Dip Your Own Arrows
It’s Only Minor Trouble And Your Shafts Can Carry
Your Favorite Colors!
By Steven Barde
Dipping Arrows is one way to add color to the shaft, make it more individual and in hunting, easier to find. There are several ways of adding color. Some spray the shaft, which can be messy, some prefer to paint it on but the easiest and perhaps the best method is to dip the shaft full length in a tube. The dipping insures a complete coating, smoothly applied, while the end result is even and has no runs or blemishes if done properly.
Any lacquer designed for wood will work well. Some automotive lacquers can be used but many of these have a different base and it may be hard to find a thinner that works. If the lacquer and thinner won’t work together, you will get blisters, and in some cases, the lacquer won’t adhere to the wood but will run or peel off. If you plan to use a lacquer you’re not sure of, try a small amount and use some parts of a shaft for testing. Some combinations will work even against the rules but it is best to test first. The wood lacquers and thinners are easily obtainable.
If you buy one pint of lacquer, get at least one quart of thinner, since the solution used for dipping is thinned a great deal. If you plan to do quite a bit of dipping, add to your list of purchases some retarder, to prevent the thinned lacquer from drying too fast on the shaft causing runs and blobs, and a silicone additive. The silicone gives the lacquer mixture a high glossy finish and makes the lacquer flow smoothly during dipping.
Mix the lacquer and thinner to the ratio you desire. Most use a mixture of two parts thinner to one part lacquer. Add one eighth part retarder, if you plan to use it, and a few drops of silicone additive. A little of the silicone does an excellent job. Some archers prefer to use a thinner solution and mix three or four parts thinner to one part lacquer. The thinner the solution, the more dipping is required to get a good high gloss finish. Put the solution into a bottle that can be tightly capped and shake well.
If you haven’t tried dipping before, the two parts thinner to one part lacquer works well and requires less dipping. The more dipping and polishing that is done, the higher the gloss on the finished arrow. You also will need your dip tube, (see Nov.-Dec. 65 issue), some 0000 steel wool to take the hair grain of the shaft, and a rag. Stretch a line from two supports, preferably a line with a twist, to hand the shafts on while drying. Some archers use household clothes pins, some use electrical alligator clips but carpet tacks have proven best for many archers to hold the shafts to the line while they dry.
When selecting your arrows for dipping, the edge of the grain, which is the side with the finest lines in it, should face the side of the bow, since the edge grained side of the shaft is the strongest part. If you don’t have a method to mark this grain side, it is hard to find after the shaft has been dipped.
By using carpet tacks, you can put the tack in the grain side of the shaft and the little hole left is easily found when it comes time to nock the dipped arrow. The line or raised edge of the speed nock goes in line with the hole left by the carpet tack. One other advantage of the tack is that there is less handling of the dipped shaft. When using the alligator clip, the clip is just hung over the edge of the line, the same as the carpet tack.
When you use the clothes pin, it is necessary to dip the shaft with the fingers and hold while attaching the shaft to the jaws of the clothes pin. In this step, you will get covered with lacquer if you dip too high on the shaft. These are a few of the ways to hand the shafts to dry but the final choice will be the one that works best for you.
Select the shafts you intend to dip and lay them in place. Take a damp rag and wipe each shaft. This will dampen the wood and raise the hair grain. Cut the nock taper on both ends of the shaft prior to wiping. The reason for cutting the nock taper is that it allows the lacquer to drip from the end rapidly, and when the nock is applied to the dipped shaft, there is no holiday of bare wood where the nock taper has missed the edge of the nock.
After wiping, allow the shafts to dry about thirty minutes. When they are dry, apply the carpet tack or other holding device and dip the arrow in the tube, pushing it to within an inch or less of the top of the shaft, but slowly. A line attached above the dip tube will let the drops from the dripping shaft fall into the tube instead of on the ground or mat. When the drops have almost stopped, place the dipped shaft on the drying line and proceed with the next shaft, and so on, until all shafts have been dipped once. Allow the dipped shaft to dry at least two hours. The drying time will vary with humidity and temperature.
Remove the dry shafts from the line, take a piece of your steel wool and rub each shaft to remove the hair grain that was brought up by the damp rag and lacquer. After steel wooling each shaft, wipe them with a dry rag to remove the steel particles and dust, revers ends and dip again. Apply the tack or other holding device, dip, drain and hang to dry. For most hunting shafts, two dips will be enough with a two part thinner and one-part lacquer solution. Allow to dry for another two hours. If the color is still too light, steel wool, wipe down, reverse ends and dip them again.
Some colors cover better than others and some lacquers are thicket than others. The best thickness of the mixture is determined after you try a few shafts. If the lacquer runs too slowly and causes runs down the side of the shaft, it is too thick and needs more thinner. If the lacquer is too thin, it will run rapidly. If you like to use a thin solution, it will work but will require more dipping to get the desired finish. The solution that works well in dry Arizona will not work the same in humid Florida, sot he proper mixture must be determined by the number of dips required to give you the best color and finish for the climate you live in.
After the shaft has been dipped and you have the desired color and finish, remove the tack and lightly steel wool the finished shaft to remove any roughness, place the shaft in your arrow rack and you are then ready to nock the shaft and fletch.
The nock should go with the speed nock ridge in line with the edge of the grain of the shaft so the arrow will have the strongest part of the wood bearing against the side of the bow. The edge may be determined by the previous use of the carpet tack or by cutting the opposite end.
Remember the best solution is one that gives you the best results. If you want to experiment with different colors and lacquers, try them, but be sure the lacquer and thinner mix together and do not form bubbles or blotches.
Recently I decided to try a new color for hunting. I wanted a bright orange, almost international orange, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I went to a paint store and after checking the lacquer, added some bright orange from one of the new color mixing machines and shook it up. When this lacquer and thinner were poured into solution, I didn’t know what to expect so I tried a few shafts. The dealer said the color mix would work with anything but I was doubtful.
These shafts came out beautiful! They are a brilliant orange, the color I wanted, and there were no runs o blotches to mar the finish. These shafts have been easy to find and have stood up well with rough use.
If you decide to experiment like this, go ahead, but try a few shafts first before gambling all your undipped shafts. A garage or any open place where the dust and dirt can’t bother the wet shafts will work well. Dipping is fun, inexpensive and the colors and results are left only to your imagination.