THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE TRADITIONAL ARROW
Despite the present-day anthropoids spending their time to destroy Civilization (and they follow many ways...), "HELLENIC HORSEBACK ARCHERY SOCIETY" and its Members try to improve Civilization and human knowledge, as in the case of Greek Horsebackarcher Yiorgos P. Nikiteas who, despite his heavy duties as University's professor, here presents his essay concerning the acurate construction of a real traditional arrow. Because such an essay meets the "light" first time in modern Hellas, "HELLENIC HORSEBACK ARCHERY SOCIETY" feels proud to present following essay of Yiorgos P. Nikiteas, expessing its warmest congratulations to him for this excellent and very comprehensive work.
The dichotomy paradox
That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal.
Zenon’s of Elea arrow is still travelling. He shot it 2500 years ago and it now looks very still, suspended in the air, a few micro-millimetres from hitting the target and will not arrive there until the end of time, that equals oblivion. Then perfection will be achieved, the journey will end and can never been taken again, because perfection is “non-repeatable”. I have read stories of Archers, Zen Masters who, after many years of practice have managed to reach enlightenment- the “Zen” moment- just one final shot of the thousands they practise and then, they burn the bow and the arrow, place the ashes in a temple and never shoot an arrow again. The journey was at the end. It sounds almost non-logical to stop practising something that has been perfected but that was only an individuals’ effort. It is worth mentioning that “Kyudo” after WW 2 has become a meditation practice instead of the marshal art of the Samurai, and I believe that this has to do with political decisions in order to suppress the Imperial Spirit of the Japanese people.
The quest for the rest of us is to continue and like Hydra the challenges keep popping up and we will be fighting the beast until the end of time. But the fight is not against others but with our own selves. A horse rider and an archer aim for the unachievable – “perfection”, and that is something that is worth fighting for.
On this quest for “perfection” I have dedicated many hours of research and practice with arrows that I have made and while this effort will never reach it’s goal as with Zeno’s paradox it is important to pass this knowledge on to others and perhaps one day in time the perfect arrow will fly to its final destination that will end all other journeys!
2. What is an arrow?
“A missile having a straight thin shaft with a pointed head at one end and often flight-stabilising feathers or vanes at the other, meant to be shot from a bow”. More or less that is the scientific description of the arrow but there is another one far more important.
“An arrow is a universally recognised symbol for directional movement”, so the archer is somebody who expresses – metaphorically speaking – his intentions in life by shooting arrows with his bow to a particular target, and without any illusion, this is a demonstration of force.
In archery, the hitter and the hit are no longer two opposing objects, but one reality. Archery is more than a sport or a pastime, it is a way of life, meditation, self- discipline and combined with the horse is the ultimate bond of inspiration and freedom. The few of us now who have the honour of experiencing this feeling know that it is something so valuable which has to be guarded against the mediocrity of our society and political systems which suppress anything that seeks purity, perfection and above all pride of what we are. The journey starts with this small stick, the arrow, which as disposable or as insignificant as it may look, is the one that will give you the final victory.
I call my arrows “soldiers”, I even give them names of my ancestors, when they break it feels like I have lost a comrade. From some of these arrows I some sometimes re-use the points or feathers and that gives me great pleasure and most important of all the new arrow carries the same name as the old one but “the second” – e.g. Dienekes II. When I make arrows I don’t think that I am a technician, or a Fletcher but a fighter who cares about his weapons. Arrows are not bullets with one use only but something that can be used many times in practice and if necessary by correcting its flight with your skills, when the moment comes to use it in anger, “your” arrow should fulfil its destiny. If you want results you have to put yourself in the right state of mind - if you “use” weapons- when you hold your bow and shoot arrows you have to think as a warrior.
So, let the journey begin!
3. The materials
First of all it is very important to clarify a few things. Unfortunately for us who are used to the metric system, all the measurements for the construction of bows and arrows are in Imperial system but I will include the metric system as well with every measurement.(Conversion table in the Appendix).
