As much as we use the term, “straight as an arrow,” in reality there is no such thing as a perfectly straight wooden arrow. Even the finest, most uniform grained, premium quality arrows do not begin nor remain 100% straight all of the time. The straightest arrows however, are those produced from a uniform grained, even density wood, such as Port Orford Cedar. Other woods are available and do make satisfactory arrows. Good arrow flight and shooting consistency depends on many factors, but begins with a reasonably straight arrow.
Even though most arrows begin reasonably straight, there are factors that can cause an arrow to warp. Humidity is the most common factor. Arrows becoming wet from rain, or being stored in a humid climate will absorb moisture. This is a characteristic found in all woods, not just those used in arrow or bow making. Fortunately, improvements in arrow finishes such as “Super Coat Lacquer” used by us minimize warpage due to moisture. It is also important if arrows are to remain in storage for extended periods that they placed vertically rather than horizontally. Another very common way for arrows to become bent, is in removing them from targets or game. Fortunately, there is not one bent arrow that can not be hand straightened to a level that is sufficient for shooting.
The best way to tell if your wood shaft or complete arrow is straight is to simply sight down the arrow with your eyes and slowly rotate the arrow to identify any warps (See Fig. 1). A bare shaft may be rolled on a smooth level surface such as a table top to identify any warps.
If you have an arrow that is for any reason warped, the simple method of hand straightening will correct the problem. If you are right handed take the arrow by the nock in your right hand, and place the palm of your left hand against the outer edge of the warped area (See Fig. 2). Apply moderate pressure over a short area with the palm of your left hand until the arrow is shootable. Of course if you are left handed, simply reverse your hands.
Archers that shoot wooden arrows should periodically review them for straightness. While on the range, or in the woods, check each arrow prior to beginning the days event. More often in severely wet weather. You will find that by purchasing or making the highest quality wooden arrows, warping will be kept to a minimum.
One tip: We have found that furniture wax in paste form, applied to your arrows over their existing finish, allowed to dry and wiped off, forms a further moisture barrier. Waxing also makes the arrows much easier to be removed from today’s high density foam targets, and allows the arrow to slide quietly over the rest.