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How to: Build the perfect arrow part 2

Arrows ready for the backcountry

This is the second part of a two-part series on building the perfect arrow. You can find part one here.

Previously we cut, squared and floated our arrows to slowly tighten the tolerances from arrow to arrow. Next we will sort all the compents and attach the vanes and insert to the arrow shaft.

Sorting arrows and components

Sort your arrows and components by weight. This is where you can really make your arrows clones of each other. Sorting is done in order to create arrows that will weigh within a few grains of each other. You do not want an arrow weighing 430.2 grains and another arrow weighing 437.0 grains. Be extra careful and have patience during this process in order to build arrows that have the potential to be extremely accurate. 

I prefer to have a computer do the sorting for me in Excel, but a pen and paper will work, too. 

Numbering arrows

Start by taking a small archery scale that is capable of reading in grains and weigh each of your arrows and record their weights. It sometimes helps to number your arrows with masking tape in order to keep track of each arrow (do not weigh the arrow with the masking tape). Enter all this information into your computer.

Sorting arrows by weight

Be sure not to move your arrows after you weigh them because you will need to sort them from heaviest to lightest. 

Weighing and sorting vanes

Continue to weigh out all of the arrow components (vanes, nocks, inserts, etc.) and sort them from heaviest to lightest while entering their numbers into your computer. Throughout my testing, I have found some vanes, nocks and inserts of the same brand/model from the same package will vary as much as 0.8 grains. 

Sorting components will allow a heavy shaft to be paired with lighter components and a light arrow with heavy components to achieve the balanced, or cloned arrow. Lay your arrows and components out by heaviest to lightest on a table and sort your computer table to display the numbers from heaviest to lightest to keep everything organized.

Sorting arrows and components

Now, you should be able to see what components should go with what arrow to make them all the same weight. Experiment with the numbers in the Excel table until you find a combination that allows all arrows to weigh approximately the same.

Fletching options

Before you start to glue your fletching to your arrow, you will need to determine what type of fletch orientation you want to achieve. Check out this article for a detailed description on the pros and cons of each fletch choice.

Fletching process

Start off by dipping the nock end of the shaft in a large jar filled with 100% pure acetone. Drip dry and then wipe the arrow dry. At this time you can apply an arrow wrap if needed for extra weight or if you just want to add a personalized touch to your arrows.

Several manufacturers make quality fletching jigs such as AAE, Bitzenburger and Last Chance Archery.

Bitzenburger fletching jig with Zenith upgrade kit

I prefer to use a Bitzenburger with a Zenith Archery Bitz Upgrade kit. The upgrade kit replaces your standard nock receiver (pictured above is the standard nock receiver on the table) and provides tighter tolerances.

Place the arrow in the fletching jig of your choice. Next, rotate the arrow until you have the heavy side of the arrow that you marked earlier (from the bathtub test) on the top. This is where you will start the fletching process on each arrow.

Place a vane in the clamp and then take a digital caliper and measure the distance that you prefer from the end of the shaft to the vanes. This will allow you to place the vane in the same location on each arrow.

Measuring vane distance from nock

Have a small bottle of 100% pure acetone ready. Take a Q-tip and dip it in acetone and clean the fletching from one side to the other. Flip the Q-tip around and wipe down the vane to dry.

Cleaning vane with Acetone

Let air dry for a moment and then apply a very small bead of glue down the vane.

Applying glue to vane

It is important to use a quality type glue such as AG0600 or Gorilla Super Glue to ensure proper adhesion. Next carefully place the clamp onto the arrow and seat the clamp in the proper position on the jig. 

Wait the required amount of time for the glue you are using to dry. Carefully remove the clamp and rotate the jig to the next position and repeat the process for the other vanes. Once finished, remove the arrow from the jig and place a small dot of glue on the front and back of each vane to ensure it stays glued down.

Weigh the fletched arrow

Head back to the grain scale and weigh the arrow with the vanes attached and record this number in your table.

Weigh arrow with vanes

Next, sort the arrows again from heaviest to lightest and do the same on your Excel table. It is important to stay organized during the process so you can continue to properly balance the arrows while adding the fletching.

