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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.

  • I don't know but probably a very long time per arrow (I note the last name Arrowsmith implies this was a profession and the scarcity of the name (AFAICT) indicates few people could do it). In the late 1600s (and maybe later), nails were made largely by hand and I think pins were also. – Jeff Dec 10 '17 at 16:53
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    @Jeff Or they went by Fletcher? – justCal Dec 10 '17 at 17:04
  • @justCal: Ah, good point. But even that name is far less prevalent, afaict, then say, Smith. Anyhow, my point is, it ain't easy to make a functional arrow. Probably even today, a wooden arrow specifically is not made in a completely automated way but I could be wrong about that. – Jeff Dec 10 '17 at 17:15
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    @Jeff Perhaps, but the Kings of England were placing orders for hundreds of thousands of arrows at a a time to be used in France during the Hundred Years War, so it couldn't have been that hard to make. 425,000 were bought just in 1421. – Semaphore Dec 10 '17 at 17:24
  • A good resource (but no answer that I find). – justCal Dec 10 '17 at 17:34
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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.
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    Definitely seconding this. Even when making arrows on your own (and I have made quite a number over the years), you are not making one arrow, then the next. You prepare a batch of shafts. You cut nocks, one after the other. Then you attach the arrowheads, one after the other. Then you fletch the lot. You want to repeat the same procedure over and over, not continuously hop from one to the next (which involves a change in tools and rearranging your workspace). "How long for one" should be "how many per day and worker", and I would say several dozen, minimum. – DevSolar Dec 11 '17 at 15:29
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    Why would you need to waterproof the shafts? – einpoklum - reinstate Monica Dec 11 '17 at 20:04
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    @einpoklum a lot of thought was given to storage. For example, the glue used for fletching was made of animal sinew. They would mix compounds into it so that rats and other animals wouldn't eat the glue while the arrows were stored. I can only imagine that they waterproofed the whipping and shafts in order to prevent warping. Arrows were made to be stored and still be useful after long periods. – JMS Dec 11 '17 at 20:19
  • @DevSolar: !,000 years ago, without power tools, I would think a dozen or so a day would be good production average, specializing each day on a specific task as you describe. Don't forget that the labour of every pre-manufactured part, even a making a dowel from a living tree, must be included. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 12 '17 at 2:11
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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.

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    arrowheads like this one : 2.bp.blogspot.com/-hCl9EmwY0Ao/WXCkejOqmuI/AAAAAAAAAuc/… can take less than 10 minutes per piece, 5 if it can e directly molded against the shaft. as personal experience with a forge & hammer. – CptEric Dec 11 '17 at 14:38
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    @CptEric Is that in modern forge setting, or simulated medieval gear? I did see another report of reproducing arrows for use with reproduction English long bows, which said you (modern craftsman) could expect to craft a dozen arrows per day, but no definition on length of day. (and I suspect using precast broadheads). – justCal Dec 11 '17 at 14:51
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    just iron bars, a hammer, a smithing "stuff" where you hit, and a forge fire. you need 4-8 hits to get the "head" done, (non-polished finish) plus only a dozen or so to make the cone shaft cover. if you have the shafts nearby, you can smith the metal directly around it, with the heat and water expanding the wood quickly and fixing it. not perfect, and would maybe need two or three grind wheel turns to make it sharp pointed, but it's fast and it surely kills. i did it on a friend's forge, but with enough iron and shafts, i could do way more than a dozen. not the fletching part tho. – CptEric Dec 11 '17 at 15:15
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    youtube.com/watch?v=8Bh8iOvlaxw <- someone doing it with care. you can be less "careful" with the materials if you're in a hurry. or make them piercing square instead of broad. – CptEric Dec 11 '17 at 15:18
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    ofcourse you need a very strong fire to do so, but not explicitly an industrial modern one. i've seen medieval-style forge fires turn steel bars in lightsabers less than a minute due to good air flow and strong arms of the "helpboy" at the air fueling stuff. imagine having a blood-driven engine ( horse or donkey) fueling all around and automating the process a bit. – CptEric Dec 11 '17 at 15:21

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