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Arrow Building for Bow Hunters
Sean McCosh (DuckBuckGoose) - PHJ ProStaff- Cincinnati, OH
My first couple of years as a bow hunter I did what most new archers do and purchased pre-made arrows that were basically “ready to shoot” right out of the box. There were several reasons for this, the biggest was that I wanted to get out and shoot my new bow as soon as possible — which I suppose is reason that most of us can relate to. At the time I didn’t know much about many of the important technical aspects of archery — like how to select an arrow for my specific setup and draw length, how the arrow’s length affects the stiffness or “spine” of the arrow, or what to consider when trying to optimize the arrow weight and it’s “F.O.C” (Front of Center) Balance. After shooting my bow that first summer, and tearing up my first set up arrows pretty good, I caught the archery bug bad and wanted to learn how to improve my archery skills and equipment.
One of the ways I’ve done that is by building and repairing my own arrows. I’ve found it to be an enjoyable part of archery that helps me stay focused on bow hunting all year, and gives me something fun and fulfilling to do in the evenings.
In this article I will share the basic steps and techniques I use to build hunting arrows. And maybe I'll even encourage you to consider building your own arrows too. I can’t promise that you will save a lot of money versus ordering custom built arrows. But if you love archery, I bet you will enjoy the process. And you will have the peace of mind of knowing that they were built right.
Choosing The Components to Build Your Arrows:
First off, the “technical aspects” that I mentioned above (arrow length, spine, F.O.C., kinetic energy, etc.) above are very important if you are choosing what arrow components to use for the first time. I could write a whole series of articles about just this decision process, but I’d rather point you to a very well written “tutorial” about building carbon arrows that I found on HuntersFriend.com. You can find that tutorial here. You’ll see as you read this article that choosing the proper components for your arrow isn’t as simple as you might think, and there are many factors to consider.
Building Your Hunting Arrow: A Step-By-Step Guide
Now I will share the process I use to build hunting arrows. You may use a slightly different process than I do, and that’s fine. Once you start building arrows, you will want to find the process that works best for you and provides the best results.
Step One: Cutting The Shaft: If you don’t know the proper arrow shaft length for your setup, stop reading now and go read the tutorial at HuntersFriend.com mentioned above. If you do know the proper length you have a couple of options. 1) You can buy raw arrow shafts and cut them yourself, or 2) You can buy shafts and have them cut for you by your pro-shop, or perhaps by one of the online archery retailers.
If you choose to cut your own shafts its best to use a high-speed arrow saw. The one I use is a 5000 RPM Arrow Saw from Cabela’s. Some of you could get by with using a Dremel or similar high-speed cutting tool also, if you devise a way to make a square, consistent cut. (Do NOT try using a hack saw, it wouldn’t work well on today’s carbon arrows.) High-speed arrow saws are fast and easy to use. You simply set the length for the arrow cut using a sliding adjustment, place the arrow into the saw as instructed, and roll the arrow into the rotating blade so you make a clean, square cut.
Step Two: Squaring The Arrow Shaft: To help ensure your arrows fly straight and true (especially when using broadheads) it is important to make sure The ends of the arrow shaft are cut perfectly square before you add the inserts or knock. My arrow saw does a good job of squaring the arrows, but to ensure they are perfect I also recommend using a tool like the G5 Arrow Squaring Device. This is a simple tool to use. I take a permanent marker and mark the circumference of the end of the shaft. Then I place the arrow shaft into the simple squaring device and rotate it against an abrasive surface, which cleans and deburs the face of an arrow shaft or insert so it is perfectly square to the shaft.
Step Three: Cleaning Inside The Ends Of The Shaft: Before gluing in the insert, take a Q-Tip type cotton swab and coat the tip with denatured alcohol or one of the arrow shaft cleaners on the market. Next simply swab the inside of the ends of the shaft to clear out any carbon dust or residue. This will help your insert stay rock solid and not move once you glue it in.
Step Four: Glue The Insert: Before you glue the insert, clean it also with your denatured alcohol or arrow cleaner. I typically screw a field point into the insert to make it easier to handle. Then I put a nice bead of glue down and around a couple of sides of the insert. After applying the bead of glue, simply twist the insert into the shaft to ensure that the glue is evenly distributed all around the insert and inside the shaft. Once inserted, I unscrew the field point and jam the insert of the arrow down onto my workbench to make sure it is seated all the way in. Finally I’ll wipe any excess glue from the shaft and inspect the insert to make sure it is well seated in the shaft.
Step Five: Clean The Arrow Shaft & Insert The Nock: To ensure proper adhesion of the fletching (Blazer Vanes in my case) I will prep my arrow by first wiping the nock end, where the vanes will go, with a Scotch Brite or other scouring type pad. This will add a slight roughness to the arrow shaft’s surface for better adhesion. Then I wipe the arrow with arrow shaft cleaner or denatured alcohol and a paper towel. This helps to ensure the arrow shaft is free from dust, dirt or fingerprint residue. Once cleaned, the shaft is ready for fletching.
Step Six: Fletching The Arrow: Fletching an arrow requires a special jig. There are several types on the market and most of them work well from what I understand. Personally, I use the Bitzenburger Dial-O-Fletch shown below and use a straight clamp with a slight right offset, or a right helical clamp. To use this type of jig, simply place vane fletching inside the clamp, using the measuring lines on the side of the clamp to ensure each vane is the desired distance from the end of the nock. Then run a thin bead of archery glue along the base of the vane and slide the clamp and down onto the arrow, making sure the vane is making good contact on the arrow from end to end (Note: it may require some “fiddling with” your jig’s off-set adjustments to make this happen. Practice this without glue before finally applying the glue on the vane). Once I glue the fletching, I give it about five minutes before removing the clamp, rotating the shaft, and adding the next vane. Use the same process for all three (or four for some people) vanes.
After gluing all three vanes I will apply another small drop of glue to the front and back of the vane, right where it makes contact with the shaft. This helps keep it from tearing off when it passes through a Whisker Biscuit, an archery target or even a trophy animal! Finally, I’ll quickly spray a pump or two of glue accelerant on the vanes to dry them instantly.
Step Seven: Squaring The Insert: This is a step that many may choose not to do, but I’m a little fanatical about arrow building, so I do it every time. Basically this step is the same as step two, except this time I square the metal insert, instead of the carbon shaft. The reason…some inserts will be slightly out of square with the shaft after you insert them, or they have small burrs or imperfections on the end where the broadhead sits. If you screw a broadhead into an insert that is not perfectly square to the shaft, it can cause the broadhead to plane and not shoot the same point of impact as your field points.
Again, I use the G5 Arrow Squaring Device for this process, in almost the same way described in step two. The only difference is that I flip the “business end” of the device so that I’m using the metal “machining” tool, rather than the abrasive carbon-squaring tool. This simple tool does a great job of cleaning up any small burrs and creates a perfectly square surface for broadhead to screw into.
Screw In Your Point or Broadhead and You’re Done! Congratulations. If you followed this process you should have a great arrow built that you’ll be proud to shoot and show off. If you have any comments or questions about building custom arrows please feel free to post them in the comments section that follows this article. Or perhaps post a picture of your custom arrows in your PHJ Trophy Room for others to see. Good luck and shoot straight!
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