The bow and arrow remained prevalent until the invention of gunpowder. By the 1600's the use of the bow and arrow as a war weapon was in great decline. People in many areas of the globe continued to use the bow and arrow, as they do today, both as a hunting weapon and for sport. Through the years the arrow has been subject to modifications and improvements, but it is still basically the same as it was thousands of years ago. The basic parts of the arrow are: 1) the pile or head, 2) the stele or shaft, and 3) the shaftment which includes the feathers, the crest and the nock. Arrow making is a long, tedious, and sometimes difficult process that makes the end result all that more rewarding.
Making the Shaft
Finding the right wood
The first thing that needs to be done when making an arrow is the selection of the wood that you would like to use for the shaft. The most common wood used today is Port Orford cedar, but the Douglas Fir, Norway Pine, and Birch are also fine sources to use. Birch is a hard, tough wood that is better to use for making hunting arrows, while the Port Orford cedar is a soft but generally straighter wood and is better for target arrows. The wood you choose can be purchased in blocks that you can shave down and shape into a shaft yourself or you may purchase them already made and ready to go.
Some enjoy the process of making the arrow from scratch by making their shafts from saplings that they cut down. When selecting the saplings the straightest one should be selected and if straight ones are hard to come by you should find ones that are fairly thick so that you have more to work with. Seasoning must also be done when using saplings. Seasoning is a drying and prepping process that can take from one to six months depending on the wood and the moistness of that wood.
Drying the shafts
The first thing to do is bundle all your saplings together and let them dry in a humid environment allowing the wood to dry without splitting. Shrinking of the wood will probably occur as they dry, but you can compensate for this shrinkage by using water soaked organic rope that tightens very hard while it dries. After a few weeks you should undo your bundle and peel any bark that remains then rebundle them and let dry until they are ready. Then they can be worked down to the desired size. You should always leave a few extra inches in length so that you have some room for error. Most arrows are 28�- 30� in length and 5/16� in diameter. The size may differ depending on what the arrow will be used for, the person using the arrow, and the bow in which it will be shot from.
Straightening the shafts.
Once your shafts are chosen, dried, and shaped they are then ready to be straightened. A good straight arrow is very important, especially when it comes to a target arrow. When it comes to hunting arrows, you have a little more leeway. Since you are usually shooting at a moving target any flaws in an arrow will usually equal out any inaccuracies involved in the shot itself.
There are a couple of methods that you may use to straighten your shafts. The first method is straightening them by hand and is referred to as the green method because it is used on saplings or any wood that is fresh and still moist. Basically you straighten the shafts as they dry. As soon as the bark is removed you take the shafts and bend them until they look straight. This bending process should be rather slow and gradual. If the wood does not bend the way you would like or if it feels like its going to break, then the next method may be better to use.
This is a method that is used on shafts that are already dry, and is done by using heat to soften the wood to make it more flexible and easier to bend. The tools needed for this method are a candle, nonflammable grease, and an arrow wrench. An arrow wrench can be as simple as a strong piece of wood that has a hole at one end that is slightly bigger than the diameter of the arrow shaft. First thing to do is apply grease to the area of the shaft that needs to be straightened. The grease will keep the wood from burning and scorching. Next you take the candle and heat the area until it becomes flexible. Be careful not to over heat, because this can cause the wood to become brittle and weak. If it is a long gradual bend you can straighten it using your hands or maybe bend it over a knee. For smaller bends it is better to use the arrow wrench. Once you think that all the shafts are straight let them rest for two weeks. If bends still appear you may repeat the heating process and attempt to straighten them again.
Once they are all straight it is time to cut nocks on one end of the shaft. The nock is the cut that the string of your bow will fit into when shooting your arrow. This cut is usually 3/8� deep and should be positioned at a right angle to the run of the wood�s fiber or grain. If positioned wrong it could cause the shaft to split while shooting. This cutting may be done with a hacksaw or, if available, a sawtooth flint flake. It is advised to reinforce the nocks of arrows made with softer woods by applying an inlay of hardwood. The nocks should then be sandpapered until they are nice and smooth. If you like you may purchase pre-made plastic nocks that are available at every archery dealer. They are inexpensive, durable, and easy to attach and change. Before attaching these plastic nocks, you must sand down the end of the shaft that will have the nock. It should be sanded just enough so that the nock can slide on. If the arrows have a good chance of being exposed to water, a water resistant adhesive should be used.
