Me rambling about Making Arrows

Archery, me and making Arrows

This isn’t not about telling anyone how to make anything, or decide anything,  its not about doing it the right way or the wrong way…. its just the ramblings of having fun and doing something:

I have been involved in archery for about a year now, with the first 6 weeks being the beginners course, essentially the basic forms for holding and shooting a bow and the safety protocols whilst shooting. Its here where you find out if you really do have the bug. (i do)

One of the earliest decisions i made was that i would not want to shoot the competition re curve bow

all those gadgets, i would spend all my time tweaking and aligning, and …. well all that metal and plastic just doesn’t float my boat compared to:


That is pacific yew longbow, made by Ravenbeak in Canada , that is a beautiful bow. (i own one of these gorgeous things….. but that’s only more recently… don’t spend on a bow at the start) .

I had wanted to get into archery for years, but always found a way to do something else, lacked time etc… until my friend Chris


That’s (both) my friends Chris, the one with the bow is the kind chap who gave me that final nudge, sending me a Kaya Bow and some arrows he had made. (The other Chris is the one who inspires me to push and do more and know more about what i do)

It was Chris (Bowman) and his arrow making that then also inspired me to not just shoot arrows but to make them. There was just something inspiring in the thought that you can learn so much about what and how you shoot by learning to make the projectiles.

I had used the original arrows sent to me by Chris as a template, learning from the methods he had used by deconstructing any arrow i broke (and this wasn’t often… these things can take a pounding, because they are made with a Tonkin bamboo cane rather than a softer lighter wood.

I made a few odd arrows before i learnt that really you need a matched set, same materials, fletching (feathers), piles (the pointy bit) and Nock (bit that goes on the string) , the matched set gives you some added consistency when shooting, i then discovered that i should also be checking the weight. I was amazed to discover that some arrows made with all the same bits could vary by 3-4 grams which might not sound much but does make a difference, so selecting matched canes before you make the arrows is also important, checking the weights of each element to make sure there is a consistency.

After 6 months + i had whittled down my best arrows (the ones Chris made for me) to only 7, and these were my competition arrows, so i asked if he would be kind enough to make me some more, i still was some way off his skill level.

He made me this lovely set, with field points, goose feather fletching, they looked amazing.


There was an undefined… something felt off, and i could not figure it out

I had just made the switch from my first bow a Samick flat bow

Bow Samick Verna

Its a lovely forgiving and simple bow to start with, no gadgets , but the arrow shelf makes t easier for the beginner.

But at the same time as my new arrows i moved to my ravenbeak Longbow, with the longbow there is no shelf, the arrow rests on the hand


This is not as simple as it sounds to make the switch to, the arrow can wander away from the bow, and the extra glove is needed to save getting your hand sliced by the fletchings.

So after 2 weeks of not being able to hit a barn door  with my new arrows and new bow. (yet i was improving using my own or my original competition arrows) i started deconstructing the arrows, with a conversation with Chris, and going back over his updates on the build of them and also comparing the feel and weight against my competition arrows. Why were they shooting so differently.

It was the photo below that clinched it, Chris has slightly front weighted the arrows, which is fairly normal for longbow use, the weight is supposed to provide a greater consistency in shooting, but for me the only thing that was consistent was the missing.

As you can see with great skill and care Chris has inserted a nail into the bamboo and then attached the field target points.


So i needed a test, with great care i removed the pile from one of these new arrows and took off the end of the arrow with the nail, after carefully locating where the arrow ended (lots of small cuts part way until i found its end.)

Then I re-sanded the end of the cane to fit it to a new pile and took the single arrow to the next practice. 3 out of 4 shots in the gold with the new changed “center balanced” arrow. That was good shooting even for me.

The next job was to “adjust” the remaining arrows, (after speaking with Chris, i felt a bit bad that i was chopping around with his hard work), but in true Chris style, he was more than pleased for me, i had made a jump forward, i had self realised something in what and how i shoot. Now i just needed to put that into practice with a “neat” set of arrows myself from scratch.

With making my own competition set (or what i hope would be good enough to be a competition set) i wanted to do it all. I have never made fletchings from scratch, everytime i tried to split the feathers i had made a mess of it. But i felt that with all the careful book work/ repair i had done with a scalpel my dexterity would be up to it if i took care. 10 arrows was my target, so 30 feathers (goose).

First i had to steam them to open them up.

2016-05-18 18.10.14

Then Yahoooo… i managed to split every single one of them without incident.

2016-05-20 13.46.41

Then chop them into 4 inch parabolics, the picture on the right is the amount of wastage.

2016-05-20 13.55.442016-05-20 14.13.202016-05-27 14.53.07

then finally sanding the spines so they are nice and flat and smooth to glue onto the shaft

Ok….. at this point…. 10 points for whom ever can spot where i screwed up??

So after spotting it and fixing things

2016-05-27 15.00.552016-05-27 16.28.20

(for anyone who didn’t spot it, i cut the fletchings the wrong way, so the spines were facing the wrong direction)

So next

10 shafts chosen for similar diameter and weight, sanded and 11/32 Flo red knocks applied with araldite glue

2016-05-20 17.59.45

Then apply the Pile (again with araldite)

next, get the arrow in the fletching jig, align the nock for the cock feather if you are using one (if all feathers will be the same , then dont worry)

2016-05-27 17.28.10

let each feather dry before moving on to the next, and then when all are applied and dry, wind some silk or linen thread around the base of the fletchings, i find a dag of glue smoothed over the end of the thread and then painting it in clear nail varnish holds it in place well.

2016-05-27 17.29.18

then if like me you decide they look ugly as hell, then you get snotty with yourself and strip the fletching off and do it with something else…

2016-06-05 16.25.18

These im happy with, they look really good…..and everytime i stick it in the grass i may find them a bit faster.

Finally shoot it….. and hope its as good as this!

2016-05-27 19.50.46



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4 responses to “Me rambling about Making Arrows

  1. C.R.May

    So the cock feather is like a larger, central ‘control’ feather if the others are not from the same bird, aligned with the groove on the nock?

    • Cock feather is just a different colour , if you see my final finished arrows I made the cock feather yellow. The cock feather will be same size as the other 2 for balance and stability, bird type can vary but all must be from same wing , i.e. All left wing so the spines face the same way (all aerodynamically the same) having a cock feather is purely to make stringing the arrow quicker . As its aligne with the nock you can quickly slot the arrow correctly to the bow got shooting …tbh it’s not much of a delay if you don’t have a cock feather .

  2. C.R.May

    Thanks Robin. One of my characters has lost her arrows and is having to knock up a couple of ‘will have to do’ replacements on the run. The post has been a great help.

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