Traditional Wood Arrow Building

I am teaching an arrow building class this Sunday, so I thought I’d dust off the ol’ blog and make a post bringing together all the resources for it in a convenient place. This is not a “how-to”, this is mainly a shopping list, plus some useful links that helped me teach myself how to arrow build. I use the phrase “build”, because in modern times, we mostly don’t make arrows from scratch, we buy the components and assemble them. In my opinion, you’re not “making” an arrow unless you make the dowels for the shafting, cut the feathers, etc.

I might change my mind someday, but I have no current interest in making shafting. It just looks so tedious! Honestly, I get just as much, if not more, satisfaction from building my arrows. I can design them exactly to my preference, for slightly less than a commercial arrow, and much much less than custom arrows.

Useful links:

A fantastic overview, “The construction of medieval style arrows” by Karsten vo Meissen mka Karsten Shein is on point. (Ahahahahaha see what I did there?)

When buying arrow shafting, you need to know what length arrow you need. Here’s an article that teaches you how to determine it!

On to the supplies list! I am assuming only 5/16ths or 11/16ths size arrows, given that if you’ve worked your way up to requiring a heavier arrow than that, you know what you’re about and don’t need this post. 😉

Minimum Supplies:
Shafting (5/16ths or 11/16)
Feather fetching
glue on field point tips
glue on nocks
Glues: (Those attending my class are welcome to borrow mine)
Hot melt glue
Duco cement
Fletching tape
Handy tools (Again, attendees welcome to use mine, asterisking what I don’t have):
Taper tool (11/16 and 5/16)
Heat source for hot melt glue (I use a candle, a **glue gun would be nice if ya got it)
**Fletching jig, if gluing on fletchings (I don’t use one, but they are very precise and nice for glue on fletching)

thread (if you want to try spiral wrapping your fletching) Any natural fiber thread is fine, sewing thread will work.

On Field Tip Points:

You want to make sure you get glue on field point tips, 5/16ths or 11/16ths. These also come in different weights, measured in “grains”. 100 grains is a nice safe default across the board, 125 grains will do you fine especially for the thicker diameter arrows, and is sometimes easier to find than 100 grain. These are glued on with hot melt or other “point” glues.

On Shafting:

I am assuming finished shafts, if you buy unfinished shafting you will need a finishing agent of some sort. There are many options, I really like Deft Spray lacquer because of the fast re-coat time. I would personally recommend against unfinished shafting or investing in a fletching jig until you are sure you like making your own arrows. I am not going to get into the finer details of spining, etc, but if you have the choice, go for shafts that have been weighed and spined to each other. General rule of thumb: if you are shooting 30lbs or under, you want 5/16, 30lbs + you want 11/16. There are many different woods that can be used to make arrows, the key characteristics being lightweight but strong and not brittle. Port Orford Cedar is like the Rolls Royce super premium arrow shafting material, but all the arrow shafting linked here will shoot.


On Fletching:

Generally arrows may be fletched with 3 or 4 feathers. You can fletch with all the same colors if you wish, but in the most common fletching style (3 feather) the “cock” feather will need to point away from the body of the bow. Making the cock feather a contrasting color saves you a lot of time when nocking the arrow. Therefore, you want to buy as many cock feathers as you have arrows, and double that number for the contrasting color. Color is irrelevant with a 4 fletched arrow, as they are arranged so you will never foul the bow no matter which way you nock. Fletching comes in “right hand” and “left hand” varieties, depending on which wing the feather was harvested from. Some people swear by a particular kind, but I’ve never noticed much of a difference. Just make sure the feathers you buy match, don’t try to mix left and right hand feathers on the same arrows (or the same set, for that matter!). This will seriously affect your accuracy. This may seem like an obvious statement, but if you get excited about right hand fletching in the color you want for your cock feather, you might neglect to notice that the best priced contrasting color feathers are left handed…
**Tip for my fellow arrow builders on a budget: You often get better prices if you buy in bulk. If you find a good deal on white feathers, you can sharpie the cock feather whatever color you want. Will it look as good? Aw hell naw. But black doesn’t look awful, and you *will* lose your arrows eventually, so it’s honestly not a bad strategy.

