fiber-blunts-art - 6/4/98
"Experimental Fiberglass Shafts and Plastic Cored Blunts" by Sir Jon Fitz-Rauf.
NOTE: See also the files: archery-msg, CA-Hunt-Tips-art, C-A-handbook-art,
c-archery-msg, p-archery-msg, T-Arch-Child-art, archery-SCA-msg.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called StefanŐs Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
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.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
FIBERGLASS SHAFTS AND UHMW CORED BLUNTS
Sir Jon Fitz-Rauf, SCA Archery Marshal
Please Note: The use of solid fiberglas shafts has now been accepted at
Society level. But it is up to each kingdom to allow their use. If you
wish to use the fiberglass shafts or the UHMW blunts you must first check
with your kingdom marshal.
Solid fiberglass shafts have a great advantage over wooden shafts.
They do not break, even under the most extreme combat conditions. they
can be bent into a U shape before breaking. A two hundred pound fighter
in sixty pounds of armor can dance a jig upon them without damaging the
When bent into a U and finally broken, they break like a stick of
rattan. They become a bunch of loose fibers, which I have stabbed into
my throat will no ill effect, a drop of blood or a scratch. When taped,
those fibers are contained just like a rattan sword.
I tested a quiver of thirty shafts from early 1996 through 1997.
They were used in eleven wars, in open field, bridge and castle battles with
no shaft breakage. There was some nock breakage. The Beman nocks that were
used had a thin neck that could break when stepped on. Three shafts were
lost and not found. The set of thirty shafts went through two season with 0
percent breakage. And, to my knowledge, no complaints from those I hit.
This resistance to breakage is important to archers in at least
two ways. 1) Safety. They greatly reduce the possibility of a broken
shaft causing injury. 2) Cost. A complete shaft with a nock, fletching
and tape, but without a blunt costs about $1.75 to $3.00
depending on your materials and suppliers. And they will last for many
The type of fiberglass rod used is the solid fiberglass rod, from
1/4 inch to 11/32 in diameter, depending upon style of head being used.
The 11/32 shafts should be limited to crossbow bolts. They make an overly
heavy and stiff shaft for a thirty pound hand bow.
I have been able to purchase 1/4 inch rod at TAP plastic Co., a
chain of plastic supply houses in California for $1.75 and 5/16 at $2.55
in six foot lengths. It is even cheaper when bought in ten or fifteen
You should first determine the length you need for the shaft,
allowing for both nock and blunt. An indelible marker is best for
marking the fiberglass. The maximum draw length of the arrow is twenty
eight inches from the bottom of the nock slot to the bottom of the
blunt. But your shaft will be longer than that, by the length of the
shaft that is inside the blunt and whatever extra taping may be at the
base of it, as well as the length of shaft in the nock.
In cutting the fiberglass, you need to take care to avoid
breathing the dust or getting it in your eyes. It is not toxic, but can
cause a sore throat and itchy eyes. It should be done outside to avoid
build up of dust in the air inside. If you wear a dust mask and goggles,
you can reduce the chance for iritatilon. You should also wear gloves to
help avoid skin irritation.
After you have cut the rod to length, you will need to sand the
full length of it with some medium sand paper. The rod has a very slick
surface that needs to be roughened to make a better surface for both
gluing on the fletching or applying the tape. Remember, avoid the dust
while you are sanding. You can also remove the slick surface by wiping
the surface with an acetone dampened rag.
For the 1/4 inch or 5/16 shafts you can use parallel sided nocks,
such as the Beman or Bohing brands. The Bohing nocks hold up better and
are less apt to break when stepped on. Beman also makes a tapered 1/4 inch
nock. You will need to file down the nock end of the shaft to fit the
nock. You can rotate the shaft as you file, until the nock just sides
on. You do not want a too tight fit, for it will not allow enough glue.
