How to Affix Arrowheads to a Shaft




About: Hi, So, I'm Alex. I'm an aspiring Blacksmith, and I like to make props and costume pieces for Comic Conventions and LARP, ranging from the depths of science-fiction to the darkest forests of Tolkienesque fan...

Hi guys, Alex here again. Now this instructables shows you how to affix medieval style arrows to a shaft, not how to fletch the shaft or how to make the arrowhead, but don't worry. Those two instructables are on their way soon.
Now, quick safety warning: Don't go pointin' sharp things at people, animals or anything important. Now, that might just be a bit of common sense, but the point is still a serious one- you really don't want to risk hurting another or yourself. I am a member of Archery GB and have been for a long time, not to mention being all crafty with dangerous stuff, so I do know what I'm doing.

If you want to make your own arrows, you're either a Cosplayer (and if you are, don't put heads on your arrows, you'll get arrested. Just tape 'em together and keep them in your quiver) or you want to go shooting. Now, hunting with a bow is really legally ughh. You absolutely have to look at the laws, and you need 100% to be an amazing archer so you don't leave any animals in excruciating pain.

If you aren't sure how to shoot, go sign up with a club. No matter where you are in the world, archery clubs are always around. Google search it. The folks at your club will teach you to shoot in a safe environment, where no-one will get hurt. Don't, I repeat, don't go down the woods and have a fanny about with your mates. Because one of you will get hurt. And you just don't want to have to deal with that. There are loads of bonuses to joining a club too- access to re-enactment societies, big community events, etc etc.. In short, it's really worthwhile. Go on.

Also, if you are going to do this, you will need a blowtorch (or a forge, but a blowtorch is more economic, and cheaper to run) so, need I say, be careful? I'm very experienced with stuff like this and I don't use gauntlets, but unless you have some training with welding or forging, protect your hands. Also, Wear protective eyeglasses. Even if you ordinarily wear glasses, put a protective pair of Perspex on top. Maybe a welding mask. Whatever. Just be careful.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: What You Will Need

Firstly, you're gonna need your arrowheads and shaft.

The arrowheads I use are standard Short-Bodkin point heads. A little bit of information about arrowheads:

There are tonnes of types of arrowhead. I'm dealing with medieval arrowheads, and if you want a short guide to different types, check out this link to dark Armouries ( I make my own, but when making this instructable, I had non to hand, so just bought some from Ebay. The socket wants to go on the outside of the shaft and you pin through, instead of the modern day arrowheads that are glued into an aluminium shaft. Modern arrows are lighter and cheaper, but don't look anywhere near as nice as the traditional, feather-fletched wooden arrows.

You will also need;

x/1cm diameter lengths of pine dowel, about 32" long.

1 blowtorch

1 set of wolf-jaw tongs (any type of tongs will do really, it's just to stop you from burning your hands. But wolf-jaw get the best grip).

x/10mm pins. You will need 1 pin per arrowhead, plus more if you screw up. Don't worry, I screw up too. everyone does. Just buy a bag of them and have done.

1 quenching bucket (get a metal or wooden bucket for then. don't use plastic. Well, you can, just be Uber careful not to touch the sides with the hot arrowhead).

! engineer's vice (or a jewellers vice, or any sort of table-top vice as pictured).

1 pair of welding gauntlets (£2 from MachineMart, really not expensive and quite good quality too).

1 small hammer. I used a small 4 ounce ball pein hammer. Seriously, don't use anything bigger.

! anvil (or something you can hammer on for metalwork. Most engineer's vices have a small plate for shaping, that would do).

1 sanding sponge

1 roll of micropore tape (for burns, and also to fix if you screw up. It really does work- I use it when I screw up and it gives the same, if not better results!

Step 2: Clamp Your Shaft and Taper the End

So here, you want to prepare everything.

Fill your bucket with cool water, clamp the vice to the bench, get your anvil at the ready and get all your tools nearby, but don't clutter your space. Oh, and put on your goggles, gauntlets and if, like me, you have long hair, tie it back. You do not want your hair to catch on fire.

Prepare the end of each shaft.

