threads. I applied the second layer of varnish the next day. The varnish takes a long time to dry (it’s still a little sticky after four days), so do give it plenty of time to properly harden and don’t touch it again untill you’re sure it’s done. I usually stick the arrows in an old target, covering only the arrowhead, so I can varnish everything in one go (including the groove between the arrowhead and shaft).
And that’s it, all done! Leave them 5 days to dry, and enjoy.
Thanks for reading this, I hope it was of some use. I would really appreciate your feedback (or questions): I’ll probably have forgotten something, or you have a better/easier way to do things (or gods forbid, I did something in a way that’s completely wrong and dangerous and makes you scream about what an idiot I am). Do let me know! Posting a picture of your arrows because you’re proud of your creation is also fine 😉
Most convenient way to reach me is the topic on Reddit.
I’ll be making updates to this guide as I learn more and better ways of building arrows.
I’ve recently spoken with someone who’s making gorgeous arrows with goldleaf inlays, so I certainly have a long way to go still. Which is partly why I wrote this; trying to explain it to other people forces you to think about what you’re doing, and other people can point out my flaws and I can improve my arrow-building proces.
– Update september 2019:
Reviewed, still (largely) the same. Would recommend to be conservative with very thick layers of lacquer (adds a tiny amount of weight, but enough to go up a few pounds in draw-weigt).
Also see my latest set of arrows: