Hand Fletching Wood Arrows





This instructable will guide you through fletching your own medieval-ish style arrow. Once completed, you will be able to use these with your favorite bow! Enjoy!

Step 1: Tools and Materials

-Utility knife
-Hack saw
-Hobby file set
-Choice of wood finish
-Sandpaper (not shown)

-Waxed thread
-Arrowheads/points (I got these )
-Feather fletches (I got these from E-Bay)
-Blank shafts with appropriate spine for your bow. (I got these from E-Bay)

Step 2: Adding the Knock

The first step is to add a nocking point to your arrow. There are two ways you can do this: you can buy plastic nocks and glue them to the end of your arrow, or you can cut nocks into the end of your arrow (self nock). I chose the latter as it is more authentic to the period.

To do this you will need to utilize your hack saw and file set. Clamp your arrow to your workbench. With your file (I used the triangular file) file a starting groove for your hack saw. Make sure that this is perpendicular to the direction of the grain of your arrow. (A) After that, cut down approximately half an inch with your hack saw. (B) Use your hobby files to widen the cut until it looks like image C . Ignore the string at the base of the nock, that is from a later step. Use your sandpaper to smooth out the nock, remove any splinters or rough edges, and slightly taper the entrance to make nocking easier.

If you're like me and do not have access to a workbench, I was able to cut my nocks by holding the shaft between my knees, stabilize it with my left hand, and cut the nock with my right. You will have to turn the shaft 180 degrees every few strokes in order too make sure the cut does not angle to one side of the shaft or the other.

At this point you can stain your shafts whatever color you like and add whatever finish you like. I used Tung Oil to make my arrows more resistant to the elements.

Step 3: Attaching the Point

My shafts have a diameter of 11/32 inches. My points have an outside diameter of 11/32 inches, therefore, I had to taper the end slightly in order to fit the point on. There are tools specifically made to do this nicely, however, I decided to do the taper by hand. Keep in mind that you will get a much nicer end result if you use the taper tool. All I did was whittle the end a little bit using the utility knife until I was able to fit the point on.

Step 4: Preparing the Feathers

I bought a package of 100, 5 inch feathers from Ebay for $30 shipped. This is enough for 3 dozen arrows. We will be slightly trimming the feathers before we attach them to our shafts. Just use your utility knife to cut about a quarter inch of the vanes . Cut the vanes only, you want to leave the spine of the feather to bind to the shaft.

Step 5: Prepare the Arrow for Fletching

First we have to decide where we are going to put the feathers on the shaft. Generally speaking, you want your feathers to be approximately 1 to 2 inches from your nock. Mine are 2 inches. (A) Next, you'll want to mark where around the diameter of your shaft you will be placing your feathers. (B) You want your first feather, the cock feather, to be perpendicular to your nock, or parallel to the grain of the wood, however you want to think about it. The cock feather always faces away from your bow when firing, in order to prevent damage too your fletches. The other two feathers, the hen feathers, will be 120 degrees around either side of the shaft from the cock feather.

I found that when looking at the shaft straight down, if you mark your shaft at the "horizon" of the shaft at each end, that will be approximately 120 degrees. Do that twice, from either end of the cock feather mark, and you should have split the shaft into thirds, each mark 120 degrees from the next.

Step 6: Fletching Step 1

There are three main steps for attaching the feathers to the shaft. Glue/whip the front of the feathers to the shaft, bind the feathers to the shaft, and whip the end of the feathers to the shaft.

The first thing I do is glue the tip of the feathers to the marks. (A) . There are fletching jigs available that will allow you to completely glue the feather to the shaft making the fletching infinitely easier. I did not use one. I wound some thread around the shaft while the glue was drying to hold the feathers in place.

After the glue dries we are going to whip the ends of the feathers to the shaft. Whipping is commonly used to prevent the ends of rope from unravelling, here, we will be using it to protect the ends of the feathers. We will be using the common whip (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_whipping ) to do this.

Pull off approximately 2 feet of of waxed thread and cut it from the spool, set it aside, we will be using it later. Pull off another 2 feet of threat, but do not cut it, instead tie the common whipping over the tips of the feathers that we trimmed earlier. Try to do this as close as possible to the actual vanes of the feathers. (C) Refer to the pictures and the wikipedia link above for a more detailed explanation of how to tie the common whip. (Pictures C-F )

You didn't cut the thread, right? We'll be pulling more off (NO CUTTING) and using it to bind the feathers to the shaft in the next step.

Step 7: Fletching Step 2

Next we will bind the feathers to the shaft. Pull off some more thread and start wrapping. If you used a fletching jig and already have the feathers glued down in position then this should be a sinch, if not, you'll have to stop periodically to make sure the feathers are parallel. Go slow and make sure the thread is evenly spaced around the feather. Make sure the feather is flat against the shaft, you don't want to discover a bump in the feather when  you're done and have to unwind everything. See pictures for more detail.