Secondly, the physics and the makings for all types of bows and arrows are the same but we will only look at the making of traditional wooden shaft arrows with real feathers. The thickness of the shafts is the 5/16’ (8mm), the smallest size in production but much thicker than carbon or aluminium shafts. There are other common sizes e.g. 11/32’ (8.5mm) and 23/64’ (9mm), which are very popular with English Long Bows, but for horseback archery the 5/16 will allow the archer to hold a few in the same hand with the composite horse bow where traditional shooting practice applies, and the number of arrows the archer holds will be less than carbon or aluminium arrows (try 4 to begin).
And finally, in this text I will put all my effort in to demonstrating the production of a well-balanced traditional arrow with good aerodynamics that is as close as possible to Classical and Medieval times.
Also to make them as less expensively as possible by using a few home made devices but as equally effective as the commercial products and demonstrate clearly that anyone can do it and of course it goes without saying that I will help as much as I can.
The shaft: There are many types of wood that you can use to make wooden shafts. To name a few: Ash (Melegos), Elm (Ftelia), Willow (Itia), Cedar (Kiparisi), Spruce (Elato), and Bamboo (Kalami). The final choice quite often depends on the look, the finish, and the hardness and the price of the wood. For example, for a well varnished (5 to 6 coats) for good finish and hardness Ash wood can take more beating then the softer Cedar wood and very often archers with powerful compound hunting bows who in a moment of nostalgia wanting to use traditional arrows buy them.
The type of wood I am using in this text is German Spruce which is 10% lighter than my other favourite Port Orford Cedar. Both of these shafts are of reasonable price and perform well. Making a shaft by yourself is not a difficult task but it will require a workshop space, wood craft tools, the making of moulds as guards for the trimming and a lot of time. If anyone of you has the facilities – a carpentry workshop – I can direct you to the right instructions.
Since my effort here is for the “ballistics” of the arrow and not necessarily the carpentry of it, I always buy my shafts in sets of 10 or 15 and the “spine” has to match 5 marks or less below the strength of your bow. I have a Mongolian Toth Istvan =45= bow and I try to match my arrows for 35 to 40 spine (correct spine).
The “Spine” of the arrow is simply a measurement for the flexibility of the shaft. The lower the number the easier the arrow bends (soft spine), the higher the number the harder it is to bend (hard spine). Some archers choose much softer spines then the one I have chosen for myself, and all depends on the bow and the way they shoot. At the end of the day by standardising the spine and a length for my arrows I can control the “softness of the spine” by controlling the weight of the point and also this practice will be explored later in the text.
The reason that I buy a large number of shafts is because when you buy them they are not spined individually but range between spine 35 to 40. So I have 15 shafts in my hand between spine 35 to 40 which if I use them all in the same group will perform close to each other but, I am looking to make a set that will have almost identical characteristics. In this text I am using 6 arrows with spine 39 to 40 and all very similar in weight. The remaining 9 from the 15 were spine 36 to 38 and they have been put a side for another grouping.
How do we measure the spine? (Foto-Velos2) In my darkroom/workshop (I am also a Black & White traditional photographer), I have mounted on the wall, parallel to the ground, a devise that I have made by myself that measures the spine of my shafts. The shafts are coming in 32” (81.28cm) lengths and as you can see they are freely supported at both ends and the length between them is 26” (66.04cm) which is standard. In the middle at 13” (33.02cm) after you place the shaft, you have to suspend a 2 pounds (907 grams) weight that is also standard. The distance between “zero” point and the curvature of the arrow – named deflection- will be a number which with a very simple calculation will give you the spine of the arrow. And that is 26” divided by deflection = spine. So in metric 66.04cm/1.65cm(deflection) = 40.02 spine.
As you can see in (Foto-Velos4) I am using metric and I also place a masking tape to mark the measurement for the very simple reason of keeping statistics (Foto-Velos5) or another way of putting it, “I record History”. There are also spine tables with ready measurements of deflection and spine (Foto-Velos1). A simple multiplication of the deflection with 2.54 will give you metric.
