Equipment Review – Timber Creek Wooden arrows

Timber Creek Arrows

Timber Creek Arrows

I recently picked up some Timber Creek wood arrows from Merlin Archery care of Jim Grizzly Kent  and thought it worth putting a review together.
First impressions are positive.
The shafts are 11/32 with a 4 inch feather shield fletchings and black nocks. Made from Siberian spruce, these were spined as 50/55 as I wanted to use them with my flatbow.
The varnish finish is good being smooth and flawless over the entire length of the arrow.
Only thing I don’t like is the nock colour. Whilst they look great, fit well on the string, they are black which makes them very hard to see on longer targets. I like the thread binding at the front of the fletching as this can protect the tip of the fletching.
The shafts are straight and with the clear varnish you can see the quality of the wood grain.
Close up

Close up of fletching and nock

Having weighed them the six arrows come in 30 grains variance which is pretty impressive for unmatched out of box.
The piles are 100 grain field point which will be fine for most but I prefer an 80 grain.

100 grain piles

100 grain piles

Out of the box they are 32 inches in length and come pre – piled and ready to shoot.  Only thing I’ve noticed is the piles on two are very slightly proud of shafts, probably due to the shafts being slightly less than an 11/32. So if shooting a bag boss they can snag on the fabric. In fairness this is not an uncommon problem with wooden shafts and one I’ve encountered when making my own.Initial goes
I’ve tried shooting them at full length and they fly ok at about 12 -15 yards but really need to cut them down to my draw length. At 20-25 yards I was noticing the difference of pile weight and length. My normal arrows are fitted 80grain points so will probably fit 80 grain piles for true comparison.

Further testing 
Having now cut them to my draw length and fitted 80grain points I can add a couple of extra observations.
Being spruce the wood feathers or crumbles a little when tapering them. I found the same with other spruce and to be fair these were better quality.
Removing the old piles was easy using a gas ring to heat them for about 10 seconds and then unscrewing with a pair of pliers. Not sure if the 100 grain field point will blunt if a wayward arrow were to hit a rock, but this is the same for other pile designs and the reason I prefer steel to brass.
Having shot them they fly very slightly high and to the left but only slightly which makes me think slightly stiff.

Grouping at 15 yards

Grouping at 15 yards

Flight wise, they are very good and I’ve shot them a couple of hundred times.
I’ve not missed so badly as to bounce them off a tree yet so not sure of durability but am sure I will find out soon.

UPDATE – First casualty and note to self. If you shoot your own arrow it breaks. Managed to shoot the pile off one.  Yes pile, not nockthat takes skills.

First casulaty

First casulaty of the testing

 Those interested in the Timber Creek range of bows might like to know i recently picked up a Timber Creek Cobra and hope to write a review in the near future.
 If you don’t have the time or expertise to make your own arrows I think they are a good buy being good quality components assembled well. Priced at just under £5 each it’s not bad value. (http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/timer-creek-wooden-arrows-basic.html)

Overall a 8.5 to 9/10 due to the nock colour.

Thanks for reading

Removing broken wood tip from inside pile

Thought those of you, who like me shoot wooden arrows and sometimes have the misfortune to break the pile off might find this a useful tip. No pun intended.

Quite often I find my arrows break directly behind the pile, leaving a small piece of wood inside the pile which can be difficult to remove especially if you want to reuse the pile.
I know some people drill the wood out and others simply throw away the pile.
Well I thought I would show how I remove the broken piece of wood.

Tools required

Tools required

The tools required are
1 x long wood screw 2 1/2″ is ideal (cross head)
1 x screwdriver
1 x gas stove or gas ring
1-2 x pliers
1 x small pot or basin of water
Step 1
First stage is to carefully take the screw and screw it into the wood still in the pile.
Screw into wood

Screw into wood

Step 2 
Once the screw is secured in the wood, you need to heat the pile up as this breaks down the glue securing the wood to the pile.
Holding it by the screw you can heat the pile using the gas ring. It should only take 10-20 seconds.
Word of warning here. 
I usually use screw on piles, but if you have taper fit or parrell fit you can have the piles pop off as the glue and gases in the glue expand under the heat.
The reason I mention this is on one occasion when removing a pile I left it in the ring to heat up too long as I worked on another. I heard a loud pop and saw the pile shoot across the kitchen towards the window and the screw and wood went in another direction. Fortunately no one was  injured and nothing was broken (otherwise I think Sharon might have injured me)
Heating the pile

Heating the pile

The other thing to be careful of is to not let the wood burn as this will not only smoke the kitchen out possibly triggering a smoke detector but also make it harder to remove the wood.
It’s worth doing this in a well ventilated room as the glue can stinks, especially the two part epoxy I use. How long you keep it in the flame will vary depending on the glue. Hot melt, melts quickly whilst some epoxy ones might take 20 seconds. It’s a bit of trial and error here.

Step 3
Holding the now heated pile  in the pliers (don’t grab it with your hand as it will be hot) take the screw driver and continue to screw the screw into the wood.
You should find that because the glue has melted and lost adhesion to the pile the screw will force the wood free. Resulting in the wood remaining on the screw and free of the pile.

Wood remains on pile

Wood remains on pile

Step 4 
Drop the pile and screw into a pot of cold water to cool.  Once cool you can dry the pile.
You might need to clean out the inside of the pile of glue residue with a bit of wire wool or I find an old shaft tapered down and screwed in and out a couple of times works well to dislodge any residue.
The easiest way to remove the wood from the screw is to hold the wood in the pliers and then using the screw driver “unscrew” it.
Hope you find this useful.
Thanks for reading.

Equipment review – custom archery tabs from Dixie Leathercraft

Dixie Leathercraft

Dixie Leathercraft

Dixie Leathercraft is a small business in Leicestershire making a vast array of leather goods.
I first encountered them at the 3d championships this year where they had a large tent selling all kinds of products from quivers to arm braces, pouches to six gun holsters. I ventured into this Aladdins cave looking for a suitable belt pouch to house my Ventolin inhaler. They didn’t have one on show but offered to make me a custom belt pouch for the next day. Which they did and I have used ever since.
A few weeks after the championships a friend was round trying out his new Blackbrook afb and showed me a tab he had commissioned from Dixie. This got me thinking and I contacted Dixie to see if they would be able to make something similar for me.
They produced a couple of designs based on my specifications, one single layer and one double. The double was made large enough for me to mount  an old finger spacer from a worn out tab on.

This is the single thickness tab

This is the single thickness tab

The first design of the double layer worked okay but I felt it needed a slightly larger backing piece to extend to match the facing piece.

Mark 1 tab - needed the backing piece extended

Mark 1 tab – needed the backing piece extended

We also extended the leather covering the forefinger slightly.

Mark 2 tab before having spacer fitted

Mark 2 tab before having spacer fitted

The mark two was produced and I have now used this in earnest shooting the club 40 target course, on practice bosses at home and for a couple of shoots.
The extra length protects the ring finger well and the second layer whilst offering additional protection to the fingers, still allows me to feel the string on my fingers when at anchor.
I know a lot of people may think what’s wrong with the normal ones in the shops and my answer is nothing. I used one for several years along with shooting gloves and there are countless ones on the market. The reason I sought out a custom design was to see if it made a difference to me and I believe it does.
The tab is more comfortable to use than a glove  as I have found the glove in warm weather to be very warm and uncomfortable,  making my hand sweat.  I’ve taken to talc in the inside to make it more comfortable. I also tend to take my glove off between shots on warm days.
The cost has been cheaper than I expected and the service has been fabulous. Dixie Leathercraft are really friendly and helpful. I shoot split fingers or mediterranean lose meaning my first finger is above the arrow nock with the other two below the arrow. For this reason when I’m using a tab I have a finger spacer between the first and middle finger.
Mounting the finger spacer was pretty easy. I used my old tab as a guide initially marking the reverse side of the leather where the tab spacer would be.

