Why Doug-fir?

About Douglas-firTaylor Brown helps Steve and Bob get some Surewood Shafts

     The name Surewood Shafts is practically synonymous with Douglas-fir arrow shafting.  For nearly 14 years now, Surewood Shafts has specialized in high-quality wood arrow shafting made almost exclusively from Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), and for good reason*.

 

Attributes of Douglas-fir:

  • Doug-fir has an extremely high strength:weight ratio. High-quality, air-dried Doug-fir has a high modulus of elasticity, meaning it is great arrow shaft material! It is very durable and has great action, recovering quickly from flexion
  • Doug-fir trees tend to grow very straight, producing shafts that are straight. When the occasional shaft does need a slight tweak, Doug-fir shafts are easily hand straightened; no tools required to straighten. Once sealed, Douglas-fir shafts stay straight. 
  • Doug-fir is the most common, and widely distributed, tree species in the Pacific Northwest, so we are allowed the freedom to work with only prime examples of the species and never pressured into running low-quality wood because of availability issues.
  • Doug-fir has stunning grain, which shows well when naturally finished or stained with water- or alcohol-based stains 
  • Doug-fir trees produce wood ranging widely in spine and mass weight, yielding shafts suitable for all needs, whether it is a long, flat trajectory on the target course or a heavy, hard-hitting arrow on large game. Mass weight of Doug-fir

 

If the above is not enough reason to give Doug-fir a try, then check out our Testimonials page. The proof is in the pudding! Or if you aren’t sure about getting your Douglas–fir shafting from Surewood Shafts, feel free to read more about the extra steps we take to ensure we produce the finest Douglas-fir shafting possible (if not the finest arrow shafting) on our Process page.   

 

So what are the drawbacks to Douglas-fir arrow shafts?

  • From the standpoint of an arrow shaft manufacturer, the main drawback is that the Douglas-fir tree is more susceptible to fungal decay than some of the other tree species commonly used for shafts. For example, a Port Orford cedar has an extreme resilience to decay, allowing a tree that has laid dead on the ground for many decades to be used to make quality arrow shafting, whereas a Douglas-fir tree that falls on moist ground can decay noticeably within just a few short years. It takes an experienced arrow shaft maker to distinguish the good Doug-fir from the bad; for good Doug-fir is great and bad Doug-fir is not so good, and the difference sometimes, can be hard to tell. At Surewood Shafts we have the experience to select only the finest quality Douglas-fir. You can read more about how we select our raw material and the steps we take to turn it into premium arrow shafting at our Process page. 
  • The beauty of Doug-fir’s striking grain is truly a double-edged sword to the shaft manufacturer. The same contrasting patterns of summer and winter wood that give Doug-fir its beauty, also highlight even the slightest runoff of the annual growth rings, whereas the much more subtle grain of Port Orford cedar and Sitka spruce allow a great deal of grain runoff to go unnoticed. So while it is a blessing for us to easily see the annual growth rings when selecting and processing shaft material, as well as when grading shafts, it can be a curse when the untrained eye of an archer that is new to wood shafts is comparing Doug-fir shafts side by side to POC or Sitka spruce.
  • The only other manufacturing drawback to Douglas-fir is that the winter and summer wood contrasts in density to the point that sanding shafts perfectly round can be challenging when sanding wide grain Douglas-fir. Any “fluting” resulting from imperfect sanding results in the shafts being downgraded to Hunter grade. Fluting does not affect the performance of the shaft, but can make cresting fine pinstripes a challenge.
  • From an arrow maker’s standpoint, the only drawback to Douglas-fir is that the high contrast in density between summer and winter wood can present challenges when nock and point tapering shafts with most traditional “pencil sharpener style” taper tools.  However, we have found great results using the Bearpaw molded plastic taper tools and recommend them to anyone new to wood arrow-making, as they are a low cost investment ($7.50 available from Archery Past and Kustom King, links below).  Sanding discs with a v-groove guide blocks are another great option for tapering Doug-fir shafts, as well as the high-speed, drill-mounted, pencil sharpener style taper tools (links below).  Also, we offer a point and nock tapering service for those that would rather leave it to the experts.

 

 

Links:

Bearpaw Plastic Taper Tool:

                Archery Past:  https://archerypast.com/collections/arrow-building-tools/products/handheld-taper-tool

                Kustom King: https://www.kustomkingarchery.com/BearPaw-Taper-Tool/productinfo/4720/

               

V-block

                Kustom King: https://www.kustomkingarchery.com/Taper-Guide-Block/productinfo/1430/

                Three Rivers: https://www.3riversarchery.com/arrow-taper-guide-block-for-wood-arrow-building.html

 

*Almost exclusively:  In the past, Surewood Shafts has also produced small runs of Port Orford Cedar, Western Hemlock, Tamarack (aka, Western Larch), Lodgepole Pine (aka, Chundoo), Sugar Pine, and Oregon Ash.  We plan to run more of these other woods on a small batch scale here an there.  E-mail us or subscribe to our newsletter if you would like to receive email notifications when these other offerings are available.