Instructions On How To Fletch Arrow
Fletching is the part of an arrow that stabilizes it during flight and helps to guide it to its target. The process of attaching fletching (often called fletcherizing) consists of fastening three or four feathers cut to equal lengths, called fletches, to a shaft with a binding such as glue or thread.
Feather fletches impart aerodynamic forces on the projectile which allow for stable sustained flight and accurate delivery. Traditionally this is known as leading an arrow and has been used in military practices and other hunting ceremonies since ancient times across the world.
How to fletch arrows?
1. Determine the measurements of the shaft that you will be fletching.
2. Cut three or four feathers to fall within this measurement, which is usually on the shorter side (3-4 inches).
3. Use sandpaper on one end of each feather to create a blunt tip. This will ensure that it falls securely into place when you apply glue and does not slip right through the guide holes in your arrow.
4. Draw a pencil line down the center of each feather from tip to base along its entire length, then lay each onto a cutting mat or surface propped across two pieces of wood for stability. Turn up a corner at one end of each feather, as close as possible to its full length, and use a sharp knife to make a straight cut along this line all the way down one side of the blunt end.
5. Apply a thin strip of two-part epoxy or contact cement onto the base of your arrow shaft in a diagonal pattern, from corner to corner, being careful not to let any touch your hands or clothes when it is wet.
6. Align each piece of fletching so that its flat bottom rests against the epoxy and then push it into place on the shaft with your fletching jig’s clamp bar tool. Use care not to slop any glue onto the either wood surface if you have used different types for this purpose, as they may have vastly different cure times and exposure to solvents.
7. Place the jig’s base on some paper towels to protect it from dripping glue, then use its clamp bar tool to tighten down each set of fletching against the shaft until they are secure and dry (usually less than an hour). You can also prop up your arrow shaft between two pieces of flat wood on either side to hold it in place while you apply the fletching using these steps.
8. Remove your clamp bar tool and any excess glue with a damp cloth, then let the fletched arrow air-dry for at least 24 hours before attempting to shoot it.
Gluing feathers on an arrow shaft is called fletching. There are three primary types of fletching: parallel, helical, and offset. Each has its own benefits and disadvantages for both compound and recurve bows.
Types Of Fletching
There are four basic types of fletching that can be used on arrows – helical, offset, feathers/vanes, and straight. The first two can be found on most high-end arrows, while straight fletches are usually only seen on beginner-level arrows (though not always). Feathers/vanes are difficult to distinguish between since very little difference exists between the real thing and synthetic materials.
The materials used in fletching – whether it’s feathers, vanes, or plastic – affect the aerodynamics of an arrow in flight, which is why they have different names even though they may look exactly alike.
The best way to understand parallel fletching is by examining a piece of PVC piping cut lengthwise. The inside edge of the pipe looks exactly like what you’d see if you examined a parallel-fletched arrow right after it was shot – the vanes stick straight out at almost perfect right angles from the surface of the shaft. There’s no twisting or torque as there is with helical fletchings; instead, they move in direct unison with the arrow.
The biggest advantage to parallel fletchings is they lend a high degree of stability to your arrow as it’s in flight, and accuracy as well. If you’re able to shoot your bow straight, your arrows will fly just as straight. With practice, most archers develop the ability to do this more or less unconsciously – they’ll simply adjust their aim ever so slightly if they feel an errant breeze or have a hunch that’s not quite right. The end result is tighter groups and better scores at longer distances – not bad for something that costs less than $10 (the price for about 25 feathers).
One of the first things you’ll notice about helical fletchings is that they’re also angled, but not at the same degree as parallel fletching. Helical fletching angles are typically much steeper than those found on a conventional arrow shaft, usually between five and ten degrees (although there are now degrees of helical). The purpose behind this design is two-fold: it allows for greater stability in flight by pushing the arrow to one side, directing it away from its initial trajectory; and it acts like fins on an arrow shaft, adding surface area to give your bow’s string more contact with the arrow’s shaft.
