Build Crossbow Bolts: The Complete Guide

A crossbow won’t be a crossbow without the bolts. Sure, you can still make your own crossbow for display. But why build one in the first place if you’re not going to use it? In order to do so, you have to build crossbow bolts. But don’t fret. Making them is actually very easy. If you thought making the crossbow was easy, then making the bolts will be a walk in the park with the help of this guide.

But if you haven’t had the chance to read the article on making crossbows yet, let’s make sure that we’re on the same page right now as far as bolts are concerned. What are they? Simply put, they are the projectiles. They are like bullets to guns. They are the ones that will hit your intended target. If you’re going to go hunting, they will be the ones that will take down your target. So you probably realize their importance.

Ask any hunter and they’ll tell you that they are very important. This is why they pay good money to buy them. However, more and more hunters are realizing the benefits of building their own bolts. Done correctly, they can be as effective as the store-bought ones at a fraction of the cost. You lost a few homemade bolts? Not a problem. You can just make some more when you get home. Try saying that with the store-bought ones. There’s also the satisfaction of being able to make your own bolts.

Did you know that you can use common household items to build crossbow bolts? This is actually the easiest way to make them. You can easily find them in the house and if not, you can buy them on your next trip to the mall. Here are the popular things that are more commonly used:

  • Dowels
  • Chopsticks
  • Bamboo skewers
  • Straws
  • Pencils

By the way, you can also build your own crossbows using these materials especially dowels and pencils.

Build Crossbow

Why are they perfect for your homemade bolts? Obviously, you just have to do minimal work on them. Bolts should always be made straight. They won’t work properly if they’re crooked. If you’re a handyman in the wood shop, then go ahead and make your own. If primitive men were able to make arrows from scratch, then you can easily make them with the help of your equipment.

But of course, bolts are different from arrows. Generally speaking, they are shorter but heavier. An arrow is around 24 to 32 inches long while a bolt is generally made to be 12 to 16 inches long. It’s really up to you on the type of wood that you’re going to use. But a lot of people swear by dogwood. You can also use maple or willow if you prefer. The most important thing is to check that they are solid and there are no hollow spaces inside the wood because that can affect the trajectory. The finished bolts should be round with diameters ranging from 3/8 to ½ inch compared to arrows that are ¼ to 3/8 inch in diameter.

Crossbow vs. Long Bow

Even if you’re an expert in handling wood, it will be very hard to make them perfectly straight. You may need to bend them using a propane torch. The flame should be directed at the bent area and the flame should be 2 inches away from the wood so that you’re not going to burn it. Once the wood is hot, apply pressure to make it straighter.

Or you can just grab a pack of dowels and bulk of the job is done. You can also use chopsticks, pencils, skewers or even straws. But dowels are stronger and they vary in size. This way, you can choose the one that’s perfect for the crossbow that you made. There are several diameters available and for most homemade crossbows, a diameter of ¼ inch is perfect. If dogwood dowels are not available, oak or ash works just fine. Here are the steps on making them:

  1. Cut the dowels according to the length of your crossbow’s stock. The stock is the part that supports the bow so it makes sense that the dowels are not too short or not too long. You can strengthen them by using a propane torch around it until they’re slightly brown.
  2. Make the flights via fletching. The flight or the fletch is the one that stabilizes the bolt when it’s in flight. It also improves the aerodynamics. You can use high-quality goose feathers and use a sharp razor knife to shape them. You can test several placements of flights to get your preference. But you can start by attaching them half an inch from the end of the dowel at a 180 degree angle from one another. You can also check out specialty stores for flights.
  3. Now it’s time to make the head of your bolt. The best way to do it is to just sharpen the end like how you would sharpen a pencil. But you may want to check out available heads. You can just use a razor knife to taper off the end so that the head will fit in snugly.

Now that you know how to build crossbow bolts, it’s time for you to make a dozen or two and practice with them. It’s a good idea to make different heads and flights and when you get the perfect combination for you, that’s the time that you can make a lot of them.