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Crossbows - Everything about Building, Modding, and Using your Crossbow Gear

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    Wooden Crossbow Bolts

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    Post by Basilisk120 Thu Mar 18, 2010 10:08 pm

    So I am looking at making some more bolts and I had a few questions. I have read through Iola's First Book of Crossbows: http://crossbows.net/IFBOC.php It has a lot of good information.
    So first question, How important is the spine of the shaft? I get that on a short bolts its not really important but I have several different shafts from broken arrows of different spine and was wondering how that would effect things.

    Second, What size fletching does everyone use? I am currently using two 5 inch feathers because that is what I had, so just wondering what other people used?



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    Post by John Waller Fri Mar 19, 2010 9:36 am

    I would hazzard that spine is of little importance. With a longbow an arrow has to cope with the 'archer's paradox' and 'bend' around the bow. This is not the case with a crossbow. I have recently made a number of medieval style bolts and have experimented with different size and shapes of fletchings of both feather and parchment mostly 4"-5", but I'm not sure I have enough shots in yet to comment on their relative performance. Shafts were of 300mm length x 11mm diameter made of hardwood dowel from a local hardware store with a cast iron (they were cheap!) quarrel head.
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    Post by Geezer Mon Mar 22, 2010 6:44 am

    Geezer here: having written "Iolo's crossbow book" I believe I can comment authoritatively on it. For the lightweight crossbows I build, (maximum 200 lb draw) I generally use 11/32nd standard arrow-shafts, cut to approx. 15.5 inches length. Spine weight doesn't really matter for the shafts, but I suppose you could get shafts that were just too wimpy. Getting shafts all the same spine is a good idea.
    I generally fletch with two, three-inch feathers, spun clockwise (not that the spin direction matters, just so they're all the same) For heavier bows I use 125 grain heads... 160's if I can get them for the strongest bows. For my lightweight bows, I prefer 100 grain heads, and have made up target bolts with 70 grain heads and 5/16th inch shafts.
    Extant medieval bolts I have seen vary between 12 and 18 inches long overall, but seem to average around 15 inches in length, and 1/2 (12.7 mm) and 3/4 inch diameter. Some bolts may actually be oval in cross-section, being slightly thicker top-to bottom than side-to side. Shafts are of hardwood, with ash being preferred for strength, but birch and oak are also acceptable (honestly, you all suspect the fletchers used whatever they could get, don't you?... yeah, we're on the same page here) The medieval bolts I have seen that still have their fletching use thin, flexible strips of wood set into the grooves in the side of the shaft... fletching about 5 inches long.
    Butts of bolts are flattened into an oval shape, full height of the shaft, but only about 5/16th inch wide.
    Mostly the shafts look more or less parallell, but some do seem to be slightly barrelled as Payne-Gallwey shows 'em. No doubt there were special target bolts of odd shape, like the fluted/unfletched 17th century bolts PG shows.
    It's good to be back. Geezer.
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    Post by dz63 Fri Nov 11, 2011 8:22 pm

    John Waller wrote:Shafts were of 300mm length x 11mm diameter made of hardwood dowel from a local hardware store with a cast iron (they were cheap!) quarrel head.
    Sorry to resurrect an old post, but does anyone have a source for these cheap cast iron quarrel heads?
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    Post by Todd the archer Fri Nov 11, 2011 9:10 pm

    Is this is what you are looking for?

    http://www.bogencenter.de/Spitze+TSK+Bodkin+f%C3%BCr+Holzpfeile_+11_32_shop_bestellen.html?action=showArticleList&showDetails=3&indexnum=54&kategorie=Pfeil&articleNumRange=S635&sid=ea7265b9868d360ec27156d3b81b84a6http:



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    Post by John Waller Sat Nov 12, 2011 1:33 pm

    dz63 wrote:
    John Waller wrote:Shafts were of 300mm length x 11mm diameter made of hardwood dowel from a local hardware store with a cast iron (they were cheap!) quarrel head.
    Sorry to resurrect an old post, but does anyone have a source for these cheap cast iron quarrel heads?
    http://www.english-longbow.co.uk/cat20.htm#arrowsmaterials

    Hi. I got mine from Richard Head Longbows. They have gone up in price to £1.10 since I got mine.