On Nocks:

5/16ths or 11/16ths sizes. Modern nocks are made from plastic and are glued on with duco or similar cementing glue. You have the option of buying indexed nocks, which I prefer. Theese have a small ridge on the nock aligned with the cock feather that you can feel with your finger such that you may nock the arrow correctly with the cock feather out without looking at the arrow, which is great for speed. They are more expensive, but honestly nocks are the cheapest component and the indexing makes life so much easier they are worth the splurge or me.
**Tip for my fellow arrow builders on a budget: You can sometimes find shafting with pre-cut self nocks in the arrow the same price. Self nocks are slots actually cut into the shaft of the arrow itself. This saves you a step, a bit of cash, and is actually more period. I don’t recommend the novice arrow builder cut their own self nocks, it is easy to cut off center and/or split the arrow.

On Colors, Materials, and Period Accuracy:

Colors: I like bright colors for my fletching and nocks, because they make it easier to find arrows in tall grass/buried in dirt. These bright colors (pink, purple, yellow, red etc) are not really period. If being or approximating being period is important to you, go with white, black and brown for your feathers, natural wood tones for your shafting, and self nocks or black or white plastic nocks, as this approximates the look of horn.

On Redundancy:

It is not a bad idea to get extra supplies of fletching, nocks, and tips. Nocks will fall off. Tips will break loose or get eaten by targets. Glue will loosen in your hot car or get brittle in January. Feathers will shred with all that hard good shootin’ lovin’ you’re gonna give em. But you will be unphased, with your backup pack of supplies, your glues, and your mad arrow building skills. If you can build it, you can fix it! 🙂

General Suppliers:

Pretty much all of this can be found at Three Rivers Archery and they provide quality stuff. They currently have the best prices on:
field point tips
feather fletching

and always have the best prices on:

hot melt point glue
duco cement
taper tool (actually on sale right now, you can get all three common sizes for 10 bucks, which is really good)
fletching tape

Amazon is a little more expensive  for all of these things but offers prime shipping, so is good for a time crunch.

I have found better prices on fletching, tips, and shafting shopping around on ebay and Amazon, but if you don’t want to fool with all that or take a risk on a internet stranger, 3rivers is always a reliable default. “Internet stranger” jokes aside, I have never had a bad experience with ebay or Amazon sellers. You have to be sensible and pay attention to reviews.

Shaft Suppliers:

The one exception where 3rivers is not competitive is shafting. Their prices are ruinous! You want to go elsewhere if you can.

I got my 11/32 shafts off Amazon, unknown wood, I suspect ramin. I really like them, roughly $26 so most economical, downside is they are coming from China. I got mine faster than estimated but it’s not a guarantee. Finished shafts, and you can opt for self nocks for the same price, which are more period. I prefer plastic indexed nocks, but that’s personal preference.
Cam recommended Nofrontiersarchery. They seem to have the best pricing domestically. They do Sitka Spruce and Port Orford cedar 11/32 arrows, $37 p/dozen, 5/16 cedar shafting $14 p/dozen, discounts for bulk, if people are interested in group orders speak up.
Rose City Archery is a well known supplier of Port Orford Cedar Shafts. You can find them on Amazon with prime shipping, but they don’t have 5/16ths on Amazon.
Surewood Shafts does unfinished Douglas Fir shafts. 11/32 shafts per dozen are 42 and 36 dollars for premium and hunter grades, or they sell 100 hunters for $225, roughly 27 per doz. 5/16 “kids” shafts are $15 per doz, but down side is they are unspined and unweighed. No frontiers is likely better unless you have an attachment to Douglas Fir.
Good “cheater” option: If you can get away with a 26 in or less draw length, Dicks Sporting Goods sells complete cedar youth arrows for what works out to be $36 per dozen, all you’d have to do is remove the plastic vanes and slap feathers on
For if you decide arrow making is not your game: This guy on ebay has dirt cheap complete arrows from China, I was very happy with the set I got from him but you are limited in your options and colors. Can’t comment on the quality of his bare shafts but they are probably fine

Fletching Suppliers:

As with field points, 3rivers is an excellent go to, Amazon will have similar products for slightly higher prices but generally better shipping costs and time, and you may be able to snag a great deal on ebay.

