Pennsylvania Game News - January 2011 - 59
a saw, any archery shop will cut the shafts you purchase to length. I have a saw because I like to cut my arrows out of the middle of the shaft, (except in the case of tapered shafts). Full length carbon shafts are normally around 32 inches long. I shoot 27½-inch arrows and cut the arrow at both ends. Next, I weigh all my arrow shafts and components to get all the arrows as close to the same finished weight as possible. Then, going one step further, I check every shaft for stiffness or spine. Of the three arrow specifications, spine, weight and straightness, the most critical factor is spine — how stiff the arrow is. (Spine is determined by placing a 2-pound weight on an arrow shaft placed on equally spaced supports and measuring the deflection of the shaft in thousandths of an inch.) The spine determines how the arrow reacts to the force applied by the bow when the string is released. Arrows that react the same group better. I use a spine checker to find the spine that performs best out of my bow; I know any manufacturer’s arrow that matches that spine will give me an accurate shot. I know I am a little over the top, so let’s step back and talk about the only tool actually required to make your own arrows — a fletching jig. A fletching jig is simply a device that holds the arrow and allows you to glue a vane or feather to the shaft with the use of a clamp. There are fletching jigs on the market that are highly adjustable and ones that do multiple arrows at one time. With the advent of the smaller fletch used today and instant glues, a simple 1-vane jig is all that is required. With the smaller vanes, there is no need to adjust for heavy spiral fletching because the vanes are normally set with a 1- or 2-degree offset built into the jig. The instant-set glue normally sets up in less than a minute, at which time the clamp can be removed and the shaft rotated to accept the next vane. I have three single-vane clamps on my
workbench. I set the first vane on the arrow shaft and move to the second jig and then the third jig. By the time I have a vane set on the third arrow the first jig has been setting for well over a minute, and the clamp can be removed, and the process started all over again. I use three jigs, but you can use a single jig and watch television. If you change a vane every time a commercial comes on, in the course of an evening you can do a dozen arrows. A good single clamp fletching jig can be purchased for less than $30. Another handy tool is a fletching stripper, a form shaped cutting tool that fits on the arrow diameter and slices the old or damaged fletching from a shaft without damaging the shaft. For those wanting to add a little color and design to their arrows, arrow wraps provide both design and a secure gluing platform for the vane. The most common problem when fletching arrows is grease, so it is important that your shafts and vanes are free from grease such as the oils from your fingers. Several solutions for cleaning vanes and shafts are available, and there are many vanes made with base materials that make gluing foolproof. Summary I urge you to look into making and maintaining your own arrows if you love shooting and bowhunting. It is not difficult and it gives you greater control to make arrows that suit your needs and the ability to experiment to find that perfect shaft. I originally got into bowhunting for the increased challenge, and killed my first buck in 1956, with a recurve, no sight and a store bought wooden arrow. My next step was to kill a buck with an arrow I built myself, and every deer I’ve taken since then has been with an arrow I built. For me, that has been an added satisfaction. Try it and maybe you, too, will find that extra thrill that comes from filling your tag with an arrow you built.