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    Making crossbow bolts

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    Todd the archer
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    Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Todd the archer on Tue May 24, 2011 3:25 pm

    Does anybody have a tutorial on how they make crossbow bolts. In particular, what do you use for shafting and vanes? Does anyone have jig or setup for doing the traditional 2 fletched bolts. How about the specs; length, thickness, what tips are you using? Overall weight?

    Thanks in advance, Todd
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    Master Bran Padraig
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Master Bran Padraig on Tue May 24, 2011 4:24 pm

    I use 11/32" standard shafts from 3 Rivers. 50-55 spines. I cut them in half for a 16" long bolt.

    I currently like the 145 gr standard field tips (11/32"). I used to use 125 gr tips but I think the 145 fly just a little better for my X-bow.

    I like to sand the shafts using 400 and 800 grit paper and then stain with Danish oil (mostly for a better look and a little moisture protection).

    Cut my own turkey feathers using a standard 4-5" shield chop cutter. (2 fletch) Glue them on with fletch tight and a Bitzenburg jig. We use an arrow notch held on to the bolt shaft with a short piece of plastic tube on the Bitzenburg jig.
    I think a lot of SCA X-bow shooters do something pretty close to this.

    I have started to forge my own type 10 bodkins for bolts. I have only made a few so far but they have come out pretty good.

    I do want to make a really nice 'period' set of bolts using tapered 3/8" ash, white/off white goose feathers with string wrap, and hand forged tips. Just need to finish a few other projects first. I'll try to remember to take photos and document the process if there is interest.
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    Basilisk120
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Basilisk120 on Tue May 24, 2011 5:39 pm

    I pretty much second everything that Master Padraig has said. I do few things a little differently but the principles are the same.

    Some bolt makeing tips from anouther thread: http://thearbalistguild.forumotion.com/t344-bolt-making-and-painting-tips

    Equipment:
    11/32 wood arrow shafts. Typically Port Orford ceder because its what I have right now. The one time I tried the laminated birch shafts I liked them but they are a bit more expensive.
    125 gr. points. My default point because I still have most of a 100 pack left.
    2 inch Rayzer feathers. If I do my part in putting them on then 2 are enought.

    Prep:
    I cut a standard arrow shaft in half to get 2 bolts per shaft.
    sand/trim cut ends so all shafts are the same length
    Typically the uncut end is the nock end because it is nicer (flatter, perpenduclar to the shaft.
    Paint the shaft. I typically paint instead of varnish because I like the look.

    Then either fletch or point next.
    Fletch:
    My fletching jig is a Martin J8 jig. A blitzenburger would be nice but that was cheaper and has been acceptable.
    I use and adapter that sound similiar to what Master Padraig uses. An arrow nock stuck in a short bit of fuel tubing.
    Typically use super glue to glue the feathers on. Used to use Duco cement but CyA (super glue) is faster. And is more available than Fletch Tight.

    Pointing:
    Like I mentioned above I use 125 gr glue on points with holt melt glue. I like the hot melt because it lets me swap points or salvage points with less work.
    Key step with glue on points: Boil the points well. Put the points in a small pot and boil them for a good 5 minutes or so then drain, cool and dry. Doing that I haven't had an issue with the glue on point falling off in the Arizona summers. I should mention that I don't let them sit in the sun for long and I use the good hot melt glue from 3 rivers.

    Lastly:
    Make sure the nock end is prepped, either flat or slight concaved. the edges are slightly rounded and the bolt fits in the crossbow.

    Hopefully that helps. I did assume that you have some experiance making arrows. If you don't and need me to fill in a couple of steps then let me know.

    That is for making simple bolts, I guess the next step will be to do a write-up on making "period" bolts. Once I figure out how to do that I will. particullar how to taper the shafts properly.



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    Todd the archer
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Todd the archer on Tue May 24, 2011 8:04 pm

    Thanks alot for the replies, I have made plenty of arrows. Have made some bolts but was curious as to how others were doing it. I like the idea of using rubber tubing for a nock adapter. I have some maple shafts laying around somewhere. I think they will make a sturdy bolt.

    Also does anyone reinforce the butt end of the bolt?

    Definitely think a build along of period bolts is in order.
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by mac on Wed May 25, 2011 8:04 am

    Todd,

    There is no need to reinforce the butts when they are used with the light crossbows we all typically shoot. I have used unreinforced cedar bolts up to 200lbs. with no problem.

