Lee Philips Arrow Taper Jig
It will possibly have come to your attention that for the most part my name doesn't sit atop many of the reviews in the arrow making section. That's not to say I haven't used the equipment, or that I haven't made arrows myself, far from it but when it comes to knowing all there is to know about putting together the perfect set of arrows Steve is definitely your man. I'm not the most practical person around, but if needs must I will turn my hand to anything and without blowing my own trumpet I'll do a half decent job in the process. What I do lack, in fact seriously lack, is patience. Now of course you can, if you want to, knock out a set of arrows in no time but they won't be too good and personally I don't like to leave anything to chance, I'd rather invest the money in somebody else's skills and be confident that they put in that patience I was so desperately lacking.
But there comes a time in every man's life where he has to take the bull by the horns, man up and make himself some arrows, this is particularly true when his personal fletcher retires and no longer makes arrows. Before we go too much further with the actual review it's worth pointing a couple of things out. Firstly if you want to beat the best then you need to learn from them, secondly in the pursuit of perfection don't leave any stone unturned. I have been shooting tapered arrows on and off for a while, I flip between them and parallel often, more recently I have gone for something heavy, solid and accurate at close range and on the whole it has served me well. But many many top traditional archers swear by tapered arrows, not least one of the very best traditional archers in the UK today, Lee Philips. Lee a carpenter by trade is so convinced of the benefits he is evangelical about them, why he feels the need to enrich the competition is anybody's guess although I suppose he would like a little more competition given he has left most of us in his wake over the last few years and so it was during a recent forum discussion with Lee that I found out that not only does he use and make his own tapered shafts he also sells an arrow tapering machine, combining his excellent archery knowledge with his day job.
As luck would have it I was due to see Lee at the NFAS National 3D champs, a championship which I had resolved to be my last one using my old shooting style and arrow set up, so I headed off with a hand full of notes ready to pick up a jig excited by the prospect of making the perfect tapered arrows. Lee met, jig purchased and weekend over with, it was back home ready for arrow building and archery world domination.
First thing to note is it's a sturdy piece of kit, none of this flimsy cheap MDF rubbish, quality birch ply is the order of the day and very nice it looks too. There are two sections of wood at the back, lined internally with abrasive paper, forming a channel. Adjustment bolts are at either end and side, up front two small bits of wood to keep the arrow steady when you are ready to start the process. The jig comes with excellent instructions, firstly a step by step process and then a second more visual explanation of what's needed. Setting up the jig is easy, although it is crucial to get it right and so I opted for a more technical approach using a set of digital calipers to set the appropriate widths, this is done by loosening the bolts and moving the sides of the channel in or outwards to the desired width at the back end, tightening the bolts and then doing the same at the other end. However it should be noted that you don't need to be this pedantic, using a couple of suitable sized shafts is just as good. What you should be left with is a gradually reducing channel ready to take the arrow, once set up you should be able to feed an arrow in to the channel a small way. Along the bottom of the channel are small holes in which a metal pin is placed, this sets the length of shaft you wish to taper. It's a sturdy bit of kit, but I secured it to the work bench with a metal clamp, just to make sure there were no mistakes.
I'd suggest either using an old shaft or a bent one as your initial try, due to a small error my first attempt the taper on the arrow was too thin at the rear end, totally my fault but proves the adage "measure twice, taper once", you can of course always take more off but never put a little back on.
So with the jig set up I was off for my first try. Rather than cut my arrows down first I measured what would be the mid point of the arrow after I had cut them down, but for the mean time kept them at the full 32" they were originally. This has two advantages, firstly you can place the arrow directly in to a drill chuck without worrying about damaging it and secondly if you do end up taking too much off you can cut a small section off the rear end. With an arrow in the drill I placed the other end in to the arrow tapering tool, it only went in an inch or so. Pressing the button on the drill and keeping it at a low speed (this is where a decent drill helps) I started to apply pressure to the back of the arrow and slowly feed it in to the jig, pushing in and then drawing out, going deeper and deeper each time. The first few attempts were a little feeble, but as time went on I got a little more confident and started to apply a little more pressure. After a small while, not long maybe 50 seconds to a minute the arrow was touching the retaining pin telling me the job was done. Having never tapered a shaft before I was surprised how easy the whole thing was and when measuring with the digital caliper was surprised how close to the required diameter it was.
A quick blow down the channel and a tap on the group removed the resulting, well I suppose it's tapering dust rather than saw dust, and I was ready to go again. Each arrow was completed quicker than the previous one as I got a feel for how much pressure to apply. In no time at all I had tapered all 12 of my shafts and I must say the finish was excellent. A quick rub with some paper to make sure they were nice and smooth and the job was done.
I must say as an arrow tapering novice I was impressed with how easy everything was, Lee has done a great job in making a solid jig that does the job with a minimum of fuss. While this is the only tapering jig I have used I have seen a few and the addition of a solid looking arrow guide up front gives you confidence the arrow isn't going to be getting bent out of shape on those initial few strokes. All in all an excellent bit of kit.... oh and as an added bonus the arrows fly magnificently. Rather ironic really, Lee has been the man to beat in my class for the last few years, with these tapered arrows it might mean the competition catches up, although I'm sure Lee has something else up his sleeve.
Features & Design
The solid construction gives you confidence things won't go all wobbly. The more beefy guide up front is a plus compared to other similar tapering jigs.
Excellent, the arrows were tapered really quickly and in many ways I wish I had more shafts to feed in to the jig.
Value for Money
With a set of tapered shafts costing a significantly more than normal shafts, this will save you a packet.
An excellent and sturdy jig which does a great job of gobbling the arrows up and spitting out perfectly tapered shafts.