Mark 1 below the mark 2. You can see how the backing piece now covers the full tab

Mark 1 below the mark 2. You can see how the backing piece now covers the full tab

The spacer on old tab was attached via two small screws which were easily removed from the worn out tab. I made two small holes in the new tab with a braddle for the screws and a third to allow the elastic strap through. If you have one you might want to use a leather hole punch for the elastic hole as it would make it easier to feed the elastic through.
Close up of the securing screws, the elastic is knotted through a hole in the metal plate

Close up of the securing screws, the elastic is knotted through a hole in the metal plate

The old tab had a metal plate triangular in shape with two holes in one end for the screws and the third I threaded the elastic through tying a knot so it wouldn’t be pulled through.
Once the elastic was fed through the tab I then fed the elastic through the gap between the two screws, screwing them tightly to the spacer then secured the elastic in place.
Elastic threaded through between the 2 screws before they are tightened

Elastic threaded through between the 2 screws before they are tightened

Before securing them I made sure the loop of elastic was the right size to accommodate my middle finger.

Shows the spacer and elastic loop on finger

Shows the spacer and elastic loop on finger

Finished leather tab

Finished leather tab

The extra length of leather can be easily folded over the metal plate .

Finished leather tab showing how the leather can be folded over

Finished leather tab showing how the leather can be folded over

I hope people find this of use . I know there have been a few articles and posts on tabs versus gloves. I think Bow International magazine ran an article on custom tabs and spacers a few issues back.
Thanks for reading.

Coaching very young children – some thoughts

Balloons as a target can make it fun

Balloons as a target can make it fun

 Recently I was asked to give two young children both 6, (though if you ask them they will say 6 and 3/4 and 6 and a half) a session in archery. These are some thoughts and observations, I hope you find it useful.

Normally I coach adults or children slightly older as I believe they have a better grasp of the concepts. Also at this early age their muscles and coordination is still developing so you shouldn’t start any earlier in my opinion.
One thing is for sure. Coaching young children is very different to coaching adults. I think it is far more tiring for the coach, but can be very rewarding for both coach and them, as to the young kids even missing is good.
They have no expectations of success but just enjoy the moment.

Maybe that is something we can all learn from.

Equipment requirements 

Though I have basic beginners take down bows I decided to use a simple fibre glass bow which is easier to use and more importantly lighter in the hand for young people. I picked it up from Merlin Archery but am sure other retailers would have something similar. Details are below.
http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/sherwood-archery-bow-kit-44.html

Ground rules 

As with adults you must set the ground rules long before they get near a bow.

  • No running at any point.
  • If I say stop we stop.
  • Remember to talk to them, not at them.
  • Its vital to make parents aware of their responsibilities of care and behaviour.

Find out from the parents if the kids have any health issues, maybe they are just getting over a cold which might make them tire quickly.

Smile

One tip I’ve found is to always smile when talking to children ensuring you make eye contact, as children love this form of engagement.
Even if they miss, smile and tell them what they have done well, it is very easy to hit their confidence and you want them to enjoy the occasion.
The thing I have discovered with teaching kids is to make it fun, so I have found showing the basics then breaking it into two sessions and having something like balloons on the target in the second half makes it fun and keeps their attention.

Small steps

As an adult or experienced archer you might shoot 4/6 or more arrows when practising.
Children have a shorter attention span so have them shoot only a couple at a time.
This keeps their attention and doesn’t tire them out. Speaking of tiring them make sure to give them plenty of breaks. If they get tired they make mistakes and can get grumpy (just like adults )
I  took the kids in turn to shoot and had the other sat in a  chair watching. This means they can be relaxing watching and you as a coach have a safe place where they are located.

