Monday, March 29, 2010

Chamberlin Ranch Traditional Shoot - April 10-11

The best shoot of the year is coming up fast, the Chamberlin Ranch Traditional Rendezvous is on April 10 - 11.
The shoot is put on by the Traditional Bowhunters of California and specifically by Vince and Cathy Grgas.
There will be three courses to shoot over the weekend as well as novelty shoots, a last man standing shoot, a battle clout and a broadhead challenge shoot.
In addition to traditional archery there will be vendors, flintknapping, atlatls, falconry, raffles, and presentations.
While the shoot officially starts on Saturday a lot of people will be headed in early. I'm hoping to get there on Wednesday myself and I know some who are going Monday. Dry camping is available at the ranch or hotels are nearby in Solvang, Buellton, or Los Olivos.

This is probably one of the best, if not the best, shoot of the year here on the west coast. If you'd like more information about the shoot you can visit the Traditional Bowhunters of California website or email Cathy Grgas at before April 3rd.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Arrow Shaft Sorting

As we all know (or should know), arrow shafts should be sorted before they turn into arrows.
The more uniform is the ammunition, the more uniform we can expect it to behave on the range or in the field.

Given that we're starting with quality shafts in the first place, we need to group shafts by their spine.
Not spline! I get all twitchy when I hear or see spline. It's spine!
Spine is a measurement of the flexure of the arrow shaft. The arrow flexes as it leaves the bow and an improper amount of flex can give poor results in arrow flight and on the target.
For wood arrows spine is measured by supporting the shaft on 26" centers, hanging a 2lb weight from the center of the shaft, and measuring the deflection.
While shafts used to be ordered by the deflection, today wood shafts are typically grouped into 5lb groups such as #40/44, or #55/59. These numbers are derived by dividing 26 by the deflection. For instance, 26 divided by .500 deflection = 52, usually called a #52 shaft. This number will give us a rough indication of what bow weight it should be used with but there are a myriad other factors to take into account:
Draw length, arrow length, bow type and design, bowstring material, arrow point weight, etc.
Oh, yeah, the shaft also has to be properly oriented on the tester. You can't just throw them on the tool and expect to get consistent and meaningful results.
Choosing the proper wood arrow can get rather complicated and it's not something I'm going to get into here lest I be typing until 6:00am. When you get arrows your arrow maker should ask you a series of questions that will enable him or her to determine the best shaft spine for you and your bow. There's no shame in asking how the decision has been reached and you'll probably learn something interesting about this aspect of archery.

While the shafts I order from the manufacturer are shipped in spine groups I feel I get the best results by going through them on my own and measuring their spine. There are a number of great tools for doing this, both purchased and home made.
I use an Ace Spine Master and have been really happy with it. While its design is a little different, this tool gives the same results as the 26" centers I mentioned earlier. Rather than mount it to a wall as intended I mounted mine to a piece of plywood and then made removable legs so I could take it anywhere. It's very convenient.

Here is a really good slow motion video showing the arrow flexing as it leaves the bow. The video's maker has even put in footage of what happens when using a dangerously underspined arrow. It's well worth watching.

In addition to measuring spine and grouping the shafts accordingly, we want to group our shafts by physical weight.
While some archers may not feel this is important I feel that it is, even for new archers.
Wood is a natural material and as such it can have some pretty wide variation, even in the same tree. Shafts that are the same spine can have wildly varying weights. If we don't match our shafts for physical weight we can easily get into a situation where our arrows have quite a bit of weight difference from one another. That is not generally good for accuracy.
Arrow weights are expressed by grains; there are 7000 grains in a pound. There have been a number of good inexpensive grain scales introduced to the market in recent years but I use one I got back when I reloaded all my firearm ammunition: a Dillon D-Terminator (the design has changed a little over the years since I got mine). While not the cheapest scale out there (although it was the best when I purchased it, and still is the best), Dillon is a great company and really stands behind their products.
Most arrow makers or shaft sellers who sort their shafts for weight go for +/- 10 grains. This means there could be a 20 grain variance from your heaviest to lightest shafts in a dozen. Believe me, 20 grains isn't very much so this standard works pretty well.

