Shaft Material Types
There are three main materials from which arrow shafts are made, depending on what type of archer is using them and how much they are willing to pay: wood, aluminium alloy and carbon fibre (normally people just use the word "carbon"). These materials are used individually or combined to give us a variety of shafts, that can be grouped in 4 main categories:
1. Wooden shafts.
They are used exclusively in traditional archery.
The shaft is entirely made from a thin rod of wood, so it's not empty on the inside. That is handy to know when we choose the nocks and points for traditional arrows. The quality of the wood varies: the cheaper versions are made from popular wood, such as pine, whilst the more expensive ones are cut from materials that are stronger and lighter - cedar, for example. Some reliable companies that make wooden shafts are TAS and Superschaft.
2. Aluminium shafts.
They are widely used by beginner and intermediate archers, as they offer great value for money.
These are the only shafts that, when bent, can be straightened back again (within reason, of course). Another advantage of aluminium is that is lighter and stronger than wood, so it will travel further when released from the bow. This material is favoured by Archery clubs, as lost arrows can be easily found with a metal detector.
The aluminium shafts are made from a tube of strong, rocket grade aluminium, so they are empty on the inside. This, of course, will influence the way the aluminium shafts receive nocks and points.
The most popular company that makes aluminium arrows is Easton and they are established as the market leader, offering a wide variety of aluminium shafts, for different purposes: target archery, 3D and hunting archery; they even make an aluminium shaft for the traditional Japanese bow martial art (Kyūdō).
3. Carbon shafts.
These shafts are entirely made from carbon fibre, which makes them very light and strong, even more than the aluminium ones.
Depending on the quality of the carbon fibre, you can find a carbon arrow for everybody - from beginners to national champions. They are also classed by usability in: target carbon arrows, hunting carbon arrows and traditional carbon arrows, each of them being designed to fulfil the specific jobs of their class.
Apart from Easton, the carbon shafts are manufactured by other companies that are very popular amongst archers worldwide: Black Eagle, Carbon Express (known also as CEx), Victory and Gold Tip.
4. Aluminium / Carbon Shafts.
These shafts are very popular with the advanced archers, as they offer both the lightness of carbon and the strength of aluminium.
They are made from a very thin aluminium tube coated in a layer of carbon fibre. You can only imagine the technology involved in making them, so it is no surprise that you will have to pay a 3 figure sum for a set of 12.
The only company manufacturing these arrows is Easton, with olympic archers all over the world using their arrows to win competitions (yes, we are talking here about the famous X10).
As a variation, Easton also produces an inside-out aluminium/carbon shaft, The Full Metal Jacket (or FMJ) that has the aluminium on the outside and the carbon on the inside. They can be used for tougher conditions, for example in bow hunting and in tournaments where the target bosses are stronger than usual.