And too loose a fit and the nock will not align correctly. You can use a
Duco cement or a good two part epoxy to cement the nock. Then let it dry
For the 5/16 and 11/32 inch shafts you can cut, file or grind
your own nock taper. This is what you find on wood target arrows, etc.
A nock and point taper cutting tool will work, but you will need a good
supply of spare blades. If you have a good eye, a steady hand and a
template you can use a file to hand make the taper. When doing this leave
your shafts longer than you need. If you make a mistake, you can cut off
the offending part and start over. Then when done, recut the shaft to
the correct length. If you have a: Bench grinder. Disk sander. Or table
saw with a sanding disk. You can build a jig to hold the shaft at the
correct angle and quickly grind or sand the correct eleven degree taper.
Again...avoid the dust.
When the shaft is the correct length, you should take a file and
slightly round off the edges of the front end of the shaft.
You can use either feather or plastic fletch on the shafts.
Fletchtite does not seem to work as well as 3M Super Strength Adhesive or
Duco cement. Fletching tape also works well.
After the fletching has set, I run a bead of the glue down both
sides of the base of each fletch and a drop at both ends. If you want,
you can also wrap the ends or the whole length with thread as well for
greater security and a more period appearance. Because of the size and
weight of the blunt head, I prefer to use a five inch fletch to help
stabilize the arrow in flight more quickly.
You can tape the shaft with whatever tape is required in your
kingdom. However I have found that a good quality electric tape such
as 3M works best. It sticks well and goes on smoothly. Since the
arrow will not break, heavy tape is not needed. There is a question as
to the need of taping a fiberglass shaft, but at this time it is still
required. If you carefully run the tape parallel to the shaft it
produces a smoother covering than using a spiral pattern. There are less
leading edges to peel up.
TYPES: MANUFACTURED BLUNTS
So far I have found that the 3/4 inch blunts
tested(Lochac-Riverhaven, Antir-Montegard, HTM and Saunders) using a
solid fiberglass shaft have had a short life before punching through.
They may NOT be used in combination with fiberglass shafts.
The three 1 1/4 inch manufactured blunts tested (Thistle Missiles
Baldar's Blunts and Moraks) all worked well. The Baldars's blunts
worked well with both the 1/4 and 5/16 inch shafts. They also worked with
the 11/32 shafts, but were slower and had less range with the heavier
shafts. The Baldar's have a solid nylon insert in the blunt, in which
the shaft is seated. This insert holds up to impact and helps prevent punch
through. The Morak has a penny molded in simi clear plastic.
The Baldar Blunts come with a plastic cable tie for securing the
blunt to the shaft. This is not enough, you should also tape the blunt to
the shaft to prevent it from flying off, if the shaft should break.
The Thistle Missiles also work. But, the 1/4 inch shafts do not
work as well with the size of the hole in the internal plug. At this
point the Thistles should only be used with 5/16. Or with 1/4 shafts
where the shaft has been built up to about 11/32s of an inch. This can be
done with five or six layers of electric tape. Or with the use of heat
shrink tubing to build it up to the same size.
Before you build a quiver full of such arrows, you should build a few and
test them completely for punch through.
So far tests have shown a problem with crossbow bolts and the Thistles.
The fiberglass shafts, even of 11/32 size or built up to 11/32 punch
through after a while. Until a way is found to prevent this, the Thistles
may not be used on fiberglass shafted crossbow blunts.
The full length 11/32 shafts in combination with the Baldars or
Thistles make a very heavy, stiff and slow combat arrow.
With these blunts, except for the 1/4 Baldars, the 1/4 or 5/16
shafts, need extra taping. The Baldar blunts also have a model intended
for use with 1/4 inch shafts which does not need to be built up. The tape
on the shaft should extend all the way from the fletching to the front of
the shaft. Then additional tape should be added at the front of the
shaft. You should cut a three inch length of electric tape. Then you
center the length of it over the tip of the shaft and then fold one side
down and smooth it to the shaft. You then do the same to the other
side. For the 1/4 inch shafts you should use, at lest, an additional
three or four strips of tape over the two that run the length of the
shaft. Or the same result can be obtained with heat shrink tubing. You
should apply a little epoxy to each layer of tubing. The Baldars blunts
now have a head intended for use with 1/4 inch shafts which does not need
to be built up.