If you know anyone who raises chickens or hunts turkey, you may be able to snag some feathers for free! Wing feathers are preferred, particularly the pinions, which are the long sleek strong feathers on the edges of the wings. However, tail feathers will also make an acceptable fletch.

Nock Suppliers

Nocks are dirt cheap. Buy them anywhere. Don’t like the kind you put on originally? Pull them off, put different ones on, who cares, they weren’t even $4.

These are my favorite, indexed and bright yellow
but if you just can’t swing the extra 55 cent, the non indexed ones will do ya fine.

You can get 100 indexed for 15 dollars on ebay. Nocks for dayyyyys!





So much has happened…

…and I’ve blogged about none of it! I’ve been pretty busy. Just last month I got certified as a live weapons marshal and feastcratted for the first time ever. Then, last weekend, I had the honor of winning Golden Lily’s bardic competition. 🙂 The first winner chosen was a bard who wrote a lovely song and delivered an excellent performace, but he was Trimeran and thus couldn’t commit to coming back and running the competition next year, which is one of the duties of the winner, so as I was runner-up, the title passed to me. The theme was “The Weather of Spring” and the poem I recited was an untitled, tongue-in-cheek response to the prompt. As it references Greek mythology, I chose iambic trimeter for the rhythm of my lines, as this was the meter that they typically used for less serious works.

Is it the flowers or Zeus
Responsible for spring?
For with the warm weather
A golden shower brings
An excess of humor
A face that swells full ripe
Full of the golden seed
That stretches the skin tight
With the unasked for child
Of the breeding season
Savage punishment in
Nature’s lovely treason
The whole length of my throat
Now a shredded sore hose
Head of rag, nose of rose
Cavities of my skull
Battered by unseen blows
And the worst of it is
Tis difficult to know
Whether this torment is
Fathered by the bloom, or
By great Olympus sent
For like fair Leda I
truly did not consent
To be invaded by
this airy golden rain
Though some do welcome spring
To me it brings but pain

I think it ends nicely here, but I also wrote a bonus stanza which I didn’t recite, but am nonetheless fond of. (The last four lines need work but I gave up fiddling with it when I decided not to include this in the final version.) 😛

Think upon Athena
Surely a child of May
Given that she sprang forth
From head divine that day
His phlegm her origin
His tears not sprung from mirth
His wheezing her labor
His mighty sneeze her birth
Indeed it does make sense
that thus is wisdom born
Needed for the late year
Beginning as a thorn
That drives us to madness
Though in further season
We greet it with gladness
Pollen does not well suit
But pays for suffering
We love the summer fruit
Born of relentless spring


For Dreamstone A& S competition this year, I entered a poem to fit the French “Feast of Fools” theme, and won the Scholars Choice Prize! (It may have been because my entry was the only one that was theme appropriate, but hey, I’ll take it!) 😉 The fabliau was a genre of medieval poetry, most popular in France in the 12th-14th century, which dealt with bawdy subject matter and were generally humorous and silly. Fabliaux were usually based on common folktales that were in circulation throughout Europe at the time, and in French were formatted into octosyllabic rhyming couplets with a total poem length of 100-200 lines on average. I had a friend comment upon seeing the manuscript that my poem was rather long, but at 103 lines, its actually on the shorter side for a  fabliau. I based mine on a European folktale, The Snow Child. This folktale already had a fabliau written about it, but in French (L’enfant de Nieve), which I can’t read, so I felt pretty free in writing an English version without fear of inadvertent plagiarism. To make it a little more original, I added a twist ending and a punch line to the end of the tale to make it my own.


The Snow Child


Once there was a merchant free .

Lived him there in fair Picardy,

And had him there a fair sweet bride ,

Whose chaste modesty was his pride.

They loved each other both full well,

Though it must be said, truth to tell,

After a time found their love hard,

For their life was oft sore marred,

By the journeys he needs must take,

To tend the trade and riches make.

Long and far afield he must go,

To make their future fortune grow.

For this it was all well and good,

But true it must be understood,

When a fire is unattended,

Often that is swiftly mended,

By a wife who finds on her own,

The warmth that she has not at home.

Thus it was on one fine day,

As he returned in the month May,

From a two year trip to the west,

He found indeed that he was blest,

With a red cheeked and rosy son,

Who of years had not even one.