Fitting the arrow point. There are many different points that can be used with arrows. Field points (most common), broad-heads for hunting, and different types of re-enactment points. Some made of iron and others of brass. There are “Taper fit”, “Screw on” and “Parallel fit” points. Mainly the “Field Points” come in different weights and the most common are 65g (4.4gr)-(g stands for grain=0.06479gr)- 100g (6.5gr) and 125g(8.4gr).
In “Greek Centaurs” we are working to produce a Greek/Scythian Bilobate brass point to fit on to some of our arrows.
In this text I am using an arrow head called “History Point” because the design is similar to the arm piercing heads of the Medieval times around 15th century and the 100 Years War. The one I use is machine made and has a smooth curve so can be pulled out of targets easily. The Medieval arrowheads were forged by the blacksmith and they had a rougher look but were advanced in the making. The Medieval arrowhead was made with two different types of iron, a hard one for the tip and a softer one for the rear so it could absorb vibrations on impact and not break easily. I have seen a demonstration with a 9mm shaft arrow, fitted with a “History Point” arrow head shot from a =90= long bow from 10 m, penetrating a 2mm steel armour, and if you visit war museums in Europe you will come across breast plate armour exhibits with perfect round shaped holes in them made from these arrows.
Now, the fighting techniques of massive groups of thousands of archers on foot using 160 cm to 180cm long bows, are very different to those of the horse back archers fighting techniques. While the longbow was the major weapon that came from the Anglo-Saxon tradition the smaller composite bow was also very popular with regular armies in South Europe as paintings of that time clearly demonstrate (Foto-a. Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto 1518-1594 Italy-Mannerism Conquest of Zara) and (Foto-c. Detail from the painting of ANTONIO AND PIERO POLLAIUOLO/15th Century - The Execution of (St) Sebastian. (National Gallery, London) .
All the archers since classical times have the same objective, either on foot or horseback, they had to design powerful bows and arrows with effective arrowheads to penetrate leather, bronze, or iron breastplates. The choice of the point I use based on this philosophy, simply a “warhead” and not a field point just for practising.
What is very admirable is the ingenuity of the Mongols. Their enemies gave them the nickname “living dead” because they were able to withstand many arrow hits without stopping fighting. You can imagine a Mongol warrior on his horse with two or three arrows hanging from his body and still shooting at you. The secret was that the Mongols use to wear a long silk shirt under the leather armour. Modern tests have proofed that the silk had the property of twisting around the incoming arrowhead without tearing off and worked like a brake. The arrows stopped short before hitting any of the vital organs, most of the time, and while the Mongol warrior was injured he was able to keep fighting.
So, to fit the arrow point I use an inexpensive tool called “Taper Tool for Wooden Arrows”- it looks like a pencil sharpener, (Foto-6Velos) and by inserting the shaft on the larger blade of the tool I cut the wood to the same shape as the insert on the “History Point” (Foto-7Velos). These Taper tools and the Taper fit of the points are standard. Then I use a glue called “Bohning Ferr-L-Tite” which comes as a hard stick that needs to be heated with alcohol or a gas burner. When it is soft I apply a small quantity on the tip of the shaft (Foto-8Velos). Next with a pair of pliers I hold the point (Foto-9Velos) and after making it very hot I push it on to the arrow tip. The head will make the glue soft again and a tight fit should be achieved (Foto-10Velos). If you think that you haven’t pushed the point strongly enough, you can always apply pressure vertically against a piece of wood. The point will stay flexible for about a minute and you should check if the point is properly centred. I use a home made device, the ”spinner” made with four caster wheels on a piece of wood (Foto-11Velos) and when I spin the shaft with my hand I observe how well the point is centred. If the glue goes hard, reheat and correct again. Let the arrows cool down for a few minutes (Foto-12Velos) before the next step of the process.
