Building Arrows

Understanding Each Part

When it comes to building arrows, there are many manufacturers, components, and arrow shafts to choose from. Shafts alone have many variables including price, spine, diameter, type of material, weight, and thickness. We could do an entire discussion on just the arrow shafts, however, this article will focus on customizing arrows and how customization affects the actual arrow shaft.

Here is a list of the most common parts of an arrow:
1. Nock
2. Nock insert (sometimes optional)
3. Nock collar (optional)
4. Arrow wrap (optional; see more information below)
5. Vanes, Fletchings, and Feathers
6. Arrow shaft
7. Tip insert
8. Tip or Broadhead
9. Additional weight added to the tip insert for better Front of Center (F.O.C.)

Absolute minimum components to build an arrow include the nock, shaft, vanes, tip insert, and tip. In short, arrows are very customizable. If you have the time, correct tools, and knowledge there are many variations you can play with to get the arrow that suits your needs.

Arrow F.O.C.

This is something important to pay attention to for good arrow flight.
Arrow Forward of Center
F.O.C. stands for Front of Center balance point. This measurement is calculated from the weights of the combined components used in the arrow: shaft, insert, point, fletching, nock and any other parts added. A properly balanced arrow measurement is between 7% and 15%. This means that 7% – 15% of the arrow’s weight is located in the front half of the arrow. Target archers commonly like a higher F.O.C. to make sure the tip is going where they intend. Some arrow manufacturers like a specific F.O.C. range. For instance, Easton recommends an arrow with 10% to 15% F.O.C. for hunting setups and optimal accuracy, especially at long distances.

This is how to calculate F.O.C.
1. Measure the arrow’s overall length from the bottom of the nock groove to end of the shaft. Divide this number by 2.

2. Using a sharp edge, balance the arrow (including the nock, fletchings, and point) and mark the balance point on the shaft. Measure from this point to the throat of the nock.

3. Subtract center of the arrow measurement from Step 1 from the balance point in Step 2.

4. Multiply the resulting number in Step 3 by 100.

To learn more on F.O.C., Easton has a great article just on F.O.C. here.

One issue that may arise with building arrows and customizing with wraps, collars, and longer/heavier vanes is that the F.O.C. will decrease. You can adjust this by adding more weight to the tip end with either custom inserts or just going to a heavier tip. For example, if I need to increase my F.O.C. on a specific arrow setup, I can change from 100-grain tips to 125-grain tips. It does not take much to shift the F.O.C. in most cases.

Reason For Customizing Arrows

Some people customize their arrows purely for a specific look or color scheme. The look is personally not my goal. I customize my arrows for longevity, accuracy, and brightness or visibility. For example adding a nock collar saves arrows from getting damaged from end impacts which can fracture carbon arrows. Pin nock inserts have the same principle. Basically, the goal is to save the arrow when impacts happen and hope that only the nock gets the damage which is easily replaced.

Arrow Wraps

I use arrow wraps for 3 reasons.
1. Visibility
2. Protect the arrow from fletch glue
3. Easy cleanup for re-fletching

For target shooting, I like bright wraps such as white. I shoot at very long distances (200+ yards) and let’s face it….. you frequently miss at long distances, especially when setting a new distance. Using white wraps allows me to see the flight and also find them easily where ever they landed. For hunting, I will use a darker wrap, like orange or red simply to make it easy to re-fletch if I need to.


Vanes and Arrow Wraps
Vanes or fletchings steer the arrow to your intended target. Different style vanes look, sound, spin, fly differently and have different weight. While some vanes are preferred for competition, they may not be the best for hunting due to flight noise or not steer the arrow as well as others for broadheads. It all depends on your goal and I have recently been playing with different vane setups for this reason. Having a fletching jig will allow you to do the same. Change vane types, sizes, angles, etc.. and decide what works best for your setup. There is so much you can do just tweaking vanes with offsets, helical’s or even straight with different sizes.

Customizing Pro’s and Con’s

1. The biggest con is the F.O.C. issue. Most of your customizing will be on the nock end decreasing F.O.C.
2. Also, adding weight to either end of the arrow will actually change the spine of the arrow (weaken the spine).
3. Adding too much weight for some bow set-ups may cause issues (mostly hunting related).

1. Customizing arrows produces a signature look. While this does not matter much to me, it is what a lot of people are after.
2. Customization can result in you getting the arrow to fly the way you want.
3. Adjustments can be made by adding or removing weight to get the F.O.C. to be in a suitable range.
4. As I mentioned earlier, I like my target arrows more visible.
5. The arrows can be fine-tuned by indexing your vanes to the broadhead or the spine.

Here is an example of a weight change in my arrows. Its not much, but if F.O.C. is on the edge for you it may be enough to mess with the flight. As a quick test, switching tips to something heavier and it should show if it is.

This is an almost stock arrow. It has a nock collar and different nock than factory.

This is my preferred setup, different nock, added nock collar, 6 inch wrap and leaning towards these longer AAE Stealth Max vanes.

As you can see there is a 15.6 grain difference by adding wraps and different (longer) vanes.

At the end of the day, building arrows can be fun and allow you to meet your specific shooting needs. Just keep in mind F.O.C. and arrow spine will change.

Shoot straight everyone!

Items Discussed AND Used In This Article

Posted in: The Gear

About Jeff Behnke

I have been hunting, fishing and spending vast amounts of time in the outdoors for over 30 years. I enjoy everything about the woods, conservation, habitat, and especially the animals in it. I also have an addiction to camo and hunting gear :)