Making Traditional Wood Arrows

Discussion in 'Bushcraft' started by Tyler Danann, Dec 26, 2013.

  1. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    The first thing I do is ordered up some pre-cut and rounded arrow shafts that suit the bow you've got.

    Ebay is where I get my supply's from BUT you can make them from wooden shaft 'blanks' and sand them round.


    Note: If you have a timber supplier nearby and your own electric band-saw you could try making your own shafts for arrow-making. This is advanced stuff though and for another guide.

    For this guide I've assumed you've got a pre-cut and shaped arrow shaft.

    Having the correct 'spine' or stiffness counts here. If you don't get the right 'match' your arrow will veer off to the left or right.

    The more powerful your bow, the more 'spine' or rigidity it needs.

    Once you've got a bundle of arrow shafts (buying in bulk is cheaper) check each one for straightness, if it's badly bent try and straighten it (sometimes steaming can help with this).


    Next step is making the nock, where you notch an arrow.

    You can do this the fancy, easy way, or the old-fashioned way.

    The former is where you stick on an external plastic nock. To do that you should taper the last half-inch of the shaft to accommodate a plastic-nock.

    The old-fashioned way is to make your own nock out of the wood itself. This my way of doing it as you don't require purchase a nock. It also means there's no nock piece to 'fall-out' during the course of the arrows life being shot etc.

    The grain of the arrow is important, you must go at a right-angle to the grain. That is to say cutting across it.

    A vice for this part is real boon. One guy online doesn't use one (no access) so he just uses his knee's and his free hand to steady it!

    Now, using a hacksaw or equiv. Make a notch that's about a ¼ of an inch deep or so.

    Basically deep enough to get an arrow string into.

    A hacksaw is good (what I use and one I made as a teenager at school!). Also a padsaw is fine, possibly a bit more easier to work with for notch-making.

    Now widen the thin notch with a file set. I use two tools for widening it.

    A small, slender file and a strange coping saw with a circular file-blade in it. It's a strange little thing

    but it is well-versed for this kind of work.

    You can make your own shape for the nock edges. Or just leave it rough-cut.

    I try and make a 'bell' pattern so that the string goes into the notch with a mere smigen of resistance. That way an arrow will stay nocked even on 'stand-by'

    But not so tight that it could throw the arrow awry once it's released from an arrow.

    You'll want to reinforce the nock with binding, so use Somax thread or similar to wrap around underneath the nock. About ½ inch should be ok.

    For warbow rated longbows you may want to reinforce the nock with a horn insert...

    Arrow Lore: The Fletching / Arrowsmith guru's use horn inserts for the nock (if shooting with warbow rated bows....)

    Once your nock is complete you can weather-proof it.

    I use Danish Oil for this. But any wood-stain should do the trick.

    After it dries (3 -- 6 hours) you ought to reinforce the nock with strong thread.

    Not only will it strengthen the area, but it make's the arrow have an area you can take a purchase on a bit better.
  2. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+


    Next stage is adding on your arrowhead.

    The arrowhead is a class all on it's own. You can add an array of heads to arrows.

    Securing it to the shaft can be done in a variety of ways.

    One item you will need is a fairly decent glue.

    Super glue works, araldite does to.

    I haven't tried locktite and others though.

    As long as one surface is porous a bonding glue should work fine.

    IF you don't have a strong glue then making a binding around the arrowhead can reinforce a weak 'join'.

    Normally this is essential if you are 'hafting' an arrowhead (with bone, flint etc). Pinning is another way.

    Archers Lore: In times of war some archers arrows would have a weakish glue on their arrowheads.

    That way an enemy could not remove an arrowhead by pulling out the shaft...

    For my arrowheads I've got some semi-armour-piercing ones known as Modkin's.

    These are some of the most affordable one's available outside of forging your own.

    These one's are at 3/8's diameter (which is about 12mm or so).

    The shafts I ordered already came tapered one end which allows easier insertion.

    If your shaft's aren't taperd then either a careful eye and a file is needed OR a bench grinder (much easier).

    Add glue onto the arrow, I have it tight in the vice for this bit.

    Then insert the arrowhead and screw it on tight.

    Curing time vary's but after a couple of hours you can start thinking about getting the fletchings done...

    For the fletchings you'll need a fletchers jig OR you can try eye-balling it (bushcraft experts only).

    With a jig you can accurately get the 120 degree offset for each of the three fletchings installed.

    Although most arrows in the world have three flights some archers prefer more. These arrows are known as 'flu-flu' arrows that are optimized for hunting fowl and other birds etc. These arrows have great drag but will not fly far if they miss, making retrieval easier than using conventional arrows.

    Once your fletchings are on you can optionally reinforce them with thread (I recommend a somax-type) and glue the thread for waterproofing

    This done you can get out into the field and loose off some arrows. :)

    To actually *make* fletchings from raw feathers is shown in this video.

    I normally go for a good trade-off between flight stability and distance, so I normally choose no more than 6 inches long and no greater than 1 inch in width / height.

    For example:

    A military grade AP arrow like that found on the Mary Rose would have fletching lengths of up to 8 - 9 inchs long and over one inch in width.

    A 'flight' arrow or 'galling' arrow for extreme range optimise is around 1 inch in length and a 1/4 inch in width.

    Next is taping down your feather and trimming the diagonal.

