Building Bamboo Arrows

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shewolf
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Building Bamboo Arrows

Beitrag von shewolf » 04.10.2006, 21:32

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[H2] Bamboo Arrows – Tough Stuff taking Flight[/H2]

Dedicated to Philip, whom I met in Marathon for a memorable chat on Schinias Beach


When I came to Greece in August 2006 I took along my Hungarian horsebow and some 24 traditional pine shaft arrows. Only one week later my number of arrows had been reduced to 13, all others having given a spectacular show of bursting into 1000 pieces when hitting the rocks littering the plains or upon striking the hard, dry surface of the greek earth.

So there I stood, with seven weeks in Greece yet to go and no traditional bowshop in sight to replenish my quiver. Luckily I had taken along my favourite tools for arrow making, together with some feathers, glue and arrow heads… so I dropped by a garden store, determined to get hold of some bamboo sticks for making new, rock-resistant arrows.

After some trial and error I am now the proud owner of 20 fine bamboo arrows, with heads of 100 grain weight. And these arrows are remarkable indeed, although I built them “quick & dirty” on the terrace, they are sooo fast and incredibly tough – they survived being shot dead straight against cliffs and our garden´s beton walls.

So if you are in for some new shooting experience, let´s get started! Here is what you need:

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A saw for shortening the shafts, metal blade will do
A Medium rasp for smoothing the knots
A special saw for cutting tiles – this will cut a clean selfmade nock 2 mm wide
A small rasp for smoothing the nock
Sand paper
Water tight wood glue (PONAL “blue”) and hemp for thickening the tip
Assorted arrow heads for screwing or glueing, and feathers plus glue (UHU Epoxy or Hard)

A bundle of bamboo sticks
Required thicknes at the bottom: approx 8 to 10 mm

Buying Bamboo

Bamboo is a grass. The stem is hollow, so when choosing the raw material keep in mind that you need the lowest knot to be the nock. The reason you can see here:


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A is the outside, and B shows you the inside of a knot.

Only inside the knot the bamboo fibres have grown together. Here the material is at its strongest, so by placing your nock directly before a knot will prevent it from splitting.

Keeping this in mind, you go to your local gardening store and check it´s Bamboo supply.

So from the lowest knot, that has a minimum of 1,5 cm stem below (!), you measure your arrow length upwards along the stem. To keep it simple, take along your favourite arrow and place it alongside the bamboo stems starting at the lowest knot like shown here:


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Don´t get frustrated at zigzag stems, bamboo never grows straight, we´ll handle that problem later. Take as much shafts as you can, but prefer bent knots to bent stems, as knots are easier to straighten out.


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If you have a garden, you can plant a bamboo growing suitable stems of max. 1 cm in diameter. After cutting let them dry for a few months. I recommend cutting bamboo in late summer, then the new fibres will have hardened.

If your garden is small, plant bamboo in a container to keep it in check, as it has a strong tendency overgrow neighbouring flowerbeds.

Shortening the shafts

First we shorten the bottom of the arrow. The bottom is the direction of where roots are, and the top strives towards the sun.

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Make a pencil mark 1,5 cm below the lowest knot, and saw off the end.

Make sure that first you saw once AROUND the shaft, and then through it like this:


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This will prevent the outside fibre from splintering – a very nasty business at the nock, but less a problem at the head.

Having shortened the bottom you can now do the same at the top, appropriate to your required arrow length. Some tops will seem quite spindly, if you don´t trust them chuck them out. I do strengthen some tops by inserting a souvlaki skewer wetted with PONAL blue.

Straight & Smooth

Now I rasp the knots. Do it with light pressure and rasp in the growing direction (not across the fibres). Some argue that rasping the knots will weaken the shaft. Well, I never had any arrow casualties due to rasped knots, so I continue to do it. The smooth shaft flies better, lies smoother to the bow and looks nicer… who wants to shoot arrows looking like granddad´s walking stick?!

After rasping comes the straightening of the shafts. You need heat, and can provide that with a hot air blower – I took a simple candle, an IKEA tealight.

Here a promising candidate with a strong bend:


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So I mark with a pencil exactly where I must apply the pressure…


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…turn the shaft over a tealight.


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Careful now, to much heat will destroy the structure of the fibres, making them brittle. Hold the knot you want to bend 1 cm above (never into!) the candle flame, turning it all the time. When hot, apply careful pressure, and the bamboo will follow. It takes a little experience to get the knack of bending bamboo. Rather heat it several times again then once too much!


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To check you shaft roll it on the table top with your flat hand. I mark curves with a pencil again, so I know where I have to bend a second/third time.

A bamboo shaft will never be of the machine made 100% straight pine shaft quality. But I tested my shafts and shot them with a 100 grain head only - without feathers. And they flew true. So give the material a chance, and don´t fret over little irregularities you can´t bend out of the shaft.

Nock, Arrow Head & Fletching

Let´s assume you now have some relative straight bamboo shafts in your arrow length. Now you saw the nock slit into the lower part. Make the slit “A” approx. 1,2 cm deep, ending in the knot where the bamboo stem is solid “C”.