Put each shaft into the vice with about 3 inches of wood on the side that you work on. Use your sanding block or some glad-paper or something to put a slight taper, only a cm or so and not steep at all. Do not make a fine point. If your shaft is 1cm wide (which you want it to be), then take the end you're working on down to about 8mm thick. This is just to help the socket glide on easier.

Once you are all ready, light your torch and hold an arrowhead in your tongs.

Step 3: Begin Heating Your Heads

OK, so this bit is perhaps the most difficult.

You need to heat the arrowhead socket, not the head itself, the socket, to cherry red. this should take you about 2-3 minutes per arrowhead, to get the entire socket cherry red. Now, turn off your torch and begin to push the hot head up the shaft. It should have cooled down to a grey now, which is what you want. It will still be Very, very hot. Don't touch it with your skin.

See, the average hole for the socket is about 9mm and the shaft is 10mm. So you need to burn away the shaft till the head fits. We heat the head to just under dark red, so that the wood burns away but doesn't catch fire, because the wood in contact with the hot metal doesn't have enough oxygen too, and the wood further up the shaft isn't close enough to. If the metal is beginning to have colour, you do risk the wood combusting, so... don't heat it too hot. If you had to taper the shaft, the head may be a little wobbly at this stage, but don't worry. that's normal and will be fixed by the end.

The final picture on this page shows you what happens the end of the shaft inside- it burns away but doesn't catch fire, see? Also, here, you can see the micropore tape being used. I took the end of the taper too thin and the head wobbled too much, to the stage that the head just fell off. Wrap a few lengths of tape around the end and heat the head again. The tape burns away, just as the wood would, with eh added bonus of the glue in the tape heating and cooling, holding the head on too.

Step 4: Pinning the Heads On

Right, now if you've bought arrowheads, there will be a small hole in them to push the pin through. if not, and they are properly smithed arrowhead, you will need a punch to make a hole. you can buy them from DIY stores for not much at all. Now, wait till your arrowhead has cooled enough to touch. Don't quench it here, else the head might fall off or the metal might become more brittle and you might risk shattering. Now hold the shaft over the anvil, with the head of the arrow of the side and the socket on the edge. Place the pin in the hole and using your small hammer, hit it down. Once it's gone in as far as it can, bash it flat like in the picture. Grab the blowtorch and heat the socket a little. Now, put it back in the same position on the anvil and bash the socket quite hard on all sides, then quickly quench.

Every time you heat the metal, it expands, and becomes easier to work. Now, with the pin in place, the head isn't going to fall off when it expands, so you bash it down to compress it and tighten it against the shaft, the quench to set the metal in place.

Step 5: Heat Treatment

Now you need to heat treat the head. the head is affixed to the shaft, so all is good. Grab your torch and heat the head. not the socket now, but the head. Get the tip of the head to be a nice cherry red (not orange or yellow, too hot) but lower down the head only needs to be grey. Then quench the head in oil. Quenching in oil makes the metal just as hard as quenching in water, but without making the atomic structure more crystalline.

Before, it took you about 3 minutes to get an even cherry red all around the socket. Doing this step should take you about 1 minute per arrowhead. Just the time needs to be coloured, the rest just needs a gentle heat. otherwise, your wood will catch fire.

If you want to, repeat this step a few times, just for assurance. It won't make the metal increasingly hard, but can weaken up any soft spots left.

Finally, take your sanding sponge/glass paper or what-have-you and look at the shaft past the socket. Usually, you will get little curls of burnt wood popping out from under the socket. Just sand them off.

A quick word about the micropore technique: in the fourth image of this step, I show the end of the shaft, near the socket being torched. Do this if you used the micropore to fix the placement of the head: you will have some tape up the shaft. Burn it off. the glue will settle down- this is ok. It just helps the head to stick. Be careful you don't set fire to the stick, be very quick with the torch. If you do see flames, blow them out ASAP.

I really hope this little guide helped- More guides about fletching arrows and forging heads on their way.