This action reduces stagnancy in mid-flight and creates more forward momentum. These two traits combine to create faster speeds both toward your target and at full draw. The downside to helical fletchings is that they’re not recommended for beginners. The same qualities that make them an excellent choice for advanced archers are the very traits that can prevent you from mastering your bow if you don’t already know how to shoot instinctively.
You’ll find it harder to correct your aim at long distances, and may struggle with accuracy until you learn how to compensate correctly. The good news is this usually takes only a few days of practice; the bad news is, if it doesn’t work out for you, you’ve wasted $10-$15 instead of $2-$6 on feathers.
This one’s easy – offset fletchings are just like helical fletchings, but they’re not angled at all. The vane of the arrow starts parallel to the shaft and then “tracks” away from it at a ninety-degree angle. There’s nothing wrong with this sort of fletching, and some archers prefer them because they don’t cause as much torque in flight as helical vanes do. Like helical, offset fletchings also have more surface area than their non-angled counterparts, so they create a faster arrow once again.
Offset fletchings are usually found on arrows for compound bows since these bows already require compensation for torque during the shot – it’s almost impossible to shoot one any other way without throwing off your aim at full draw or even just releasing the string. With a more advanced compound bow, offset fletching should not be an issue.
Feathers Vs Vanes
The difference between feathers and vanes is simple: feathers are the actual feather you detach from a bird to use on your arrows, while vanes are synthetic plastic or other materials made to look like feathers. Using the real thing may seem like the only way to go – after all, nothing’s better than natural products – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for your arrow tips.
Feathers do have their advantages. They’re less expensive than their plastic counterparts (unless you count tooling costs), they don’t deteriorate over time as fast as plastics do, and many types of them come in beautiful colors that can’t be replicated in plastic.
They’re also not very durable and must be handled with care to preserve their integrity; they also tend to rotate more than fletching made from synthetic materials, which can make some types of fixed-blade broadheads less accurate (a problem you won’t run into as often with mechanical heads).
Plastics may cost a bit more upfront, but there’s no need for special storage – throw your vanes away when you’re done and get new ones next time – and they tend to last longer too. They don’t deteriorate over time as feathers do, they usually don’t curl or twist like natural products sometimes will (though that isn’t always the case), and can even be produced in bright colors to match your team or make a fashion statement.
On the downside, there are fewer varieties of plastic fletchings available today than feather ones, and it’s harder for an amateur to tell which is which (especially when they’re sided by side).
The next step is to attach the nock. Both F-1 and F-3 jigs come with a built in nock setter; you can use it by inserting your arrow shaft into the hole on the end of the jig (with or without an insert), then tighten down the clamp screw until it bottoms out (watch for open space between vane material and arrow shaft).
Tru-Center Insert Installation
Insert your inserts into each side of your fletching jig as shown above, then slide the assembled arrow shaft into one of these two slots from either direction. Now you’re ready to begin fletching! To learn how to properly install inserts, please see our separate article covering that subject.
SETTING UP YOUR JIG
To attach your fletching to the arrow shaft you’ll need a jig that aligns each fletching in a precise, consistent location. Fletching jig has a base that holds the arrow shaft and a clamp that holds the fletching against the shaft.
How do you Fletch arrows with a jig?
You use the same jig to attach either straight, helical or offset fletching. The process is slightly different for each type of fletching.
Step 1: Installing the clamp screw
The first step is to put the rubber washer on the threaded shaft of the clamp screw and set it aside. Note: if you are using an older F-1 jig, you will need to install a metal sleeve in one end of this shaft before putting it on the rubber washer. This metal sleeve can be purchased at almost any hardware store.
Step 2: Putting on three vanes (or feathers)
Begin by removing 3 vanes or feathers from their paper base which are already attached together with masking tape. Fold the vane (or feather) over at the tape line like below. Gently pull away the paper base leaving only 3 vanes or feathers on the shaft as shown below. Make note of which one is to be facing each direction (clockwise, counter-clockwise left to right).
