Part 2 of 2: arrow building in 10 easy steps.
Last month, we dove into the topic of arrow building and why it is a skill every serious bowhunter should learn. Building your own arrows gives you total control over the quality and specifications of your projectiles, allowing you to customize them to fit both your budget and your bowhunting style.
Knowing how to build arrows will also save you some trips to the local pro shop and let you easily handle tasks such as repairing damaged vanes and experimenting with different types of vanes, nocks, inserts and other components to see how they impact arrow flight and in-the-field performance.
In the prior installment, we covered all the basic tools and supplies required to build your own arrows. So, this month well walk step by step through the actual arrow-building process.
Step 1: Install the nocks if they weren't already installed at the factory. This step takes only a few seconds. The nocks press into the rear end of each arrow. The number one requirement is that the nocks be aligned perfectly with the shaft. As long as they aren't damaged, and the manufacturer has maintained tight tolerances so the nock slides in snugly, that should be a given.
Step 2: Prep your shafts and vanes for fletching by cleaning them. The fletching manufacturer may recommend a specific cleaning agent, but if not, use denatured alcohol. Clean both the rear of the shaft where the vanes will be applied and the base of each vane.
Step 3: Place the shaft in the fletching jig. The nock will fit into a receiver in the jig's base. If using a jig that applies one vane at a time, you will turn the nock receiver to index it before each vane is applied.
Step 4: Align the vane clamp. On traditional fletching jigs, a strong magnet will normally hold the clamp in place. If needed, adjust the clamp so the rear contact point where the vane meets the shaft is in the center of the shaft. You can then adjust the forward position of the clamp to control the degree of helical offset applied to the vanes.
When using newer jig styles that attach multiple vanes at once, the clamp alignment and amount of offset or helical vane orientation will be built into the jig design. If this is the type of jig you want to use, I recommend a model that produces a helical vane orientation, such as the Bohning Helix Tower Jig shown in the photos at left.
Step 5: Place a vanp in the clamp or clamps. If you are using a traditional jig, you'll want to slide the vane up or down inside the clamp until it is roughly one inch from the rear end of the shaft when you place the clamp on the fixture. For subsequent vanes, remember to place them into the clamp at exactly the same point. You can experiment with the exact positioning of the vanes later, if you wish, to see if different positions produce a more stable, accurate arrow. This ability to experiment is the main reason to build your own arrows.
If you are using a newer jig that applies all three vanes at once, however, the placement and orientation of your vanes is likely built in and not adjustable. In this case, simply place a vane into each slot and move on.
Step 6: Glue the vanes in place. While the vanes are still in the clamp(s), apply a thin bead of adhesive to the base(s). Depending on which style of adhesive you use, less can be more. So, start with a thin bead.
If you are using a jig that applies all the vanes at once, simply bring the jig's clamps up against the shaft and follow the jig instructions for securing them in proper position for the vanes to adhere to the shaft. Wait at least a minute (it can take much longer with some adhesives) before opening the clamps and sliding them gently out of the way.
If you are using a jig that applies one vane at a time, position the clamp so the vane is pressed solidly against the shaft and wait the required length of time for your adhesive to set before gently opening and removing the clamp. Then, rotate the nock receiver on the jig fixture to rotate the shaft into position for the second vane and repeat the gluing process. Simply repeat this process until the prescribed number of vanes (three, four, etc.) is applied.
Step 7: Cut your shafts down to size. Start by drawing back one of your arrows and having someone carefully mark the shaft roughly half an inch in front of the rest. Next, set the guide on your cutoff saw to the measured length and cut all your shafts. If you have a previous batch of arrows and want your new ones the same length, you can also use one of your old arrows as a guide. Make sure to wear eye protection while using your cutoff saw to prevent injury from any flying debris.
Step 8: Square the front end of your shaft using an arrow-squaring tool such as G5's A.S.D. This will remove any uneven edges and ensure your arrow inserts or outserts seat perfectly against the end of the arrow, or in the case of a hidden insert system, that the broadhead seats perfectly square against the shaft.
Step 9: Glue in the insert or outsert. First, prep the interior of the shaft by using a small wire brush to scuff the shaft walls. This will result in a much stronger adhesive bond between the shaft and the insert and prevent the inserts from coming loose when you remove your arrows from targets.
Next, use a cotton swab and alcohol to clean the inside of the arrow shafts. Finally, use the hot melt glue or epoxy you purchased for this job and install your inserts. Be careful to wipe away any excess adhesive from the shaft once inserts are installed.
As with the adhesive used on your vanes, your inserts will need time to cure. Although hot melt glue and some instant adhesives cure very rapidly, epoxy and many other products require significant setting time. Follow manufacturer instructions carefully. Generally speaking, I like to let new arrows sit overnight before handling them again just to be sure everything is secure.
Step 10: Square your inserts. Repeat the same process you used on your bare shaft ends to square up the end of the insert or outsert to ensure the broadhead seats perfectly straight against it. You can skip this step if you are using a hidden insert system, since you already squared the end of the shaft itself earlier.
That's it; your new, custom-made arrows are ready to shoot. Simply install your fieldpoints or broadheads and hit the range!