Finishing the arrow shaft. For this group of arrows I made the decision to wax stain them with a dark colour but you can use a lighter wax liquid, or Danish oil, or PVA first and then a coat of wax or oil. Many fletchers use several coats of varnish for a very shiny look and extra hardness etc, etc. The reason I use liquid wax and other times Danish oil or PVA diluted with water is because I need to make the arrow waterproof. That way it stops the wood absorbing moisture, which equals extra weight, uneven balance, and feathers losing aerodynamics - if you haven’t waterproofed them with special powder first. But, waterproofing arrows is not the only reason but it is also cosmetic as well. In my case, many arrows I have made I left in their natural colour so I decided to try something else. For us, making traditional arrows I would possibly leave them with one single coat of Danish oil for waterproofing and also for smoothness when they are shot.
Next step is to make a note of the number of the arrow and the spine (Foto-Velos13) on the point only because the dark stain will erase my pencil notes on the shaft. By using a piece of cotton cloth, liquid wax, and a plastic glove(Foto-Velos14) , I hold the arrow from the point and then I apply the wax. After one hour I can apply a second coat (not necessary, except for deeper colour) and the arrow now has to be left to stand overnight to dry out(Foto-Velos15). Please pay attention to the fact that oils and stains have different drying times in different environments and temperatures. If not completely dry you may have problems glueing the feathers on later!
Next day, with a soft cotton cloth I wipe the shaft and remove all the extra wax (Foto-Velos16). The shaft now looks smooth and shining and is ready to be moved to the next step.
Fitting the knock. Now I cut the arrow (Foto-17Velos) to the right length, -allowing also for the length of the knock-, and that is 32”(81.28cm). The reason for this length is based completely on my individual preferences. Firstly this length gives the right flexibility and movement that equals accuracy with “my” bow.
Secondly as I mentioned before I use a Toth Istvan Mongolian =45= on 28”(71.12cm) draw horse bow but I would also like very much to use the Kassai Wolf II Mongolian bow =45= on 30”(76.2cm)draw. The 32”(81.28cm) arrow length gives me the flexibility to use the same arrows with more than one bow of different draws.
And finally, quite often by accident you hit “the wall of death” i.e. something hard like a wall or a stone and very often the arrow will break just at the base of the point where the metal stops and the softer wood starts. You still have left enough shaft to re-make the arrow but it has to go with another group of similar length characteristics. I have a few arrows like this and I use them for speed practice or in the field shooting “natural” targets like earth mounds, rotting wood, soft soil etc. I like to train myself in different environments and I enjoy the woods.
Please make a note that you may have say =45= on 28”(71.12cm) draw but nothing stops you to draw 29”(73.66cm) and that means an approximate =50= bow strength. So, some times the extra length may comes in handy.
After the cut using a mini saw (Foto-17Velos), I check the direction of the wood grain and I make a mark/line against it (Foto-18Velos). It is important that the bowstring will apply pressure against the wood grain for better strength but also all your arrows will be shot with the same “dynamics”. Then with the shorter blade of my “Taper Tool” I cut the insert for the knock(Foto-19Velos). Please note the white mark on the shaft (Foto-20Velos) and this is where the bowstring will be placed since the original marks now have been shaved off.
Next I use a glue called “Fletch Tite” and I apply a small quantity on the back of the arrow (Foto-21Velos), and then push the knock hard with some movement left to right. You have about 10 sec max to place the knock in the right position (Foto-22Velos) before it stops moving. This glue –the same for feathers- partly melts the plastic of the knock and make it solid. Please note that all the knocks (Foto-23Velos) face the white dot, that means the bowstring will work against the arrows’ grain. Also, all the knocks have a small swelling on one side and that is there for the archer to feel the correct position of the arrow without looking at the arrows when shooting.
It is “very” important to say that the plastic knock is “not” the traditional way of making an arrow knock but I use it for practising arrows and also it is less likely to break if hit by another arrow on the target. I will demonstrate the making of “self knock” in a traditional arrow later in this text. Also the plastic knock “doesn’t transfer” the same energy from the bowstring to the arrow as well as the “self knock”. Somehow the plastic material absorbs force and doesn’t transfer it directly.