    Cheers

    John



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    Post by Clinker Sat Dec 03, 2011 9:25 am

    Are there any American sources of something similar? I hate paying the over-the-ocean freight.
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    Post by dz63 Sat Dec 03, 2011 1:02 pm

    Clinker wrote:Are there any American sources of something similar? I hate paying the over-the-ocean freight.

    Hi Clinker,

    I found a source in the USA for short bodkin points for my Medieval cross bow bolts from 3riversarchery in Ashley, IN. They cost $8.99 for three points. I can't comment on how good these points are as I just ordered them last week and they are currently in transit. They did process and ship my order one day after I ordered online, which I thought was pretty fast. They also have a very helpful website with Questions and Answers and user reviews on each of the items they sell. Here is a link if you are interested...

    http://www.3riversarchery.com/SCA%252DMedieval+Arrows+%2526+Points_c53_s188_p0_thumb.html
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    Post by stoneagebowyer Sat Dec 03, 2011 3:18 pm

    DZ, I have bought and use these. They are top quality, tough, and well finished. While not actual replicas of medieval bodkin tips, they do the job and are inexpensive enough that if you loose them, you wont sob into your beer.
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    Post by mac Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:21 am

    Geezer wrote:
    Some bolts may actually be oval in cross-section, being slightly thicker top-to bottom than side-to side.

    G,

    Is is your impression that these bolts were made that way, or that the wood shrank into an oval section with the passing on time?

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    Post by Geezer Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:56 am

    "Is is your impression that these bolts were made that way, or that the
    wood shrank into an oval section with the passing on time?" (Mac)

    Damifino, but the difference in height and width is fairly noticeable. I suspect shrinkage might make less difference, so maybe they're actually made that way!
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    Post by RazorBack Fri Dec 09, 2011 8:30 pm

    Hi,
    Kustom King Archery has replica bodkins for different size shafts. They aren't too pricey.
    Best,
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    Post by mac Fri Dec 09, 2011 9:24 pm

    Geezer wrote:"Is is your impression that these bolts were made that way, or that the
    wood shrank into an oval section with the passing on time?" (Mac)

    Damifino, but the difference in height and width is fairly noticeable. I suspect shrinkage might make less difference, so maybe they're actually made that way!
    Geezer

    Have you got dimensions on any of them? it would be surprising, indeed, if they made them ovals de novo. On the other hand, it they did....it might be to stiffen the bolt in the vertical plane without adding to the overall weight of the shaft.

    Mac
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    Post by bpnelson Sun Dec 11, 2011 7:54 pm

    Howdy, folks. Thought I'd add my opinion, here. In my experience, spine makes absolutely no difference at all in 1/2" shafts. Think about it. If you had a 70# spine, 28" arrow, and cut it to about 13" for a bolt...as a general rule, for every inch you cut, you add 5# to the spine. So you'd be looking at a theoretical spine of roughly 300 pounds. Plus, there is virtually no lateral movement, anyway.

    As for the bolts, I have a 250# Alchem prod. I use 1/2" dowels from the store (check for straightness). For points I have used 11/32 field tips (work fine, just taper the ends of the shafts). I recently got some bodkins from Richard Head Longbows. These are definitely the best stuff I've used. It was about $55 including shipping for 24 bodkins (UK to US).

    Below are the three types of bolts I've made. Top to bottom they are 1/2 shaft, 11/32 field point; 1/2 shaft, 1/2 bodkin; 5/8 shaft, 1/2 bodkin.

    Wooden Crossbow Bolts F3e644

    They are about 13" in length. Pretty scary to think those suckers got as thick as almost an inch, eh? Yikes!
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    Post by Clinker Mon Jan 16, 2012 7:28 pm

    I did buy some of those points from Three Rivers. Just have to put them on now.

    I found a source for heavy-bolt wood dowels. Hickory ramrods for muzzleloading firearms. Come in 48" lengths up to 1/2" diameter, bigger if you find the right merchant. Try Dixie Gunworks, or just google hickory ramrods.
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    Post by Basilisk120 Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:00 pm

    Clinker, Thanks for the tip on Ram-Rod dowls. That may be just what I need for a different project as well. Looking to make a Period (1500-1600) correct English Lowbow arrow.



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