Nidderdale Arrow Tapering Jig
Yes, I know I have banged on about tapered arrows before. What I can guarantee you is that this won't be the last time I have something to say regarding them. For me the arrow is key, a perfect arrow will of course always be a perfect arrow, regardless of whether it is a parallel shaft or a tapered one. Those lucky archers that shoot a perfect parallel shafted arrow may look on in amazement and wonder what all the fuss is about.
Whenever this topic comes up folk will offer any number of reasons why a tapered shaft may be preferential to a parallel one. Amongst these you will hear that the removal of material from the rear of the arrow will allow the arrow to settle down from paradox quicker than a parallel one... well that's true enough, of course the arrow will weigh slightly less than it's untapered counterpart which means a tad more speed.... again true enough. With a tapered shaft you may experience less contact from the fletches with both the riser and the shelf- less contact may in turn allow a lower knocking point... an arrow that settles quick will penetrate better for a hunter, greater FOC will give better accuracy at close quarters.........all true and all good. What you may not hear is the main reason that I love them............... somehow a tapered arrow offers a greater margin for error when choosing spine. There are more archers using the wrong spine arrow than are using the correct spine arrow, thats a bold and sweeping statement perhaps but I believe it to be true, I see no end of archers using an entirely incorrect arrow as a result of ignorance and bad advice, some just take pot luck and the fact that it comes out of the bow and flaps madly seems not to bother them in the least.
If we all had perfect form and our bows were set up impeccably as the designers and makers intended then this may not even be an issue, for most of us though our archery is close ( we hope ) to what we would wish it to be but there is always that slight doubt that our release isn't as good as we would wish, or that we "think" the brace height is right and that we are using an arrow within acceptable limits as regards spine given that our draw length is approximately "X" .........for most of the time... the real secret of a tapered arrow is that it flattens those peaks and uneven high spots in either form or kit that isn't quite on the money.
Tapered arrows are probably not necessary for those gifted archers who claim that they make no difference, for the rest of us a tapered arrow is going to give you- the mortal archer- a little edge. You can test this for yourself as I have done.. shoot an arrow that is a little off in terms of spine as a parallel shaft and as a tapered shaft, the parallel shaft will start to punish you when it's a few #'s off it's ideal spine, the tapered one will shoot very well even when wrong by double digit spine values, when it's the correct spine it will shoot sublimely, you will think you are shooting laser guided bolts from your bow.
I hold up my hands ... tapered arrows are a pet project of mine and I will happily become an arrow bore as soon as someone mentions them... however, as with everything in this site... "it isn't about me" it's about the kit. This review is for a tool that brings the possibility of tapered arrows to every archer. It's made by Nidderdale archery and it's going to cost you just £49.
If you are a handy chap with a pencil, saw and a drill then you can purchase plans only at just £6.75
So to the jig itself.... it's quite simply a device that will allow you to take your shaft and remove the wood you don't want by the process of sanding the portion of shaft you wish to taper. The entire jig is 32" long and 6" wide. it consists of a base board with two full length movable sanding arms.
Each of the arms has both sides coated with sandpaper, our advanced prototype came with 60 and 80 grit, the arms can be quickly flipped over depending on the wood you are using and how quickly you wish to remove wood, the 80 grit suited me very well for POC, Spruce and Pine.
If the jig is flipped over you can see the slots that provide the adjustment for the arms, the wing nuts will provide a simple and quick way of changing the arm angles. You will also note a series of holes running the length of the jig.
These holes are going to provide you with the means to make a taper exactly the length you want, the beauty of this jig is that if you wish you can taper a shaft any length you wish right up to a full length taper. Not only that but you can taper from 1/2" right down to a 1/4" if you wished, you are not stuck with going from say 11/32" to 5/16" but could go down to 9/32" if you wanted. I used a 4" nail as my arrow stop to determine the length of taper.
Before starting you need to decide what size shaft you are looking for. If you generally use an 11/32" shaft you could perhaps try one that tapers to 5/16". By removing some of the wood you are changing not only the static spine but in a much more dramatic way the dynamic spine, your static spine may change by only a few pounds but the effect it will have when the arrow starts to move will be exponential. A ten to 12" taper is sufficient to make a difference you will notice. I add something in the region of 5# to the starting spine depending on the length of arrow I am making and the length of taper couple with the angle of taper I am looking to achieve... for this demo I used a spruce shaft with a spine of 55#, the bow it is for likes 50/51# parallel shaft... the taper will be 11" and the finished arrow will be 28" to BOP.