    I don't know at what point it becomes necessary to reinforce them. Does anybody here have any experience of bolts splitting from string pressure?

    It seems to me that the factors which make reinforcement necessary are....
    --heavy draw weight
    --heavy bolt weight
    --easily splittable shaft wood
    --small string diameter
    --small bolt diameter
    --vertical misalignment of the string on the butt of the bolt

    The last consideration is a design mistake in the crossbow/bolt system for other reasons, and should be fixed anyways.

    I always orient the growth rings of the shaft parallel to the string. My presumption is that wood splits more readily across the growth rings than along them. I don't know how much difference it makes, and I think it's exactly the opposite of what Geezer told me to do 15 (?!)years ago.

    Does anyone have any pics of authentic bolts that show the grain orientation?

    Mac
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by mac on Wed May 25, 2011 8:05 am

    Am I the only guy who never bothers to paint his bolts?

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by mac on Wed May 25, 2011 8:25 am

    I have found that the biggest factor in vertical accuracy is uniform bolt weight. For a matched set of target bolts, I make them weigh the same to the nearest 1/10 of a gram.

    The biggest variable is the density (and thus the weight) of the shafting wood. The factory-made points will all be essentially the same weight. If the fletches are cut carefully, they will all be the same as well.

    Here is my procedure..
    --cut the shafts to length
    --sort them into weight groups
    --chose the biggest group from the center of the weight range to be your matched bolts
    --fletch the bolts
    --cut the tapers for the points
    --weigh them again, and chose the heaviest to be the standard
    --take each bolt of the under-weight bolts, and add a length of 1/16 solder wire to the scale pan to bring the weight of the bolt to the target weight
    --drill a small coaxial hole into the pointed end. Make the hole be about the length of the solder. Use a Dremel tool and steady hands. I grab the shaft in one hand, and Dremmel in the other, with my two thumbs touching for reference.
    --insert the solder wire into the hole in the point, and secure it with a drop of CyA glue
    --glue on the points
    --enjoy your tighter vertical grouping.

    Mac

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Paulius on Wed May 25, 2011 8:29 am

    Dont worry, Mac, you are not alone Very Happy .

    About super glue: when I had to fletch arrows for my bow, I used Super Glue Gel. I dont know if this is better choise than simple super glue (super glue is still super glue Very Happy ), but I think they are a bit easier to work with.

    Basilisk, I have question about tapering the bolt shafts: are they somewhat better than simple sticks? They are used for aerodynamical purpose, or just for adapting larger bolt heads?

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by 8fingers on Wed May 25, 2011 11:47 am

    You want the growth rings perpendicular to the string so that you get the best stiffness, I use methyl hydrate lamp to heat the tips / glue because any carbon on the glue / shaft / tip interferes with glue adhesion. I also run a tap into the tip to give it some tooth for still better adhesion.
    Sometimes all you need to do to bring a lighter shaft up to weight is give it another coat or 2 of your shaft finish. Keep you bolts EXACTLY the same length because your bolt tip is also your front sight. Ralph Payne Galloway shows some bolts with an oval cross section, and this thread left me wondering if it was from shrinkage from bad grain orientation.
    On the other hand an oval bolt would allow a more weight forward balance with out too high a profile. A wedge shaped taper on the rear of the bolt allows a fat bolt to be used in a nut cut for 1/4 in SCA combat bolts. this appears to be traditional where a bolt clip was not used.
    Ace makes a series of sort of traditional points. 3 Rivers Archery only has the 125 grain listed but they go up to 200 grain. They are machined for consistant size and weight. http://www.acearcherytackle.com/points.php
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by mac on Wed May 25, 2011 12:10 pm

    [quote="8fingers"] You want the growth rings perpendicular to the string so that you get the best stiffness,
    /quote]

    8F,

    Could you explain what you mean here? Which direction (vis a vis the growth rings) do you think is stiffer? Why?

    Do you think it is more important to have the bolt be stiffer in the up and down, or left and right? I can imagine arguments either way.

