5 Steps to Build & Assemble Insanely Accurate Arrow Shafts

Buying pre-fletched, “ready to fly” arrows off the shelf, and having your local shop cut them to size and install the inserts is the easy way to go.  It’s how I used to buy all of my arrows, but I started to realize that there was always 2 or 3 arrows out of each dozen that didn’t fly as well as the others.

A few years ago I started building my own arrows from raw shafts and carefully selected components, and the improvement in quality has been well worth the effort.  It takes a little bit of time, but it’s not terribly difficult and doesn’t necessarily require a lot of specials tools. Besides the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve done everything the right way, I have noticed that I typically get 12 good arrows out of every dozen now.

Arrow Shafts and Components

I’m not going to detail every single aspect of arrow building in today’s post, but I am going to share my typical “workflow” for prepping and assembling arrows from shafts, and hopefully share a few tricks that I’ve learned, which yield the best results.

Cutting The Shafts

I don’t own an arrow saw. I’ve often thought about buying one, but they’re not cheap. It’s hard to justify the initial investment when my local shop will cut a dozen arrows for $3. You can build an arrow saw at home, which is probably something I should do. My buddy, Aaron, over at RusticMan.com has a great tutorial on How To Build A DIY Arrow Saw. If you are cutting your own arrows, be sure to rotate the shaft as it’s cut, so that you get the cleanest and straightest cut as possible. And if you’re using carbon shafts, be sure that you use a high-RPM saw and a blade that suitable for cutting through carbon.

Quick Tip: You’ve probably noticed that you can buy arrow shafts with different straightness tolerances. The lower quality arrows tend to have their straightness variations at the end of the shafts, so you can typically improve an arrow’s straightness by cutting off even amounts from each end. This works best for those of you that use shorter arrows. Say, for example, that you start with a 32″ raw shaft, and you need a 28″ arrow – instead of cutting 4″ off of the front, cut 2″ off of each end, and you’ll end up with a straighter arrow.

Arrows Shafts and G5 Arrow Squaring Device

Squaring The Shafts

Even if you are very careful when you cut your shaft, the cut probably isn’t perfectly square. I use the G5 Arrow Squaring Device (ASD) to square both ends of my shafts after they are cut. I use a Sharpie to mark both ends of the cut shaft and then use the ASD to “shave” the arrow ends until all of the Sharpie marks are gone on each end. Squaring the shafts will ensure that your inserts and nocks seat perfectly flush in the arrow shaft, which means that your arrow is straight, and the broadhead or field point you screw in to the arrow will be perfectly aligned.

Cleaning The Shafts

The process of cutting and squaring your arrows will result in a lot of material debris on, and in, the arrow shaft. This debris can cause adhesion issues when it comes to installing your components. A simple way to clean the shafts is to wipe the outside of them down with a damp paper towel, and then use a damp q-tip to clean the inside of the arrow shaft. Be sure to clean the first inch inside either end of the shaft, which is where your components will be seated and glued.

Choosing The Components

At the very least, you will have inserts and nocks to install in your arrow shaft. You also might have a bushing for your nock, especially on larger-diameter target shafts. Before I install my components I do two very important things to make sure that my arrows will be as accurate as possible.

First I weight each raw arrow shaft and order them from lightest to heaviest. If you have a good arrows and have followed a good process thus far, then you shouldn’t have much variation. Next I weigh each insert and order them from lightest to heaviest. I will also do the same for the nocks and nock bushing/inserts, if applicable.

Now that I have all of my pieces weight-sorted, I combine the lightest arrow shafts with the heaviest components, thereby trying to offset the variances on either side. I try to ensure that each assembled arrow will weigh the same as all of the others. I will “dry fit” all of the components to each shaft (matching the light/heavy pieces) and then weigh each arrow to see if I’ve gotten rid of as much variance as possible.

Fitting Each Component to the Arrow Shaft

You may think that process is overkill, but the weight-matching isn’t the only reason I do it. The process of “dry fitting” the components to the shafts is also important. You’ll notice that some components may fit loose or too snug with a particular arrow shafts. If you skip the dry-fitting process and go straight to gluing in components, then you may find yourself with an insert that will only go halfway into shaft, but is now stuck because the glue is setting up so quickly. In that case, you just ruined an arrow – and probably threw away about $10!

Putting It All Together

Alright, so now you have a cut, squared, and clean shaft, as well as weight-matched and dry-fitted components. You’re ready to build! There are plenty of specialty, “job specific” adhesives on the market. However, I use the relatively cheap and easily accessible super glue from Gorilla Glue to install my components in my arrow shafts. A little bit goes a long way and I haven’t had any problems with longterm durability.

