The Basics of Arrow Building
How Do I Build My Own Arrows?
Arrow building isn’t a complex process, but it does take time, diligence and a steady hand. Step number one is to cut your shafts down to size. Using your arrow saw, make a perfect, clean 90 degree cut on one end of the arrow. Make sure that your saw cuts at a clean 90 degrees, because even the slightest difference will result in a wobbly and inaccurate arrow. Assuming you’ve cut your arrow at a clean 90 degrees, take your arrow squaring device to square off the cut end of the arrow to ensure that you have a squarely cut arrow ready for shooting.
After cutting your arrow shafts, the next step is to cleanse the inside of the shaft wall and install inserts. It is recommended to clean the inside of the arrow shaft before installing inserts in order to remove any dust or material generated while cutting the arrows. This can be done by using a Q-Tip dipped in Isopropyl Alcohol or Acetone. Repeat the same process on the outside of the insert as well. This might sound like an unnecessary step and you may feel like skipping it and going straight to the installation of the inserts. However, the above step ensures maximum adhesion which will keep the insert in the shaft longer.
For carbon arrows you can use either a two-part epoxy or instant adhesive to secure your inserts. While many archers prefer the instant adhesive which allows them to shoot their new arrows right away, many archers still prefer the two part epoxy. One advantage to the slow drying epoxy is that you can screw on a broadhead and spin test your arrow while the epoxy is still drying. If you find any inconsistencies you still have time to adjust them by rotating the insert before it dries. With instant glue you aren’t afforded that option. For aluminum arrows using a hot-melt adhesive seems to work the best.
The next step is a relatively easy one and is the installation of the nocks. It’s recommended to install the nock on the stiffer side of the arrows as determined by your spine testing. Although this can help improve accuracy, for the majority of bowhunters this step can be omitted without much cause for concern. Once you have your nocks in place, check for any inconsistency or wobble by spinning the arrow to determine the arrow’s nock-to-arrow concentricity. This can be done by using an Arrow Inspector from Pine Ridge Archery. If you notice any wobble in your nocks, try squaring off the end of your arrow again. If that doesn’t work, you may need to try a new nock.
Now that you have installed your nocks you can move down the shaft and prepare to fletch your arrows. If you have decided to use the Quik Fletches from NAP, this step is a lot easier and less messy. Simply slide the QuikFletch down the arrow, dip it in a pot of boiling water for 10 seconds and pull the arrow out of the water. Just like that you fletched an arrow with a stylish wrap to go along with it.
If you are going to use the standard fletching method, this is when a when a quality fletching jig really comes in handy. It’s best to do a little research on your shaft material and which glues, cleaning solvents and adhesives work best with each material.
Regardless of which fletching you use, make sure the arrow shaft has been cleaned thoroughly to ensure maximum adhesion. This is most commonly done by using a clean rag along with a solvent such as Isopropyl Alcohol or Acetone. It is recommended to place your fletching 1 inch from the nock end of the arrow to the start of the vane. Consistency is important, so be sure to use the marks on your fletching jig as proper guidelines.
Arrow wraps, which are simply printed vinyl stickers, have become increasingly popular in the past several years for several reasons; namely their bright colors which allow the arrow to be seen in flight better, and their ability to adhere to just about any fletching without problem. For many, the days of fletching coming unattached from their arrow shafts are over. If you choose to use arrow wraps, be sure to clean the surface before adhering your vanes.
Determining Front of Center (FOC)
Now that your arrows are built you should test the FOC (Front of Center) for each arrow. Front of Center is an arrow’s balance point and critical for accurate flight. As a bowhunter, you want your arrow to fly in a point-heavy or top heavy manner. This creates better accuracy and more down range energy. To determine FOC screw on your favorite broadhead and then slide your arrow back and forth on a sharp surface until you find the spot where the arrow balances, then mark that spot. Next, measure the distance from the bottom of the nock groove to the end of the shaft, as well as the distance from the bottom of the nock groove to the balancing point. Then divide the overall length by two, subtract that number from the balance point, divide by the overall length and multiply by 100. An ideal FOC is between 8 and 15% with most bowhunters finding that 10 to 12% seems to be the best for a variety of uses. If you find yourself needing to increase your FOC (higher percentage) you can try using a heavier tip, or removing weight from the nock end of the arrow. Vice versa, if you need to lower your FOC you can remove weight from your tip or add weight to the nock end of the shaft.
Spin Test Your Arrows
With your arrows now fully assembled don’t make the mistake of thinking the job is done! Before shooting them into your favorite target take the time to spin test each one again. This will help to verify that both the nock as well as the broadhead are perfectly aligned. Doing this will help save you some future headaches when it comes time to fine tune your setup before the season starts.
Now that you have officially built your arrows, and spin tested them, it is time to shoot! Start shooting your newly built arrows to see how they group so you can determine which arrows are worthy for hunting and which are not. Remember that not every arrow is going to fly the same. Be sure to shoot them in ideal weather conditions so you can best determine if they fly correctly with broadheads. Once you’re confident with your handy work, replace or sharpen the blades on your broadhead and get ready to hunt!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q) Can I reapply fletching to an old arrow?
A) Yes, of course. However, you must remove and clean the shaft properly to do so. Take a sharp knife or razor blade and scrape underneath the fletching to remove the fletching or vanes. Be careful not to scrape to deep as to not damage the carbon fibers if you are using a carbon arrow. Use a pair of pliers to remove the feathers or vanes if they are cemented on the arrow. A device such as the ZipStrip from Norway Industries comes in handy when removing old fletchings as well as old arrow wraps.
Q) How long does it take to build an arrow?
A) Generally speaking, when you set out to build an arrow you will build more than one, but the process of building just one arrow takes very little time. Provided you have all the necessary tools and are proficient at every step throughout the arrow building process, it actually takes no more than 5 minutes to measure, cut, square, fletch and install inserts on your arrows. Of course, it will take additional time for the glues and adhesives to dry.
Q) What are the benefits of building my own arrows?
A)There are several benefits that be gained through arrow building. First the feeling of pride and accomplishment felt when you use something you have built with your own hands. Harvesting a deer with an arrow you built yourself only adds to that feeling. Arrow building will save you money as well. After the initial costs of your equipment and tools, there will be no more trips to the pro shop just to have arrows built, saving you time, money and gas! You will also understand your hunting equipment better than ever before once you have built and shot your own arrows. You will be able to pay better attention to detail and tune your bow more effectively as well.