A hint for horseback archers: for blind nocking I find it very helpful to shorten the lower half of the nock (the one opposite to the cock feathers, not below it) as seen below in “B”. With a “onesideshorternock” the string will glide into the nock automatically when drawing the bow.


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Why so deep? Modern plastic nocks “click” onto the string and stay there. A bamboo nock will not “click”, therefore I make them deeper to avoid “empty shots” (for beginners: an empty shot means the arrow is not on the string when the bow is loosened, this can seriously damage a bow and should be avoided).

When the nock is finished, we look at the top of the shaft, and check our arrows heads. They will probably not fit, as the shaft will be to thin. Taking a thicker bamboo would make our shafts to heavy, so we must thicken the top. I do this by applying a thick coat of watertight white wood glue (PONAL “blue”) on the top 4 cm, and then I wind a strand of installation hemp fibres around until I have the desired thickness.


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Let this dry overnight, and the next day you can either screw on your arrow heads or glue them on, depending on what type of head you shoot.


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Before fletching you must rub the lower part of the shafts with sand paper. Bamboo surface is shiny and hard to glue, so better give your fletches a good grip on the shaft. On my 27 inch arrows with a 100 grain head I fletch three 4 inch feathers. I take “UHU hard” as it is cheaper then “Fletch Tight” and just as good. As I shoot over the back of my hand, I wrap a strand of hemp fibres in glue around the top of the fletches.

Cresting (Individual color markings on the shaft) should be possible, but as bamboo resists even UHU hard, I have never tried.

So when you have successfully applied finishing touches to your bamboo arrows please give me a feedback, I will gladly include your experience in this report. Any other feedback on bamboo arrows is also appreciated and should questions arise, just send me a mail… I look forward to hearing from you ;)


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Bamboo…
    Combines high flexibility with incredible toughness
    Costs less then cedar and can be grown in every garden
    Does not belong to the endangered species list (like the Oregon Cedar, Ramin or other arrow shaft wood)
    Is fun to shoot!
Thoughts are magnetic -
you attract what you think about most.

morganalafay
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delicious

Beitrag von morganalafay » 04.10.2006, 22:24

Hello,

very fine, I breed with doing same thing next winter..

I´ve seen ready-to-shoot, factory-made ones in Austria in my last holiday, but they cost the little of 140 Euros the dozen.

What´s up, if some has it....

The homegrown attitude is the thing i like more

Pics will follow asap.

Greetz Tom
......der Morgenschiss kommt ganz gewiss, und wenns auch erst am Abend is....

Taran
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ELB

Beitrag von Taran » 04.10.2006, 23:37

ENGLISH LANGUAGE BOARD...

Hi Shewolf, I sent you my suggestions and experiences. My approach differs from yours in some points, so there's room for argument, but I readily admit that your lop-sided arrow-nock is a stroke of genius!

Anyway, there goes the article I planned, I'd rather you incorporate my suggestions into your well-planned text. Great pictures, too. Congratulations!

ADDITIONS:
-different shaft orientation
-different arrowheads
-using oil
-heat source: welding torch fuelled by camping gas (set at the weakest possible flame)
-nock sanding not necessary (arrow flexes!)
-nock reinforcements
- a slight nock wrapping lets you sleep and shoot with less worries esp. if the nock end is the slimmer end of the shaft!
-Something else: instead of four short feathers I use three long, but very low ones: 5.5" long, but definitely less than 5/16" high. Works for me.
-Let's not forget to wrap the front and back ends of the feathers (just in case the glue on the bamboo fails; two or three strands of the same hemp you used for point and nock wraps will do, set them in wood glue)

You have a lot of IMs from me, Andrea...



(**)
Taran von Caer Dallben

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kra
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Beitrag von kra » 05.10.2006, 06:49

Hey Andrea, really nice. Good job :knuddel !

Stefan already wrote what I thought:

Just my way I did it
take the shaft in the other orientation and reenforce the nocks with some suvlaki? sticks and wrap properly. The nock may be as thin as 7mm. No problem! A proper wrapping helps to avoid slight problems :knuddel when the pole is split by the string. As an additional benefit you get more weight to the tip in this orientation.

Leave the bamboo longer than needed when working on it - makes live much easier :-)

When using the poles in the other orientation, there is no need for wrapping before applying the points - more often you have to sand them down to the desired diameter. Apply proper heat when fitting the (screw on) points.

Your article made great appetite to do it again (sam).

Best regards!
“Was wir brauchen, sind ein paar verrückte Leute; seht euch an, wohin uns die Normalen gebracht haben.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Dustybaer
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Beitrag von Dustybaer » 05.10.2006, 08:38

@ shewolf

just a quick question on the weight-distribution: how did your shaft orientation (i.e. cutting the nock into the thicker end) affect the “front of center” (FOC) effect? is the center of gravity still in front of the geometrical center of the arrow?

by the way, once again an excellent article. and just out of curiosity, why in english?
Bis bald

Marius


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shewolf
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RE: ELB

Beitrag von shewolf » 05.10.2006, 14:32

Original geschrieben von Taran

... but I readily admit that your lop-sided arrow-nock is a stroke of genius!



