Author Topic: Medieval arrow shaft production methods  (Read 1350 times)

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Offline DC

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #15 on: December 02, 2018, 08:03:00 am »
I've often wondered about how many of these battles there were? We hear about the big ones but I don't think it would be possible to have them to often. A country couldn't afford it. Maybe one every ten years or so? Or would they go lifetimes without a battle at all? Would they have to refletch the arrows every ten years or so. It would be shame to show up at a battle with rotten moth eaten arrows.
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Offline WillS

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #16 on: December 02, 2018, 09:31:16 am »
There were at least nine "important" battles during the hundred years war, and plenty more smaller, less crucial skirmishes, revolts and naval battles.  Most of these would involve archery.

There is no real evidence of arrows being reused.  They were almost certainly single-use - in fact it's common belief that arrows made for immediate use were very simple, and very likely to survive only a couple of shots - no fletch binding, no nock inserts etc.  Arrows made for storage (such as the MR arrows) would have had binding and better glues, simply to keep them in one piece during storage and transport.

Offline burtonridr

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2018, 12:46:31 pm »
Thanks for all the replies, this is really interesting stuff! It does seem likely that most are shoot shafts from the sound of it.

WillS, when you are making arrows by splitting, what are you using for wood? Cut your self or store bought? Split dry or wet? Can you provide some more detail on how you are creating the shafts in a quick efficient way?

BTW, I tried splitting shafts from a mtn alder and douglas fir last weekend. I had real trouble controlling the split and had runoff issues. Part of the issue was due to knots, finding a knot free section is tough. In the end I didnt end up with anything usable. For now it looks like red dogwood shafts are my best bet.
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Offline JW_Halverson

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2018, 12:53:35 pm »

BTW, I tried splitting shafts from a mtn alder and douglas fir last weekend. I had real trouble controlling the split and had runoff issues. Part of the issue was due to knots, finding a knot free section is tough. In the end I didnt end up with anything usable.

When it comes to splitting, those knots will getcha every time.  You have to pick your battles carefully and saw out the sections where the grain is pretty well linear straight.  I suspect both woods would split easier and cleaner when good and dry, too.

Good luck and post some photos of your work while you are at it.
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Offline Del the cat

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #19 on: December 04, 2018, 12:50:24 am »
"There is no real evidence of arrows being reused"
It is hard to imagine any physical evidence that could show/prove it.
There is, I believe, anecdotal evidence for arrows being reused in battle.
Accounts of the battle of Towton suggest that one side were shooting into a strong headwind/blizzard. The opposing force were said to pick up the arrows that fell short and return them to deadly effect.
Also, can anyone suggest a reason why you wouldn't reuse arrows that were lying at your feet, when your own supply was limited?...
Me Sir me Sir! I know... sea battles... they couldn't retrieve arrows that fell in the sea!  >:D ::) ;D :o
Del
Cut to scene at Towton.
"Hell's teeth Jim I'm running short of arrows!"
"Pick some of those up and use them!"
"Damn you Jim, I'm not going to shoot filthy Lancastrian arrows!"
(Jim sighs and rolls his eyes)
« Last Edit: December 04, 2018, 12:59:27 am by Del the cat »
Health warning, these posts may contain traces of nut.

Offline WillS

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2018, 04:14:24 am »
Thanks for all the replies, this is really interesting stuff! It does seem likely that most are shoot shafts from the sound of it.

WillS, when you are making arrows by splitting, what are you using for wood? Cut your self or store bought? Split dry or wet? Can you provide some more detail on how you are creating the shafts in a quick efficient way?

From what I've seen, I would suggest the opposite.  Some were certainly shoots, but the majority that I'm familiar with were split from timber.

For mine, I aim to be as historically correct as possible so the timber that I'm using will be alder, linden and mainly aspen - not "poplar" as this is now the common name for tulipwood or "yellow poplar" but true aspen or Populus tremula.  I get most of my aspen from contacts in Scandinavia, and occasionally from within the UK.  When it's available I also use black poplar or P. nigra but as it's so endangered and rare I don't get the chance to use it often.  That said, it's almost identical to P. tremula so makes very little difference except to the real purists!

If I'm using readily available English timber such as the alder and linden I will harvest it myself, taking straight lengths of trunk or bough wood, and splitting numerous times once seasoned until the blanks are the correct size.  If the timber is aspen or other less accessible woods I'll get them shipped to me in crates as square blanks.