When in his face his wife did spy,

The ire that grew in his black eye,

She swift began to him proclaim,

That miracle last winter came,

To her as she walked out one night,

To view the gentle snowfalls sight.

As she looked up into the sky,

Gave she a huge and mournful sigh.

Into her mouth a snowflake fell,

And caused her belly soon to swell,

As in her large began to grow,

This magic child of winter snow.

Indeed, said he, how blessed we are,

Upon us shines a lucky star,

That our family might still increase,

Though I travel and never cease,

My jouneys for our fire and meat,

I can return to a babe sweet.

And so it was the merchant came,

To raise the child that bore his name,

Until the boy was near full grown,

As if he was his very own.

His son he had of years fourteen,

But in life was like a bough green.

Because of this the trader said,

To the woman he hath wed,

Now that he is nigh a man made,

Tis time that he learn well to trade,

And so our horse I will equip,

That we may make a merchant trip,

To season him in worldly way.”

And once he did her fears allay,

They left apace that very week,

Together did the south coast seek,

Till he found an Italian port,

That dealt in trade of blackest sort.

Found the merchant a slaver there,

And sold to him his son and heir.

Making himself a profit thus,

He counted his shaming a plus,

And returned him home most well pleased,

With the vengeance he had seized,

From his wayward straying wife,

And thought him then well set in life.

Then he trumped his wife’s story well,

To her he did sweet retell,

Her own story, a winter’s tale,

Then told of how, in great detail,

In the southern sun one hot day,

Her son did sadly melt away.

But his success was not complete,

Indeed he found himself well beat.

He found him there upon return,

Another name for him to learn.

For in his abscence most prolonged,

Another child had come along.

He had himself a daughter now,

And again his wife did disavow,

Charges of her dishonesty.

For as she walked along the sea,

Sighing her sadness to the scree,

She tired as her hunger fierce grew.

She worried not, for she well knew,

That truely there can be no fault,

In swallowing a grain of salt,

To allay her strong hunger pain,

But knew not she would soon gain,

Another child, bonny and new,

For the salt was magical too.

At this the cuckold could say naught,

And felt that he was truely caught,

For now he could very well see,

She had achieved the victory.

Once more his anger did grow large,

And unto her he did so charge:

To you, wife, I do needs must tell,

That if you ever loved me well,

When next that heaven sent white mote,

Unto you doth swift approach,

Tremble upon your open lip,

My love, do not swallow—just spit!

Fail-time Lesson!

Last week, I had another bow failure, this one on the range at Gulf Wars. Happily, this wasn’t a catastrophic failure, but was sad nonetheless. The bow had been shooting really well and I was pretty happy with it. This failure happened at the upper limb nock, actually. As you can see, I had chosen to go with the period appropriate longbow side nock, but as I don’t have any antler or horn to work with at the moment, I hadn’t tipped it with the period appropriate horn. The pressure of the string downward on the nock actually split the limb in half lengthwise, rendering it useless. The bow itself is still intact and that’s probably the least dangerous way a bow can break in use, but it was still a sad day. I didn’t even know that could happen! Lesson learned: In the future I would not recommend anyone using the period side nock style unless reinforcing with a horn tip. I’m aware of some non reinforced Native American style bows that have the side nocks and do just fine, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. On the upside, yay for proof positive of the practical purpose of horn nocks!







As per request, here’s a photo of the bow before it became all broken and sad. This was at our baronial championship shoot. I shot in a terribly mediocre manner,  but with enthusiasm. The bow itself performed well. I’m actually holding the bow too high at center, because I put my nocking point on in a hurry five minutes before we were supposed to hit the range.  😛 #procrastinator4lyfe


Jueju: The Last Rose

Here’s the final form of the Lushi that I wrote for the Rose competition at Tournament of Foxes last year. I won’t go into a great deal of explication, as I’m currently mid-read on a book that was a serendipitous bookstore find, The Art of Chinese Poetry, that will be informing some modification on my attempts at a method of writing “faithful” (insofar as one can in a non-tonal language) original jueju/lushi in English. It corrects a couple important fallacies in the scholarship I was drawing on, though does confirm a lot of other points as well, so I won’t have to scrap everything, just rework it a bit.