Fletching the arrow. The next thing is to fletch the arrow. For these arrows I use 4”(10.16cm) long, white, shield cut right wing turkey feathers(Foto-24Velos). The traditional feather in Classical and Medieval times was goose, something I will do in my next demonstration later in this text. Feathers come in different shapes and lengths. Parabolic, Shield, and Banana shape are the most commonly used(Foto-g.Types). I have to say that it makes no difference to the flight of the arrow if you choose say, parabolic or shield feathers. All the “straight” type of feathers have more or less the same characteristics and they play a cosmetic role. There are other types of feathers, like flu-flu which are designed for a good flight for about 40 meters and then slow down, specially made for flying targets.
What makes a difference is the length of the feather and the way they are placed on the shaft. You can apply straight fletching with no offset, straight fletching with an offset to the left for left wing feathers(Foto-j. Drawing to come) and straight fletching with an offset to the right for right wing feathers. (Foto-i. Drawing to come). There is a helical fletching as well, very common in modern practice and hunting arrows.
I have right-wing feathers and I adjust my fletching jig offset to the right, so when in flight the arrow spins anticlockwise (Foto-33Velos). By spinning the arrow all the small faults which are mainly in the wood mass will self correct in flight.
I have chosen 4” arrows for two reasons. Firstly the brace on my bow is 5”(12.7cm) – brace is the length from the bow string to the centre point of the arrow rest on the bow handle- therefore longer feathers will rest on my bow before I pull the arrow and may possibly be damaged and secondly I am happy with the accuracy and speed of the arrows shooting from around 25 to 30 meters. Analytical, smaller feathers,- say 3”(7.62cm) long – will reduce the draft and increase the flight but will effect the accuracy. Longer feathers – say 5”(12.7cm) long- will increase the draft, improve the accuracy but reduce the flight.
Many archers also play around with these variations by trimming the feathers to different widths. My choice of 4” is an acceptable compromise and since the feathers are mass-produced the measurements are standard on the types and makes of your choice.
“It is very important to stick with your basic materials for very long time and experiment with variations of arrow length and points weight, instead of changing constantly the types of wood, points, and feather lengths. When you know that you have master a type of arrow then move to make another one.”
Next, I place my feather inside the jig clamp(Foto-25Velos) in such a way that the feathers when glued should be 1 ¼” (3.18cm) away from the knock at the bow string point. The distance can be anywhere between 1 ½”(3.81cm) to 1”(2.54cm) but you need that clearance for comfortable handling of the arrow. The further back to the end of arrow the feathers are placed the better flight balance the arrow has. The distance I choose is the best for my way of shooting and my jig clamp – one of the least expensive – has measurements embossed on the metal for accuracy and consistency.
I then apply a thin coat of “Fletch Tite” glue (Foto-26Velos) and I place the clamp on the magnetic base (very strong) of the jig and in touch with the arrow(Foto-27Velos). The fletching jigs are very simple machines and very easy to use by follow the simple instructions that come with them. The jig I use can fletch 3 or 4 feathers arrows and in my case I use three. Four feather fletching will eliminate the handling problem on the bow string. Whichever way you place the arrow on the bowstring the feathers will be away from the bow, but more draft, less flight distance and again more accuracy but any extra materials however insignificant, add extra weight at the rear.
After 20 min the glue is dry and safe to remove from the clamp and repeat the same practice with the other two feathers. I have to say that there are many types of liquid glues and sticky tapes for fletching. Some of the glues work much faster. When all the feathers are in place you apply a “spot” of glue to the end of all feathers for extra support and strength (Foto-29VELOS). Let it dry and then by using a 0.5mm linen threat (this particular one is made in Ireland for the needs of the army in WW 1, and is still fantastic) I tie the front of the feathers (Foto-30VELOS) with a knot as the picture demonstrates and by pulling the two ends I lock the string inside the knot (Foto-31VELOS). The reason for this is not cosmetic but protects the feathers from damage if they go through materials or foliage. Next I apply a couple coats of waterproof PVA diluted to 1+1 with water for extra bonding. Again other glues can be used for the same reason. The arrow is now fully formed (Foto-33VELOS) and ready to go through further important testing before its first flight.