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Geezer on Wed May 25, 2011 12:43 pm

    In my experience, wood is more likely to split along the grain lines than across them. That's why we always make crossbow stocks with grain running top to bottom, rather than side to side. It keeps nut-sockets and bridle-holes from splitting. Prod-sockets ditto.
    Bows with roller-locks generally start the bolt lying against the string, so the butt isn't likely to be split on acceleration unless it's already chipped or cracked in some fashion. Butt-caps can prevent splitting or chipping with a marginal 'Robin Hood' strike, but generally they just add weight at the wrong end of the bolt.
    The only period bolts I've ever seen with any sort of butt-cap were fancy target-bolts with something like a waffle-patterned tack driven into the butt. Did they help? I doubt it, but that shouldn't prevent people from experimenting. Opinionated old geezers 'know'' lots of stuff that turns out wrong. Why should I be an exception? Geezer.
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Basilisk120 on Wed May 25, 2011 1:27 pm

    Paulius-
    A tapered shaft has more weight forward therefore moving the CG slightly towards the front. This will help to stabilize the bolt in flight. With most arrow shafts it wouldn't be big deal. An easier way of getting the same effect would be to use a slightly heavier point.
    My interest in tapered shafts is largly with make a period bolts not a target ones.


    While have I thought about different things to reinforce the nock end of a bolt. Like adding a plate or simple just some glue. I haven't had an issue with bolts splitting or getting damaged from shooting. I have broken some bolts when they get hit by other bolts but I don't think a reinforment would really help that.



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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by basileus on Fri May 27, 2011 10:27 am

    Hi Todd,

    Check out the "Bolt" category in our Wiki. At the moment all of the articles are from me, but I'm hoping for that to change. I only a have a couple of things to add:

    • Thin metal vanes work well for heavy bolts with wooden shafts. I use them with bolts weighing around 50 grams (2 ounces) or above. Wooden vanes or feathers work better for thnner and lighter bolts.
    • Shafts thickening towards the butt-end are (probably) more stable in flight, as they increase air pressure at that end, similarly to vanes. They are more prone to breaking at the point end, if they hit something hard.
    • If the bolt is forward-heavy, it will "nose dive" during flight, unless shot at a high angle of elevation.

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by 8fingers on Fri May 27, 2011 1:35 pm

    I was just looking at Ralph Payne Gallway's book again. Pg 126 : he lists the bolt as being 12 1/2 inches long, 11/16 diameter at its thickest part, apparently with a forward barrel taper. The shaft weighs 1 oz., the head 1 1/2 oz. The shaft appears to be made from a shoot or branch, with concentric rings. Pg 128 shows a bolt for a slurbow. The shaft is deeply fluted for about half its length and would appear to be very weight forward.
    Pg 218 shows a target bolt for a Belgian crossbow; "weighing 1oz.,6 drachms, avoirdupois". The butt of the bolt appears to be full diameter of the shaft, and this section longer than would be required in a nut. the shaft then has a shoulder and begins to taper reaching full diameter almost at the point. The grain running nearly parallel to the cock feather.
    Pg 236 Shows a Dresden bolt, an unfletched tapered bolt with a heavy point attached to the larger end, weighing 2 3/4 oz., point weighing 1 1/4 oz., balance point 2 1/2 inches from the point. I don't see a length specified. Chapter IV, pg 16 says he has found a bolt of seasoned yew, about 12" long by 1/2" to 5/8" diameter and weighing 2 1/2 - 2 3/4oz fly straightest and furthest.
    I have seen illustrations of an 'engine' used to carve a groove in the shaft of a crossbow bolt. It held the shaft firmly while the cutter head rode against a fence and incised a slightly curved (parabolic) groove for the fletching.
    The Traditional Bowyer's Bible Vol. 3 page 250 says that the cock feather should line up with the 'reed' of the shaft. the illustration shows grain going ==== as 'reed' and >>> as rift. My understanding is if the string is vertical, the grain would run at right angles to it. (String up and down then grain of the arrow , seen from the end would look like = ) Traditional Bowyer's Bible, Vol. 1 also has an excellent article on the making of arrows. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pzk6bxKAMoQ
    This URL will take you to a menu of arrow making articles- take your bolts from 'it works' to 'art that flys true'.
    http://www.stickbow.com/features/index.cfm?feature=arrowmaking
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by basileus on Mon May 30, 2011 3:45 am

    8fingers wrote:I have seen illustrations of an 'engine' used to carve a groove in the shaft of a crossbow bolt. It held the shaft firmly while the cutter head rode against a fence and incised a slightly curved (parabolic) groove for the fletching.