The intent of the additional tape is to increase the diameter of
the shaft to make a tight fit, to prevent the blunt from accidently being
pulled off. And to provide a tighter fit to help prevent punch through.
The 11/32 shaft needs no additional tape, other than that running the
length of the shaft.
Thistles, Baldars and Moraks need to be taped to the shaft to prevent
them from coming lose. .
HAND MADE BLUNTS
The most common form of combat blunt is the Markland and its
variations. It is basicly a wooden dowel, padded on the face and
sometimes the sides, often with a leather disk on top of the dowel to
help prevent complete punch through in case of failure of the dowel. The
dowel has been drilled out to receive the shaft. This is then covered
with tape and foam, then taped to the shaft.
There are many variations of this style. This style has proved, over
many years, to be a good basic combat blunt. However, the dowel
can finally break even with a wood shaft. And the fiberglass shafts tend
to split the wooden dowel even sooner, causing the blunt to fail.
This problem can be solved by replacing the wood dowel with a material which
will not break, such as a shatter proof plastic. The types I have found to work
best at this point are Delrin rod or Tivar-100 UHMW rod. These materials can be
found at most plastic supply houses. You can try your Yellow Pages for
suppliers and give them a call.
When you replace the wooden dowel or plywood plug in a blunt design, you
should use the same diameter as the original design. But,the length of the
plug may be reduced if the design allows. If the required length was
only to provide more wood to reduce punch through and breakage, then a
shorter length of plastic rod may be used. You need to check with your
kingdom Earl Marshal to determine if this can be done and if they will
allow its use.
A easy to construct 5/4 blunt, of my design, for fiberglass shafts can be
made using a 1 inch by 5/4 inch core. The UHMW rod seems to work well
with this design. It is lighter, less expensive and just as strong as
the Delrin. A UHMW blunt cost about 20 cents to make, including the UHMW,
foam and tape.
I have shot one of these against the back wall of my house about 120 times
with no sign of damage to the blunt or shaft. When shot at me, at five
yards with a good thirty pound laminate recurve and while I was wearing
only light padding, the impact felt the same as a Thistle or Baldar. The
red marks lasted about the same as a Baldar, but a bit less than a Thistle.
They were used for six wars in the West in 1997 with no problems.
You must first cut your 1-1/4 rod to length. You must make sure
that your cuts are parallel and 90 degrees to the side of the rod. A
table saw and guide work well for this. Now take the lid from a 35mm
film can and punch a small hole through the exact center of the lid (most
lids have a small mark at the center). Push the 1-1/4 by whatever length
inch core into the inner ring on the bottom of the lid. Then, using a
marker pen, you mark the center of the core. Then remove it from the
lid. Now use a sharp drill bit the size of the shaft you are using. You
should drill dead center and as perpendicular as possible (if possible use a
drill press). If this is not done well, the hole will be off center and
the blunt will out of balance and may cause the arrow to wobble. You
should drill the hole 5/16 of an inch deep for a 1/2 long core or up to
5/8s for a one inch core.
You may now cut your 1/2 to 3/4 inch closed cell foam. This is
the type used in exercise mats and under sleeping bags and for helm
padding. I have the best results with some soft Neoprene rubber. It has
not packed down under impact and the bounce back seems to be less. Do not
use a foam that does not spring back after impact. You should test a
piece of the foam by placing it on a hard surface and striking it several
times with a hammer. If it stays flat do not use it. If you have an
1-1/4 inch hole punch, use it. If not use scissors to cut a 1-1/4 inch
square. Before you glue the foam to the face of the blunt, you should
slightly round the front and back edges of he core. The front edge is
rounded so that it will not scrape skin on a glancing shot. The back
edge, so that it will not wear through the tape. A 1/8 inch radius is
about right. You should glue the foam to the core using the 3M adhesive or
similar cement and let it dry.