Arrow balance. Very simply I place the arrow on the edge of a metal plate and very carefully I mark the balance point of the arrow (Foto-34VELOS). According to the physics of ballistics a perfect balance should be between 58% and 62%. The way to measure it is very simple (Foto-35VELOS). Measure first the length from the balance point to the tip of the knock and not just to the bowstring point of the knock as many do, for the very simple reason that we measure mass. Then considering the full length and with a very simple calculation (Foto-35VELOS) we determine the % of the balance point. In my example the full length of the arrow is 82.3 cm and the length from the knock to the balance point is 48.8cm and that gives me 59.29% balance point from the knock. That means the arrow has the same mass in 40.71% in the front as the 59,29% in the rear and that means that the arrow should balance itself to a centred flight very quickly when in flight. The point on parallel arrows (parallel arrow has the same width in all its length) is the determent place for this king of balancing. If the arrow falls below 58% then you have to increase the weight of the point. If it is above, that depends on what you want the arrow for. In hunting arrows with broad heads, -some 125g (8.09 grams) and above,- very often the balance point is closer to 65% because the archers’ concern is not necessarily long distance flight but shorter with big impact and penetration. Saying this, the wood compared to some aluminium and carbon arrows is heavy enough for a good flight, impact, and penetration with the 100grain (6.479 grams) points that I am using and a =45= bow. (Please make note that for different strength bows other combinations of arrow mass and points can be considered.)
After the correct balancing has been made I weigh the arrows with very accurate scales measuring down to 0.1 gram (Foto-36VELOS). The scales I use for my example are mainly for chemical powders for my photographic needs but are equally effective. There are very inexpensive electronic scales available on the market. It is acceptable to match arrows within 25 grains (1.61grams) tolerance in weight and as you can see in (Foto-37VELOS) from the six arrows I made for this text only the last three can be grouped together. Here are the results:
All the arrows are spine =40=. The first is 455grains in weight and balances at 59%, the second 474 grains and 57%, the third 457grains and 57%, the fourth 429grains and 59%, the fifth 429grains and 59% and the sixth 412grains and 59%. The first has to wait to match another group of arrows and the second and third which balance at 57% have to be corrected by adding 8grains (0.5 gram) weight inside the arrows point (I will show how to do it further down in the text). As you can see now it makes sense to buy batches of 12 to 15 arrows. When all the arrows are made exactly with the same materials and length, I may be able to finally have at least a group of six arrows in the same group. They will be my new special band of soldiers, name them and always shoot them together with the hope to reach “impossible standards”.
a. Traditional parallel arrow with self knock.
b. Balance correction.
c. The perfect arrow? Tapered arrows and barrelled arrows – think airship (aerodynamics) or a submarine (hydrodynamics) design. All these in the service of the perfect traditional wooden arrow and how to make it. The 98% of the arrows out there are parallel. We like to be in the minority of 2%, because only the minority can make the difference. The rest can hope to follow………….
Traditional parallel arrow with self nock. Henry V during his conquest of Normandy 1417-19,( after the famous battle of Agincourt 1415, where the Longbow was the main protagonist of his victory,) ordered his sheriffs to find him 1,190,000 goose feathers by December 1418. Every farmer had to donate 6 goose feathers from each bird, three from the left wing and three from the right. They had to be at the Tower of London six weeks after the command was given!
I had less trouble finding goose feathers. I “ordered” my farmer – a lovely man who produces organic products in a village near where I live - to save me a bag full of feathers when he was plucking the birds for Xmas. Out of the bag I selected twenty left and twenty right wing feathers, and everything I needed to work with was in a small artists wooden case (Foto-41VELOS) and not in the tower of London.