    Where could one find these pictures? I got to build one myself and would rather not reinvent the wheel...

    8fingers wrote:
    My understanding is if the string is vertical, the grain would run at right angles to it.

    By grain you probably mean the growth rings, in which case that's a good idea - especially with species of wood that split easily along growth rights, such as ash, white oak or pine. I think a good generic rule of thumb would this: "align the vanes to the shaft so that the the bowstring cannot wedge itself between growth rings and split the shaft". With some hard to split woods (e.g. birch) I've never bothered about this and never had any issues. With handbows growth-ring orientation is probably more important due to differences in spine.

    Basileus

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by 8fingers on Mon May 30, 2011 4:36 pm

    I can't find the illustration right now but my recollection of the engine was a jig mounted to a bench that held the bolt firmly, and I would guess, have a way of indexing each slot. There was a fence that guided a scratch stock just so, just there. (A scratch stock is a sort of plane.)
    I am exploring the idea of making something similar but using a Dremel tool in a router base to cut the grooves. By using a wire hook to catch a finished groove I should be able to index each cut. Matching V groove blocks to hold the front of the shaft and a squared up section like a miter box for the cutting area, a table and fence to guide the router.
    I need one up and running by the end of the week, so hold my feet to the fire on this one. pale Juggle
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by mac on Mon May 30, 2011 9:53 pm

    8F,

    The pic in question comes from the loeffelholz manuscript. I'm not coming up with it on the web. I'll see if I can find it tomorrow.

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by JMC on Sun Jun 12, 2011 1:55 am

    Bonjour les amis

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by basileus on Sun Jun 12, 2011 2:14 am

    Got to make something like this and try hardwood vanes again. My earlier wooden vanes were inserted through the shaft which made them hard to align perfectly (or spirally, for that matter). A thin, scraping steel blade should work as a groove cutter.

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by mac on Sun Jun 12, 2011 8:34 am

    Merci, JMC!

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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by 8fingers on Sun Jun 12, 2011 7:55 pm

    Just a thought, but would a short section of a fine saw blade work better than a single scrapper/cutter? measure the thickness of your vanes and use multiple hacksaw blades or maybe reciprocating saw blades to make the thickness, but cut down to 1/2 inch or so?
    JMC, Mac; Thanks for figuring out from my poor description the device I was thinking of.
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by genesis on Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:56 pm

    I managed to pick up some reclaimed oak with a straight grain,and experimented with a smoothing plane,removing corners as far as possible with the shaft in the vice.Then,placed the plane upside down in the vice(with grip protection) and held the shaft in my fingers and worked the shavings off at each end towards the middle.Then, a bit of cheating with a linishing belt for the overall roundness,and hey presto,one oak quarrel shaft.
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Paulius on Tue Jun 21, 2011 4:58 am

    I think that the best wood for shafts is ash. It has straigth grain and splits very well when green. You can simply take green log of ash and split it in squares. If needed work them to proper dimensions with axe or drawknife and then let them dry. When dried, you can round shafts as paul mentioned.
    This is how I am doing it:


    When I was making my first crossbow bolts, i tried to split dried ash, but this was hard to do properly. So I had to hew shafts with axe and this was wasting of material

    Although it is possible to round and smooth shafts only with plane and sraper, I have read that sandstone with round groove was used in massive production of bolt shafts.


    Last edited by Paulius on Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:09 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added a photo)
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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Basilisk120 on Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:31 am

    Paul- That sounds really cool. Lucky you on finding some good straight grained oak.
    Paulius - Thanks for the tip on working the ash. Don't have access to good green wood down here, but might have to try that at sometime.



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    Re: Making crossbow bolts

    Post by Saxon Crusader on Mon Jun 04, 2012 5:04 pm

    First post here and it's a question about nomenclature. I apologize in advance if it's a tad dumb but:

    I'm ordering 11/32 Port Orchard cedar shafts from Three Rivers Archery and also the 125 and 145 grain steel field points, also in 11/32.

    What I have not been able to find, even in Master Iolo's book is does one have to get a LARGER size of point or do 11/32 (3/8's inch) points fit snugly onto 11/32 shafts? I assume that's the case since the other sizes are notably different but I didn't want to make a dumb assumption and find out the hard way later. Very Happy

    P.S. Old Geezer makes wonderful crossbows! Vera (that's what I named the one I got from him last Autumn) is my darlin'!

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