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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
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Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2011 6:44 am    Post subject: DIY Crossbow bolts         Reply with quote

Hi all, I just completed a little diy-project that I hope some of you might enjoy seeing the results from. Please feel free to comment my choice of materials, techniques and execution, I can take it Happy

Project: Making some crossbow bolts using hand tools and green wood

Last spring I purchased a great crossbow from Tod’s stuff. It came supplied with three standard bolts. While perfectly adequate, (not to mention free of charge with purchase of the crossbow) They do look a little lonely in the quiver. So I thought that I should make some of my own. And if I’m going through the trouble, I might as well push the limit a little bit. So I decided to make my own shafts using hand tools only.

For materials I went no further than my back yard. I have lots of hazel trees/shrubs growing there, and earlier this winter I cleared out some of it, saving some straight branches of various lengths, around thumb-thickness. This will be the shaft material. I also had a bunch of goose feathers and a some points bought from battlemerchant lying about.

Making and the shooting board

To start out I needed to make a shooting board (I hope that is the correct English term) so I can use a hand plane to work away to a consistent diameter.

I took a two foot length of 2by4 about two feet in lenght and chiseled out a v-shaped groove along the middle. The size of the groove was carefully calculated to yield a 12mm diameter shaft.


This meant a groove about 17 mm wide, with a 90 degree angle. I drew a couple of guidelines on the board and chiseled away eyeballing the angle. It turned out quite OK.

With 6 mm thick spacers on each side of the groove (to guide the plane), this should let me make shafts with a diameter of 12mm. It turned out that I had a packet of bamboo chopsticks that was the exact height! So I glued them on roughly the width of the blade of my plane + ~2 mm on each side.




Lesson learned here: I should have placed the spacer wider apart. Why? It turns out that when shaving down the shaft, I run the plane down the shaft, not at a right angle, but rather a 45 degrees angle to get a smoother stroke. This means the plane digs into the spacers now and then, making them wear and in need of replacement rather soon.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2011 6:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Using the shooting board to shape the shafts.




Taking a hazel rod in one hand, I place it in the groove and grab the plane in the other hand, shaving away and constantly turning the rod. Since I use green wood, shaving is quite easy. When the shaft has been shaved down to the desired size (plane hits the spacers) I cut them to about 13 inches length. Some larger diameter rods I used a drawing knife to cut down to size quick and easy. (Also notice in picture below the slanted angle of the plane mentioned in the earlier post)





Straightening and curing

Using green wood (they where cut in January before the sap have started rising, then kept at above freezing, but not in indoors climate) is great. It is really easy to shave, does not splinter and is quite pliable. On the downside it will need to cure in some controlled way and may warp or crack if I am unlucky.

After being shaved down and cut, The shafts will be brought indoors. This means that they will dry in the matter of days since they are now thin and without covering bark. So straightening them out is best done right away. I rolled the shafts along a flat table, and when finding curves and kinks I used my hands to bend them straight. This process was repeated morning and night for a few days until the shafts stayed straight. By now they where also dry and begun to become hard.

There is nothing quite as sad as a one man conga-line...
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2011 6:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Fletching and adding the business end



I fletched the bolts using linen thread and fish glue, fiddly business since I did not have a fletching jig, (this will be a future project to make)



When the glue was set, I trimmed the fletching and attached the point. Here cheated a little bit and applied a dollop of a black slightly elastic epoxy that I have come to grow very fond of (it secures stuff that I really, really do not want to come off while at a yards distance could pass for pitch since the stuff is black) When I get hold of good tar pitch, I will try that out as well..

The first finished bolt weighed in at 24 g

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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2011 6:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Test shooting

Now to the fun part, testing the new bolt. Outside, using all necessary safety precautions I loaded my crossbow with the new bolt. Taking aim at the front yard oak I let loose and held my breath... Success! Oak still lives, and the bolt did not break.

[

Now I have a small stockpile of shafts to finish, and I am confident I can make as many as I like from an almost unlimited supply of hazel!