Here’s a couple of simple, quick tips for installing your components. To make handling the components easier, install a field point into the arrow insert. This will allow you to avoid depositing oils from your hands onto the clean components (which could cause adhesion issues), and it also helps you avoid getting glue all over your fingers during installation. Finally, be sure that you twist the insert into the shaft as your gluing it in. This twisting motion will distribute the glue through the shaft, which gives you the most contact and therefore the strongest hold.

All Done!

So now you have turned a raw shaft into an arrow that’s built with precision. You know it’s straight, and you know it’ll hold up. Obviously we’re missing a major component – flecthing! – but that’s another topic for another day.

Any questions? Fire away…

The Author

Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. Learn more about Sole Adventure or get in touch with Mark...

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  • Aaron Farley

    Great tutorial man, and some good reminders too. It may be the geek in me, but building arrow is one of my favorite parts of bowhunting. Thanks for the good resources!

    • SoleAdventure

      There is another level of satisfaction when you know that you’ve built your arrows from scratch. I’ve come to love it, too!

  • 365Whitetail

    Thanks for sharing, Mark! Great information!

  • http://www.chasingthehunt.com/ ChasingtheHunt

    Another great tutorial! Thanks for the sharing of information.

  • Nick

    Nicely done Mark. This is how I first got in to making arrows. I started small and progressed. Ultimately, being a trad guy, it culminated with wood arrows and lasted quite awhile. Ironically enough, I’ve come full circle and started shooting carbon again out of certain longbows. Now, due to lack of time, I’ve been having an outfitter buddy do them for me. I find a lot of joy in crafting my own wood arrows…anything else I’d rather just have someone else do it. However…I already know how to do it, and can maintain/refletch them, which is a huge difference.

    • SoleAdventure

      I can only begin to imagine how satisfying it must be to build your own wooden shafts. That’s seriously cool, my friend.

  • tony catalde

    Very Nice Mark, I have been doing the same thing for quite a while and have noticed a massive difference. I will say though I went away from Gorilla glue and use Easton’s Insert Cement, Its black and will never come out. I have had a few inserts come out with Gorilla Glue when I’ve logged them into trees. But I will have to try the straightener that is a new tool to me. Thanks

    • SoleAdventure

      I’ve had good luck with the Gorilla glue on arrows that have been lodged into target frames, but I haven’t pulled any out of trees yet. I have used Easton’s two-part epoxy on HIT inserts in the past, and it’s been good, too. The squaring device is something that I put off buying for a while, but it has made a noticeable difference in the quality of my shafts. When I cut arrows myself I’m really particular, but most shops aren’t – so the ASD is a great option for guys that are looking to clean up shafts that have been cut at a shop, or even from the factory.

      • tony catalde

        I’m Finatically about my arrows, I hand pick them from shops and will not order them fletched or have them cut my shafts. I do not trust anyone with my shafts. I fletch all my arrows the same with logos horizontal, broadhead squared and really really clean.

  • Al Quackenbush

    Good info Mark! I will add two tips to your process that will help people in the long run. Clean the end and inside of the shaft (where the insert will go) with alcohol or Acetone. It’ll get any residue and oil from your fingers out. Second, use hot glue from a glue gun for your inserts. That way, if you want to line up your broadheads with your fletching all you have to do is heat it up a little and twist. If you use any other glue they are locked in forever. Hot glue has never given me any issues when pulling the arrow out of a target either.

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks for chiming in, Al! I have used Acetone in the past, and I agree it’ll help cut oil – you’re spot-on there. Anymore I’m just careful handling the components and water works fine to rid the carbon debris. I have also used hot glue in the past, but I never found myself rotating the inserts. In my personal testing I haven’t noticed any increase in accuracy when aligning broadheads with fletchings. Have you? I know some guys swear by it.

      I’m sure you’re aware of this, but for those that may be reading this and trying hot glue – be careful when heating up carbon shafts; the heat can weaken the carbon’s structure. A good tip when trying to index an insert that’s already been installed is to get the threaded end of a field point nice and hot (nearly glowing) and then tread that into the insert. Let the heat from the threads melt/loosen the glue enough, then use a set of pliers to twist the field point and insert at the same time. I haven’t tried it personally, but one of my local shops uses that technique.

      • tony catalde

        G5 makes a specific insert glue that is head and then spread on the insert and inserted, but being in california, if you leave them in your truck they will come out or if you do a heavy round of 3D shooting where a lot of friction repeatedly can cause the inserts to come out . Not a fan.

