by Sir Jon Fitz-Rauf O.L., O.P., R.C.A., R.C.Y.
The Fitz-Rauf combat arrow is an attempt to improve the safety and accuracy of the SCA combat arrow while increasing its durability and reducing its cost.
The tapered shape of the blunt reduces turbulence and drag which slow down an arrow in flight. The light weight of the UHMW and the weight relief holes which further reduce the weight of the blunt allow a greater initial velocity. This increase allows a flatter trajectory making aiming easier and increases the maximum range.
The UHMW and fiberglass improve safety by eliminating the chance of injury due to a splintered shaft or the shaft punching through the blunt. The HTM ABD nock reduces the chance of an arrow nock entering the visor slot or bars of a helm and greatly reduces the chance of injury due to a bounce back.
The initial low cost and durability of the materials lower the repair and replacement costs.
When tested for maximum range this design went approximately 23% further than the same shaft, fletch and nock with a Baldar blunt, shot from the same bow, for a average distance of 79 yards.
The arrow: blunt, shaft and nock, except for the feather fletch is virtually indestructible. A side benefit of the long taper is that the arrows pull easily from your quiver without hanging up on other blunts.
This combat arrow consists of a 1/4 inch fiberglass shaft, a 2 & 1/2 inch tapered UHMW blunt, five inch feather fletches and a HTM anti-bounce back device nock. The blunts cost about 40 cents depending upon where you buy your UHMW, padding material, tape and glue. The shafts cost can cost about 80 cents to a dollar, again depending on your source. The feather fletch is about 20 cents to 75 cents depending upon length and supplier. And the HTM blunt for the ABD nock cost about 80 cents to a dollar. This, with the tape for the shaft, adds up to about $3.30 for the complete arrow.CONSTRUCTION
You should first determine the length you need for the shaft, allowing for both nock and blunt, this will be about 29 & 3/4 inches. An indelible marker is best for marking the fiberglass. The maximum draw length of the arrow is twenty eight inches from the bottom of the nock slot to the bottom of the blunt, but your shaft will be longer than that by the length of the shaft that is inside the blunt and as well as the length of shaft in the nock.
In cutting the fiberglass, you need to take care to avoid breathing the dust or getting it in your eyes. It is not toxic, but can cause a sore throat and itchy eyes. Cutting should be done outside to avoid build up of dust in the air inside. If you wear a dust mask and goggles, you can reduce the chance for irritation. You should also wear gloves to help avoid skin irritation.
After you have cut the rod to length, you will need to sand the full length of it with some medium grit sand paper. The rod has a very slick surface that needs to be roughened to make a better surface for both gluing on the head and fletching or applying the tape. Remember, avoid the dust while you are sanding. You can also remove the slick surface by wiping the surface with an acetone dampened rag.
I use five inch feather fletch on the shafts. It is more forgiving of a poor release than plastic vanes. Fletchtite does not seem to work as well as 3M Super Strength Adhesive or Duco cement. Fletching tape also works very well, all of my current fletches were first attached with fletching tape and then glued and none have come off.
In order to use a fletching jig for the arrows you will need to use a 1/4 inch slip on nock on the end of the shaft. Do not glue it in place and then remove it when the arrow is fetched and then reuse it on the next arrow.
After the fletching has set, I run a bead of the glue down both sides of the base of each fletch and a drop at both ends. If you want, you can also wrap the ends or the whole length with thread as well for greater security and a more period appearance. Because of the size and weight of the blunt head, I prefer to use a five inch fletch to help stabilize the arrow in flight more quickly. But shorter fletches, with less drag, may be used to increase the maximum range.
You can tape the shaft with whatever tape is required in your kingdom. However I have found that a good quality electric tape such as 3M works best. It sticks well and goes on smoothly. Since the arrow will not break, heavy tape is not needed. Some of my combat shafts are almost three years old and still have their original tape. If you carefully run the tape parallel to the shaft it produces a smoother covering than using a spiral pattern. There are less leading edges to peel up an create drag. You should run the tape from the front of the fletching to at least one inch up onto the blunt. You will need to run two strips of 3/4 wide tape, one is not wide enough to cover the full circumference of the shaft.
5) HTM ABD NOCK
First cut off the thin 1/4 long section of the HTM blunt, so that it is shorter. Then using two or three hacksaw blades bound together, depending on the diameter of your bow string, you cut a slot in the center of the face of the blunt. Make sure that the slot is centered and perpendicular. You can cut the slot a 1/4 to 5/16 inch deep.
Another method of mass producing them that I have used is to use a router and router table with a jig to guide the blunts. A 1/8 inch veining bit can cut the slots. I used a length of wood the width of the blunts to push them through the jig. The string should slide easily into the slot, but will not fall out. You can use a small flat file to adjust the nock slot to the correct fit. It should just hang on the string, but fall off if you tap the string. If the nock is too tight it can cause erratic flight. If you have a small round file you can enlarge the bottom of the slot making a form of snap nock. If you taper the mouth of the slot in to a "V" shape it will be easier to guide the string into the slot.
