6 – Feather Preparation

We will know go into getting the feathers ready for fletching. There is really two different ways to prepare the fletching. The first is the traditional split and ground feather sold at many traditional archery shops. Some Indians prepared their fletching similar to this. Of course they could not grind their arrows, but they did the best they could. They would run a knife down the center of the quill and split it to reduce the mass of the quill. This does not remove enough material to make the feather easy to work with yet. So they would hold the feather tip in their mouth and use the knife as a scraper and remove much of the mass of the feather to make it easier to work with. A feather with no prep work is much too stiff and curves off too much. This preparation style made the feathers soft enough to be bendable and shapeable, but strong enough for lashing.

There is also feather stripping. Pulling the tip and end of the feather tight performs stripping. I usually use my one hand and a vice or my one hand and my mouth to hold the feather in place. Now with the other hand you would grab the vane near the top of the feather and pull out and down at the same time. This requires a little practice and you will ruin a few feathers so start with some old ones. The vane will pull away from the quill with a skin holding the vein together.

The stripping is my personal favorite way. The stripped feather skin produce a ‘C’ shaped cup and makes it very convenient for gluing with hide glue. Now as easy as the stripping is, it does not produce a strong vane. It must be glued to the shaft. If you plan to lash and pull the feather tight without glue. It will not have the rigidity needed for flight and survivability.

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