Next you remove a length of tape equal to the depth of the hole
in the blunt from the front of the shaft. Following directions on the
container, mix a small amount of two part epoxy or Crazy glue and apply
it to the hole in the core. You now insert the shaft into the core, forcing
it in as far as you can. Then hold the shaft tightly and drive the shaft
and core down hard onto a solid surface, until the shaft is seated all
the way into the core. The length of removed tape is the guide for this.
At this point if you want a half inch flat face you are ready to tape the
head on. But, if you wish a 3/4 thick or thicker rounded face blunt, you
need to trim it round. The face of the blunt may be round or elipsodial,
but not pointed. It may not be capable of pushing more than 1/2 inch
through the one inch visor slot or bar opening of a SCA legal helm.
To cut this radius you can make a template, with the correct
radius cut out, to use as a guide . You turn the shaft with one hand,
while you trim the foam with the scissors and check the final shape with
At last you are now ready to tape the blunt onto the shaft. You
will need to cut two lengths of fiber strapping tape, long enough to
extend about two inches past the bottom of the blunt onto the shaft.
Center the first piece of tape on the top of the blunt and press one side
down the blunt and onto the shaft. Do not fold the tape in at a 90
degree angle, it should form about a 45 degree angle between the edge of
the blunt and the shaft. Repeat with the other side. You then place the
second piece of strapping tape at 90 degrees to the first and repeat the
process. You now cut four strips of electrical tape the same length
as the strapping tape and apply the first two in the same manner as the two
strips of strapping tape. You then place the last two strips in the
intersections of the first two, so that the entire blunt is covered. The
tape between the bottom edge of the blunt and the shaft should be at a 45
degree angle or less. This reduces turbulence and drag, making the arrow
You must now measure 28 inches from the bottom of the nock slot
and mark this point. It should be on the strips of tape securing the
blunt and about 1-3/4 inch below the blunt. Cut a 6 inch strip, or
longer, of electrical tape and wrap it around the shaft, between the mark
and the blunt with an edge just touching the 28 inch mark. Now take a
sharp knife and remove the excess strips of tape that extend past the
ring of tape below the 28 inch mark. This forms a draw stop for the
shaft at 28 inches.
The last step is to identify your arrow. This serves three
purposes. 1) It identifies the maker of the arrow, if the arrow is
incorrectly made. 2) It aids the return of lost arrows. 3) And when you
make that long shot kill at 80 yards, your victim can learn who hit
them. Your arrows should be marked with your SCA name and local area.
For interkingdom wars, you should include your kingdom as well.
For those worried about the possibility of bounce back damage to the eyes
from fiberglass or wood shaft arrows, the use of safety glasses or goggles
Lexan, a shatter proof plastic, is in the process of being
approved, at SCA level, for use as eye protection. An approximate two
inch wide strip on the visor slot or on the bars over the eyes can help
prevent injury from arrows, weapons, branches and armor pieces as well as
dirt from weapons or from the ground. A 1/8 thick inch piece(minimum
allowed thickness) will stop a fieldpoint on a 11/32 shaft shot from a 50
pound laminate recurve at five yards. Screen or perforated metal can also
be used in a strip just over the eyes. It need not cover the entire face.
Sir Jon Fitz-Rauf, SCA Archery Marshal
Copyright 1998 by John R. Edgerton, 7662 Wells Ave., Newark, CA 94560-3530,
(510)791-9070. <email@example.com>. Permission is granted for republication in
SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and 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.
Copyright © Mark S. Harris (Lord Stefan li Rous)
All Rights Reserved
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