Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Fletcher's Fletching!

Well it has been 7 months since I made a post! not good at all, still we have been keeping busy with quite a few different things. One of the hobbies I have wanted to do for ages and have recently taken up (well last year) was Archery, a friend of mine has a few bows and I was itching to have a go at shooting. Well after several damaged trees, targets and a shed! I now have my own longbow.

Of course with a bow you also need some arrows, I was quite keen to make my own arrows and so below is a step by step guide on how I made mine and should help anyone thinking of making their own.

Parts list:
  • Wooden Shafts (these come in different thickness, I'm using 11/32")
  • Taper Tool mine was 11/32" (Point/Nock Sharpener)
  • Ferr-L-Tite (a type of resin glue)
  • Points/ Piles
  • Nocks
  • Fletching Glue
  • Fletchings
  • Fletching Jig
I'm not going to go into full detail of what items to choose for arrows because it depends on the bow your shooting, but can give advice if anyone reads this and needs info on what to choose. First up we need the wooden shafts, I bought mine made from Port Orford Cedar (Poc) as it is one of the best materials. Secondly you need a Taper tool (looks like a Sharpener) to make the point and nock ends.

 (click images for bigger pictures)
Port Orford Cedar Shafts
Taper Tool - Ferr L Tite glue

 First I made the point end, using the thicker section of the taper tool, my piles are also tapered so will fit snugly together when done. As you can see from the picture below it doesn't taper to a point like a pencil would.
Tapered shaft - Pile end

The taper tool is made in a way that you can't sharpen too much off the shaft, so keep doing it until the shaft spins in the tool without shaving any wood off. Next up we have to get some of the resin glue onto the shaft, so you have to head this cement up gently (i use a tealight to do it)

Gently heating the Ferr-L-Tite
Once the Ferr-L-Tite is soft enough you then apply that to the shaft until it is coated but not too thick, too much glue can be as bad as too little. It should look a bit like the picture below.
Glued Shaft
The next step is to attach your Pile (the pointy end) to the shaft, there are many different types of piles you can choose from and they vary from size/shape to weight etc. I chose metal field points for mine because I'm doing traditional archery I want to make my arrows look a bit more traditional. To get the pile onto the shaft you need to heat it up hot enough so that it melts the cement on contact. You then push the two ends together and let if cool, this can be aided with a cold damp cloth.
Heating the pile up
 The once that had cooled down, the next step is to get the nock on. First you have to sharpen the other end of the shaft using the smaller and pointer section of the taper tool. Again this will only sharpen so far and then it is ready, once that is done you then apply the normal fletching glue (not the Ferr-L-Tite) and push the two ends together.
Once that dries (fletching glue is pretty quick) you then have a fully unfletched arrow! (Yay) it looks ok but it doesn't fly very far.
Unfletched Arrow (and now empty tea cup)
The next important thing to do is choose your fletchings, generally you will have two feathers of one colour with the cock feather being a different colour to help identify it. (this doesn't have to be the case though, it is up to you) The easiest way is to buy pre-cut feathers which I have done here, however when I can find a good supply of turkey feathers I will try to make my own.
A black/white Cock feather and two orange all from the left wing
It is important to make sure all the feathers are from the same wing of the bird (either all left or all right) as this determines which way the arrow flies, if you have two different ones on the same arrow then it will not spin properly. Next up we have to get the fletching jig set up, this tool allows you to attach three or four feathers to a shaft at exactly the right place. I'm using three feathers as is most common.
The main section of the fletching tool
The nocks I am using have a little nib on them which indicates where the cock feather should be, you line this up with the first position on the fletching jig and then all your feathers should fall into place. (well not full exactly). To attach the feather you have to align it up in the clamp section of the jig and then run a thin line of fletching glue along the base of the feather, the clamp then attaches to the main section of the Jig using magnets, you gently push the clamp down until the fletching is touching the shaft. You then wait for it to dry.
Fletching Clamp - line up the base of the feather with the dial on the clamp
Once the glue has dried for the first feather all you need to do is remove the clamp gently, then spin the shaft using the jig, it should click into the next correct position, then set up your next feather in the clamp and repeat, do that for all 3 of your feathers.
Arrow in fletching jig with arrows waiting to be done
Once all three are done and dry you then have an arrow ready to be shot! however I would recommend you put a layer or two of varnish onto the shafts so that they are weather proof and a bit more hardy. The picture below is the final finished arrow, I have also tried using a binding technique on the fletching to make it look a bit more traditional, this was my first attempt at that and so I need a bit more practice.
Final Arrow
I hope you liked the pictures and if you have a bow and need some arrows then I hope you will give making your own a try. Any comments or questions please leave them below. I will take some pictures of my Longbow and other equipment later!

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