The corners of the blanks are then planed off using the block plane and "chuting board" until a many-sided cylinder is formed.  At this stage the tapers are established according to individual shaft weight and rough spine.  If I'm making exact copies of specific arrows I'll select shaft blanks that seem most likely to finish at the weight of the originals and then copy the profile of the arrow I'm replicating.  Once the shafts are almost circular they are sanded either with modern sandpaper or two small blocks of sandstone with a groove filed through the middle. 

If you're struggling to split accurately, it may be worth doing it in a similar way to splitting bowstaves from a log that you think might twist or warp - set a primary split line using a sharp axe that follows the line you want, but doesn't go deeper than about 1/2" into the log, on both sides.  Then start at one end holding the axe vertically between the two shallow split lines and begin opening it up.  The split will follow your primary guidelines instead of running off to the side. 

Offline Hawkdancer

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2018, 07:03:57 am »
Kindly refresh my memory on construction of a "chuting" board.  I know it is fairly simple, requiring a couple boards and a bit of patience, but,- the mind goes first, I don't remember what goes second >:D.  Thanks!  Both a fun and informative thread!
I just noticed there is no little arrow maker emoji!
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Offline WillS

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #22 on: December 04, 2018, 11:29:46 am »
Just a plank of wood!  You can get fancy with V grooves, or setting a second strip down to give you a right angle to plane against, but a simple plank does the job fine.  You only need something to support the blank as you work on it. 

I've added a couple of marks to mine for 13mm and 8mm so I can check the sizes of shoulders and nocks as I work, and some marks to show me where to split for nock inserts and where to mark for applying the fletching compound but other than that, it's just a plank of wood.

I could sell you one, if you like?  ;D

Offline Hawkdancer

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #23 on: December 04, 2018, 08:12:38 pm »
Real genuine wood planks, squared and all the neat stuff? >:D. Might work a trade, sell and buy seem to be verboten here!  Be glad to make you a trivet to rest your sharp tools on while you work, or your coffee cup to keep it off the cold bench top! :)
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Offline burtonridr

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #24 on: December 06, 2018, 05:15:59 pm »
Thanks for all the replies, this is really interesting stuff! It does seem likely that most are shoot shafts from the sound of it.


From what I've seen, I would suggest the opposite.  Some were certainly shoots, but the majority that I'm familiar with were split from timber.


Oh ok, I just saw somewhere that a big majority of the shafts were tapered, so I just assumed they were shoot shafts. Interesting that they even took the time to taper the shafts.
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Offline burtonridr

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #25 on: December 06, 2018, 05:18:56 pm »
I've added a couple of marks to mine for 13mm and 8mm so I can check the sizes of shoulders and nocks as I work, and some marks to show me where to split for nock inserts and where to mark for applying the fletching compound but other than that, it's just a plank of wood.

I could sell you one, if you like?  ;D
Dang good idea! I need to put some marks on one of my arrow making boards. I'm always grabbing a previous arrow to use as a template for where to place fletchings, how deep to make the knock, etc. sheesh so simple and genius! thanks for the idea  :)
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Offline burtonridr

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #26 on: December 06, 2018, 06:27:26 pm »
Cut to scene at Towton.
"Hell's teeth Jim I'm running short of arrows!"
"Pick some of those up and use them!"
"Damn you Jim, I'm not going to shoot filthy Lancastrian arrows!"
(Jim sighs and rolls his eyes)


Lol



When it comes to splitting, those knots will getcha every time.  You have to pick your battles carefully and saw out the sections where the grain is pretty well linear straight.  I suspect both woods would split easier and cleaner when good and dry, too.

Good luck and post some photos of your work while you are at it.

I will give it a go again this weekend, there is an old Doug fir stump that might work perfect to wedge split the side out of.... Maybe... I'll snap some photos to post.
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Offline JW_Halverson

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #27 on: December 07, 2018, 06:31:20 am »
I dare you to photodocument it and share.  I double dog dare you!
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Offline FilipT

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #28 on: December 09, 2018, 12:10:17 am »
@Will Sherman

First time I hear about using alder, do you have some pictures of your alder arrows, how does it behave in contrast with aspen and poplar?

Offline DC

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Re: Medieval arrow shaft production methods
« Reply #29 on: December 09, 2018, 05:56:12 am »

I will give it a go again this weekend, there is an old Doug fir stump that might work perfect to wedge split the side out of.... Maybe... I'll snap some photos to post.
Doug Fir stumps usually flare quite a bit. You might have a tough time splitting a straight piece.
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