Primitive and modern outdoor skills

Arrow Fletching


Long ago I wrote this post on Arrow Fletching

Getting that type of fletching is kind of expensive, and I'm a cheapskate. It's also a slow and laborious way to fletch. Matt Graham at Wintercount, and later another Matt at Rivercane Rondezvous taught me a different fletching technique that's faster to do, and only uses 2 feathers, yet gets the stability and helical spin of a 3 feather fletch. I was refletching arrows recently and running low on commercial split fletch, so I decided to try this more traditional method on commercial type aluminum arrows.


One really neat thing about this method is that it works with tail feathers, not just wing feathers, while at rivercane this last time I traded a backpack for some mushrooms, tinctures, and a turkey-tail, so I had some lying around already.

Here's an image up-close.


Sorry I didn't get any in process. Here's a quick rundown of the process. You can cut feather with a sharp knife on a cutting board, or scissors (I used a knife). Select two similar feathers. cut them approximately to size, leaving a some of the shaft of the feather at the top. Partway down your feather (say 1/3'rd of the way) cut halfway through the shaft, then split your feather from there down to the tip. removing one half. Do this in both feathers the same.

This part is a bit harder to explain. That bit of shaft that sticks out past the top end of the feather, you want to bind that bit to the shaft of the arrow, next to the knock, but pointing the wrong way, then you fold the feather over and bind it again (after binding the tip of the feather down).

To do the binding traditionally you use sinew in hide glue. Since these are not traditional arrows anyway I used cotton jeans thread and elmers... it worked surprisingly well. You'll want to make sure to wrap it all of the way down the tip and on to the shaft, so that no part of the feather tip sticks out. This is particularly important if you shoot off your hand, so you don't stick a feather shaft through your hand.

Once I have both ends of the feather bound down I wrap another length of thread all the way down the shaft, spaced maybe an inch apart.

Lastly take glue and smear it over all your bindings, this will help make it smooth and ensure it's solid.

I actually *really* like how these arrows fly. Notice how when you do this you naturally end up with a slight twist to the feather (since the flat side of the feather is against the arrow shaft at one end, and the split side of the feather shaft is against the shaft on the other). This is like a perfect helical fletch, except with no work needed to align it. I also noticed that the arrows I fletched this way are quieter during flight.  Lastly, I suspect that when you accidentally skip the arrow off the side of a tree or similar this fletch is less likely to strip off than the normal archery glue fletch.