Installing the insert

If your arrow uses inserts (arrows with outserts do the opposite) take a small rifle barrel wire brush to lightly rough up the surface.

Rough up surface of arrow

This creates a strong bond for the Epoxy and insert on the arrow shaft. 

Cleaning arrows with Acetone

Dip the point end of the shaft in 100% pure acetone to remove any carbon or aluminum dust. Once again, it is a great idea to dip a Q-tip in the acetone and clean out the inside of the shaft (or outside of the shaft if you are using an outsert) until the end of the Q-tip is clean to remove any carbon or aluminum dust. It is best to use multiple Q-tips for this process to ensure you are removing all the dust.

Attaching inserts

Use the insert of the correct weight that you measured earlier and glue it in the shaft with epoxy.

Sorting inserts by weight

If you are the type of person that prefers to have a broadhead aligned with the fletchings, you can screw a test broadhead into the insert and then push the broadhead-insert combination into the shaft and rotate the broadhead until it aligns with the fletchings with the epoxy on the insert. Keep in mind, this will only work if you are using the same number of broadhead blades as fletchings and will not work with two blade broadheads for obvious reasons.

Epoxy for arrow inserts

Have the epoxy cure for 24 hours with the arrows lying horizontally for hidden inserts to ensure the inserts do not move in the shaft. 

For outserts or normal inserts that stick out to the diameter of the shaft, you should stand the arrows up vertically to keep the insert seated on the end of the arrow properly. 

You will then re-weigh the arrows and once again sort them from heaviest to lightest.

Thread cleaning

If you can't get a field point to thread into the shaft after your epoxy has dried, then you will need to clean the threads with a thread tap.

Thread tap cleaner

Locate the correct size tap and thread it into the insert and back out to clean the insert threads of epoxy material.

Sort your nocks from heaviest to lightest. Place the correctly weighted nock into each shaft. Pay close attention to your nock when you install it. Nock straightness is extremely important, so always use a nock tool when installing nocks rather than pushing your nock in against a table.

The final step is weighing each arrow with a field point or broadhead attached. 

Finished arrow weight

You should have a stack of arrows that all weigh very close to the same weight and will be almost clones of one another. Record this number on an arrow vane. 

Recording final arrow weight

Spin test

The last step of the process is to spin test the arrows to ensure they are square after everything has been glued. Use a ruler to make an "X" on a piece of paper.

Arrow spin testing

Place the arrow on an arrow spine testing device and place the arrow tip against the small dot in the middle of the X and spin the arrow. If the arrow wobbles, then something isn’t seated correctly and will cause the arrow to fly drastically off course when you test it at further distances. You might be able to make a few changes to fix the wobble can or just use it for practice purposes only.

Conclusion

Building arrows utilizing these steps may seem overly time consuming and tedious, but I believe the benefits outweigh the amount of time behind the arrow building process.

An arrow that is built with tight tolerances will almost always resemble an exact clone of the next arrow in your quiver. This will help keep your arrow flying true toward its intended point of impact no matter which one you reach for this fall.

12 Comments

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alexandre.u.viau
Alexandre V. - posted 1 year ago on 02-05-2018 07:48:20 am
Salt Lake City, UT
goHUNT INSIDER

Brady, how do you feel about the BE outserts vs shaving off some aluminum for the Easton D6 HIT inserts?

Robert S. - posted 2 years ago on 05-13-2017 11:15:05 pm

Where could find a copy of the excel spreadsheet. I have tried to build something similar and cannot get it to filter correctly.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 years ago on 07-24-2016 06:34:46 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hi Jeff. Glad you found the article valuable. I really like your brush idea. I might have to try that out next time I build arrows. In regards to weights varying when using the same scale... I have noticed that can happen if you weigh something, then let the scale turn off, then turn it back on and weigh the same object. To get rid of this problem, I also weigh all of that arrow component without letting my scale turn off. So I'll weigh all my nocks back to back without letting the scale timeout and shut off. Another thing I do is calibrate my scale with a 500g weight when I start. Just keeps things more consistent. Hope that helps and best of luck this season!

