7 – Fletching

Every archer soon learns the job the fletching of the feathers on the arrow. It stabilizes the arrows after the release from the bow. There are many different ways to attached feathers to your arrows. There is the standard method used by most Archers for the last hundreds of years where the feather is glued perpandicular to the arrow shaft. This style is used as it gives good air resistance without being too much and also acts like a rudder and helps to spine the arrow even better when Helical twist is added to it. Other styles are split feathers lashed in the back and pulled to the front and lashed again without glue. There is also the tangical style of fletching where a feathers is just tied sideways to the arrows shafts. Ant the styles I like to call half tangical fletching. This styles has the feather tied in the back like a tangical fletched feather but it is soon split like a normal fletch and it is twisted and pull to the front and lashed down. There is also the Cherokee two fletch where a whole feather is placed into a split in an arrow shaft. Different styles of fletching will perform differently.

The first method of fletching I will go over was my original favorite way of fletching my arrows. Using stripped feathers and gluing them directly to the shaft with hide glue or some other similar primitive glue. To begin this method you will need some feathers stripped and cut to length. Some tendon fibers torn out into linen like fibers. Some hide glue mixed to a maple syrup consistency and a heat source to keep the hide glue warm.

The first thing to do is to re-hydrate the hide glue in a small container and get it ready. Hide glue usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes to completely re-hydrate. The glue usually does much better if the small container is keep in a much larger container of water and the heat source is applied to the large container.

Now that the glue is ready, we will start to apply the fletching to the shafts. Start by using a small application to apply a small amount of glue to the back inch of the feather. Then take the feather and hold the back section in place for about 30 seconds will the glue cools and starts to set up. It should now stay in place and the front section will curve off the shaft. Now do the other two feathers just like this one and you will have a shaft that looks like the one below. Continue with the other six or twelve shafts you are making. Get all the backs of the fletching set into place.

With all the shafts sitting on the table with the back ends attached we are ready to finish gluing the rest of the feather in place. The last one you did will not be ready but the first will be. Start with the first feather and start with one feather and run a bead of glue down the unattached part of the feather. Then press and hold the feather in place for the same amount of time until the glue cools enough to hold it in place. Then do the rest of the feathers and it should look like this on the bottom arrow in the picture below.
7 - Fletching 1

7 - Fletching 2

Now all the feathers are in place and the fletching looks to be finished and ready to shoot. It is, but we need to secure the ends of the feathers with sinew and glue. You could use sinew alone, but the glue holds it in place better and adds more protection. As seen in the picture below, The sinew is wrapped from the start of the nock to the feather. The sinew holds the feather in place and provides splitting protection to the nock. The sinew wrapping around the nock is probably one of the most important parts. It extends the life of your arrows and prevents almost all damage to your nocks unless you happen to hit it with another arrow.

7 - Fletching 3

7 - Fletching 4

7 - Fletching 5

Another way to fletch your arrows is very similar to many Native American styles. The feather could be split and trimmed and shaped up. The end of the feather would be trimmed to have about ½” of quill section with the entire feather vane removed. Each feather would be laid on the shaft about up side down and facing away from its normal direction. Each feather end would be lashed down with the sinew wrapping. Once all the feather ends are secured, they would be pulled over upright and toward the front of the shaft. You would pull every feather tight to the front and lash them down with sinew at the front. When selecting feathers for this you should use cut and ground or cut and trimmed feathers. When using this style of fletching the feather needs some rigidity to hold it together and give it strength without the glue holding it to the shaft. The feather will naturally stand up a little from the shaft and it will look a little more primitive if you want that real Old World type look.

This style of fletching is quick and easy and can be used without and glue. I personally like having my feathers glued down as I have had problems with the sinew letting the feathers slip and pop up away from the shaft. I avoided using any style of fletching that had the feathers only secured on the ends due to having the feather pop up.
This style of fletching is what I came up with after seeing many feathers fletched with thread in the English style and sinew in the Native American style. The wrapping style of fletching as I like to call it can be performed with any thing that can can be made into string. Some ideas could of course be Elk sinew as deer back sinew is a little short, thread, gut and other string making fibers as my favorite Dogbane.

I start by stripping the Dogbane bark into its fibers. I never really twist it into string but rather just start with a few fibers and keep it rolled as a single ply type cord while fletching. A few wraps in the back and the thread is secured. Each additional wrap will secure one of the feathers in the rear until they are all lashed down. Then I will slip the cord through the feather vane in the back until it is tight down against the quill and the shaft. I then pin the cord down with my left thumb while pulling the cord up on an angle with my right hand and insert the cord into the next vane slightly higher than where it is coming through the last feather at the quill. When you pull it through the vane down to the quill it will bring the cord into the downward spiral that you will need to get the whole thing lashed down to the tip.

A few lashes around the front of the feathers and the securing the string with a few hitch knots will secure the fletching and be finished. I never really was interested in this style of fletching until I tried it one day. I found this style to be very easy to do quickly and I can do it any where and was very enjoyable to do on my back patio while talking with my wife or friends.

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