So I selected three left wing feathers (Foto-42VELOS) still with blood stains (apologies to the vegetarians) and my first job was to splice them with a fine blade (Foto-43VELOS) then cut them to the correct length (Foto-44VELOS), in our case 4” (10.16 cm), and then support the feathers inside the jig clamp and with a fine blade (Foto-45VELOS) and very fine sandpaper (Foto-46VELOS) trim the base of the feather to be thin but still rigid. The feathers are then ready (Foto-47VELOS) for fletching.
Next I take the arrow shaft and by marking with a Stanley knife the way the nock should be cut – against the wood grain- I use a mini jigsaw (Foto-48VELOS) to cut a nock about 10 mm deep. It is worth mentioning that the use of a tile mini saw is the best for the job because the blade is 2 mm thick. After that I use sandpaper or small files to open the cut to 3 mm, good for holding the bowstring but not too tight. After this before anything else I re-enforce the self-nock with a string (Foto-58VELOS) to prevent splitting, - firstly when you place the shaft in the jig against hard metal- and secondly when you are shooting.
Back to the feathers, place a strip of masking-tape on them (Foto-51VELOS) and then with a cut out in the shape of a shield type feather (you can use any type you like), I draw the outline on all the feathers (Foto-52VELOS). Place them as they are inside the jig clamp (Foto-53VELOS) and glue them on the arrow shaft with the aid of the jig. When they are ready cut the feather around the out-line (Foto-54VELOS) and then remove the remaining masking tape (Foto-56VELOS). Then you bind with linen string (0.5 mm) the front of the feathers and you can do the same at the rear (Foto-57VELOS) if you wish, but it is not necessary for this size of arrow since the modern glues are very strong (Foto-59VELOS).
I would like to make it very clear that this demonstration is for arrows to be used for horseback archery and ground targets of a maximum distance of 40 m away. That means the arrow should be light, thin (5/16”– 8 mm) and the fletching should be glued to a minimum distance of 2” (10.6 cm ) from the edge of the nock and that is to allow good handling of the arrow when you are shooting on horseback.
In heavier traditional arrows – for war bows #60# and above – the addition of a horn or hardwood is used on the self nock to stop it splitting, but with my arrows just with string binding in the self nock and a bow of #45# in strength, I haven’t had a split arrow yet.
Very often fletchers bind with string the feathers on heavy arrows the same way as in Medieval times for re-enactment demonstrations and extra durability. That is something that with practice, good cosmetic results can be achieved.
Balance correction: Earlier in the text I had made six arrows and for two of them the point of balance was below 58%. So I will correct the 3rd arrow which was balancing at 57% of its length from the nock and had a weight of 457 grains (29.60 grams).
Firstly I reheat the point with a gas burner (Foto-60VELOS) and easily remove it from the arrow (Foto-61VELOS) in order to add the extra weight inside the “History Point” of my arrow, I use airgun pellets which each weighs 0.5 grams. The “History Point” has a 23 mm cavity and the conical shape in front of my arrow is 20 mm. That gives me enough space to pour at least 1.0 gram (16 grains) of lead for weight correction.
Next I melt the pellet with my gas burner (this will happen easily and fast) (Foto-62VELOS) and I pour the lead inside the point while at the same time I am heating it (Foto-63VELOS). (The photographs that I use here are all re-enacted for the obvious reasons). After I have placed the point back on the arrow by applying some glue, I balance the arrow. The centre of balance has moved 6 mm forward (Foto-64VELOS) and with the simple calculations that I explained earlier, from 57% the balance point is now 57.74% and the weight of the arrow from 457 grains (29.60 grams) to 465 grains (30.10 grams). As you can understand if I add 1 gram (16 grains) in total of lead then the centre of balance will move to 58.47% (the most desirable) and the weight to 473 grains (30.60gr). You can use other lead weights, such as shotgun pellets.
Adding or extracting weight from arrows is a very old practice. Turkish archers use to make small holes on the shafts and insert mercury (quick silver), and on the “Mary Rose” the flagship of Henry VIII, which sank outside Portsmouth, UK, arrow shafts were found with the wood removed from different parts of the arrow. All this was to correct the balance and consequently the flight of the arrow.
Yiorgos P. Nikiteas