Having arrows built as perfect as possible goes a long ways to achieving good arrow flight and accuracy. One thing often overlooked is how square the end of the shaft is compared to the length of the shaft. Unfortunately every method of cutting arrows that I have ever tried (rigged Dremel, mini-grinder, miter saw, professional arrow cutter, etc.) do a less than perfect job of cutting off an arrow shaft square. Thus the invention of tools used specifically to finish the job that the arrow manufacturers or arrow cutting devices start.
The Fletched Arrow Squaring Tool (FAST) is manufactured by the Burt Coyote Company, makers of the Lumenok. Every archer should square their shafts before letting glue, insert, nock or fletching near them. The folks at Burt Coyote set out to design a tool that not only takes care of squaring raw shafts, but also fletched arrows. Purchasers of Lumenok lighted nocks were at times not getting the electrical contacts of the Lumenok to properly line up with the end of the shaft, in which case the nocks will not light properly. Rather than have to remove the fletching as is necessary with some methods of shaft squaring, the FAST tool takes the fletchings into account and makes it slick and easy to square any shaft, nock or point end.
For this testing three shafts were chosen that have very different profiles: a standard sized hunting GoldTip carbon shaft, an ACC hybrid aluminum/carbon shaft, and a thin-walled, large diameter GoldTip Ultralight 22.
Squaring the Shaftse
For comparison purposes this review will use two methods that I have previously used in conjuction with the FAST.
First is a crude, easy to use and cheap method (if you have machining capabilites or a friend to help), consisting of an aluminum block and sandpaper. The aluminum block has the faces squared and a hole (or holes) drilled and reamed to the near exact diameter of the arrow shaft to be squared. In the pictured block I had two holes drilled for .290″ and .295″ diameter shafts. The block is approximately two and half inches thick and has substantial weight to it. To use the block, it is placed on top of sandpaper (I generally use 120 grit), a shaft end inserted and rotated until it is sanded down square. Simple, easy and far from high tech.
The next method is the opposite of simplicity and involves the use of a lathe to machine the shaft using a very sharp carbide tool. I have used this method on my hunting arrows and fixed blade broadheads with great success. The results are very square arrows at the price of an expensive tool and a significant amount of time to do it properly. Another drawback is that if the jaws of the chuck are not tightened properly, the shaft can be damaged (this is very easy to get wrong as I’ve learned the hard way!)
Lastly is the object of this review, the FAST. What first struck me about the fast was the simplicity and elegance of the design, much like my beloved aluminum block, but in a much nicer and marketable package. The tool is machined of aluminum and consists of the main frame (two holes allow it to be attached to a heavier base or table), the pad holder held on by two screws and the abrasive pad with an adhesive back (extra pads come with the tool). There are no fancy parts, complex instructions or anything even remotely confusing about how to use the FAST. This is the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid) principle in every way.
To use the FAST, place either end of the arrow shaft into the tool, push it against the abrasive pad and rotate the shaft until the end is abraded down to being square with the shaft. It is suggested that a silver marker or similar be used to mark the entire perimeter of the cut end and the shaft rotated until all of the marker is ground off. That’s it! It probably took me no more than thirty seconds per shaft end to mark, grind and check. This is about on par with the aluminum block method; the lathe method takes roughly five minutes.
Below are the before and after pictures of the shaft ends taken with a microscope. It’s easy to see the difference in the cleanliness of the shaft end and smoothness of the ground edge compared to the raw cut edge. The Ultralight 22 shafts are especially prone to splintering and rough edges because of the thinness of the walls. Without magnification, its difficult to see how much a properly squared shaft varies compared to a raw cut shaft.
(The images below can be clicked for an enlarged version, warning: very large images)
Every method that I have used, including the FAST, will leave small curls of material on the inside of the shaft and sometimes on the outside as well, as can be seen in the pictures. The interior is easy to take care of by either ignoring it because it doesn’t really affect anything, or very lightly running a de-burring tool inside the shaft. For the outside I tip the shaft at a 45 degree angle and give it a quick twist or two on the sand paper or as shown below using the FAST.
The most important question is how do each of the methods work? The runout chart shown here is the average of six shaft ends on each method, with each shaft type. Each shaft end was measured using digital calipers and a precision machined titanium reference rod mounted in a lathe. Measurements were taken at six points along the perimeter of the shaft end. Raw cut shafts varied from .007″ to .013″ out of round. This translates to meaning that the lowest part of the shaft could be as much as .013″ lower than the highest part, a significant difference!
The lathe produced the best results with the runout reduced to just under a thousandth of an inch, some of shaft runouts being under the resolution of the measuring system. The FAST came in with a very respectable .001″ to .002″, with a few being under .001″ as with the lathe. Lastly the aluminum block did good job of squaring, but not as good as the other two methods.
To show the relative difference between a raw shaft and one squared with the FAST I used net charts for a typical case of each of the shaft types. The net chart is scaled from 0 to 20, with 10 being the norm of a perfectly squared shaft. The scale is greatly exaggerated to better show the differences. Blue lines show the out-of-round measurements at each of the six measured points immediately after cutting the shafts and the red lines show the improvement that the FAST tool made. Using these charts gives a good idea of how much improvement can be made when using the FAST tool.
The FAST tool is exactly as its name implies, fast to use. But it’s not only fast, it’s very easy to use. If you own one, there is absolutely no excuse to not use it everytime a new set of shafts is bought or and older shaft is cleaned up for further use. My favorite aspect of the FAST is the elegance in its simplicity. There is nothing there that doesn’t need to be and it is intuitive and easy to use. It also incorporates the nice touch of pre-drilled mounting holes to secure it wherever it may be most useful.
FAST tools can be purchased at various archery shops and internet stores, or through the Lumenok online shop for $32.95.
Other posts you may enjoy:
- How to Fletch Perfect Arrows
- Ripshot, F.A.S.T and warm(er) weather
- Fact or Fiction: Cutting Arrows From Both Ends
- Archery Tips 2
- How to Destroy an Arrow (in the name of science!)