While researching 16th century arrow making, I read an article on the length of time to produce a complete arrow. My computer crashed before I secured the article, so if anyone can help it would be appreciated.
For the English longbow my research indicates that arrows were not made by one man or one at a time in the 16th century. They were mass produced with many craftsmen applying their talents to produce different components which only when assembled would be called an arrow. So the process wouldn't lend itself to be measured in time per arrow.
The arrows that were shot from these longbows were a very different story and required innumerable people to produce all of the components.
Different kinds artisans who would create an arrow in the 16th century.
- bodkins, or arrow heads were produced by skilled metal workers.
- Shafts were made by yet another artisan.
- Nocks, inserts of bone used to notch the arrow on the bowstring.
- Shapers, after the bodkins and Nocks were applied to the shafts the arrow would be tapered so the fatter part of the shaft would be behind the bodkin. Modern arrows are parallel, Sixteen century shafts were not parallel.
- Whipping the shafts and fletching.. arrows in the 16 century would have threads wrapped (whipped) around the shafts
- water proofing the shafts
- Fletchers would split feathers and apply them on shafts.
Since you recall reading an article which included the length of time to compllete an arrow, perhaps it was in the book With a Bended Bow: Archery in Mediaeval and Renaissance Europe By Erik Roth. In this text, there is a section on manufacturing, which details the time involved to reproduce arrows such as those found in Nydam Bog. The time arrived at is about 2 hours per arrow, including:
- 50 minutes to cut the shaft
- 30 minutes for fletching
- 15 minutes for attaching the arrowhead
- 25 minutes to make the arrowhead itself
Of course this would be a conservative time estimate, since an organization such as The Worshipful Company of Fletchers, which was one of the famous Livery Companies of London would have had the organization and power to increase production rates, especially at time of war.
These sheaf arrows would have been produced in a 'guild' situation, with masters overseeing apprentices and laborers working all stages of production concurrently, and as with any craft, 'tricks of the trade' would have increased the production rate in ways we can only guess at. This figure does provide, however an appreciation of the time and labor involved.