Make sure the nock is a snug fit on the shaft then remove and glue it in place. For 1/4 inch shafts you can build up the diameter with electrical tape or with heat shrink tubing. You need to make sure the nock is aligned correctly with the fletching. Then glue it in place.
When the glue has set you can add an indexing point to make it easier to locate your shaft on the string when nocking your arrow. This is done by inserting a short length of 1/8 inch diameter fiberglass or shatter proof plastic rod into a hole drilled about a half of an inch below the face of the HTM through the HTM and part way through the shaft. It should protrude so that your thumb can feel the rod, then you fit the arrow to the string so that your thumb would end up on top of the bow string.
To do this you clamp the shaft near the HTM and drill a 1/8th diameter hole through the HTM and about half way through the shaft. Then remove the dust from the hole and squeeze a drop or two of glue into the hole and insert the 1/8th inch rod. When the glue has set you use a small flat file to file back the front side of the rod so that it slopes backward and then you round off the remaining edges. Finally you coat this with glue to help round things off. This is done to prevent the edge of the rod from scratching any exposed skin that it might hit.
TAPERED BLUNT CONSTRUCTION:
To make the tapered blunts you will need more tools and a somewhat higher skill level than for the simple cylindrical UHMW blunts.
The finished shape of the UHMW section of the blunt is that of an ice cream cone. A 1/4 inch thick 1 & 1/4 inch wide disk set on top of a 2 & 1/4 inch wide by 1 & 1/2 inch long truncated cone with 1/2 inch wide tip. The padding becomes the ice cream scoop on top.
To make the tapered blunt you will need a means of grinding or shaping the taper. An open mesh grinding/cut off disk works well. This should be backed with one of the solid disks that come in the same package to make it more rigid. I mounted it on my small bench grinder. But it could also be mounted on a heavy duty drill motor mounted in a vice, etc. Or it can be mounted in a table saw. If you plan to use a jig for guiding the rod at the correct angle for the taper, the table saw is an easier way to go. The blunt is then mounted on a drill motor which rotates it against the turning grinding surface and shapes the taper.
1) Cutting to length.
The fastest way to cut your 1 1/4 inch diameter UHMW to the 2 and 1/2 inch length is to use a table saw with a guide and stop for the rod. You must first make sure that the blade is vertical at 90 degrees and that your guide is holding the rod 90 degrees to the saw blade. If your cuts are not square and true, you will have problems later in grinding, drilling and in the flight of the arrow. You should ran a few test samples and check them with a square to be sure they are cut correctly.
2) Marking the center.
In order to keep your blunt from wobbling when grinding or in flight, the shaft hole must be centered and straight. To do this you can use a center finder to mark the center of the blunt. A center finder is a tool used for marking the center of rods and other round items. It looks like a 'V' with a small bar dividing it exactly in half at the junction. You place the rod in the 'V' and using the bar as a guide, take a fine point indelible marker pen and draw a line all the way across the face of the blunt. You then turn the blunt 90 degrees and draw a second line intersecting the first at 90 degrees. This intersection is the center of the blunt where the shaft hole will be drilled. You should now take a punch or awl and make a dimple at the center. Then repeat the process on the other end, the four radii lines are the guides for locating the weight reduction holes.
When you have marked the center, then measure down a 1/4 inch from the face on the sides and mark a line around the blunt, this will be the top guide for the grinding.
3) Drilling. Jig construction.
For the drilling operation you will need a drill press, a jig for holding the sections of rod perpendicular to the drill bit and sharp drill bits. This is important for the grinding of the blunt as well as final accuracy.
I used a simple jig made of a six inch length of 1 by 4 with two pieces extending 2 inches above the top of the base board. The side pieces were glued and screwed to one side and the end of the board. You need to make sure that these side pieces hold the rod at 90 degrees to the top of the base board on which they are mounted. This jig will be secured to the base of your drill press with bolts, clamps, etc., so that when it is positioned it will not move accidentally, but will still be able to be adjusted when needed.
4) Drilling - jig alignment.
Before you secure your drilling jig, you need to place a blunt, with the center marked, in the jig and line up the 15/64th drill bit over the center mark. When you have the bit centered, then you may secure the jig. Now if your drill press has a depth stop set it for one inch or mark the bit with tape, etc. You can hold the blunt in place with a clamp if you wish. But, I held mine in place with my gloved hand.
5) Drilling - shaft and weight reduction holes
You may now start drilling the shaft hole, making sure that the blunt remains unmoved in the jig. Now remove the blunt and measure to be sure the shaft hole is centered and is perpendicular. If it is, then drill all your shaft holes, checking every so often to be sure they remain centered.
You now replace the 15/64th bit with a 3/8th bit and loosen the jig. You will need to place a center drilled blunt, face up, in the jig and center one of the radius lines for the reduction holes under the bit. The reduction holes should all be located between the center and the outer edge of the blunt on the radius lines. You then secure the jig, set your depth gauge to 1 inch and drill the four reduction holes.