Next we need to set up the jig. With the stop placed at 11" and the wing nuts loose I place an 11/32" shaft between the arms at the opening of the jig and bring them together until they just grip the shaft. At the stop end I repeat the process but this time with a shaft of diameter 5/16".... tighten all the nuts and the Jig is now set and ready for use.
The first and potentially the most important thing is to nock taper the shaft, if we don't and try to do it after the shaft is tapered there may be some small error which results in an off centre nock, an off centre nock will defeat all efforts to get it to fly nice...
Once you have the Taper now is a good time to check how straight the shaft is, part of this whole process will be contingent on having a straight shaft, use whatever method you like but I have a sheet of glass for this job, if the shaft rattles as you roll it then you have some work to do.... hand straightening works well if you have a good feel for it, I tend to use a little tool called the Shaft Tamer, its a weight used to compress the fibres on the other high side of a bend, any smooth metal object will do but I like this tool and it works well.
This shaft is 32" long and we only need about 28 1/2", however don't cut it yet, using a corded drill the untapered end ( what will become the point end) can be inserted into the drill and once tightened the shaft can be passed slowly through the jig, I use a gentle pushing motion to and fro with each subsequent push sending the shaft further into the jig until I reach the stop, don't try to take all the material off in one push as a slower more measured approach will leave a smoother finish. You could use a cordless drill I guess but none of mine were powerful enough to do a quick clean job, so I stick with the more cumbersome plug in drill.
It's very quick and a heavy hand or lack of concentration can leave you with an over tapered and skinny shaft if you don't feed the jig straight. A lot of fine dust is created and if you are doing a big batch of shafts it makes sense to wear a mask, be aware also that the friction will induce a lot of heat, fine wood dust and heat is never a happy mix so I tend to blow through or brush off the jig every few shafts.
Once the taper had been made I grab some very fine sand paper or emery cloth and with the drill spinning I run the shaft through the cloth, this will leave a glass like finish on the shaft ready for whatever sealant you prefer. I am sure to be breaking some health and safety code by doing this and if you get your fingers caught in the cloth it will be painful... believe me it will !! So I am not recommending you do this ( isn't it bonkers when you have to put little caveats all over the place... so that if some idiot rips off his fingers I can truly say it wasn't my fault !)
You can now cut the shaft to your desired length and stick it on your grain scales... it's worth mentioning at this point that I tend to weigh all the shafts first, before tapering, given that they are the same length and the same spine and of a close weight before tapering I will expect to see a similar correlation after they have been through the jig. I also have a diameter check through a hole the same size as the diameter I am looking to achieve, finally stick them on your spine tester, if they have reduced in spine by the same amount then by using these methods you will still have a closely matched set of shafts.
It works ! For some small outlay and a little work ( and perhaps a sore finger) these shafts are tapered as well as any hi-tech method. Our advanced prototype from Nidderdale had the sandpaper glued to the arms, which made changing papers an awkward business, double sided sticky tape works as an excellent way to keep the paper on the arms and is easier to change, I did find that using the red oxide paper I got a longer lifespan and was able to taper dozens of shafts with no appreciable wear.
Features & Design
Form follows function, when things are made this simple who needs fancy expensive kit.
The brief is simple, remove wood in a controlled and measured way.... this jig fulfils that task simply, quickly and most importantly accurately.
Value for Money
If your dealer offers to taper shafts for 50p each then this jig pays for itself in 100 arrows... if you think you will use less wooden shafts than that in your archery career then firstly this won't work financially for you and secondly you need your head tested if you think you won't break or lose 100 arrows in a lifetime !
The bit that seals the deal for me with this jig is its ability to taper pretty much any shaft, in any diameter for any length you wish, but it doesn't end there... in fact some of the best arrows I ever shot were barrelled ones....with this jig any type or style of barrelling or chesting is possible.......... simple, cheap, accurate and versatile..... if your arrows are less than perfection then tapering them may get you a little closer to the idyll.