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Wooden arrows... a build along.

If you like to tinker with big or small projects and make new gadgets, this forum is for you. From arrow building to making a new kind of rest to replacing the cables and strings off your compound, here's a place where you can find like-minded people to discuss your ideas.

Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:48 pm

I have had several guys ask me questions about building wooden arrows and the advantages/disadvantages of them. I end up teaching a class down here every year or two on building wooden arrows and since I am off and pretty dang bored for the next six weeks or so, I figured I would put together a tutorial on the way that I build them. Obviously, my way is not the only way, but it works for me and the guys I build arrows for. I figure I may be able to give some of you a little insight into what is involved in putting together a good set of wooden arrows and maybe you will understand why a good set is so expensive. I will put this together geared towards someone who has never shot a wooden arrow before, or maybe has never built an arrow of any type before, so it will be pretty basic. I am in the middle of building six dozen wooden arrows right now while I am laid up so I will try and post a few photos as we go along.

There are several advantages to shooting wooden arrows. For me, they are the easiest shaft material to get good arrow flight from a bow when I am shooting it off of the shelf, be it a longbow or recurve. Carbons work well when shooting an elevated rest and plunger, but are still critical. Aluminums are easier to get to fly good with a broad head than carbons but are still not as forgiving as a good wooden arrow. Guys who are messing around trying to get their bow to shoot quiet are amazed when I hand them a wooden arrow. Hands down the quietest arrow material. I guess that is because it is a solid materiel and isn't hollow like carbons or aluminums and don't resonate. I find that good woodies are at least, if not more so, durable than other arrow materials. I do a lot of small game hunting and stump shooting and although a lost arrow is a lost arrow regardless of composition, I end up breaking a lot fewer woodies than other types of arrows. I like shooting a heavy arrow and it is fairly easy for me to get up into the 600 grain range with wooden arrows. Besides that, they are just plain cool, and fun to build.

There are some disadvantages to wooden arrows though. You can't just walk into a Walmart and pick up a good set. They require you, or someone else, to spend a goodly amount of time putting them together correctly. They are expensive, but then again so are all arrows today. At today's prices, by the time you buy a dozen shafts, three dozen feathers, points, stains, dips etc. you probably have $80.00 invested in a set of wooden arrows if you build them yourself. It is not uncommon to spend $120.00-$150.00 for a good set of ready mades.
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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:51 pm

First off you need to decide what type of wood you want to shoot. Over the years I have shot larch, Sitka Spruce, Ramin, Cedar and Douglas Fir. Several of my friends shoot hard wood shafts... hickory, ash or walnut. When I first got back into traditional archery in the late '80's all I shot were cedar arrows. I shot the premium tapered shafts from Kustom King. Killed several dozen deer with them and Snuffers and then the supply started to dry up. For a couple of years there cedar shafts, in the heavy spines anyway, were almost non existent. They were back ordered forever. I switched to aluminum for several years and then carbons for a dozen or so years.

Four or five years ago I got in a set of Surewood Douglas Fir shafts. They were without a doubt the straightest and best looking arrow shaft I ever put together up to that point. Since then I have ordered in a couple of dozen sets of shafts for myself and others. They require very little hand straightening, have beautiful grain patterns, are tough as anything out there and give me some nice heavy finished arrows. The set I am shooting off of my longbows now weighs in at 685 grains with a 160 grain point. The guys at Surewood know how to make a shaft. I am always amazed when I finish up a dozen and at least ten of them are as straight as any carbon I have ever shot. For those of you who are interested, here is a link:
http://surewoodshafts.com/
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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:52 pm

