There are few different ways to make your nocks on your arrows. The two main categories are self and reinforced nocks. Both have been used for the longest times and are both considered to be primitive in nature. If you look at many primitive arrows you will see the nocks all serve the same purpose, but are all slightly different. Some of these are done to work with their style of shooting. Others are just the arrowsmiths unique style of carving them. Weather for function or artistic creation, there are many different kinds of nocks. The following pages will try and take one particular style of nock and describe them clearly enough so you can copy them.
Self-nocks are really just notches, grooves, V’s cut and sometime just shallow depressions into the back of the arrow shafts. There are many different styles in making a self-nock. There are plain cut, straight grooves that just let the string in, V cut grooves, flared nock ears, bulbolous nocks and the pinch nock resembling the modern plastic nock.
We will start with straight cut grooves for the first one. This style is very simple and to the point for the first attempts at making self-nocks. You want two parallel sides just slightly wider than the bowstring is wide. This is simple to make and does not apply much pressure to splitting of the arrow if the base is made properly. Many arrowsmiths use some kind of saw to cut out the side and shape the nock.
The next type of nock is V cut or flared nock styles. These two can be very similar and are some times combined into one nock. Many Native American arrows used this style of nocks. These arrows most often had the V notch cut into them and where made with flared ears on the nock. Many Native American used a pinch grip with a finger assist to hold the arrow on the string. By having a flared nock it help them grip the arrow better during the draw. After observing a few Native American arrows I have notice that there is two ways they made the flared nocks. The first way was to reduce the arrow shaft right in front of the nock and slowly taper back up to the end of the nock. The second was to make the big or thick end of the arrow the nock end. The rear end would be reduced carefully to produce a parallel shaft and the flared ears on the nock.
This is a central plains style nock. Notice the slight flair on the nock that would assist with their pinch style of release
Most archers readily accept the pinch nock now because they are used to using the plastic pinch nocks on wooded arrows and aluminum arrows. This nock is very simple to make and is very similar to the straight cut, parallel side nock. The only difference is the tip of the nock it too small for the string to fit in and the bottom is tapered wider to hold the string. When I have made them I liked to use my single hacksaw blade and my knife for them. I would cut a groove narrower than my string and widen the bottom with the side of the saw blade and the knife. You must be careful when making these that you do to have the nocks too tight. These nocks put stress on the shaft in the natural direction that it would split. Reinforcing the nocks with sinew or linen type string is very important to the life of the nock and the arrow. After you loose a few self-arrows to broken nock you will feel the same way and understand.
Many arrow-smiths use a drill to make the bottom of the nock and cut the sides in with three-hacksaw blade taped together. This may work for those wanting to get good nocks and get it done quickly. I do not like this way of doing things. This is a hobby not a job and I like to make things by hand and slowly and cautiously. I personally like to use a single hacksaw blade and a knife to carve my nocks. Many Native American arrow-smiths use a butter knife with grooves cut in it to act as a saw to cut their nocks. I think the time spent custom shaping each nock it worth it. We are crafting our own equipment for the satisfaction of it not to see how many and how fast they can be done.
As many different kinds of nock variations there are, there are even more different procedures to manufacture these. Arrow-smiths have a different way of producing their nocks.