You do not need to move the jig for drilling the four reduction holes. Just rotate the blunt 90 degrees to the next line. Drill all your holes, checking to make sure they remain properly located.
6) Grinding the taper.
First set up your grinder, table saw or drill motor with the grinding disk. If you are using a drill motor then set it up so that there is a surface to rest and steady your arms upon when grinding.
If possible the drill motor you use for rotating the blunt should be a variable speed motor.
Now take a 3 inch long 1/4 -20 bolt and cut off its head. You then secure it firmly in the drill chuck. Take the drill motor in one hand and the blunt in the other and place the bolt into the 15/64ths shaft hole and start the drill... slowly. The blunt will be screwed onto the bolt. Be sure the bolt goes in the full one inch. If you have done the proceeding steps correctly, there will be little wobble to the blunt as it rotates at full speed.
Before you start grinding, make sure you are wearing glasses or goggles and if you wish a dust mask. The particles that fly off are not sharp or toxic (UHMW is a form of paraffin, similar to that used in candles). But, there is a great deal of residue from grinding for you are reducing the rod by almost half its volume. This can make a real mess of your work space, clothing and hair. It brushes off, but is a real nuisance.
You now turn on your grinder and drill motor to full speed and place the bottom edge of the blunt against the disk at the angle that would be formed by a line going from 1/4 inch below the face of the blunt to within an 1/8 of an inch of the edge of the bolt where it enters the blunt. You press the blunt firmly against the grinding disk until all the excess material is removed. Then using the disk, slightly round off the leading edge of the blunt. You can now unscrew the blunt from the bolt. Take care for the blunt will be hot from the friction of grinding.
You should drill a glue relief hole using an aprox 1/16th drill bit in the blunt intersecting the bottom of the shaft hole. This allows the excess glue to leave the hole when you insert the shaft.
7) Seating the blunt.
You can now take a indelible marker and make a mark one inch back from the end of the shaft, this is a depth mark for inserting the shaft into the blunt. Then put a few drops of glue into the shaft hole. Crazy glue seems to work well. The shaft should have its leading edges slightly rounded off for ease in insertion. Now grasp the blunt and shaft in either hand and force the blunt onto the shaft as far as you can, this will not be very far.
Next nock the arrow to your bow and point it at the floor from about a foot away. You should be sure that the shaft is perpendicular to the floor when you release. Come to a quarter draw and then release and repeat until the blunt is seated all the way onto the shaft. The one inch mark on the shaft will help determine when it is fully seated. The UHMW has a little give to it which allows a tight force fit.
8) Taping the Blunt.
You may now cut your foam. The minimum thickness is one half inch, there is no maximum. I have had good results with some soft Neoprene rubber. It has not packed down under impact and the bounce back seems to be less. Do not use a foam that does not spring back after impact. You should test a piece of the foam by placing it on a hard surface and striking it several times with a hammer, it should rise back up. If it stays flat do not use it. If you have an 1-1/4 inch hole punch, use it to cut out your foam. If not use scissors to cut a 1-1/4 inch square. You should glue the foam to the blunt using contact cement, 3M adhesive or similar cement and let it dry. When the glue has set you can trim the square of foam round with scissors.
I am currently experimenting with the use of two different types of foam to see if combining different materials can lessen the bounce back.
At this point if you want a flat face you are ready to tape the head on. But, if you wish a 3/4 thick or thicker rounded face blunt, you need to trim it round. (Note: The striking face of a blunt may be rounded to no less than the radius of the blunt. e.g. A 1-1/4 inch blunt may be rounded to a radius of no less than 5/8's of an inch. This rounding rule is at the choice of each kingdom.)
To cut this radius you can make a template, with the correct radius cut out, to use as a guide. You turn the shaft with one hand, while you trim the foam with the scissors and check the final shape with the template.
At last you are now ready to tape the blunt onto the shaft. I used four strips of 3M electrical tape about 9 inches long. You center your first strip of tape over the face of the blunt and then, while stretching it slightly, run it down the sides of the blunt and onto the shaft for about an inch. Repeat this with the second strip laying it at ninety degrees to the first. The third and fourth strips fill in the spaces between the first two. Then take an approximately four inch long strip and wrap it around the base of the blunt onto the shaft covering the four strips of tape on the
shaft. You should try to make all the taping as smooth as possible. Non-smooth surfaces cause drag and drag slows down the arrow.
The last step is to identify your arrow using an indelible marker. This serves three purposes. 1) It identifies the maker of the arrow, if the arrow is incorrectly made. 2) It aids the return of lost arrows. 3) And when you make that long shot kill at 80 yards, your victim can learn who hit them. Your arrows should be clearly marked with your SCA name and local area. For inter kingdom wars, you should include your kingdom as well. You can also use colored tape to crest your shafts for easy identification at a distance or when inspection and sorting arrows.
If you should make any of the arrows and test them and then find any way to improve the design or make the construction easier, please let me know so that the improvements may be put in the final article.
Sir Jon Fitz-Rauf
For questions related to this article please contact the author: Sir Jon Fitz-Rauf
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