Introduction: Fletch Your Own Arrows
Want to make the most of your arrows without waiting on your local pro shop to refletch them over and over again? Looking to add another skill to your archery repertoire? Fletching arrows today is relatively easy thanks to a number of different jigs designed for the job. Here is how to fletch your own arrows using the Bohning Fletching Jig. Many of the items shown here are included in the Bohning Archery Fletching Kit available from www.bohning.com or your local archery pro shop.
Before beginning, you will need to decide whether you want a right or left helical, or a simple straight fletch. Are you planning to use vanes or feathers? Most of that choice is preference. However, traditional archery (recurve or longbow) usually uses feathers to minimize the effects of fletching contacting the bow. When you have answered these questions, you're ready to gather materials.
Step 1: Materials, Tools, and Precautions
- Vanes or Feathers (Typically, two different colors are used)
- Stripping Tool
- Fletching Kit, or the following individual items
- Arrow Shaft Cleaning Solution
- Fletching Adhesive
- Fletching Jig
When using the adhesive, be sure to provide adequate ventilation as the vapors may be harmful to your health.
The stripping tool is very sharp! Use caution to prevent injury to yourself or damage to your arrow shafts and work space.
Follow all precautions on chemicals used during this procedure.
Step 2: Remove Old Fletching From the Shaft Using the Stripping Tool
If you are fletching new shafts, you may skip this step and continue with Step 3.
Old fletchings and adhesive need to be removed to provide a clean, smooth surface for their replacements. Use the stripping tool's blade to scrape the existing feathers or vanes (hereafter referred to as vanes) off the shaft.
Be careful not to gouge the shaft because this may make the arrow unsafe to shoot.
The tool has a guide that should rest on and straddle the shaft, providing the correct angle to remove unwanted material and minimize the risk of damaging your arrow.
Step 3: Clean Shaft Surface Using an Appropriate Cleaning Solution
A quality cleaning solution will remove any leftover dirt, oil, or other contaminants from the surface of the arrow shaft to ensure a strong adhesive bond. Pictured here is Bohning Archery's SSR Arrow Shaft Surface Cleaner.
Step 4: Place Arrow Shaft in Jig.
Step 5: Make Any Necessary Adjustments to the Jig to Ensure Proper Fletching Alignment.
A misaligned jig will result in poor contact between the vane and the shaft, leading to premature vane failure and frustration. This jig is several years old and newer styles have eliminated the need for manual adjustment.
Step 6: Place the First Vane Into the Jig's Clamp.
When positioning the vane in the clamp, align it with a designated mark (one that exists on the clamp or one of your own making). Use this mark for every vane so that your vanes line up evenly at the same distance from the nock.
As mentioned previously, two different colors of vanes are typically used. One color (green in this case) is the index vane, which helps align the arrow the same way every time. The position of this vane in relation to the nock will vary depending on your bow. Find the position that reduces or eliminates contact with your bow for maximum accuracy.
Step 7: Apply Adhesive to the Vane and Place the Clamp on the Jig.
Fletching adhesives are generally fast-drying, so this step will need to be done in a short period of time.
Apply a bead of adhesive along the length of the vane. Air bubbles and gaps will reduce the effectiveness of the bond, so be sure to eliminate both for best results.
Place the clamp on the jig (it is magnetized to hold it in place) and slide it down to contact the shaft. Light pressure will push out any remaining air bubbles. Wait a few minutes to allow the adhesive to set up and hold the vane in place.
Step 8: Release the Clamp From the Vane and Carefully Slide It Up and Off the Jig.
Some excess adhesive may stick to the clamp as it is removed. This should not cause problems with the fletching if the adhesive was given sufficient time to set up. Clean any excess adhesive from the clamp.
Step 9: Rotate the Knob on the Jig Counterclockwise to the Next Notch.
Congratulations! You have now attached one vane to your arrow. The knob on the jig (lower right side of the picture) rotates to easily move on to the next vane. Rotate this knob counterclockwise, so that the newly-attached vane moves toward you, until you feel it 'pop' into place.
Step 10: Repeat Steps 6-9 With the Remaining Vanes.
Most arrows have three vanes, but some have four or even more (flu-flu arrows). How many you attach is usually a matter of function. Three offers excellent stability with minimal weight and drag. Adding more increases weight and drag while reducing range. Flu-flu arrows are designed to slow the arrow down quickly and prevent lost arrows or dangerous situations when shooting at airborne targets.
Step 11: Allow the Adhesive to Completely Cure.
Giving the adhesive sufficient time to dry and cure provides maximum bonding strength. Do not shoot the arrows before drying is complete or you may find yourself frustrated as vanes detach easily.
Step 12: Remove Excess Adhesive From the Arrow Shaft.
Accuracy is very important in archery and any excess adhesive can cause uneven drag on the arrow. Carefully remove any excess adhesive using fine-grit emery cloth or sandpaper from the shaft between the vanes to create a smooth surface. Avoid damaging the vanes and shaft while doing so.
Step 13: Enjoy Your New Skill.
Fletching can be an enjoyable pastime and hobby. It also gives you the opportunity to explore what works best for you, whether it be a three-degree helical, a one-degree offset, or the standard straight fletch. A great many possibilities await you in the world of fletching, so take chances and enjoy the journey.