        Look for Harbor Freights Chainsaw sharpening tool. it is perfect for cutting shafts and can take a really good Diamond Blade. But do not, and I repeat do not use acetone! I worked in the cycling industry for many years and it was a major no no to use Acetone on carbon due to the fact that it eats away at the resin that they use to bond the fibers together. Go out and by 99% Alcohol, dries faster and does not harm the carbon. Just my 2 cents though.

        • SoleAdventure

          There’s conflicting info on carbon and acetone. I know for a fact that some of the biggest names in carbon arrows approve of the use of acetone (applying, not necessarily soaking it forever), and even use it in-house themselves. Maybe it has to do with the resins in their carbon compound.

          • tony catalde

            For sure, I’ve seen that too. Hard thing for me is that the hunting industry is a fairly small industry that has only recently embraced the use of carbon, cycling industry has been doing it since the early 80′s. Most carbon comes from only a few suppliers since it takes a lot of very specialized machines to do it in house and most carbon comes from Taiwan and China, with a a few companies in France and Italy. Due to the largely scarce nature of carbon fibers right now, most going to the US Govt for aviation and companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumnen and Airbus companies are starting to invest in making their own carbon and in the near future we should be seeing a boom in carbon nano tech and manufacturing in the US. When it comes down to it, Acetone or Alcohol doesn’t really matter. Most of us get new arrows every year or two and therefore the breaking down of the fiber bond is really irrelevant. I break a ton of arrows and have to replace them regularly.

  • Patch

    Great stuff Mark, I always enjoy reading how people do things, and what they use to get them done. One step I might suggest is after you glue in your inserts, mark the fronts of them, and square them off as well. I find most inserts are not perfectly flat or square, so I square them as well. After the arrow is assembled I find that when I do the wobble test, there usually is none. If you have an arrow that wobbles and you have not done this step you might try it and see if your wobble goes away.

    http://www.bowhunterssuperstore.com/burt-coyote-fast-arrow-squaring-tool-p-1873626.html

    I use the FAST by Lumenok for squaring both arrow shaft and insert.
    Thank you again for the great info. I always enjoy reading your work.
    Is it September yet?

    • SoleAdventure

      Good tips, Patch, thanks. I have thought of squaring inserts, too, but spin testing has shown me that everything seems square most times. I might have to consider it though.

      September can’t come soon enough, my friend!

      • Patch

        I like to shoot long distance (100 plus yards)for fun, not for hunting, and feel my groups have tightened up by adding this step. If I need to take a second shot, because my first shot went wrong, I am more confident because I know I have done what I can to my arrows to make them fly as good as they can. Keep up the great work on this site.

  • Jordan J

    Great article, I have always enjoyed building my own arrows. One step that I always add when building is to plug both ends of the bare shaft and float it in the tub. Then I orientate my fletchings with the cock fletch on the stiffest side of the arrow. It makes my arrows tune and shoot a little easier when the stiffest side is always up.

    • SoleAdventure

      I know some guys that float for spine as well. I’ve never taken the time to try it. I also find it interesting that some of the guys that swear by this approach disagree on where they place the stiff side when the arrow is fletched and loaded. I’ve heard some guys swear by having it up, down, or out at 3:00. Maybe it’s preference, or maybe it’s their setup that likes it one way over the other. Have you played with the different positions?

      • Jordan J

        I have only ever shot with the stiff side up. Before that, I never even thought about it. Might be a good experiment to play around with it.

  • Doug Graver

    Nice write up Mark. Looking forward to your fletching process.

    • SoleAdventure

      Thanks, Doug! I’ll try to cover fletching down the road.

  • Allan K.

    Solid workflow Mark, The one thing I didn’t see mentioned is if you are considered one who likes to tinker, there are tons of different components to select, compare and test. Heck even just testing how a set-up preforms with 2″, 3″, or 4″ vanes can easily be done if you build your own arrow. The plus side is you are the one who preforms quality control and when testing different arrow set ups, building your own arrows, aids in ensuring you maintain a level of consistency.

    • SoleAdventure

      I’m a tinkerer to an extent, Allan. I usually like to try a few options, and then stick with something that works. The thing with being a tinkerer in archery is that it could be a non-stop quest to try it all; there’s just so many options/combinations/variables out there! You’re absolutely right about quality control and the freedom to test – that’s another benefit of doing it all on your own.

  • http://remotepursuits.com/ Matt

    I am in the middle of this right now. Used to much glue the first attempt. Appreciate the info

  • Jamie

    Does anyone float carbon arrows

    • SoleAdventure

      I know guys that do. Personally, I don’t.

      I have played with it in the past, but didn’t see a benefit when I looked at the time/effort vs. gained accuracy equation.