The Last Roses

For the last time, I meet you in the rose garden.

Though seasons pass, quickly for all men,

To next spring, is a journey of ten thousand li,*

For these roses, will not bloom again

Anyways, on to the poem itself. I’m actually pretty pleased with this poem, as I was able to adhere to the strict formal rules while at the same times creating the thought/mood/affect that I wanted. The theme was roses, so of course I set the scene in a rose garden, used a traditional rhyme scheme of AABA, and followed the rules I’d laid out in an earlier post to build a five character (character meaning “major concept word” in this sense) line. I also followed the two character/ceasura/three character format, which looks a bit odd to my no doubt Western eyes, but reads nicely. Chinese formal poems like this tend to be square on the page, where the trend for English poems is to flow downwards. Hence:

The Last Roses

For the last time,

I meet you in the rose garden.

Though seasons pass,

quickly for all men,

To next spring,

is a journey of ten thousand li,

For these roses,

will not bloom again

^ has a more “appealing” layout that looks entirely different, and radically altered page flow, but reads exactly the same aloud. It conveys a mood that is more fluid and less formal. The above layout is (to me at least) reminiscent of how Pound poems look on the page, in that respect.

*a li is a unit of measurement that at various points in history has ranged from 1/3 km to 1/2 km. The unit “ten thousand” is often colloquially used in Chinese to indicate a number too large for measurement. Therefore, used in this sense, the phrase “ten thousand li” refers to an impassable or impossible distance. For example, a folk tale may state that a hero travels ten thousand li to reach a mythical land.

Warsong: Bryn Madoc’s Children

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated, I have been busy busy busy with regular life things on top of all the SCA things on my to do list. 🙂  A work trip to South Carolina didn’t help much, either. However, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing SCA things! Here’s a warsong for my barony that I wrote while I was bored at work one day. My friend Mathias, who has an excellent singing voice, unlike myself, performed it at our Barony’s 12th night celebration this January. Ideally this would be for two singers, male and female, with the first and last stanza’s sung in concert, with the rest alternating between the two. The 4th and 5th stanzas have dirty versions, with “dance” being substituted for the offcolor verb of your choice. 😉

Bryn Madoc’s Children 

Bryn Madoc’s children, purple and gold
Covered in glory when stories are told
We’ll take the black road, we’ll take the white road
We’ll take the south road that leads us to war 

Son of Bryn Madoc, doughty and strong
My heart beats in time to the war marcher’s song
I’ll take the high road, I’ll take the wide road,
I’ll take the straight road that leads me to war 

Bryn Madoc’s daughter, honest and brave
My foes fall back from my spear and my glaive
I’ll take the sharp road, I’ll take the fierce road,
I’ll take the red road that leads me to war 

Son of Bryn Madoc, bonny and bright
I’ll fight all the day and dance all the night
I’ll take the hard road, I’ll take the rough road,
I’ll take the rock road that leads me to war

Bryn Madoc’s daughter, southron’s delight
I’ll fight all the day and dance till first light!
I’ll take the wet road, I’ll take the salt road,
I’ll take the sea road that leads me to war 

Son of Bryn Madoc, never will yield
Steadfast stands my sword and my shield
I’ll take the hot road, I’ll take the dry road,
I’ll take the sand road that leads me to war 

Bryn Madoc’s daughter, quick to the fray
My kinsmen and I shall carry the day
I’ll take the cold road, I’ll take the snow road,
I’ll take the ice road that leads me to war 

Bryn Madoc’s children, faithful and true
We’ll not shirk when our service is due
We’ll take our lord’s road, we’ll take our queen’s road
We’ll take our king’s road that leads us to war

Chaucer puppet plays!

As per a request, I am posting links to two puppet plays that I wrote for a Chaucerian themed event. They are directly adapted from two of the Canterbury Tales, and are fairly faithful. One, based on the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, was for children, and the other, based on the Miller’s Tale, was performed that evening for adults. They were a hit, even though I really didn’t practice enough before I performed them. What can I say, kids love cute stuffed puppets and adults love dem dirty jokes! 😉

Miller’s Tale Puppet Show:

Nun’s Priest’s Tale Puppet Show: