Small-Arrows-art - 8/16/18


"Quarter-Inch Arrows for Youngsters" by Lord Mungo Napier.


NOTE: See also the files: Arrow-Inspect-art, T-Arch-Child-art, P-Arch-Target-art, Buyng-Usd-Bow-art, bowstrings-msg, Trubl-Shootng-art, arrows-msg.





This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.


These files are available on the Internet at:


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at



This article was first published in the Summer 2018 issue of Quivers and Quarrels.


Quarter-Inch Arrows for Youngsters

by Mungo Napier, Lord of the Mallard Lodge


Arrows with 1/4-inch shafts are an excellent choice for youngsters up to about eight years of age when shooting 9-pound bows such as the Bear First Shot.


But wait! They're not just for kids. At my very first tournament I met a very petite adult lady well under five feet tall. She proudly showed me a quiver of really fine 1/4-inch arrows about 27 inches long she had just made. Surprisingly, they were self-nocked!


The easiest way to get 1/4-inch arrows is to buy them ready-made (see photo below). Elk Ridge Archery offers 21-inch arrows, which are well-suited to children up to five years old. Black Rhino Archery sells 23-inch arrows for children up to about eight years old. Black Rhino arrows have a spine weight of around 30 pounds, making them safe for slightly higher poundage youth bows, though care must be taken that youngsters do not overdraw. Arrows from both sources are of excellent quality, and are very reasonably priced.


Making 1/4-inch arrows for your youngsters, or for your local group's loaner kit, is an enjoyable and interesting project. Building such small arrows is not difficult, though they do present some unique challenges.


(Below) Purchased 1/4-inch arrows. The top is 21 inches long, of unknown spine weight, and came from Elk Ridge Archery. The decorated middle arrow is earlier production from Black Rhino Archery. It is 23 inches long, and has a 15-pound spine weight. The lowest arrow is also from Black Rhino Archery, and represents current production, without shaft color or cresting. The arrow is raminwood, 23 inches long, without a specified spine weight. (Author’s photo)



Shaft Woods, Sources, and a Few Cautions


Your author has (so far) found only one source of commercial 1/4-inch arrow shafts in the United States. Raminwood shafts 24 inches long and spined at 30 pounds are available from Kustom King Archery. I have used several dozen of these shafts, with mixed satisfaction. The rejection rate for shafts that were impossibly bent, cracked, or had dangerous knots was about 33% (see photo above). Cracks where the grain was raising up into long splinters were a potentially serious problem. At just $4.95 per dozen, losses due to quality issues were not a great concern. Raminwood sands easily, though it does not absorb stain very well.


English-made Boyton pine shafts are highly regarded on that side of the Big Puddle. On their web site, Longbow Shop in England lists 28-inch long, 1/4- inch Boyton shafts with no spine weight specified. Unfortunately, the shafts have been out of stock for a long time and are apparently not currently produced. I keep hoping Boyton will make these shafts again, as I want to try them.


The obvious domestic source for 1/4-inch shafts is dowels from Lowes, Home Depot or other hardware stores. Many of our sets were built from 4-foot long poplar dowels. Their spine weight is unknown (the dowels are below what my spine tester will measure), so I restrict these arrows to our 9-pound bows. I spent many an hour going through boxes of these dowels in stores to find the few that were straight enough to use. Many times I found dowels that were badly bent on one end, but the rest was straight enough to yield one arrow. Finding a dowel straight enough for two arrows was a rare bonus. I checked carefully for knots, splits, rising grain, or tiny holes (possibly from a boring insect). I continue to make poplar arrows for two loaner kits (one owned by the Shire of Isenfir, and the other by our household, Mallard Lodge), but caution my fellow marshals and marshals-in-training to make sure those arrows are used only with our lightest bows.


I also made several arrow sets from 3-foot long oak dowels. When I noticed a number of finished arrows had grain layers rising up as very nasty splinters, I retired all the oak arrows. I DEFINITELY DO NOT RECOMMEND OAK.



(Above) The hazards of small shafts are illustrated by these examples. (From top to bottom) This oak shaft has a serious grain layer separation in the dark horizontal line. The second shaft, also oak, has several small holes, possibly from a boring insect, which would be potential breaking points. The third shaft, which is poplar, has lost part of a grain layer, and could possibly split further under stress. The bottom shaft, also poplar, shows a system of disturbing cracks. (Author’s photo)


Working the Shafts


With some exceptions that follow, I use the same techniques for 1/4-inch shafts as on larger arrows, so my comments here will be brief.


Straightening 1/4-inch shafts using the usual two-handed, counter-bend method is perilous. It is much easier to break a 1/4-inch shaft than larger sizes. I prefer to roll my shafts back and forth on a kitchen table under hand pressure, though this isn't as effective as other methods.


I cut my shafts to length, with an allowance for points and nocks, using a small fine-blade craft saw. A hacksaw will also work. With each stroke of the saw, I rotate the shaft until there is a saw cut (called a "kerf") all the way around the shaft. Then I finish cutting straight through using gentle strokes. The kerf prevents downward pressure on the last stroke from breaking off a long splinter, which always comes off the shaft, never the waste piece (hereafter known as "Mungo's Law").


The shafts are sanded with 320-grit sandpaper. Next they are cleaned with acetone/lacquer thinner/fingernail polish remover (all the same thing) rubbed on with a soft cloth. Wear vinyl exam gloves for this and work outdoors. The shafts will be dry in just a minute or so, but I let them sit for an hour or two before further steps.


Pointing 1/4-inch shafts presents a unique problem. The only tool I have found for this is the 3Rivers Archery Tru-center Taper Tool, with the optional 1/4-inch guide. Unfortunately, the amount of "slop" in the cutting chamber caused by the small shaft diameter, combined with the angle of the non-adjustable blade, means the taper will only be about 1/4-inch long.


This is no problem at the nock ends, but doesn't give much surface upon which to glue the points. I use 3,980-pound J-B Weld, the highest strength home- use epoxy I've found, and have had no problems with points coming loose. Still I would prefer a slightly longer taper. A Woodchuck taper tool might work better, but I don't have one available with which to experiment.


I no longer stain, crest or otherwise decorate new sets of loaner arrows. They just don't last long enough to justify the e ort. If I am making replacements for an existing decorated set, I will try to make the new arrows as close as possible to the originals, but usually the stains won't match. Whether the shafts are decorated or not, they are sealed with three coats of Minwax wipe-on polyurethane, the same as I use on my own arrows, before adding the nocks and points.


Nocks and Points


The only 1/4-inch points I have found are 60-grain glue-on blackened field points. These are available from both Kustom King Archery and 3Rivers Archery (see photo below).


Kustom King Archery sells 1/4-inch "T-nocks" in white only. 3Rivers archery offers Arizona-brand "Z Nocks" in four colors, and Bohning nocks in white only. I prefer the Bohning nocks, though I miss the black color that used to be available.


(above) A 1/4-inch 70-grain field point and a Bohning nock are compared with an 11/32-inch, 125-grain field point and an 11/32-inch Bohning Classic nock. The 1/4-inch nock lacks

a pinch point in the nock slot and has no index tab. (Author’s photo)


The Big Problem with Small Fletching


That big problem is that small feathers, usually the 3-inch size, are very hard to find. Many vendors no longer stock small feathers, probably because of low demand. Unfortunately, three inches is the best size for such short shafts as these. Kustom King Archery still offers 3-inch Bearpaw brand shield-back feathers in five colors. And that's it, at least from the U.S. vendors I use.


If you plan to make a lot of small arrows, consider buying a chopper device of some sort. 3Rivers Archery makes the Little Chopper. It is available in a choice of 3-inch shield-back or parabolic shapes in either right wing or left wing. The Little Chopper, and similar machines, will masticate a full-length uncut feather into two or maybe even three 3-inch feathers. Keep in mind that 3-inch feathers can also be used on 5/16-inch youth arrows, so you may get more use from this tool. For any brand of chopper, you will also need to buy a small rubber mallet at the hardware store.


Final Thoughts


Our 1/4-inch arrows have been a hit with youngsters at our practices, and at a number of tournaments in Atlantia where I have run a separate children's range. The youngsters really seem to appreciate arrows sized just for them. These small arrows fly better from 9-pound bows than the usual 28-long 5/16-inch diameter youth arrows. They are also an excellent substitute for the illegal fiberglass arrows with plastic vanes that come with most children's bows, allowing children to fully participate in SCA archery events.


(Above) Four of the author’s homemade 1/4-inch arrows. (From top) A 21 inch-long, 30-pound spine weight, raminwood arrow. Below is a 23 1/2-inch raminwood arrow, also with a 30-pound spine weight. Next is an uncolored 23-inch poplar arrow of unknown spine weight with cresting bands. At the bottom is another 23-inch poplar arrow of unknown spine weight that lacks cresting and shaft stain. The last arrow is the typical of my current production: plain, simple, and easy to replace. (Author’s photo)




• Black Rhino Archery:

• Elk Ridge Archery:

• 3Rivers Archery:

• Kustom King Archery:

• The Longbow Shop:


Lord Mungo Napier (aka Garth Groff) is a late 15th c. Scottish Lowland archer. He serves as Captain of Archers for the Shire of Isenfir in the Kingdom of Atlantia. Lord Mungo's favorite weapon is an English longbow, and he makes wicked-looking self-nocked arrows with whipped etching for his own quiver.



Copyright 2018 by Garth G. Groff. <ggg9y at>, <sarahansan at>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


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