FINDING HIGH QUALITY BAMBOO IS THE FIRST CRITICAL STEP TO SUCCESS
The easiest way to explain to someone what high quality bamboo looks like is simply to show them and compare it to the junk or mediocre bamboo that unsuspecting buyers usually settle for. Because they simply don’t know what high quality looks like.
I will absolutely assure you that high quality bamboo costs no more than junk bamboo. It is true that some dealers will CHARGE more, but the costs to the dealer are nearly always the same. Take a look at this information. Perhaps it will inform you.
I just received the new batch of Tonkin shafts. All I can say is wow! They are very very straight. These are going to be hunting arrows so consistent spine, weight and straightness are a must. It looks like they have everything that I need in an arrow. I can’t wait to get them built and see them fly! Thank you!
What should you expect your bamboo to look like.
Basically, there is junk bamboo, mediocre bamboo, and high quality bamboo. When you include the price of the feathers, heads, and equipment to replace them, the high quality bamboo costs much less in the end.
There are several things to tell you whether or not the quality of your bamboo arrow shafts is very good. Unfortunately, you will only know this when you get them delivered. Here are some things to look for, and just so you know…if you buy them from Khan’s arrows, that’s all you will get. We go through every shaft as it is spined and weighed and straightened. If it is flawed, you won’t see it. It will never leave the shop. Because I finally found a top shelf supplier (and it took years); and because I toss the unacceptable shafts, the price may be a bit higher, but I will never have to apologize for the toughness and durability, or the tiny groups they can achieve. So, you decide what you want to pay for. It has been my experience that mediocre and poor bamboo ALWAYS cost more than high quality bamboo. Not only because you will spend more on the lower quality stuff in the end, but your archery with these will never really improve…and you may not realize that the problem isn’t you…it is the junk you are shooting. This is the vicious cycle of ignorance. I went through it many years ago too.
It is subtle, but sometimes shafts are oval, not round, and sometimes shafts have uneven wall thickness. I used to get these all the time. I rarely see them now.
The source I use, which sells such excellent bamboo goes about things a bit differently. Tonkin Bamboo doesn’t have to grow in the Tonkin River Valley…obviously. This company has transplanted the bamboo to a region with four distinct seasons per year. This seems to bring about a bamboo plant which is stronger and allows for a distinct harvest time particularly well suited for arrow shafts. Apparently this allows for a harvest of shafts with similar weights and size. Now that I understand this I get much more consistent arrow shafts, if you know who to buy them.
The bamboo shafts which I sell are a variety known as the Tonkin Cane. When the old Khan used these, it was called “River Reed”. Arundinaria amabilis has been used for thousands of years and has always been considered ideal for arrows. The reason is because it is very durable. It is my opinion that these arrows are the TOUGHEST arrows in the world, including carbon and aluminum…if you get a good quality bamboo shaft. This is the key point to know.
When I started buying them 20 years ago, I got crooked pieces and brittle pieces quite often. Fully half of the shafts I would buy would break during the arrow making process, or were completely unusable. Junk bamboo costs the same as excellent quality bamboo. If you have the right contacts you can get perfection. You certainly are free to find this out for yourself.
This is why I buy them, sort through them, spine them…exactly…and them bundle them in sets of 12. These are exactly the same shafts I use to make my own and I can assure you, I don’t shoot junk!
IT IS TIME TO RAISE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF BAMBOO.
THE FIRST THING TO DEMAND IS STRAIGHT BAMBOO SHAFTS!
I don’t mean “mostly straight”. I mean STRAIGHT. Minor bows in the overall shaft can easily be straightened. Here are two shafts which were sold recently by the biggest bamboo arrow seller on the internet. They are crooked…AND crooked at a node. This arrow is never going to fly into tight groups. The pressure it will take to straighten these is will certainly break them. If the company will take these back, Send them back!
You can see the photo below that high quality bamboo shafts, among OTHER THINGS, are straight. This is the first thing to look for, but is no means the last.
AND ANOTHER THING…
If the bamboo begins to come apart while you are tapering it, the bamboo has dried out or wasn’t harvested properly. You didn’t get that bamboo from me! High quality bamboo is dense and hard.
Here is what I see when I look at these bamboo shafts.
Much of the charm of bamboo shafts is that they look and feel authentic. Bamboo DOES have minor irregularities because it isn’t sanded down prior to arrow making. There is an excellent reason for this. Because bamboo is HOLLOW, which is a wonderful thing to have, reducing the skin of the shaft can lead to the arrow wobbling in flight, and could lead to an arrow breaking much too easily. It could break while launching, which is a legitimate safety issue every archer should be aware of.
These shafts are STRAIGHT at the nodes, and throughout the length of the shaft. On the top shaft in this photo, there does appear to be a minor bend on that shaft, but not when you look down the other side of the shaft. This is just an irregularity of the skin of the shaft, not the shaft itself.
Minor bowing and irregularities on the skin of a ROUND bamboo shaft which good even wall thickness where the GRAIN is straight and strong, will have to have minor straightening from time to time. If the nodes are straight and strong, straightening those shafts is a minor inconvenience.
The second reason is that this shaft is 33 1/8 inches long. It is highly likely that I will cut this shaft down just a bit. I simply will cut this 1/4 inch off that end and cut the rest off the lighter end of this shaft…if indeed there actually IS a bow in that shaft.
