Wooden arrows shafts , a few thoughts before you buy…

Arrow shafts

Arrow shafts

As many of you know Sharon and I make our own arrows and to be truthful, I find it can be quite relaxing after a stressful day at work. One thing we have found to be increasingly difficult over recent years, is to find suppliers of good quality wooden shafts.
There are numerous companies out there that supply shafts or even complete arrows either via retail outlets or mail order and of course there is eBay, but the quality can vary greatly. So I thought it might be worth putting forward a few views, thoughts and suggestions.
Please be aware that I’m not associated with any shop or companies, nor do I have an axe to grind with any retailers.
Retail outlet visit
If we have the time we rather visit a shop to inspect the shafts, spine and weight match them ourselves.
The advantage is you know exactly what you want and are in charge of getting it, the disadvantage with this process is it takes times. Sharon and I have spent a good couple of hours in archery shops before now, sorting through a mountain of shafts to find the ones that meet our requirements.
The other advantage of visiting a shop is you can wander around looking at all the nice bows, quivers etc, window shopping archery style whilst chatting to other archers.

Selecting shafts or how to get what you want?
It is very easy to go to a shop  and grab a dozen 11/32 or 5/16 shafts from the box marked  40/45 spine or order a dozen online. We have found the possible problem here is that the actual shafts spines can vary widely. They might have been 40/45 at time of initial sorting and boxing, but they might not be now post transit from the wood mill to the retailer. Storage affects the shafts too, sometimes drying the shafts out.
The physical weight of the shafts can vary as well and this is important as all bows have a minimum mass weight for arrows. Below this weight you run a risk of damaging the bow as there is insufficient mass in the arrow to absorb the energy being transferred to it by the bow. Think of it as being similar to dry firing a bow and we all know the damage this can cause.
Likewise the shafts may have been put into the wrong box.

Not always the retailers fault
I’d like to make a quick point in defence of the retailers here. In fairness we have all been to shops and supermarkets where stock isn’t always on the right shelf, a tin of beans with the  chilli mix or chopped tomatoes rather than whole ones etc. We spot this because the packaging is different, but with wooden shafts this is a lot harder, after all they all look the same so you can’t easily distinguish a 35/40 from a 55/60. This is why some retailers colour code the tops of the shafts e.g. Red tops are from 40/45 box, brown 45/50 and so on. This is a good idea and helps with initial sorting.

If you do go down the route of checking the  shafts may I suggest you purchase a set of grain scales for weighing the shafts. They are quite inexpensive and prove immensely useful. I can’t remember exactly where I  bought ours from,  but they are easily found online or at archery retailers.
Grain scales with sponge

Grain scales with sponge

When I use them I have a small piece of sponge with a groove cut into it where the shaft rests. This helps  to lift the shafts clear of the plate as I find this prevents the shaft snagging on surrounding items which would result in a false reading.
Remember to take a pencil or pen and paper to note the weights.

The process
We tend to weigh the shafts first and then spine them. This saves some time as weighing them is a quicker process than spining and you aren’t spining ones that prove too light or heavy.
It is worth noting that not all retailers allow you to do this and some don’t have the necessary space or equipment.

If you can spare the time and can travel to a shop here are a couple I’ll mention.

Wales archery (http://walesarchery.com/) situated just over the border in South wales have a huge selection of shafts and have in the past allowed us the use of their digital spining gauge. They are very friendly and helpful and have loads of bows you can look over. There are also some nice country pubs you can pop in for lunch.
Merlin archery (http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/) in Loughborough too have always been very helpful and allowed us to use their spining gauge although their’s requires a bit of mathematics. I leave that to Sharon as she has the brains (skills and looks). We used to pop up on a Tuesday evening as they are open late.

The great Internet!! 
The other option is buying on-line. Finding good suppliers of wooden arrow shafts by mail order is even harder to find than you realise. You take a risk buying off the net and I would not recommend this unless you know the supplier has a good reputation. Pay for the service – I don’t mind paying a bit more if the quality of the product and service is good and some retailers offer a spining and/or weight matching service.

I’m going to pick out a couple who i have found to be good in recent months. I know there are others out there but these are a couple to start with for now.

For my take down  recurve I found Richard Head Longbows (http://www.english-longbow.co.uk/) for 5/16th was excellent. They are slightly more expensive than others  but are of very good quality. He does spine and weight matching.
As many of you know I’ve swapped back to AFB (American flatbow) and needed some 11/32 shafts and was recommended Longbow Emporium  (http://www.longbowemporium.co.uk/). Marc was really friendly when I spoke to him concerning my requirements.

This is by no means a definitive list or guide as there are many others who supply components via mail order or shops. I’ve just picked out a couple I’ve had experience of. If your favourite shop isn’t on the list or you have something to contribute why not add a comment on your positive experiences below.
I hope it proves useful.
Thanks for reading.