Nocks and Points
Written by RJ Bachner
Part 4: The Bits At Both Ends.
Such a simple thing, putting the nocks and points on a shaft, one might think it hardly worth more than a moments notice. I warn you though, do it wrong and you will curse the day you felt so lazy.
On normal wood arrows, the points and nocks are glued on to the shaft by first tapering the shaft with a proper tapering tool and then aligning them correctly so that they are straight and all on the same way. To do this correctly you must first taper the shafts correctly, making sure the angle and alignment of the taper are perfect. for if they are not, the nocks and points cannot be mounted properly and the arrow flight will be poor and erratic.
There are a few good tools out there, varying in price from under $10 to over $100, which one you want depends on how many arrows you plan on making and the relative quality you desire of your shafts. For the time being I use a midlevel model for about $25, it is reversible, so it can cut both 5 degree and 11 degree tapers. It comes with screw on guides for all 3 standard shaft sizes and the blades are replaceable. Eventually I will move on to an electric grinder designed to do the job faster and more accurately as well as more expensively.
Now when cutting the tapers, you must make sure the guide fits exactly to the shaft and is as close to parallel to the long axis of the shaft as possible; this will make sure that the taper is a consistent radial reduction along the axis of the taper. I am sorry, there is no simpler way to say this but until I can make a proper drawing it will have to do.
One way to tell the two tapers apart is that the nock is a short steeper taper at 11 degrees and the point is a longer, less severe taper at 5 degrees.
Before you have mounted your nocks, you will have decided what sort of nocks to use. This is important so don't roll your eyes at me. Do you want a snap nock which will hold on to the string ever so slightly or do you want a speed nock which will not hold the string at all? I recommend a snap nock for a beginner and as well for more experienced archers. There are few things more annoying that having your arrow fall off the bow as you draw it, it slows you down and gives everybody a chance to snicker at you while on the line. No matter what you choose I also suggest you get a model with an indicator tab so that you can tell by feel which fletch is the cock and do not have to look. (this of course assumes that you lined up the indicator and the cock when you fletched the arrow)
When gluing the nock on, first determine which way the grain runs. I like to mount my nocks perpendicular to the grain so that I lessen the chances of splitting the arrow if I split a nock on the string. Also, if you can imagine how a 2x4 maintains it's stiffness in one orientation but bends relatively easily if you turn it 90 degrees. Well the same thing happens to an arrow, it is stiffer when you bend it with the grain than across it. I have found that this is the most efficient way to mount my nocks, the arrows fly nicely and many other so called experts agree with me or I with them, however that works.
Just so long as you always glue them on the same way to maintain consistency across the set, which way probably matters little.
Note:I like to us a cyano-acrylate glue to mount the nocks and feathers and heat melt for points, so do yourself a favor and taper only the nock end before you dip the shafts. This will allow a prettier assembly of nock to shaft and the C-A will bond nocks to the sealer. Then you can taper the head once the shaft is finished so that you have a clean wood surface to bond the point to.
Lately I have been playing with using Weldbond® glue to mount my points and nocks and it seems to work quite nicely. I do not know what the long term will show but if it works well I think I may use it rather than the c.a. and heatmelt glue, it seems so much easier to me.
In SCA archery, we only use field points or bullet points, no broad heads, bodkin points or other cool things some folks can think up. Trust me, I tried. I have been the cause of more than one hold called on the line while I was informed that some ghastly flamberged 4 inch bladed head was not allowed on this range and no argument about wanting to be a member of the horde and therefore it could be period would be allowed. Oh well, so much for my pumpkin splitters. Anyway, simple points only is the rule and my personal feelings aside, that is what we will do.
This is possibly the only dangerous part about making arrows, we will use heat melt glue to mount steel to wood so the point will be real hot while we are working with them. For that matter, any glue that oozes out will be not only hot but sticky so if it gets on you it hurts and won't get off. Make sure that you can comfortably work with an open flame and hot stuff before you get started here, if you are a minor, making sure your parentals are with you would not be a bad idea.
We will need:
The points are made of steel, at least they should be, anyway when they are manufractured they are coated with a thin oil to prevent rust. Oil and glue do not mix well so you will have to clean the points so that the glue will bond them to the shaft. I like putting the points in a big bowl and mix in a liberal amount of some grease cutting dish soap and boiling water. Stir the mess up and then let it sit for a while and let the oil dissolve. After about an hour or so, rinse the points in more boiling water until you are sure there is no soap or oil left on the points. pour the points into a colander and drain well. They should be as hot as the water was so if you get most of the water off them they should dry of their own accord fairly fast.
Now find yourself a thin rod that will fit inside the point and wrap some fine steel wool around the head like a q-tip then scour inside the point well to roughen the surface. This should make sure that those "ratsafratin" points don't come off in the target too often.
Take the shafts in hand and melt a small amount of glue on to the narrow part of the taper, you would be amazed at just how little is actually used. To get the right amount takes a little practice, I find a thin layer,1/4 inch wide around the taper tip is more than enough and infact probably too much. Repeat this step for each of the shafts and put them aside for the moment.
Once all the shafts have been glued up, take one and press a point on it as far as it will go with your fingers. This allows you to heat up the point insitue without the risk of burning the end of the shaft and discoloring it or having to handle a hot point. Heat the point over the flame until the point moves about on it's own, you should see some of the glue bubbling out of the point. At this point press the head onto the scrap of wood or leather as hard as you may while spinning it, you want to force the point on as far as you can and squeeze out the extra glue while it is still hot. when it seems that you can press it on no farther and the glue is cooling, put the head into the cold water to flash harden the glue and keep it there till the head is cold.
Wipe the water away from the point and spin it carefully to see if the head is on straight, if it is, fine. Trim off the extra glue and move on to the next. If it isn't straight, you have to reheat the point and do it again till you get it right. Don't heat the point so hot this time though, it really isn't needed, just hot enough to move the head and align it properly. Cool and inspect it, repeating until perfect then move on to the next one.
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