Lastly, it is quite common for a bamboo shaft to be just a bit uneven when it is harvested. but, I will either bevel this end for an arrow point, or place a brass collar onto it. In either case, it will be dealt with at that time or rejected.
I hope this can set a reasonable expectation for you about a shaft being bent at a node vs. minor shaft bowing which is common, expected, and easily dealt with.
A moment to discuss bamboo nodes.
You will have a hard time finding the grain on a high quality bamboo shaft. While this is NOT ALWAYS TRUE, it is usually true. The reason is because the bamboo is STRAIGHT AND TIGHT as a rule. This bamboo shaft was one of the bent shafts in the photos above, and you can see why the shaft is bent at the node and will almost certainly break.
How can you ‘UNGNARL” a node? I have been asked if this can be “steamed out”, or “baked out” of a less than perfect shaft. I don’t know for certain, but I never was able to successfully do this. Instead of trying, I simply bought high quality bamboo. Feel free to shop my shafts unless you want to give this a try.
Sorting through hundreds of shafts to keep only the good, straight, round shafts. Then I sort through them to group them by exact spines and exact weights. I take the time to carefully select only the good stuff. After 20 years, I have found the best supplier out there. This has helped me cut down on wastage. This is why my shafts and arrows group tightly if you work on your form.
Frequent comments and questions…
Bamboo arrows vary too much by weight when I buy a set.
Buying several hundred shafts at a time and sorting them by weight to be within approximately 30 grains from the heaviest to the lightest within a set of 12 arrow shafts is no hardship! We do that routinely. In fact, we won’t sell ANY set of arrows, U-fletch arrows, or bare bamboo shafts without having done this. I used to get these kinds of arrows from arrow makers who thought that making a set of bamboo arrow was the same as making a set of carbon arrows. I was astonished at the junk people were selling. Some of these arrow makers were U.S. based. That’s why I learned to make my own bamboo arrows all those years ago.
Bamboo arrows usually are spined too high for my 40 pound bow. The last place I looked said they could only get 70 or 80 pound spined arrows.
I assume this is an older objection that is remaking the rounds. I routinely make sets of bamboo arrows spined at 28 pounds all the way to 60 pounds. My own personal arrows start with a dynamic spine of 34 pounds. This is one of the keys to my success of grouping these arrows within a teacup.
Bamboo arrows are too expensive! The last ones I bought were $90.00 for 3 finished arrows!
I have never found these arrows anywhere. I do routinely see junk bamboo arrows for sale for about $65.00 for 6 or 12 arrow sets, and a mediocre set of bamboo arrows for sale for about $100 dollars of six arrows. Some kick in the shipping, while others do not. It is natural to want to get a “good deal” on arrows. I understand. Unfortunately a custom quality product which is made for you doesn’t come that way. You always pay for quality.
Bamboo arrows only come with glue-on heads.
This archer needs to get acquainted with a better class of arrow maker! This is why I developed my black arrow line of products.
I called a supplier of carbon arrows who also sells bamboo arrows. They told me they would not recommend bamboo arrows for target competition because they are not as accurate as a carbon arrow.
I’m sorry, and I do apologize for my Tourette’s syndrome, but this is utter bull shit. This statement can only be made by someone who has never shot good bamboo arrows. The old khan didn’t bring down all those other empires with carbon arrows! I hope to God the photos above, and all over my website, as well as the customer comment page on my website dispel this myth. Personally I find this ignorance to be damned near breathtaking. Sorry…just saying….
Feathers come off too easily from “off the shelf” wooden arrows.
Bamboo arrows just aren’t very tough.
Khan’s arrows sells closely matched sets of U-Fletch arrows in any length or spine you want. You are perfectly free to fletch them yourself with any feather you care to use. Our finished arrows are all made with common and readily available 5 inch, left wing, shield cut feathers in either black, white, or barred colors. Lastly, my feathers are glued down to stay! I recently put one through a 4 layer wall and not only was the arrow just fine, but the feathers were completely in place and undamaged. To see the video, click here.
They just don’t come in the lengths and spine I want!
Please allow me to point out that ALL “off the shelf” arrows come with a predetermined length. Khan’s arrows doesn’t sell “off the shelf arrows”. You can get literally ANYTHING you want with regard to length, spine, or nearly any other parameter. I do need to tell you that if you want anything longer than 33 inches, you will need to be patient while I get these shipped…and they will be more expensive. But the high quality will be the same.
I can’t get these with hunting heads or other heads.
Hmmmm….They have never been to my website! It is a big wide wonderful world out there…and you can have whatever you want!
So, here is my point in all this…
OVERWHELMINGLY, MOST OF THE BAMBOO I SEE NOW ISN’T POOR BAMBOO, IT JUST ISN’T THE GOOD STUFF. IF YOU ARE WILLING TO SETTLE FOR THAT, THEN IT IS ALSO YOUR DECISION NOT TO SHOOT ARROWS YOU CAN RELY ON. YOU HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME FOR THAT EXCEPT YOURSELF.
You can see in this photo that one shaft is much thicker than the the other. It is more bulky. It shoots OK, but I’m not looking for a teacup sized group with those. Those are the middling shafts I used to buy. They cost EXACTLY the same price as the slimmer and more elegant shaft just below it, which is EXACTLY the same static spine. Because it is denser, it is MUCH more durable. It is harder to break than the heavier one above. These elegant shafts will closely match in weight because they are grown and harvested for a specific purpose…I hope you get the picture here.