Jeff Hawkins_10154480049672873
Jeff H. - posted 2 years ago on 07-22-2016 10:22:24 pm

Great article. Nice to find someone as obsessive as me. One thing I do about the dust inside the arrow shaft is to use a brush like the small end of this (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008LR2KCA/) after cutting to length and before I glue anything. I suppose pushing a .30 cal cleaning patch down the shaft would be just as good.

When done I like to balance the entire set on the edge of something about 1/8" wide like a yardstick. This helps make sure the FoC is as tight as the grain weight.

Regarding weighing the components: If I weigh a few dozen very light things, then go back and weigh the first few again, I often find that my scale calibration has drifted. Not sure if it is components in the scale warming up, or what. (Hmmm... I should test that theory.) Have you noticed that? Maybe my scale is not as obsessive as I am.

Kevin_Boswell
Kevin B. - posted 3 years ago on 08-24-2015 11:18:28 am
Oceanside, CA
goHUNT INSIDER

I have had the best luck with 3 vane Blazer 2" with helical offset. I am trying a 4 vane Vanetec setup next.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 3 years ago on 08-24-2015 08:41:35 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hi Kevin. I am using Norway Fusion X 2.1" vanes on all my arrows. What have you found to work best with your setup so far?

Kevin_Boswell
Kevin B. - posted 3 years ago on 08-21-2015 06:08:42 pm
Oceanside, CA
goHUNT INSIDER

What vanes are you using in this article? I am experimenting with several options right now.

philip.bondurant
Phil B. - posted 4 years ago on 03-18-2015 08:53:15 am
Heber City, UT
goHUNT INSIDER

@Brady- I noticed it on my Carbon Express KV Hunters and Beman Arrows. I feel the "runnier" glues can soak into the the arrow and get in between the fibers... causing the back of the arrow to swell a bit and become brittle.
SInce switching to a "thicker" gel like glue, I have noticed the glue doesn't penetrate the shaft as deep and it stays closere to the surface between the vane and the shaft.
Switching glue types has not affected the adherence of the vanes to the shaft in my experience.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 4 years ago on 03-03-2015 09:41:53 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Phil, What arrow shafts are you using? Thanks for the heads up. I might try to experiment with that and see what I get with certain glues. Having an arrow crack is a severe issue and one I wouldn't want to see all of sudden while hunting.

philip.bondurant
Phil B. - posted 4 years ago on 02-19-2015 06:57:08 am
Heber City, UT
goHUNT INSIDER

Brady- This is a great article.
During my arrow prep over the last few years, I have noticed that Gorilla Super Glue makes the carbon brittle. When it binds the fletching to the shaft, the carbon soaks it up and the back end of the shaft isnt as resistant, causing it to split on occassion.
I started using loctite super glue gel (Blue bottle) and it is a great option. You can pick it up at the local hardware store and one bottle will fleth 2 dozen arrows.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 4 years ago on 02-12-2015 03:28:11 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Thank you, Will. I always enjoy writing about technical archery topics. Let me know if you have any questions or run into problems. Love to hear how your arrows turn out after you build them. You will be happy with the Zenith upgrade. In regards to shield cut vs. parabolic type vanes...

Shield cut vanes have slightly more drag, but have increased stabilization.

Parabolic vanes have less drag and less stabilization. So they will be faster and can be affected by wind easier.

I prefer to sacrifice a little speed, for more stabilization downrange — especially when shooting fixed blade broadheads. I made the switch to four fletch for this same reason.

willtcooper
Will C. - posted 4 years ago on 02-10-2015 05:07:20 pm
Ponder, TX
goHUNT INSIDER

A great conclusion to this article Brady. Digging the breakdown on the excel spreadsheet. I can see I will constantly refer to this article when working w/ my arrows. Great information. I ordered the Zenith upgrade kit the other day after talking about it. I do have one question, and I'm sure its personal preference and what works best for you but is there any advantage to the shield cut vanes as apposed to regular blazer vanes ?