Building Arrows For Maximum Performance

Brady Miller

Winter has just about come and gone, and the vision and sound of that 6×6 bull elk bugling in your face still lingers in your head… unfortunately, September has long past us. This time of year is perfect for assessing your gear, and tuning and tweaking your equipment in hopes of making 2011 another successful bowhunting season.

Arrow selection and proper arrow accessories play a huge part in your accuracy and success in the field. What follows are methods I use and have modified over the years to give me the best bang for the buck out of my arrows. We all owe it to ourselves and the game we pursue, to make a lethal hit on an animal, and arrow tuning is something that can play huge dividends when you finally come to full draw on that trophy of your dreams. Taking a few extra steps along the way, can give you added confidence in your setup to make the shot count.

I am not going to go into details as far as what is on the market these days in terms of aluminum, carbon, wood, or aluminum/carbon hybrid arrows. I feel that most people have personal preferences when it comes to these aspects. Also, two methods I will mention briefly here, is either tuning the arrows to your bow, or tuning your bow to your arrows. Both can work, and each takes time to achieve the best outcome, I will let you decide what works best for you.

I rely heavily on an archery software program to help in the selection process of arrows that will match my desired setup. This is a great starting point, but most of the time you will need to get a few different arrow shafts in hand and experiment for yourself to find what shoots the best. I mainly use this as a starting point to narrow down the correct spine of arrows for my draw weight, and draw length.

After selecting the arrows that will lead to the correct spine, I will cut my arrows to the correct length. This is where the archery software comes into play, as I can experiment with a different arrow length, point weight, and draw length to name a few of the options. I always square the nock and point end of my arrows with an arrow square device before going any further in the tuning process. I will take a magic marker, and mark up the ends of the arrow. Then I will run the arrow in the squaring device until the magic marker line is no longer there.

This process takes longer, but I feel it is worth it in the end.

After this process I always take a q-tip and dip it in Isopropyl Alcohol, then run it in the shaft at the nock and point end to clean out any extra material from the squaring and cutting process. I then take my raw arrow shafts and weigh them on a digital scale in grains. I record this on my computer in an excel spread sheet for ease of viewing the information. I then sort my arrows from lightest to heaviest.

Weighing out the raw shaft.

Next, I take my inserts, and again weigh them out and organize them from heaviest to lightest this time. I do this because my main outcome is to have arrows that weigh exactly the same. I don’t want one arrow weighing 498.6 grains, and another arrow weighing 490 grains. I am looking for the most accurate setup I can build, and consistency is the name of the game here. So I place my heavy inserts with my light arrow shafts, and so on.

Each insert is secured into the shaft based with epoxy. After I let the epoxy cure for 24 hours, I will then re-weigh my arrows, and again sort them from lightest to heaviest, recording this information like before on computer. I usually like to bowhunt with wraps on my arrows for visibility reasons, but the wraps will affect your arrow’s FOC and spine in the process, so keep this in mind when you are building your arrows. It is pretty difficult to weigh out each individual arrow wrap, and quickly roll the shaft on it before the wrap gets contaminated with the oils on your hand from moving it around from the scale to the table, etc. So I do not weigh and match my wraps with my shafts. But, like before, I weight the arrows again after I attach the wraps, and once again arrange them from lightest to heaviest.

Weigh each individual vane/feather, as I have found some vanes vary as much as 0.8 grains in the same package. So I weigh out a bunch of vanes, group them by weight, and organize the groups from heaviest to lightest, so I can take the required vane to continue to make my arrows as close the same weight as possible. The glue process may vary on each vane, so just try to use the same amount for each vane. Another tip for ensuring your arrows are exactly the same, is I will take a digital caliper, and measure the exact distance from the end of the arrow shaft to the back of the vane before I glue it down, and I move the vane in the clamp to achieve the same distance. This way, all the vanes line up in the exact same distance from the end of the shaft.

Weigh everything!
Pay attention to details, even in the fletching process.

After the fletching process is complete, I take and weigh out a bunch of nocks and sort them according to their weight, along with the fletched arrows. And like before, I place the heavy nocks, with the light shafts, trying to get my arrows to all weigh the same. Then, all that is left is to weigh the completed arrow shafts and record the final weight (plus the tip) on one of my vanes for quick reference if need be at a later date.

Completed arrows ready for practice.

I just built 14 arrows following these methods, and I only have a 0.8 grain difference from my lightest to my heaviest arrow. I can’t complain about less than one grain difference in 14 arrows!!

To summarize my process:
• Utilize archery software or arrow manufactures charts for correct spine and length of arrow.
• Cut arrows to correct length.
• Square point and nock end of shaft.
• Weigh shafts, and sort lightest to heaviest.
• Weigh inserts, and sort heaviest to lightest
• Epoxy light arrow shafts, with heavy inserts, and heavy arrow shafts with light inserts.
• Let cure for 24 hours, then re-weigh and sort arrows from lightest to heaviest.
• Next decide if you want to add arrow wraps, if so attach them to your arrows.
• If you attach arrow wraps, re-weigh your setup, and sort the arrows once again.
• Weigh vanes and sort into groups by weight.
• Select the vanes that will create arrows of similar weight.
• Fletch the vanes to the arrow.
• Re-weigh and record final arrow weight plus the tip weight on one of the vanes.

This outcome maximizes my accuracy potential, and at the same time I keep it in range of the required spine, the FOC I desire, and the kinetic energy and momentum that are produced with the setup I chose. All of this is done, in hopes of increases my confidence in my setup, and my downrange accuracy come crunch time this fall.

If anyone has any other arrow building tips, feel free to let me know how you do things different, and what works for you.

Work hard, play hard, and bowhunt even harder!!

Brady Miller

4 Responses to "Building Arrows For Maximum Performance"

  1. Joe Rissin   2011/04/08 at 4:20 am

    I shoot long bow. Buy shafts, knocks, 4or 5″ feather fletching, field tips or 2 blade broad heads 125 gr. use a Bitzenburge fletching jig. The accuracy is quite consistent. My main problem is warping. With a 55lb bow (reflex deflex type) I get a great smooth cast with no arm shock and a light bow. My knocking point is 1/4″ above center with knock on top and 3 finger no mechanical release. Fun to shoot, fast (no sight to line up and nothing to go out of wack) I just carry an extra string. The arrows just seem to go where ever I look. (Strange) I have 7″ brace height which I just twist the string to adjust. All the fun and skill I feel is lost to some degree with: sights, flippers, stabilizers, releases. and whatever it takes to make it easier with less effort. I wonder how my idle Howard Hill did it?

  2. Brady Miller   2011/04/08 at 7:25 am

    Sounds like a great and smooth shooting setup Joe.

  3. Collin Cottrell   2011/04/09 at 12:56 am

    Great Article Brady, Thanks for the insight!

  4. Kevin K   2011/04/13 at 4:21 am

    Great, now I have to sneak a digital scale pass the wife or try and convince her of the importance. Good article and I plan on utilizing this system on my next arrow building session.