I'll admit, when it comes to arrows I can be cheap. I've lost enough or broken enough over the years that I'd have a real hard time justifying the expense of a set of really nice arrows. You'd figure even the cheap arrows ought to come from the store in good enough shape, right? Well.... not really, especially when it comes to the inexpensive carbon arrows I buy for target practice.
While I fletch arrows I make, I almost never re-fletch the arrows I buy. That's something I'm going to remedy and I thought folks out there in the same boat as me might find this helpful.
Step 1: What You'll Need
As you can see, the fletching on a cheap arrow from the store is pretty low quality. This will of course affect arrow flight, and in turn, accuracy. So let's start the process of stripping off the old vanes and replacing them.
a razor knife - an xact-o or similar, box cutter, etc.
superglue - any brand will work fine
new vanes - plastic vanes can be had cheaply through ebay in bulk
fletching jig - I use a Jo Jan jig, but any would be fine. A jig isn't 100% necessary, but it makes things go very quickly
an arrow with lousy vanes - I used a $3.50 carbon arrow from wal-mart
about 10 minutes of your time
Let's get started!
Step 2: Removing the Old Vanes
This is a step that requires you to be a little patient and careful, as you know razor knives are VERY sharp. Always cut away from yourself and go slow. Saving a couple of dollars on an arrow isn't worth a trip to the ER!
Hold the arrow in your less dominant hand with the nock end in front of you, but facing away. Place the blade of your knife at the front bottom edge of the vane you want to remove first. Slide the knife under the vane and cut all the way through until you've cut through to back end of the vane.Once the vane is off the arrow shaft, scrape off the remnants of the vane and the glue that held it on with the razor knife. You want to scrape carefully as to not damage the arrow shaft. Everything should come off fairly easily. Make it look at least as clean as the arrow shaft in the picture. Repeat this process two more time to get the remaining vanes off the arrow shaft.
Step 3: Setting Up the Jig
Place the arrow into the jig's lower arm, nock end first. Inside that arm is a rotating collar that has a crossbar in it for the nock to align to. If your nock is glued to the shaft, you will need to pay particular attention to where the nock lines up in relation to where the jig places the vane onto the arrow so that when the vanes are glued on they will not interfere with your arrow rest when you fire your arrow. In this case, the nock on the arrow isn't glued in so I can adjust the nock alignment to the vane placement.
Once the arrow is place into the jig, take the feather clamp and open it just like you would a big binder clip. Place a vane in the clip so its back end is aligned to the notch in the clamp. This way you'll get consistent placement of your vanes. Push the vane into the clamp all the way until just the bottom edge is above the clamp. This is where you'll apply the super glue.
Step 4: Gluing the Vanes to the Arrow Shaft
Run a light bead of super glue down the length of the bottom of the vane.
Try not to use too much, it can squeeze out and make it tricky to place the next vane. Wiping up excess super glue can not only be messy, but dangerous. If you are at all concerned about gluing your fingers together or to the arrow shaft wear rubber gloves for the gluing process.
Place the back end of the feather clamp into the alignment slot on the jig and then guide the front of the clamp down to its resting spot on the front arm of the jig. The vane and clamp should be aligned to the center of the arrow shaft.
Tip: I went through my whole life up till this point not knowing how to use super glue properly. The glue's drying and strength are activated by pressure. The more firmly you hold the pieces you're gluing together, the stronger the bond that will be created. It only has to be for maybe 5 - 10 seconds at the most. Learning this has made a super glue believer out of me!
Apply downward pressure on the feather clamp, pushing the vane onto the arrow shaft for about 5 or 10 seconds then remove the clamp from the vane and the jig by opening it like a binder clip. You now are 1/3 of the way done!
Step 5: Moving on to the Next Vane
On the back of the lower jig arm you'll see the little cylindrical protrusion of the nock collar. While holding the jig firmly (I'd recommend leaving your arrow in place while doing this so you don't lose your place) take your other hand and rotate the collar clockwise until it clicks into position. In addition to an audible click, you'll feel the collar snap into place and hold its position. The jig has just automatically indexed your arrow shaft to accept the next vane in the exact right position!
Add the second and third vanes following the directions outlined in the previous steps. Your arrow is now refletched!
Step 6: Finished Up
Quite a difference! Your arrow will fly straighter and more accurately with the new vanes you just put on. As you do this more and more you will get faster and faster at it. So far I have refletched 12 old cheap carbon arrows and it now takes me a little over 5 minutes start to finish than the 10 minutes it used to take me. Not only does this help you shoot better, it saves you a little money as well.
You can order vanes of almost any size, shape, and color to customize your arrows and get a look you like. Have fun, be safe, and happy shooting!