Cutting Carbon Arrows at Home

Aug 10th 2021

Cutting Carbon Arrows at Home

Carbon fiber arrows are a bow hunter’s best friend. They’re strong, lightweight, well-balanced, and practically impervious to deformation and wear. There’s only one problem—they come in standardized lengths, which likely doesn’t match your arm’s length.

That leaves only one solution: cutting overly long arrows down a size that complements your particular draw length and makes for more comfortable, and therefore more precise, shooting.

Sure, you could go to the trouble of taking your arrows to a bowhunter supply store or archery pro shop to have them custom-cut by an experienced professional. Or you could trim them down to your desired specifications yourself in less than an hour and save yourself a considerable amount of time and hassle in the process.

If you ask us, that’s a no-brainer.

Cutting carbon arrows is easier than you might think. All you need is a single straightforward measurement, the right cutting tool and accessories, and a few spare minutes.

Why Cut Your Arrows?

If you’re relatively new to hunting or archery, you might be asking, “Why would anyone in their right mind take a saw to a perfectly good arrow?”

To answer that question, it’s necessary first to understand the impact that an arrow’s dimensions can have on a shooter’s technique.

Most standard stock arrows have a shaft length of 30-33”, which is a fine median measurement for the majority of adult users. But astute marksmen tend to discover rather quickly that arrows falling toward the upper end of this range are too long to guarantee consistent performance, while those in the next size down are too short.

Arrows that are too long generally don’t have enough “spine,” or shaft stiffness. Their high degree of flexion can cause them to veer off the intended trajectory over long distances, which is not what you want when you’re hunting live animals or trying to win a target shooting competition.

Short, stubby arrows are an even greater cause for concern. Not only are they prone to erratic flight behavior, but if you’re not careful, they can also slip off the rear end of the rest and end up caught behind the grip. In the worst-case scenario, the force of the bowstring into a jammed-up arrow can cause it to bend to the point of snapping, sending razor-sharp shards of carbon fiber flying towards anything in close proximity, which includes your bow arm.

As you can see, the length of your arrows is more than just a technical consideration.

Cutting out a small section of the shaft is a way of splitting the difference. A slightly shorter arrow allows the shooter to utilize a more natural draw pattern and improves their sense of feel and overall accuracy as a result.

What You’ll Need for This Project

You’ll probably be pleased to learn that cutting arrows by hand doesn’t require much in the way of specialized equipment. Even without an expensive arrow cutoff saw, it’s possible to achieve professional-grade cuts using only:

  • A high-speed benchtop miter saw or mini abrasive saw (sometimes known as a cut-off saw or chop saw)
  • A 2” x 1/32” x 3/8” or 2” x 1/16” x 3/8” cutting disc
  • A ruler or tape measure
  • A workbench or similar sturdy work surface
  • A tabletop vise clamp (if your saw doesn’t have a built-in clamping mechanism)
  • A sheet of high-grit sandpaper
  • Gloves, protective eyewear, and a dust mask (safety first!)

All of these materials can be had for far less than the cost of an arrow saw, and they’ll enable you to have your arrows cut and ready for your next hunting trip in far less time than it would take to get them back from a shop.

Finding Your Ideal Measurements

First thing’s first: before you get saw-happy, you’re going to want to figure out exactly how long your arrows need to be to ensure that every shot flies straight and true.

If you already have a Goldilocks arrow in your collection (lucky you), you can use it as a ready-made guide for measuring and cutting your new arrows. Simply hold your template arrow up side-by-side with a stock arrow—making sure the nock ends are even with one another—and use a Sharpie to mark the point on the latter where the shaft of the former terminates.

If you’re uncertain as to what length will work best for you, don’t fret. Deducing your ideal measurement is as easy as drawing your bow. While you’re in position, have a helper measure the distance between the nock point on the string and the throat of the grip on the bow’s front end. Be sure to jot down the resulting number, as you’ll be using it to cut all your new arrows to size from here on out.

Generally speaking, your arrow length should be roughly the same as your draw length. However, some experts recommend adding 1-1½ inches to your draw length to maintain an advantageous amount of spine in the arrow’s shaft.

How To Cut Carbon Arrows

Once you’ve arrived at your ideal shaft length, it’s time to get down to business. Plug in your saw, put on your safety goggles, grab an arrow, and make sure you have your target measurements handy.

If possible, pick out an old or inexpensive arrow to serve as a sacrificial lamb for your first cut. While this method is a proverbial walk in the park, it’s best to reserve any potential early mistakes for a shaft it won’t pain you to have to throw in the trash, especially if you’ve never done any precision cutting.

Double-Check Your Measurements

Anytime you’re cutting with consequences, you’ll be well-served to heed the old handyman’s adage: “measure twice, cut once.” Take one more look at the marking line on your stock arrow to be sure it’s where you want it. It may help to knock and draw the arrow a couple of times to confirm that the line falls flush with the front of the grip.

Secure the Arrow

Any halfway decent miter or abrasive saw should come with an integrated vise clamp. This clamp is designed to hold items of various sizes in place so you can focus on making clean cuts.

If the saw you’re working with has a vise clamp, fit your first arrow into the slot and turn the lever or wheel until it’s being gripped snugly by the clamping surfaces. If not, use a separate tabletop vise to immobilize the arrow and give the cutting disc sufficient purchase on the shaft.

In either case, be careful not to overtighten the clamps—carbon fiber can crack or splinter when subjected to too much external pressure.

Line Up the Cutting Disc and Measurement Line

As you’re clamping your arrow, lower the moveable arm of your miter or abrasive saw to make sure the edge of the cutting disc is properly aligned with the new endpoint you’ve selected for the shaft.

If you want to leave yourself a little margin for error, scoot the shaft down a shade so that the cutting disc makes contact just past the measurement line toward the tip end. Doing so will give you the freedom to make further modifications as you see fit.

Keep in mind that you can always go back and retouch an arrow that’s too long, but there’s no way to fix one that’s too short.

Execute the Cut in One Smooth Motion

Fire up your DIY arrow saw and pull down on the handle to guide the whirring disc down through the arrow shaft slowly. Don’t jerk or shove the saw arm down—apply consistent pressure throughout the entire cut. In a few short seconds, the cutting disc will slice right through the carbon fiber shaft without causing any costly damage.

Congratulations! You’ve just hand-cut your first arrow. All that’s left to do now is repeat the process for each of the remaining arrows you want to resize.

Make Any Necessary Follow-Up Cuts

If for some reason you’re not satisfied with your initial cut, stick the arrow back in the clamp and give it another go. Cutting discs are excellent for making meticulously clean cuts like the kind needed for cutting carbon arrows, so there’s no need to worry about ruining your hard work in an attempt to remove a little excess material.

Sand the Cut Ends Thoroughly

After you’ve finished cutting your arrows, take a sheet of high-grit sandpaper and run it over the freshly cut ends using smooth, circular motions.

The abrasive sandpaper will help wear down sharp edges and neutralize any textural inconsistencies in the surface. Such minuscule imperfections might seem like a big deal, but they could keep your inserts and tips from fitting properly later on.