Modular arrowhead tutorial – part 1

Very brief tutorial that’ll probably get edited quickly whenever I make more. This is basically the same design today, except instead of DAP and spray glue, I now use double sided carpet tape.

There are several double sided carpet tapes out there. The one I started with (can’t remember the brand) most closely resembles strapping tape, in that you can see the criss-crossed fibers like the weave and weft of cloth. It was all right, but as far as foam goes, it’s too stiff and peels apart quite easily. The tape I recommend now and have been using for years without construction fails is Roberts Max Grip carpet installation tape. 1 7/8″ wide.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Always cover the entire surface area of attachment with the tape. My comrades and I use to only put one strip down the center when using carpet tape to build swords, but that was foolish. You’ll get the maximum amount of life if you use 2 strips to overlap.

Firstly, you’ll need the base of the head. Typically a 3″ length of 1/2″ CPVC works fine. I’ve been experimenting lately to find a thinner, lighter core, but CPVC is what you’ll see here–much different from PVC which is heavier and more durable than what is required for an arrowhead core. As for length, 3″ is usually the minimum. Depending on your arrowshaft length, you have the chance of making a core that reaches the 28″ mark for your drawstop (a requirement for Dagorhir archery). If you have a 31″ shaft, 3″ will do.

ModHead08 (1).jpg

Wrap the core with duct tape (or another tape of choice) to widen it to about the circumference of a penny (or other penny-sized metal disc of choice). Make the edge of the tape even with the top edge of the CPVC (whichever you decide is top). Place the penny perpendicular to the end of the duct taped core and secure with smaller strips of duct tape.

Now comes what I’ve heard called the wrap cap repeat portion. Cut a strip of foam 4 1/4″ x 1 3/4″ and apply carpet tape to the back of it. Remove the nonstick backing after applying the tape, then roll that piece lightly around the duct-taped core, keeping its edge even with the top of the core closest to the penny. When I say lightly, you do in fact apply force, because you want this to stick to the core solidly. Think of it as if you were wringing out a delicate shirt, not the amount of force needed to choke a bear. Note the pictures here feature DAP where I say to apply tape. DAP is completely useful and durable, but application takes longer and is much messier than carpet tape, which is why I hardly use DAP any more (again, these pictures will be updated during my next build day).

Once that wrap is done, you may have some excess–no worries! Feel free to use a retractable blade to shave that off and make it look more circular (you’ll see an example further in the tutorial). Tape gums up blades, so I typically keep one knife strictly for cutting foam, and another with which I can cut whatever. That helps my foam knives stay sharp for precision. Apply a piece of strapping tape over the seam to help it stay wrapped around the core.

ModHead08 (5)

From here on out, when tape is used on the arrowhead, I instead recommend strapping tape instead of duct tape. Just as durable if not more so, and lighter. Dagorhir arrowheads are heavy enough as is–might as well pinch the weight where we can!

So, that little rectangle is what you wrapped around the core, now comes the cap. Cut a circular piece of foam approx. 1 5/8″ – 1 3/4″ in diameter. Apply tape to one side, folding over any extra bits, and attach perpendicular to the wrapped core. If you wish, you can wrap a thin piece of tape around the base to help it stay–I find the next wrap phase helps this just as well.

ModHead08 (6)

Now you’ve wrapped, and you’ve capped, so next is repeat. Cut out another rectangle of foam, 6 1/4″ x 1 3/4″. Apply carpet tape to said rectangle and wrap around your foam core, keeping the top edge even with the cap you just previously attached. By now, you should see how the 2nd wrap piece acts the same as the tape for securing the first cap in the above photo. Apply strapping tape over the seam to help keep the wrap from separating from the other foam.

In the first photo above, you can see where I had excess when wrapping the rectangles onto the core, and how I cut them off at an angle to be more circular. The second picture is the 2nd cap (wrap cap repeat), though it’s more like an octagon. Second cap will be approx. 2 3/8″ diameter, depending on the force you applied when wrapping. More force = more compression = smaller diameter circle to cover. Because of the  compression of the tape that’ll go around the foam, octagon (pictured above) is a perfectly acceptable shape, too, if you don’t want to cut a nice circle.

Last piece of foam attachment is the open cell. There are many varying opinions on where to get this, or what’s the best, but the only thing to remember is graduated compression. The older the foam, the more quicker it compresses to its minimum width. Newer foam will be much springier and will still feel cushy even when fully compressed. Some open cell foams out there, even new, will compress completely without gradation. I have been scavenging for a few years now and have hardly bought new open cell since. But reviews have it that Jo-Ann Fabrics green foam does fine.

My newest design is cutting a 2 5/8″ – 2 3/4″ diameter cylinder out of a open cell block about 2 1/2″ tall with a band saw. I was skeptical at first, thinking the band saw would whip the piece right away and possibly injure my hand. Oddly enough, I had no accidents, and Enzo of Cliffside Armory was just as stupefied to see it work–wouldn’t be possible without the advice of Magnus of the Rhydderich Hael (formerly of Narnian Dagorhir). In this case for tape application, I apply tape to the top of the cap instead of the open cell–much easier to attach tape to closed cell.


And that is effectively part 1, congrats! Obviously there are more finishing steps for stability and applying a cloth cover, which I have yet to photograph. If you intend on crafting arrowheads now and will wait til part 2 is published, at least apply one or two rounds of hockey tape over the seam between the last cap, the open cell, and the base to help keep it all together. While I will praise carpet tape til the end of this century, it still needs help to stay in place.

Yes, I apologize for making this a two part tutorial. Don’t worry, fellow foam fletchers, you’re not the only one who thinks it’s snooze-worthy.