Introduction: Primitive Archery

This is my first post on the Instructables website. I have been a craftsman for about 20 years. I started out making knives and have evolved into woodworking, leatherworking and have been "neck deep" into primitive archery for a few years.

In this instructable I will show how to use duct tape to make simple, yet effective fletching for primitive arrows.

This fletching method is the Southeastern Two Fletch method. Most archers use three fletch but that requires a jig. The Southeastern Two Fletch Method is easy, fast and requires no special jig.

First you have to start with your arrow shaft. I prefer native bamboo or cane shafts that I gather from the surrounding wilderness. I cut, dry, sand and straighten them prior to fletching. If all goes well with this post I will post a build on how to select cane and prepare it for arrow shafts but that is another long story.

Why duct tape?

I have made a few kid bows and they need cheap ammo to go with their bow. Duct tape is cheap, works great and comes in highly visible colors that can be easily found if lost.

Step 1: Cut Tape to Length

I recommend using only USA made Duck brand duct tape. It is stickier, the tape is thicker and it will give an overall better performance on your arrows than cheap import tape.

I went with blaze orange color since it was for kids arrows and many of them would probably miss their target.

Stick one end of the tape onto your work bench and pull off equal lengths of tape. I do not measure but the sections should be about 4-5 inches long. You can stick lots of sections on your bench to make it a full production issue.

Step 2: Stick One Side

Cane arrows should be made weight forward. That is the larger diameter end should be on the opposite end of the shaft from the fletched end. This should always be the case of any arrow. I come down from the small diameter end about and inch and half and stick one side of the tape down.

Step 3: Fold Over the Tape and Stick to Shaft

Carefully fold over the tape and stick to the backside of the shaft. It may take several tries to get the proper alignment to the tape but if you mess up simply remove the section of tape that is boogered up and start with a fresh piece of tape. If the tape binds into a crease you can lift it from the shaft and start over. When the alignment is correct then crease the tape together creating the taped fletch on one side of the shaft.

Step 4: Fletch Side Two.

Repeat same steps for side 2.

Step 5: Trim Corners.

I prefer to cut a small triangle from the rear corner (nock end) and trim the smaller angles down until the fletch is smooth. i make a longer angled cut on the leading edge to make the entire unit more aerodynamic. There are a number of variations you can make to the rear of the fletching that will not effect the arrow flight.

Step 6: Tape the Leading Edge

I have found that this is the most crucial of steps to insure that the arrow flies true. I used electrical tape and place it halfway over the tape and half over the shaft. I wrap the tape around the shaft about 2-3 times. This wrapping gives the two fletch method the proper helix allowing the arrow to spiral when shot. This spiraling is crucial to maintain accuracy. Also the tape wrap protects the fletching should the arrow burrow deep into the target or skitter across the wilderness when you miss.

Step 7: Roll the Fletching

Grab the arrow shaft and twist the fletching in your other hand as you twist. This will further insure that the proper helix is established. This should be repeated before shots as you deem necessary.

Step 8: Cut the Self Nock.

Take fletched arrows down to the knife shop and put self nocks into the nock end. A self nock is a nock that is simply cut into the arrow and not an additonal glued on piece of plastic. I align the fletches up and down so that when shot from the bowstring it will easily pass around your bow. I use a bench grinder with an abrasive cut off wheel as the nock cutting device. It is fast and does a great job. Simply let the disc burn through the cane about 3/8ths of an inch. My friend and bow professor likes to use hand tools and he uses three hacksaw blades taped together to cut his nocks.

If the arrows are going to be shot out of a kid's bow (20-30 lbs of draw weight) then they need no further work except for putting on target tips or other homemade broad heads. (More on that in another Instruct-able!)


If the shaft material is wood or cane and is to be shot from a man bow (bows with draw weight in the 30 lb + range) the nock must be reinforced! Simply take sewing thread and wrap around the shaft immediately below the cut in self nock and wrap around the shaft about 20 times. Tie the wrap off with a nail knot and soak the thread with either Titebond 3 wood glue or superglue. This will insure that the nock never fails. This string wrapping of the shaft is so strong in fact that one day when we were shooting bows a friend of mine did a "Robin Hood" and hit the arrow in the target on the nock end and the arrow stuck in the shaft and did not bust the thread!

Step 9: Duct Tape Fletched Arrows!

Duct tape fletched arrows are quick to make, easy on the pocketbook and perform surprisingly well. I estimate that you could fletch approximately 30-40 arrows per $4.00 roll of duct tape. Remember: Stay away from cheap tape as it will not hold up well and is not stiff enough to serve as fletch material.

More on target tips and homemade broadheads coming up soon!

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