Step 8: Fletching Step 3

Once you get to the end of the feathers you'll need to whip them as well. We'll be doing this slightly differently, though. Remember the extra two feet of thread we cut off earlier? We'll be using that, and we'll be calling it thread B. Wrap a couple of turns of thread A around the ends of the feathers, then lay Thread B across it as in picture A . We'll basically be using Thread B as a handle to pull thread A under itself. Wrap thread A around thread B until the ends of the feathers plus another quarter inch of the shaft are covered, then cut thread A, tuck the end into the loop of thread B, then use thread B to pull thread A completely through and out the other side of the wrap. Save thread B, we'll be using it for the final step.

Step 9: Reinforcing the Nock

The nock is under a tremendous amount of stress from the bowstring when being fired, so we will reinforce it to prevent the arrow from splitting after time. It's another whip knot. Use Thread B from the previous step to tie it, you want the top to be parallel with the bottom of the nock. See the pictures.

Step 10: Finished! +Resources

There they are, half a dozen finished medieval arrows. Enjoy!

Here are a few resources for you, including youtube videos, diagrams, etc. These are not made by me.

Sinew Wrapping Arrows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KC4D09_Xu8
Fletching Medieval Arrows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pffhKIuuQX8
Building Medieval Arrows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxeFvDgXE54
Binding a Medieval Arrow: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GHZ_lf-CVI




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    18 Discussions


    2 years ago

    A very interesting site!!! Undoubtedly, this kind of sites rescue the idea that makes the net a really useful tool. Congratulations!!!


    2 years ago

    I know this is an old comment, but I'd like to make sure that nobody runs afoul of the law by picking up feathers from raptors. If you're in the United States it doesn't matter if the feathers were naturally molted, you'll get slapped with a hefty fee. "Raptors" include Owls, Eagles, Hawks, Vultures, and others. The only ones you can use are turkey feathers, and if you're fletching an arrow you NEED the feathers to come from the same side wing (left or right). If you want to ethically get feathers, pay a hunter for their wings from the turkey they stalked and hunted after they bought a hunting permit (by the way, the money from hunting goes right back to preserving nature, making sure that wild animals have a home) knowing that the meat AND feathers were all used from an animal that lived its life outdoors. Far worse ways to go than a quick arrow/bullet.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    just a subjestion its more eco friendly if you find the feathers on the ground as shedded feathers and you could use a microscope to check for bio-safety reasons as it's at least known that it was huamanely done and then you also known it was not poached becuase especally a lot of the exotic feathers/rare feathers/feathers from protected species are more likely to be poached but ,Its not poaching if the feather was sheded cause feathers naturally come off the bird for the same reason why your hair regrows after its cut at the old barbers, Besides on the psotive side at least you have a recreation to find some feathers no promises when buying unless they say so and or they eco friendly approved by a trusted group

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Your point is a good one, but to better convey it- especially when taking a politically correct angle as you have, it would help to spell correctly and feature better use of grammar then the occasional forward slash, misplaced commas and a single capital letter. Also, emphasise on what you believe and your audience will believe it to.

    For example:

    My suggestion to those of you who are looking for an Eco-friendly alternative is to search for feathers on the ground. These are shedded by the bird and hence are humane in opposition to those poached and purchases in stores. ...etc.

    Good Luck :)


    Just got into archery, and i'm looking forward to making my own arroes. Thanks for the Instructible!


    6 years ago on Introduction

    My SCA group's getting more people interested in Archery. This'll help a lot.


    8 years ago on Step 3

    Im gonna try to Drill out the end and put a threaded fixture inside of it, so i can use broad heads in it.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    great job. Sorry about the pix problem but still great job. You can pick up an older canon digital off ebay for about what you paid for your points because someone else wanted the latest and greatest. Keep up the great work!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    COOL INSTRUCTABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    8 years ago on Introduction

    You did a pretty good instructable here. But I'd recommend elaborating the step of winding between the vanes (what you call step 2) and maybe redo the pics.  I knew how this was done and can tell you that that step needs to be explained a little.
    The blurriness is your worst problem in the pics. If your camera isn't great but you're good with a digital drawing program you could try: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-illustrate-your-own-Instructable/
    if you aren't, try google sketch-up.  With a few days of experimenting you'll be able to make just about anything.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Would you say it's the resolution of the pictures, the blurriness or the lighting that needs the most work? Do you think the drawn in pointers and notes helped or did not help?

    Thanks for your comments:)


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    A little of all actually. If they were clearer then you shouldn't need to have the MSPaint drawings. It t looked as if you used a webcam or phone to take them and they aren't the best for up close shots. The notes were good but lose the drawings. Look at some of the other ibles on the front page and see the quality of the pics, you'll see what I mean.