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Tag Archive | "dowels"

Wooden arrow shafts vs. dowels

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First-time poster, and it’s a bit of a doozy. Here goes:

Is there a real, fundamental difference between wooden arrow shafts and dowels?

Let me first reassure you, I am not going to run to the hardware store tomorrow, buy up all their 3/8" dowels, and start gluing on points and nocks and fletchings. I do make all my own arrows, but for the moment I have a large, free supply of bamboo, so that’s what I use. I hesitate to even bring up the subject of dowels, because of the venom and nonsense that seems to pop up on every thread that mentions them, but I really do want to know the answer. Unfortunately, every time I’ve seen the question of using dowels brought up, it always seems to go like this:
———-
OP: Hey, I’m new to this whole archery thing, and I noticed that arrows are kinda pricey. Can I just use dowels from the hardware store to make my own arrows? I shoot a 45# longbow, if that matters.

Response #1: NOOOO! :mg: You must be the stupidest person alive to even THINK of using a dowel! Dowels are too weak, and they haven’t been spined, and they don’t even come from *insert my favorite archery supply store/website here*! Even wooden shafts from an archery store are too weak and dangerous, let alone dowels! You must use carbon arrows only!

Response #2: Dude, chill out. I used to use dowels all the time when I was a kid. Of course, my bow was a little green branch off my dad’s peach tree and a bit of kite string, but I’m sure you’ll be fine. :shade:

Response #3: Try it out and let us know how it goes. You can post some nice pics of your splintered dowel impaling your bow hand.
———-
There, now that I’ve put those out there, nobody else should feel compelled to reply with any of the responses above. 😀

My question is this: Is there a real, fundamental difference between wooden arrow shafts and dowels?

Based on all my reading and study, it appears that the basic process for making a dowel or a wooden arrow shaft is the same: First you cut your stock into long square boards (blanks), and then your round them off with a plane/router/lathe/etc. For a long time, I was under the impression that the square blanks for dowels were made by saw cutting the wood, while the square blanks for arrows were made by splitting the wood. Because wood splits along the grain, this would significantly reduce/eliminate grain runoff in the shaft. However, based on further study, it appears that the square blanks for both dowels and arrow shafts are made with a saw. In other words, the process is exactly the same.

This leaves me in a situation where I have to assume that the difference between wooden arrow shafts and dowels lies not in the process used to make them, but in the wood itself (and in the QC process). Wooden arrow shafts will be checked for straightness of grain, grain runoffs and knots. I would like to think they are also checked for the amount and size of late growth vs. early growth rings (one is denser and stronger, the other is more porous and weaker, but I forget which is which off the top of my head). And, of course, they are (or at least they should be) grouped by weight and by spine.

The upshot of all this is that, assuming I know enough to select a dowel made from a decent arrow wood, free from knots, with straight grain that doesn’t run off the edge, and that I’m able to find such a dowel at a hardware store or lumber yard, I should be able to use that dowel with no more danger to my bow hand/forearm than if I had bought that same piece of wood from an archery shop. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will shoot the way I want it to, since the hardware store doesn’t group dowels by spine and weight, but as far as the safety of the archer’s bow hand and forearm, it seems to me that there is no difference between a well-selected dowel and a wooden arrow shaft from an archery shop.

Now, I recognize that all of the above is my own opinions and assumptions. I really would like to know if I’m correct, or if I’ve missed some vital part of the process of making wooden arrow shafts that makes them different from or safer than dowels. Any information or enlightenment that the community here can provide will be most welcome.


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