... I can´t really take the credit for this, as Polvarinho/Claus used them before. Only he took pine shafts which I believe are too soft for selfnocks without reinforcement.

Dustybear: I have found a group of horsebow archers in Greece, along with some Hoplite re-enactors. One of them reads here in FC, and hopefully some others will join him when there are more articles in English.

Traditional archery is at its very beginnings in Greece, so they can use every scrap of information they can get.

Regarding the weight: I never checked! I just built, and shot, and marvelled at the beautyful flight... :schaem

About turning the shaft around: mhm, this disturbes my sense of harmony... but I will try it out. Luckily, I still have some 60 shafts left... :) :)

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Thoughts are magnetic -
you attract what you think about most.

Rifle
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Some more suggestions

Beitrag von Rifle » 05.10.2006, 19:14

Here are some pictures of nocks I made because of the small diameter of the Bamboo (<6,5 mm for low weight bows).
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This is the way I build my arrowheads
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Both methods are of course not my inventions.
:D
The Result
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This article contains more pictures, but I'm afraid it is in german.
http://www.fletchers-corner.de/blank.ph ... tentid=561

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Beitrag von Dustybaer » 06.10.2006, 09:13

@ rifle

how did you make the nock inserts? what kind of machinery would I need as a minimum to make such nocks? I really like the looks of your nocks.
Bis bald

Marius


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Taran
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Nocks

Beitrag von Taran » 06.10.2006, 16:46

I'd guess they were turned on a wood lathe (Drehbank, gedrechselt) - a cheap one powered by an electric drill should be good enough, shouldn't it?
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gervase
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me and speaking english

Beitrag von gervase » 07.10.2006, 21:47

all the time I used a candle for heating my bamboo sticks. but it doesnt really work , when you are outside and its draughty.
And i haven´t got any fuel burner.
So I remembered an little bottle of after shave, a gift of my mother in law. I dont use it because of its strange smell :o
So i placed a wick into the small opening and started the fire. The parfume burns very hot and smells heavy and in the end i will have perfumed bamboo arrows :D
But it function is perfect and i´m very happy about my new after(shave)burner. :) :) :)
Verstehen kann man das Leben nur rueckw?aerts, aber leben muss man es vorwaerts....

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Beitrag von AZraEL » 08.10.2006, 13:26

at the two bamboo arrows I've already built i have done the nocks as rifle does. I took 3 cm of a wooden shaft and grinded half of it down to a diameter which fits into the bamboo, for what I used my dremel. that works very well, but I think it's too complex if you want to make more than one or two arrows.
...jedenfalls werfen sie keine sachen mehr nach mir, vielleicht, weil ich einen bogen mit mir rumtrage?

treemarks

Beitrag von treemarks » 14.10.2006, 15:02

Many thanks Shewolf,

hope to see you back in Greece soon !

Taran
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suitable species of bamboo

Beitrag von Taran » 30.10.2006, 11:56

Hi all, I posted a request here
and hope to get some recommendations in time for next spring.
Taran von Caer Dallben

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Nicolai_S
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bamboo species..

Beitrag von Nicolai_S » 20.11.2006, 22:02

hi guys.

I have done alot of reasearch on the net, to find bamboo here in europe.. since I practice Kyudo, and i really wanted to fletch my own bamboo arrows.. (and repair them for that matter) also getting arrows from Japan is very expensive both because of VAT, (taxes) and transport..

so I embarked on this huge journey.. ;)

The bamboo used for Japanese arrows (ya) is called "Pseudosasa japonica" and i know you can order it drom differnet bamboo societys in the UK and US.

problem with using bamboo.. is it has to dry for atleast a year.. and for me the problem has been to get a good quality bamboo in the lengt that i need aprox. 42 inches / 105 centimeters. this links provides a pretty detailed description on how a Korean arrowmakers straightens bamboo arrows.

http://bambooarrow.com/video.html

you can order the video on some of the american archer sites.

the biggest problem seem to me to learn this proces of heating and straightning the arrows.

In the koran way, they heat i up and straighten it twice.. im not sure what the japanese do.. cant find any info on them.. i do know they are both extremly picky on the bamboo they use.. maybe picking only a few duzen out a of a thousind sticks..

so id love to hear if you find any suppliers in europe.. ;)

another probelm im having is wher to buy natural feathers.. i dont want to use the gateway kind of coloured feathers.. i really prefere the beauty of the natural drawings on grey geese etc..


these two canadian guys also make their own bamboo.. one of them is trained as a japanese bowmaker..


http://www.yumi-bows.com/

http://www.bowsforpros.com/
mad bamboo fletcher

Taran
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Welcome

Beitrag von Taran » 20.11.2006, 22:35

Nice to hear from you. You seem to have done a lot of research! I use bamboo tomato stakes from the gardening supply centre and they are not bad. You can practice with them.
I know about the pseudosasa, it just didn't survive long enough under the conditions I had to offer. I enquired about fargesia, because fargesia doesn't spread everywhere when you plant it in the garden, but the folks at that other site seemed to regard growing bamboo to cut it for arrows as a kind of sacrilege. I never got a decent answer.
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