Once you figure out what type of wood you want, you need to figure out what size shafts you want. The common size for woodies is 5/16”, 11/32” & 23/64”. If you go much above 70 pound spine weight, it is hard to find shafts in anything other than 23/64”. I try and stay away from the 23/64” shafts as a 5/16” nock fits my strings nicely and I have to go to an 11/32” nock on the 23/64” shafts. You also need to decide if you want to shoot a tapered shaft. There are two ways of doing this. You can taper the back 9-11” of the shaft down from and 11/32” shaft to 5/16”, which is called a back taper. You can also have a breast or barrel tapered shaft. This is usually a 23/64” shaft that is tapered down to 11/32” at the front and 5/16” at the back. There is a lot of debate about the advantages of a tapered shaft over a parallel shaft. Me personally, I firmly believe that my arrows recover faster, are more forgiving and fly better when they have a 9 or 10 inch back taper on them. I order in 11/32” shafts that have the back 9” tapered down to 5/16”. Tapered shafts are naturally more expensive, but I feel that they are worth it.
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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:53 pm

You now need to figure out what spine you need. Most of your wooden shafts are going to come from the supplier in sets matched to five pounds of spine weight and 10 grains of arrow weight. For example you may get a set that are 50-55 pound spine and 450-460 in weight. In my experience, I feel that having them as closely matched in spine is a lot more important than matched in weight. If you can get them both, that is great. I don't see much difference, in my shooting anyway, if an arrow is plus or minus 20 grains or so but can definitely see a difference if they are off by about 10 pounds in spine. That is one of the reasons that I usually buy my shafts in lots of at least three dozen. I know those three dozen are fairly closely matched and I don't have to worry about going back to the supplier and they not have that weight in stock.

As fair as appropriate spine goes.... for my longbows which aren't center shot, I go pretty close to my draw weight. I shoot a 29” arrow and the rule of thumb is to add 5 pounds to the arrow spine for each inch over 28” and deduct 5 pounds for each inch under 28”. One of my longbows draws 63 pounds at my draw length so I shoot a 65-70 pound shaft off of it. For recurves which are cut to center or beyond, I start out by adding about 10 pounds to the spine. Once again, I draw 29” so I add another 5 pounds and will generally add another 5 pounds for a broad head. On a 50 pound recurve I will also shoot a 65-70 pound shaft. If you ever get confused, just call up the shaft supplier and they will generally get you pretty close on the proper arrow spine for your bow.
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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 10:58 pm

You need to go on line or make the phone call to order some shafts. Kustom King, Hildebrand, Surewood and Braveheart are all great places to deal with and all offer some outstanding shafts. Then all you have to do is wait for the long skinny box to show up at your door. I am going to show you how I build a wooden arrow, literally, from box to bow.

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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:02 pm

They are going to show up bundled together pretty tightly. They are going to have some type of documentation on them stating their spine, shaft diameter and weight range. It is a good idea to hang on to this in case you need to reorder down the road.

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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:06 pm

The first thing I do is to go through them and hand straighten them. I do this by basically just eye balling them down the shaft and then using pressure against my thumb to straighten them. If you bought good shafts to start with, you aren't going to need to do very much of this. Once I have them to where I think they are fairly straight I roll them across a table top. It is very easy to pick up on any wobbles when you do this.

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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:08 pm

Then I go over them with 0000 steel wool. They are generally sanded fairly smooth but I want to take any of the raised grain off before I start working with them.

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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:11 pm

You want to put some color on your arrows. You don't want them to just be plain, white wood. I lay them out and make a pencil mark across them where I want my cap to start/stop.

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Re: Wooden arrows... a build along.

Postby Stykshooter » Sat Jul 20, 2013 11:18 pm

There are several different ways to add color to your wooden shafts. I have stained/dyed them over the years with Rit dye, Koolaid, Leather dye. I have also cap dipped the back end in white and various other colors of Bohning Fletch Lac. One of the best, and easiest, ways to put some color on your shafts is by using some of the anilyne wood dyes. I get mine from Woodcrafters. I have Red, Yellow and blue. They give you a very bright color and that stuff will stain ANYTHING!. It comes in a powder form and you mix it with denatured alcohol and just wipe it on the shafts. There is enough powder in one of these little bottles to stain about a thousand shafts! I like using the dyes over paints because it still allows me to see the grain of the arrow through the color.

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