Here's the results of a day's worth of measuring shafts on the spine tool and the scale.

Now all I have to do is sort them by weight.

I'm going to bed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Here's Something Different

A few years ago I saw some antique Persian arrows up for sale on eBay. I couldn't afford to bid on them but they were so beautiful I just had to capture the picture on the auction.
Recently, in response to people asking me what to do with the bamboo shafts I have, I made a couple arrows based on those old Persian arrows.

When the cat decides to help sometimes there isn't much you can do but humor him.

I used craft acrylic paint for the yellow crown, for the flowers, and for the black and gold lines around the shafts. The flowers were outlined with a crow quill pen and appropriate ink. Thanks to Fayme for suggesting the outlining, it really made a huge difference in how things looked.
The nocks were hand made from bone I got from PetSmart. To fix them to the shaft I made a little tenon on the base of the nocks and glued that down into the hollow bamboo shaft.
Because none of my choppers were going to give me the fletching shape I wanted I broke out the feather burner for its first ever use.
I was in a little bit of a hurry to take these to an event last Sunday so I didn't wrap the leading edge of the feathers with silk. When I take more time on future arrows I'll definitely do that step.

Now all I need to do is figure out a way to make a nice ornate head suitable for a presentation arrow...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Arrows for Texas

I sent these out today and they're a little different than usual.

Matt wanted some arrows just like I recently posted but with a red band part way down the shaft so he could find them easier when the target jumped aside.

I also put together some arrows for Chet, Matt's son. He said Chet likes darker colors. From the video I saw, Chet will put these to good use.

Matt's wife had a rough time with breast cancer for a few years but has now beat the devil. Matt mentioned that there wasn't a "pink" event within driving distance that they don't attend.
How could I not make these arrows for a courageous lady?

As you can see, these three sets of arrows are very different from one another. But the feathers and the cresting keep them all in the same family, just like their new owners are.

Happy archery, Matt & family!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March Arrows

I'm sending some arrows out to their new homes this week and thought I'd post a picture or two...

Understated, functional, and easy to see. These should do the job.

For some reason these remind me of arrows for a warrior. Not very fancy but don't be on the wrong side of the bow.

Understated yet elegant, arrows fit for a king.

A little bit fancier, but still fit for a king.

I really like these. Self-nocks with horn reinforcement, wrapped feathers, and a special crest to bring it all together. There's gold in the cresting that doesn't show in the picture, it looks great in the sun, where arrows should be viewed.

Happy archery!

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Very Handy But Inexpensive Tool

There are obviously a lot of different tools used in arrow making. Some necessary (depending upon your viewpoint) and some that just help the process go easier.
This is one of those tools that help things go easier for me.
When working on arrows we can't always have them all in our hands. Eventually it is necessary to set a shaft down while we work on another shaft or we need to let something dry. The best tool I have for holding arrows is a box that was given to me by a good friend. I think Salvador won this at a shoot and it bounced around in his garage until he got tired of looking at it and offered it to me. I jumped on it... figuratively.

The Arrow Caddy looks pretty much like an office file box, the kind the bookkeeper uses to store files that won't be accessed very often. The difference is in the 54 holes punched in the lid and the matching holes in an insert that sits midway down the inside of the box. These 54 holes let us store 54 arrows upright and in little danger of tipping over when the cat rubs up against them. I use the box to hang onto arrows while the nock glue is drying, while cap paint or dye is drying, while cresting is drying, etc. It's become a very handy tool in my shop and I'd really miss it if it ever walked away.
I've only seen this box in one archery catalog: FS Archery in California. For $8.99 it's not a half bad deal.

For those individuals handy in the shop an industrial strength arrow caddy box can be made with some plywood and an "egg crate" fluorescent light diffuser grid from the hardware store.

The company that makes the Arrow Caddy also makes the Arrow Hook, a tool that is very helpful for finding arrows that skip along just under the grass and leaves after a target is missed... but we'd hardly ever use a tool like that, right? I mean, who misses a target? 

It even holds miniature arrows. How can you beat that?

Do you have any special tools in your arrow shop that really make life easier for you?