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Arrow Storage Tray


This system safely stores arrows and protects the fletching and points. It serves as a handling device and allows viewing without the need to remove the arrow from its support.


Geoffrey I. Brown
Kelsey Museum
University of Michigan
434 S. State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1390 USA
Tel (313) 747-0439
Fax (313) 764-2697

Photograph: Eugene R. Prince Lowie Mus. of Anthropology Univ. of California, Berkeley

Illustrations: Karen Ackoff after Jane E. Becker

Publication: 1992


The storage tray is fabricated from an expanded polystyrene foam plank or board. Foam supports in the tray have minimal contact with the arrows. The arrows are secured to the supports with stainless steel ball-headed pins positioned at an angle (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Storage trays positioned in drawer.

Materials Tools Supplies

  • Expanded polystyrene foam plank, 1/2 – 1in thick, beaded or extruded
  • Galvanized iron nails or aluminum nails (11/2in long )
  • Metal straightedge
  • Polyethylene foam sheeting (optional)
  • Polyvinyl acetate emulsion adhesive
  • Power table saw or panel saw
  • Stainless steel, ball-headed pins, #20 (11/4in ) or brass, “U”-shaped pins
  •  Utility knife


  1. Measure the length of the longest arrow of the group to be housed on the storage tray and add 1in for clearance. Lay out the arrows side-by-side to determine total width of the tray, allowing clearance between the fletching and the points. Unpointed arrows can be alternated head-to-tail to store more compactly. Add about 1in to the total width.
  2. Cut a piece of polystyrene foam plank to the appropriate dimensions. The cuts must be clean and square as the tray sides will be butt-glued to the bottom. A table saw produces the cleanest cuts, although careful work with a very sharp utility knife used at a low angle will also produce a good edge. A hot-wire foam cutter also can be used. Keep arrows away from fabrication area to prevent foam powder and debris from becoming embedded in feathers and wrappings.
  3. Cut 2in wide strips of the foam board and trim the length of the strips to match the width of the tray bottom. These strips form the supports for the arrows. Lay an arrow across the supports and determine how much height is needed above the supports for clearance over the arrow’s fletching (Fig.2).

    Figure 2. Cross section of tray showing arrow resting on supports.

  4. Cut strips for the tray sides to a width that is the sum of two times the thickness of the foam board (bottom plus supports) plus the clearance necessary over the supports. The sides should project above the highest part of the arrow for protection of the fletching and to allow several trays to be stacked safely.
  5. Adhere the sides to the bottom. Secure the joints temporarily with pushed-in 11/2in nails.
  6. Allow the glue to dry at least 24 hours.
  7. Remove the fasteners.
  8. Adhere the arrow supports to the bottom of the support tray. Position them to clear fletching, wrappings,and the point or foreshaft.
  9. Install the arrows by laying them out on the supports in the finished tray.
  10. Secure arrows in place with pins that are inserted into the foam diagonally over the arrows (Fig. 3). If the plastic heads of the straight pins are large and the arrow shafts small, the pins can be inserted vertically and will still hold the arrows in place. One pair of pins is required at each support for each arrow (Figs. 2, 3).

    Figure 3. Cross section showing stainless steel pins crossed over arrow, holding it in place.

    To remove an arrow, remove one pin from each support on the same side of the arrow and lift the arrow from the remaining pins. U-shaped pins are pushed-in straight down, straddling the arrow shafts. These pins should not touch the arrows. Only one is required at each support for each arrow. The supports will accept a very large number of pin insertions before they have to be replaced.


The pins are smooth and impose much less risk to the arrows than ties. The trays can be built in less time when using pins than when using a notched or tied system.

A strip of polyethylene foam sheeting can be used across the supports to provide additional cushioning and separation from the polystyrene. This layer will also aid in holding the pins in position.

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