Little John Custom Arrows
One of the first things a new archer will do is attempt to make his own arrows. It doesn't take too long to discover that there is a lot more to arrow making than sticking some fletches on to a stick.
Quite apart from working out what the archer/bow combination require there are the issues of all that fiddly cutting, cresting and painting. Some folks are happy to shoot whatever they have made, others will have the patience of a saint and produce beautiful arrows.
If you ask said archer how long it took him to make them it will hardly surprise you to learn that really picky archers are happy to sometimes spend weeks on their arrows.
Pretty soon as your archery skills progress you come to realise that unless you have arrows which are matched, accurately tuned to the bow and well made then really top scores will elude you, or for those that hunt it can mean the difference between a successful hunt and yet another wasted trip.
Most archers will realise that they have neither the time, the patience or the skills needed to produce arrows which will take a good archer to the next level.
Why should it matter if the arrows are matched ? for a target archer this is crucial. The archer strives to perfect his form to the point that he can replicate a shot over and over again, now, if the arrows are not matched then the better the archer gets, the less chance he has of putting two arrows next to each other.
For the field archer too a matched set will only help.
I once spent 2 days at a well known dealer measuring, spining, and testing shafts to find those that would firstly be straight, then spine matched and then weight matched, from 11 000 shafts I finally purchased 155. A professional fletcher will straighten and match arrows for you, on top of that you can expect a nicely finished arrow that works with your bow.
Enter John Cately of Little John Arrows, for some time now we have been hearing tales of tournaments won, titles gained and records broken by archers using his arrows so it was with great pleasure that this morning I received by special delivery a box of samples of Johns work. In the next few weeks there will be another parcel with a set of arrows which have been matched to my favourite bow and a full review will be published then.
I like to think I know a little about arrows, I have made several tens of thousands over the years, they hold a fascination for me, as an archer I am hard to please.
I don't suppose I am so much different from anyone else and opening parcels is something that gives me great pleasure, this morning that pleasure was completely overshadowed by the contents of the parcel.
10 arrows all different and each demonstrating a different aspect of the fletchers art.
In the May edition of the magazine part of this site is an article by little John about building the perfect arrow, well worth a read if you put great store by the arrows you shoot. I have been very fortunate to have visited the private Beechin Wood collection - a collection of Longbows and traditional bows dating from the 18th century to the present along with a huge collection of Victorian arrows.
The first thing that struck me was that I had seen arrows in this style before. Victorians put great store by their arrows and they were highly valued and if you look at the target scores for rounds such as The Gentlemen's, York- 6 dozen arrows at 100 yards, 4 dozen arrows at 80 yards and 2 dozen arrows at 60 yards - you will see why. Such scores as have never been equalled in a hundred years.
Any archer will tell you that a great arrow will give you the confidence to hit the high scores.
These arrows positively scream "quality Victorian style", anyone who knows anything about the Victorians knows that there were no lengths they wouldn't go to to achieve their desired result and just because they shot primarily at Target doesn't mean that the same style of arrow would be out of place on a field shoot- after all the arrow only knows how to be shot, it cares nothing for what the target will be.
So, to the arrows. The accompanying pictures can only give you a flavour of the quality finish, the exact placement of each fletch and the straightness of shaft.
Amongst them are several footed shafts, the footing itself is approx 7" from the bop. The tapering is very accurate and the hardwood used is Beefwood (massaranduba) although others are available.
There are several advantages to a footed arrow, who hasn't had their best arrow break off just behind the point?, a footing in hardwood will add strength, it will also add a little extra forwards weight.
There were also a couple of arrows to demonstrate Johns skill at creating horn nocked arrows, like a miniature footing with a carved string groove these look stunning and if used on a footed arrows the effect is almost complete. I say almost as the cresting finish that John does is simply beautiful.
I love shooting arrows which I know are perfect for the bow but to shoot arrows which are also stunning to look at is a wonderful experience.
The points John uses are parallel fit and to ensure a perfect flush fit of point and shaft he built his own compression tool to compress the shaft to accept the point and so smooth is the transition that you would be hard pressed to find it with your eyes closed.
Each of the arrows displayed a different style of fletch and one was spliced with a red flash through it, on another the crest had been applied by an airbrush and metallic paint, something you might expect to see on a custom motorcycle, the colours even faded into each other and then out to nothing.
John will also produce tapered or barrelled arrows, an arrow with less mass at one or both ends will perform the paradox and straighten out quicker than a parallel shaft, a tapered shaft will also have a higher FOC.
Finally the top finish is as smooth as glass and the overall effect is that you feel you are handling a work of art.
John is a craftsman from a bygone age, his method is to complete the arrow and then apply the final finish, something the Victorians did and something I was a little sceptical about and never do with my own arrows, having seen the result of using this method I take it all back- it's incredible !
Having spent so much of my time making arrows I can tell instantly that each of these arrows has had the care, attention and time lavished upon them that only someone who really loves what they are making spends, it's the reason Chippendale furniture is valued and why a folk are prepared to queue for hours to see a painting from a great master.
Johns reputation as a "professional" is richly deserved and I can see why folks who could make an acceptable arrow themselves are prepared to pay to have such a skilled fletcher make an exceptional one.
For me now the waiting begins, I can't wait to see what John has produced for us to test. If you like me, appreciate quality arrows and want to shoot not only shafts that fly true but look stunning then John is your man...