Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Making Arrows part 1: hafting and straightening

Osage Orange flat bow with a new arrow
This going to be a two part series for arrow making this first edition is about hafting and fire straightening, fletching will come later. Many People say that making an arrow is harder than making a bow. I tend to agree although it is less physical labor, it requires more knowledge or rather different knowledge. You must know how to make pine pitch glue that dries and does not stay sticky, you need to know how to process sinew for the wrapping and use heat to straighten a piece of wood not to mention knowing how to find that right piece of wood that will not shatter when you let go of the string. I use Ocean Spray, which is a shrub found in Oregon that has very hard wood and tends to grow very straight. I have found arrow shafts that need almost no heat bending. This wood allows you to have a reasonable diameter of arrow shaft at a good spine weight. I use turkey feathers for fletching and usually find them out in the woods where turkeys live, as opposed to buying them on the internets. I use back strap sinew for the wrappings and obsidian for points mostly, although I have been known to use flint or jasper if I can get it. There a few very important things to think about before you start your arrow.
1. How heavy and what type is your bow?
2. Is your shaft spined* right for that weight?
3. What is your draw length?
4. How long do want your fletching or feathers?
untrimmed turkey feather fletching

This first question will lead you into the rest. The weight of your bow or heaviness will tell you how heavy the spine on your arrow shaft needs to be. The type of bow you have will tell you how specific you need to get with your spine weight. Spine refers to the weight it takes make an arrow bend and flex. This is very important because if your spine is too light and the arrow bends to easily then when you release the string the power of the bow can break the arrow and this usually happens right behind your hand with dire or at least painful consequences. If your arrow is too heavily spined and you have an eastern style flat bow with no arrow rest the arrow will not flex around the handle section and will be harder to aim. Having the correct spine weight is important to all bows, arrow rest or not, because of the weight of the arrow and because of the way an arrow flies true, but if you have a bow with no arrow rest you must get it right. Now the type of bow you have will also dictate the length of your arrow, which affects spine weight. I usually cut my shafts to one inch past my draw so that  I leave the arrow head out in front of my hand when I draw, there is no "right" draw length it is all a matter of preference. Now for feather length it is again a matter of preference. I like 4" feathers it seems to be a good balance between flight correction and how much long feathers can slow down my arrows. Ok now lets talk about hafting.
Dacite point hafted

The next step after spin weight and length is to straighten your shaft. this done really easily by holding the apex of the bent section over a flame rotating it until it is hot and then using your hands and knee, bend it to the right shape. you want the wood hot not burnt and the bending should happen really easily and not be tough to move. You can really feel it when you  get it right. Hold the position for about 30 seconds at least, often you must go just past where you want the bend to stay because the wood has memory and wants to go back to the position it remembers. I always sand my arrows after I straighten them and make sure that they are smooth and will ride over my hand without catching or splintering (important!)

Dacite point and notch for hafting
Now lets talk about hafting. The first thing to do is to cut your notch. there are a few ways to do this and I will let you experiment as it would be hard to describe how I do it. You need a notch that puts the ends of the wood just past the notches on your arrow head. You need to cut a notch in the other end as well that will fit on to your string I find that 3/8 inch is usually deep enough for this one. Next carve the notch so that it fits the arrow head well, a lot of times the arrow head will have a different shape on each flat side so turn it and see which puts it most centered and straight. the next step is to throw in pitch glue at the base of the notch and then heat it up and push in the point making sure it is straight and centered before the glue hardens. Test the center by holding the arrow shaft in the crook of your finger and thumb and sighting down it while turning it, this will highlight any wobbles. You want it to look like it is rotating around the very point of the arrow head. If you don't get it right you can always heat it back up and move the point around. after it is in you can smush pitch glue in all around the wood and point joints and make it nice and smooth. Next you get your sinew that you have been soaking in water and tightly wrap it around the shaft of the arrow moving up until you get to the base of the point. at this spot you need to loop the sinew up over and through the top notch on your point. Wrap it around a full turn and the go back to the base half then up again for full turn you should end up with and X shape which will bind the point in tightly when the sinew dries and shrinks. I like to rub some pitch tar on my sinew to water proof it after it dries and hardens. You can test your point by holding the arrow shaft in one hand and the point in the other and bending the shaft back and forth using the arrow head. It should not move, at all.

Fletching will come along soon....

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