    Do this two more times and make sure each time it's the same size as the last one. Refer to the video for exact mechanics and so forth.
  3. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

  4. stg58

    stg58 Monkey+++ Founding Member


    Very nice!
    Tyler Danann likes this.
  5. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I haven't made arrows since Boy Scouts. Nice.
    Tyler Danann likes this.
  6. Witch Doctor 01

    Witch Doctor 01 Mojo Maker

    I've made my own for specific shoots that require wooden shafts I "whip" the nock with waxed thread in order to help protect the shafts...
    Tyler Danann likes this.
  7. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

  8. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    Primitive arrow making is an art for sure. I however want to warn any of you who think you can go out into the forest with some para cord and a knife and build a field expedient bow and arrows that will actually kill something. Lots of video out there saying you can do it. I have yet to see kill shot with a field expedient bow by anyone on video. There are several master primitive bow men will kill shots using stone heads but most fail. Accuracy is the main problem in home made arrows and bows. As an avid archery hunter I now how hard it is to make a clean kill on deer with modern bows. Here is one such failure WHICH LEAVES THIS DOE WITH STONE BROAD HEAD IN ITS SIDE. This guy shows why only experienced bow makers should try this.
  9. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    Now this is good and he makes everything right from the ground up. Scott Moore is one of the best traditional archers I have ever watched. He is also just plain a real good hunter.
  10. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    While I mostly agree with you Kingfish there is one Youtuber who has managed it and filmed a successful hunt with his stone arrowhead taking down a deer.

    His username is / was WildaboutChrist
  11. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

  12. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    There are several differences in those two hunts. One is not using enough poundage and the head is not sharp enough for good penetration. Moores doe was very small and he is shooting 60 pounds and you can shave with one of his stone heads. For anyone wanting to get into primitive archery I urge you to watch everything Scott Moore has out there on bow and arrow making. For me? Im just not that patient or that good at this craft. Ill stick with a modern crossbow as I owe it to the animals I shoot to make clean one shot kills. KF
  13. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    I have watched all of Scott's videos. He is one of the only guys I have seen who have film on killing with primitive archery gear. The work he puts into the arrows and his bows shows just how hard this is. I recommend anyone considering this sport to watch all of his videos.
    Tyler Danann likes this.
  14. kellory

    kellory An unemployed Jester, is nobody's fool. Banned

    I don't make videos, but I HAVE taken a 4 point buck with a bootlace and a bent sapling. It can be done. I too, prefer a crossbow though. I use a Barnett demon, or my Horton.
    chelloveck and Tyler Danann like this.
  15. Kingfish

    Kingfish Self Reliant

    I didn't mean to hijack this thread sorry to the O.P.. I have lots of respect for traditional archers. Those arrows look real nice. And the O.P is doing it right. I just have this pet peeve about field expedient bows and feeding yourself with one. I have gone out into my woods which is full of Deer. All I took was a Knife and 50 feet of para cord some tape from my first aid kit. And tried to build a bow and one arrow. I searched for hours before I found a dead maple sapling which was really pretty good for the bow. The arrow how ever was a joke. I tried 20 different sticks and little saplings and such and there just wasn't anything out here that made a good ACCURATE SHOOTING arrow. I could not get a 2 foot group at 15 yards I flung a few at squirrels which was really funny as those arrows missed by feet not inches. On Survivalist Boards dot com I challenged any of the guys in the archery forum to kill "anything" with a field expedient bow. One guy tried like 300 shots at squirrels and never got one. That was over the course of weeks. I only know "personally"one guy who has taken a deer every year with an Osage bow he made using cedar arrows but he makes steel heads as he does not trust stone. He spent years perfecting his craft. So while I have tons of respect for traditional archers I have very little faith in using something hacked out of the wilderness to feed yourself with. Accuracy is everything and wher you ive also determines proper materials. Moore uses cane which I dont have here. I guess my point about expedient bows is by the time you actually hit something and kill it you will be starving to death. It is for this reason I have always advocated the .22 rifle as the number one survival weapon on the planet.
  16. August West

    August West Monkey

    Those are works of art, nice shooting arrows are a very good skill to have. I am lucky enough to have switch cane growing right up to the edge of my backyard that I have made some very decent arrows out of, nothing as nice as yours though. :D
    Tyler Danann likes this.
  17. xls

    xls Monkey

    Because I don't have YouTube , I ask how can I post a future kill?
    What is the rules to this expedient bow hunt?
    I will put it on face book and I will link it here.

    Is the tools to build the bow limited , whats the limitations
    Is the stone head specific by size?

    I have bow hunted all my life and killed 100's of animals with homemade bow- arrow..... Never a stone edge though. I can't see it a hard chalange since most deer will need tracked either way.

    Tracking is the hardest part of hunting, given time anything mortally wounded will die if you don't lose it.

    I also love the guys homemade ghille... That was unneed but fashionable to kill a animal
  18. xls

    xls Monkey

    I have considered taking a deer with a PVC recurved, breakdown bow I made after I seen a guy on YouTube that was in Hawaii make several types of them with heat.

    I built my own to take camping while floating creeks in kayaks.
    kellory likes this.
  19. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+


    Well I have bad news for the forum about the arrow-making video posted.

    It seems that Youtube, for reasons known only to itself, has rejected my video. Apparently this is the reason 'Rejected (content inappropriate)'
    They've not explained WHY, WHAT or HOW this is. They've just done the Gulag moves and now all my work at reediting, recutting etc is for nothing. In two months it had nearly 5,000 views and MANY likes. Yet the dark forces or whatever it is that drives YT's controllers basically took down one of the more helpful and educational videos.

    Well done YT you back-stabbing scum! Quality videos are obviously not welcome but trash and refuse is I guess.
    I'll try and re-upload it in a different category, maybe the entertainment section where it can duel with the trash that's on there already...
  20. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Post them Here, and we can be your Outlet.... and then Post the URL, far and wide, so that more Newbies will come and find us, and our Community... If the Video is to big to Post it, yourself, PM @melbo or @ghrit and see if they would upload it to the Site....
    kellory likes this.
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