Couple of other  things to consider.
They don’t have a clear concept of aiming so tend to be instinctive in their approach.
Light is right – use the lightest bow possible and I don’t just mean draw weight but also light physical weight.
Children can get cold quickly as well as tired so keep an eye on this. I was running the session on a winter’s day so the cold was a potential problem but equally in the summer heat can be a problem with sunburn or heat exhaustion.
Childrens coats tend to be quite bulky so make sure arm bracers fit and hold the sleeve back.
Don’t locate the shooting line too close to the targets as arrows can bounce back due to not having enough energy to penetrate some target bosses.
Kneel at their side as this helps to keep eye contact, don’t tower over them as this can be intimidating.

Keep the fun.

One way of making it  fun can be to put a few balloons on target boss and have them try and burst them. This is a good activity for them after a long break say after lunch.
Likewise having some comic target faces can make it fun.

Parents and guardians role

I feel it is vital to engage the parents too and get them shooting so they know what the kids are having to do.
Ideally get the kids to use their parents phones to either photograph or film them shooting. Kids love using modern tech and recording themselves or parents can give them a great buzz. (Please be careful here as filming or photographing kids can cause issues so always ensure its the parents or guardians who are using the cameras when the children are the subject.)
I have the parents or guardians present at all times too,  as archery is not a creche and you as a coach should not be used as one. It also introduces archery as a family experience which they can share.
I hope you have found this useful and no doubt there are other tips you can pick up from other more experienced archers and coaches.

I’m sure there are other coaches out that that can offer some thoughts or add their advice.

Thanks for reading.

Making and doing archery madness

I firmly believe that a successful club is more than just a field or wood and group of people who shoot there.
A good club supports its members, nurturing and developing their skills and interests. I believe it should also be somewhat of a social gathering.

It is very easy for a newbie archer to get lost and confused with friendly offers of advice or to be too nervous or embarrassed to ask for help. Ideally you want new members to be intimidated as little as possible but not everyone has the confidence to ask questions or seek advice.

Learn from the past
Many years ago, I was a member of the Black Arrow club in Derby. In fact it was the  first ever archery club we joined. Kevin the club chairman and Cherrie the Secretary organised a making and doing session for all the new members who had joined. It gave all present the opportunity to learn the basics of arrow making, string making and how to serve strings. It proved a great success being both instructional and social with Cherrie and Pete (her partner) providing food for all.
Over the Christmas holiday of 2014 Sharon and I organised a similar event at our house, with the objective of giving a few of the newbies some guidance on making or repairing arrows and a variety of other topics.
It proved to be a very sociable afternoon  and evening, helped by the contributions of everyone who came and Sharon’s expert cooking. Yes, not only is she a cracking shot but also a great cook.

Nigel showing his expertise on straightening wooden arrows.

Nigel showing his expertise on straightening wooden arrows.

We covered topics of how to make wooden arrows including fletching arrows, attaching piles and nocks. Having a number of experienced archers there proved really useful as each explained how their technique was slightly different from each other enabling a great spectrum of knowledge to be displayed and discussed.  The discussion on whether to varnish the arrow prior to fletching or fletch then varnish was one hotly debated topic. An equally debated topic was the merits of different glues for attaching piles to wooden shafts with some preferring  hot melt over epoxy glues. All the advice and comments were provided freely and in a relaxed atmosphere.

Jason showing how to use fletching tape

Jason showing how to use fletching tape

Whilst arrow making was going on in one room, arrow straightening of aluminium arrows using our straightening jig was being demonstrated in another. There was also just enough space to demonstrate applying serving to a bow string.

Discussions went on long into the night on different techniques and it was a very sociable evening. Our thanks to all who contributed their time and advice.

Greta making her first arrows

Greta making her first arrows

With everyone at the wood the following day even more discussions took place, this time with archers showing off their arrows they had made previously and again citing the merits of varnishing first or other such topics.

So if you have the opportunity to run something similar to this at your club go for it. It doesn’t take much planning and benefits can be huge.

Thanks for reading and to all those that attended. Special thanks to Kevin and Cherrie who set the bar so high all those years ago.
Oh, Kevin if you are reading this remember the glue.