Cutting Natural Arrow Vanes the Quick and Smelly Way




Introduction: Cutting Natural Arrow Vanes the Quick and Smelly Way

When I first purchased my bow, it came with a lot of supplies. A full bag of goose-feathers, but most of all; A heat-wire feather-cutter. It looked self-built and a bit shoddy. Since I didn't have any information on the voltages needed to run it, I didn't try it right away and before I could get back to it, my father had thrown it out.

(I will not go into how you should mount the feathers themselves, since I don't have the know-how to do it correctly. I just moun them straight and with 120 degree spacing. It works for me.)

This is how I built my own feather-cutter that gets consistent results, every time.

You will need:

  1. A fused bench power-supply. A standard one that can output 0-40V should be plenty.
  2. Goose-feathers.
  3. A few scraps of wood.
  4. Two long bolts and four nuts and two wing-nuts (I've used six nuts as I didn't have any wing-nuts then).
  5. Wire (I used 0.8mm Stainless Steel Welding wire)
  6. Flat-nosed pliers.
  7. Side-cutters.
  8. A drill/electric screwdriver.
  9. Wood-screws suitable for your wooden scraps.
  10. Cables and alligator-clips for your power-supply.
As always when using electricity, take care and don't electrocute yourself!

I am in no way responsible for you getting electrocuted, burned, cut, etc. while following this instructable.

Step 1: Making the Base for the Cutter

Take your scrapwood and make a base approximate to the above image. The dimensions don't really matter, apart from that the groove for the nock must line up with the center of the arrow when it's placed in the v-part. The space between the two standing supports should also be able to accommodate your widest fletching with a few centimeters to spare. The height should also accommodate the width of the goosefeathers you're using ofr the fletchings. Just so that they don't catch on the bottom, or the two bolts.

Drill two holes through the bottom of the base, countersink the holes for the bolt-heads if you wish. Thread your bolts through and tighten them to the board with one nut each. Add the two remaining nuts and the wing-nuts to the top of the bolts, making sure they line up approximately with a thought line from the v-part to the nock-groove.

Step 2: Make Your Heat-wire Form.

Take your piece of wire, I used 0.8mm Stainless Steel Welding wire. Bend it to a design of your liking with your flat-nosed pliers. The ends shown in the picture should be longer, at absolute minimum the length between your shaft and the terminals, but probably a bit more. They should also be turned upward to be able to connect them to the bolt-terminals.

Above are some inspirational designs you can try to make. The first one is the one I use for my arrows.

Step 3: Glue Your Goose-feathers to the Shaft

Glue your goosefeathers to the shaft in the orientation and form you wish. They do not need to be the final length you want, just slightly longer than the wire-form you did earlier. Make sure they are wide enough to accommodate the width of your form.

I will not go into detail about how you should attach your feathers here, as I do not know the correct way myself. I attach mine straight with a 120 degree spread around the shaft with an outer vane 90-degrees to the nock.

Step 4: Attach Your Heat-wire and Start Burning

This step should either be done in a very well-ventilated area, preferably outside. The smell is worse than any hair-singing smell you've ever smelled.

Place your arrow in the v-groove and position the nock in the nock-groove.

Attach your wire-form to the terminals (DO NOT CONNECT THEM TO THE POWERSUPPLY YET) and line up the form so that it touches or almost touches the shaft. Rotate your arrow so the wire-form is between two vanes.

Attach the alligator-clips to the bolt-terminals and the other ends to your powersupply. Turn up the voltage until the wireform is slightly red, if you put too much voltage through it, it will burn like a lamp-wire and melt, and you will have to make a new wire-form.

If you have a wooden wireshaft, you can rotate it with your bare hands, but otherwise you should use an isolating glove to isolate yourself from the shaft.

Apply some light pressure to the arrow towards the nock-groove to make sure it stays in place and doesn't jump out.

Slowly rotate the arrow one full rotation. The wire will burn off the feathers and leave you with three perfect cut fletchings.

Turn off the electricity and carefully remove the arrow from the cutter, taking care not to nick it on the wire-form as it is still hot.
If any residual quill is left on the shaft, you can cut them off carefully with a sharp knife.

You're done! Enjoy your new feathercutter!

Step 5: Possible Improvements

  • The entire cutter could be made in a sturdier material
  • The nock-groove could be replaced with a bearing of some sort, to make the arrow easier to rotate
  • The v-part could be replaced with some sort of openable bearing, that grasps the shaft, again making the cutter more consistent and the arrow easier to rotate.
  • The bolt-terminals could be replaced with isolated posts, adorned with screw-terminals for added safety.
  • A built in transformer or small-powersupply could be added to the base.
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    7 Discussions


    6 years ago

    good job man was it a run of a nother design or something you came up with


    Reply 6 years ago

    I based it on an old design that came with the bow I bought. It was homebuilt (probably in the 80s, the bow was from that era) and didn't have any specs regarding correct voltage etc. so I never messed with it at first, and when I finally got around to it, my father had thrown it out, so I came up with this design.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Good Ible.
    My understanding was that the feathers should come from the same wing as this gives a rotation to the arrow as the spin induced improves accuracy..


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, you're right, you need to use feathers that have the same handedness, left or right. The vanes themselves need to curve in the same direction. Some archers mount their vanes in a slightly helical pattern, but since I do not now a lot about that I left that out of the scope of this instructable.


    6 years ago

    great idea!