Have a great day, guys :)



    • Indoor Lighting Contest

      Indoor Lighting Contest
    • Metal Contest

      Metal Contest
    • Make It Fly Challenge

      Make It Fly Challenge

    10 Discussions

    Senior Chief

    3 years ago

    If I may offer some suggestions? Fitting your points to the shaft and using a resin gluing would probably be more authentic. I would not heat treat the point after it is in place. If it's desireable to pin the point, then drill the pin hole through the point and shaft together. Use a softer metal for the pin and cut it so the pin sits proud of the hole and gently peen it on both sides, don't crush it with hard blows. Copper electrical wire would make a nice pin that is easily preened over on both sides. But soft iron wire works too.

    And for safeties sake I would recommend using a split shaft rather than a turned dowel. Turned doweling often has cross grain in it that can spit and shatter easily. Better choices are light woods such as cedar or sapling twigs from springy wood like hickory or etc. but never pine. American Natives of course used what they could find growing naturally at the right diameter or split easily split woods and rounded them. Same for muzzle loader ram rods. Never use a cut dowel. Always use a split and rounded rod. And of course they affixed points with resin and sinew. I hope you find this helpful. Captain Lahti, Rocky Mountain Men.


    3 years ago

    Great! Thanks, you prompted me to find out I had an archery club more local than I thought! I used to do archery in my parents' garden as a kid. I had two disciplines: Into the target or straight up in the air and dodging it coming down. Fortunately I was good enough at both!


    3 years ago

    Hi, nice Instructable! I was in a military museum a while back and noticed a couple things that suggest some alternative ways this might have been done in the medieval era. If you look along the bottom edge of the arrowhead where it interfaces with the shaft you can see either a black, gray or copper/bronze colored line a few mm thick. This lead me to believe that the the arrowheads were affixed with pitch, tin, lead or copper/bronze. Seeing an arrow with the original wood is rare - I don't know whether it was the original wood or had been affixed many decades ago by the museum.

    Also, the last 20cm or so of the shaft on many medieval arrows appears cooked much like the final 30cm-40cm of an arrow by any number of indigenous hunters throughout the world. This boils the sap inside the wood such that it cools into a rock-hard resin. For instance, American Mohawk indians would affix their arrowheads by notching the shaft then affixing the arrowhead with a combination of resinous paste and whipping then cooking the top 20cm of the arrow over an open flame.

    Anyway, I surmised from looking at these medieval arrows that a tiny amount of solder was poured into the back of the arrowhead and followed immediately with the wooden shaft. This is dangerous since there's a good chance of splattering some of the solder. But it would allow a production process where the wood for the arrowhead could be pre-shaped without worrying about exact tolerances and then jammed into the hot-solder-filled arrowhead using a buck to keep everything straight. Then it could be quickly cleaned up with a very sharp knife or grinding wheel.

    BTW - The melting point of tin is quite a bit less than the temperature wood burns. The melting point of lead is just a bit more than the temperature wood burns. And the melting point of modern brazing rod is 840 F / 448 C - hot enough to catch wood afire but not so hot as to render it unusable with a bucket of water nearby.

    I'm saying all this because those arrows with the couple mm of solder showing at the bottom looked super, super, super cool. ;)

    Again, great Instructable!!

    2 replies

    Reply 3 years ago

    I usually use a hot-melt resin to affix points to wooden and bamboo shafts.

    The Backyard Smithytrohde1

    Reply 3 years ago

    thanks for commenting :) I had thought about soldering methods too, but as far as I know that was a process used to churn out loads of heads for a cheaper price. There have been loads of heads found with a full tang too, but they were phased out as a design, at least in Europe throughout the 12th -14th century because every time the arrow hit something, the tang would be driven further up in the shaft, splitting the wood. This didn't matter in China and other countries like that because bamboo shafts were used, with the head glued in to the hollowed centre- a tang was really needed because heads like this would crack the fragile shaft if they fitted them in the manor I described above.


    3 years ago

    If you purchased a good quality arrow head, the original heat treatment, is probably better than the one you did. You didnt even normalize the steel in the oven after quenching.


    3 years ago

    If i were you, i'd just sand the shaft a little and plug the head. So much trouble to re-do the heat treatment.


    3 years ago

    Very cool! Nice to see the process, and the finished results look great.