The next step is the most difficult and probably the most important part of the arrow. It is fletching the arrows or applying feathers to the arrows. Today the most common feathers used for arrow fletching are from the turkey. In the past it was the gray goose feathers that were used. Both are good and easy to obtain, so it is up to you as to which one you want to use. One thing to remember is that it is not the tail feathers that are used, but rather the wing feathers or pinions. Tom feathers are preferred over the hen feathers, because they are heavier and last longer. The feathers of each wing curve a different way. The feathers from the right wing are termed �right� and the ones from the left wing are termed �left�. Both can be used as long as you use all �right� or all �left� feathers on each arrow and you use pretty much the same area of the feather for each. Using both �left� and �right� feathers on the same arrow will result in poor flight and can be dangerous.
Prepairing the Feathers
Once you have the right feathers selected it is time to prepare the vanes. Preparation of the vanes is basically the separation of the vane from the quill. There are two ways of performing this separation. The first one is stripping. It takes some practice to get this down so it might be a good idea to try it a few times on feathers that are damaged or low-grade. Stripping is done by holding the feather vertical with its quill in your left hand and your right hand holding the vane as close to your left hand as possible. Then separate the two at the very tip. Once you have it started you continue by pulling down with your right hand. This pulling action should allow the vane to split from the quill nice and clean. The other method of separation is paring. This method is more time consuming and can be more difficult than stripping, but some archers believe that this method has better results. Paring is done by the use of a razor to cut the vane away from the quill. You need to start at the thick part of the feather and work your way down. Take your time when doing this, because you need to cut it as close as possible to the web without actually cutting into it. Once they are split the feather is then the ends are neatly cut and prepared to attach to the shaft. Finished feathers are usually 5� in length.
After the feathers are prepared it is time to position them on the shaft. There are three feathers that are applied and they are evenly spaced 120 degrees from each other. The cock feather, which is the feather that faces away from you while shooting, is placed at a ninety degree angle from the nock and should be a different color from the other two. There are many different glues and styles that can be used to attach these feathers. Some people like quick drying glue so that the as soon as he gets it in place it sets, while others choose the slow drying glue so that they can adjust and perfect the straightness or ideal curve of the feather. No matter what glue you choose, make sure that it is water resistant. When using slow drying glue you must wrap with cotton thread to keep the feathers in place. This should be done before the glue is applied. Once the feathers are set its time to trim them down to the size and shape that we need for that arrow. The size and weight of head that we use will determine the size we want our feathers to be. The lighter the arrowhead the smaller the feathers can be.
Now that the fletching is done we can move onto the head or pile. A very common head for practice arrows is the bullet jackets. All that needs to be done is sand the tip down, apply some glue and slide the jacket on. Certain broad-heads and other hunting heads are attached the same way, but most of them are attached by making a slot or hole in the head of the shaft that you slip the head�s base into and secure with glue. Some archers like to wrap sinew behind the head to secure it even more. Some archers like to weigh down their practice heads so that they have the same feel as the ones with the hunting-heads.
The only thing left to do is to crest the arrows. This tends to be a fun and light-hearted task that brings an end to the hard work that went before. Cresting is a way of giving the arrow your signature. It is done to add to the over all beauty of the arrow. Cresting can also be a way to set up a system that helps you distinguish certain arrows, that may have characteristics that you need to account for, from the others. Designs may be very simple or quite elaborate depending on the individual. Use a waterproof paint that is easy to work with on small areas. Once the paint dries the arrows are ready to go.
Edmund H Burke, Archery Handbook, Arco Publishing Co., 1960
Adrian Eliot Hodgkin, The Archer�s Craft, A.S. Barnes And Company
Robert Gannon, The Complete Book of Archery, Coward-McCann Inc., 1964
http://members.aol.com/bowyersden/arrowmak/htm The Bowyers Den
http://members.nbci.com/_XMCM/tgaaren/arrowmaking.html Making Arrows With Primitive Tools,
http://thebeckoning.com/medieval/longbow/make-arrow.html The Beckoning, Making Wooden Arrows
Note: this text is not mine, I have taken it from this site: http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory/ancienttech/arrow_making.html