Goose primaries will be the limiting factor. I need to find a goose farmer or hunter shooting wild geese (or any bird with sufficient large primaries for fletching) I would try Rook or Crow, since they are abundant enough and occalsionally turn up as road-kill. This could be a thread on its own...

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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2011 6:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Conclusions

In all I really enjoyed this project. I am satisfied with the result in that I have crossbow bolts that will look good in the quiver, and flies true enough to not embarrass me totally at the target range.
With some practice and with choice supply of raw material it produces shafts pretty quick.

My next goal is to to the same exercise with arrow shafts for my long bow. I expect this to be much more difficult, since the diameter and fault tolerances will be less. Also I will need to be much more picky when selecting the raw material. The straightening process will be a whole lot more tedious as well I suspect. The concept of “spine” is a non issue for crossbow bolts, but might become a factor for arrows. Some tests must be done before I jump into this. Anyone else have experience with making arrow shafts this way?

I hope you enjoyed the read.
/Bjorn


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Joel Minturn





Joined: 10 Dec 2007

Posts: 232

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2011 2:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Those bolts are really sweat looking. I haven't made my own shafts before, I cheat and buy premade shafts for my bolts. But over all those look really good and if they shoot well even better. Big Grin

I do like the points you are using, how much do they weigh?

Have you thought about using leather or wood for your fletching?
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Wed 23 Mar, 2011 10:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The points weigh around 11 grams. And yes,I have considered using wood or leather instead of feathers. I have so far not pursued it since I need some sort of jig to glue them on properly. With feathers I use the string to hold it all tight until the glue sets. And the fish glue takes a good few hours to do that. But I would love to try out parchment for this at some point.
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Aleksei Sosnovski





Joined: 04 Mar 2008

Posts: 313

PostPosted: Thu 24 Mar, 2011 12:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have made both arrows and bolts myself, though I usually used round pine dowels. Try making your bolts tapered towards the rear end. It is done very simply with a plane and sand paper without need for any other tools if you already have round shafts.

Is it correct that sockets of the points are slightly wider than your shafts or is it an optical illusion? Try making shafts of exactly same diameter as your points or you may find it difficult to extract your bolts from targets without leaving the points in it (that is if your crossbow is strong enough to penetrate a semy-hard target that deep of course).
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Bjorn Hagstrom




Location: Höör, Skane
Joined: 25 Oct 2007
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 8 books

Posts: 325

PostPosted: Thu 24 Mar, 2011 1:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, the sockets are slightly eider than the shaft, since I made a straight taper without a shoulder. In order to get a smooth level between the shaft and the point I would need to make the shaft about 14mm in diameter. On this one I already made I might just try to use a file and reduce the goods thickness of the socket a bit.

The crossbow is relativley weak (150lbs) so penetration in hard targets is not much of an issue, but my main target will be a straw butt so it would be a shame to wear that out too fast.

How much taper should I do at the rear of the shaft, and what is the purpose for doing that?
Is it for changing the COG or for aerodynamics?

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Aleksei Sosnovski





Joined: 04 Mar 2008

Posts: 313

PostPosted: Thu 24 Mar, 2011 2:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tapered shaft is stronger at the same weight. Tapering probably also slightly improves aerodynamics, but I think this improvement will not be noticeable.

I made my shafts taper from 12 mm to 9-10 mm. You may make your shafts taper from 13 m to 10-11 mm. This way you will have to file sockets down to 13 mm (only 0.5 mm per wall) and you will get bolts that weigh as much as your current ones despite being "thicker".

Try experimenting. You will find the best shaft for you. And look at original bolts, there are very different ones. Just looked at the pictures that I have and found straight bolts, bolts with barrel shafts, bolts that are thinner at the rear end and a bolt that is actually thicker at the rear end.
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Kurt Scholz





Joined: 09 Dec 2008

Posts: 390

PostPosted: Thu 24 Mar, 2011 4:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks, this has been very informative.
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