Step 3: Attaching Feathers
To attach the three vanes together, begin by pulling down on all three at once and slide them onto the clamp screw. Then, turn it clockwise until all end up pointing in the same direction (counter-clockwise for c-co). Now you can set your arrow aside without having to worry about any parts coming off. If desired, you may now lightly trim any excess vane material off the shaft with scissors.
Step 4: Attaching Straight Fletchings
To attach straight fletches to your arrow, begin by turning the clamp screw clockwise about 1/8 of a turn so that it’s not squeezing the vane into the arrow shaft. Grab all three vanes and lightly slide them onto the shaft by pulling down on all three at once. Then, gently push each vane into place one at a time (counter-clockwise for lefties, clockwise for right-handed shooters). Now you can set your arrow aside without having to worry about any parts coming off. If desired, you may now lightly trim any excess vane material off the shaft with scissors.
How do you Fletch Arrows without a jig?
So, if you don’t want to spend $100 on a fletching jig and arrow nocks. You can make your own arrow/fletching tool and it will work just as well (if not better).
All you need:
– A pencil (or another sharp poking utensil)
– Rubber bands or string
Step 1: Put the rubber band around the end of the arrow that will be facing up when you attach your fletchings. Then take one half of an unbent paper clip and loop it through both ends of the rubber band-like so: Repeat this same process again with another piece of unsharpened pencil and rubber band/string combination but go in the other direction this time so that the arrow lies flat on your work surface.
Step 2: Take your pencil and loop it through the arrow shaft just below one of the rubber-band loops. Then, take one end of your paper clip/rubber band combo and loop it over the hook on top of the pencil. At this point, you should be left with an arrow that is held in place by two rubber bands – one at each end. Now you take your sharp poking utensil (pencil) and poke a hole through all three layers (arrow, rubber bands) until it reaches the other side.
Then pull out your utensil, unfold the paperclip, move both rubber band loops onto their respective hooks, then remove them from the pencil-like so: Next step: attach your fletching. After you’ve attached all three (or two) of the fletching, you should have something that looks like this, Prepare to fire! You can now shoot your arrow/fletching tool with confidence knowing that it will fly true and fast just like a professionally fletched arrow would. If you’re not satisfied for any reason, repeat steps 1-5 until you are.
Step 3: After you’ve got both rubber bands attached to the pencil and folded the paperclip through both of them, attach one end of your rubber band/unbend paperclip combo to the hook on top of your pencil.
Step 4: Take your sharp poking utensil (pencil) and poke a hole through all three layers (arrow, rubber band) until it reaches the other side. Then pull out your utensil, unfold the paper clip, move both rubber-band loops onto their respective hooks and remove them from the pencil-like so:
Step 5: Attach your feathers or vanes. After you’ve attached all three (or two) of the fletchings, you should have something that looks like this:
Step 6: Prepare to fire! You can now shoot your arrow/fletching tool with confidence knowing that it will fly true and fast just like a pro fletcher’s arrow would. If you’re not satisfied for any reason, repeat steps 3-5 until you are.
So there you have it – Instructions on How To Fletch Arrows without a jig. Hope this helped you out 🙂 If this helped or if I’m missing anything, please leave a comment below letting me know! Good luck!!!
Which fletching jigs is best?
So, there are a few fletching jigs out there on the market: Bohning Fletch-Tite Pro Series jig, Bitzenburger Dual Spine Aluma-Cord Straight Arrow Fletching Jig, and the NAP Quick Spin.
Is helical fletching better than straight?
So, many people believe that because the feathers on a helical fletching (right) spin in-flight and generate less air resistance than straight fletching (left), it is better. Straight fletchings seem to be much more popular because they are easier to make and adjust for maximum precision when shooting – you just need an adjustable spanner wrench.
You can also add any type of feather/vane material such as hen feathers, turkey feathers, or woodcock feathers for extra durability and strength. You can even use carbon fiber. No matter what type of material you choose, straight will always outperform helical when it comes to penetration ability due to less wind resistance in flight so this should be factored in.