Arrow Fletching 101

Posted by: PJ Reilly on Mar 6, 2013
Page 1 of 3

It was in 1991, when two German mountaineers hiking through the Alps on the border between Italy and Austria discovered Oetzi – the oldest, complete human mummy ever found. Oetzi is believed to have been a hunter, since he was carrying with him a partially-constructed bow and some finished and unfinished arrows. Scientists believe Oetzi was killed 5,300 years ago by another human shooting a bow and arrow. The two finished arrows Oetzi carried in his quiver were fletched with feathers from some species of bird. Even 5,300 years ago, bowhunters fletched arrows.

The principles of doing so remain as true today as they did back then. Attaching feathers or plastic vanes to the rear end of an arrow help that projectile fly straight. Today, we have infinitely more options for fletching than Oetzi did. And that can leave some folks wondering, “Which ones right for me?” Well, here at Bowhunting.com we love all kinds of archery, but as our name indicates, hunting is our bread and butter. So we’re going to tackle the subject of fletching from a bowhunting standpoint. (arrow building supplies)

 fletch1

Nothing will make your arrows fly with surgical precision like the right type of fletching. When it comes to the vast amount of options, choose the one that provides the most stability without robbing your arrow of speed.

Basics
Basically you’re going to want fletching that will stabilize your arrow without robbing you of too much speed. Long, natural feathers – 4 or 5 inches – are great for stabilization. That’s why many indoor, target archers put them on their arrows. They need precision, and long feathers provide it. But, long feathers are speed killers, which is no problem for guys shooting indoors in climate-controlled settings at a known, static distance.

However, we’re bowhunters. We might have to shoot a deer that’s 20 yards out, or 43. Pin gap is a concern, which means we need speed. Also, we hunt outdoors, and have to cope with rain. Feathers can get water-logged. Vanes won’t. The 3-D target pros tend to opt for teeny-tiny plastic vanes in an attempt to keep arrow weight and drag to a minimum, to maximize speed. Bowhunters don’t have to go to that extreme, but, coupled with the information about the indoor archers it gives you an idea of where the middle ground lies. No doubt, the most common fletching you will see on bowhunters’ arrows these days are 2- and 3-inch plastic vanes. They’re weatherproof, and they provide enough stabilization for good arrow flight without taking away too much speed.

The Need For DIY
Most archery pro shops will fletch your arrows for you, any way you want. But it’s a pain going back to the shop every time a single vane falls off, or gets damaged and has to be replaced. Get yourself a fletching jig and you can learn to fletch your own arrows in no time. The primary purpose of a jig is to hold the arrow so you can glue a feather or vane in place using a clamp. Having your own jig makes it much easier to experiment with different fletching to figure out what works best for your arrow/broadhead combination. (build your own arrow)

fletch 2
The first step to fletching your arrow is making sure that it is clean and prepped before applying the new vanes.

Experimentation will be very helpful if you find you’re having difficulties getting consistent arrow flight with your fixed-blade broadheads attached. Such heads are going to affect the flow of air over your arrow. Expandable broadheads are more compact, so arrows should really fly like they have field points on the tip rather than a broadhead. Solving problems with inconsistent broadhead flight is a primary reason expandable heads were created.

Offset & Helical Options
The best way to counteract any potential problems with fixed-blade broadheads is to get your arrow to spin. If you’ve ever seen a football sailing through the air in a tight spiral, then you’ve witnessed how spinning stabilizes a projectile. Arrow spin is generated by fletching. When shooting fixed-blade broadhead, your fletching should always be offset or helical to make the arrow spin. Fletching that is positioned in an Offset manner will be mounted to the arrow with a straight clamp at an angle, rather than straight down the center of the shaft. If the point end of the fletching is positioned to the right of the nock end, that’s considered a right offset, and vice versa.

Helical fletching must be attached using a special, helical clamp that puts a twist in the fletching. They should also be mounted in an offset fashion. Arrows with helical fletching will spin significantly more than arrows with simple, offset fletching, so they will have a greater stabilization effect. However, they also produce more drag, and so your arrows will fly slower.

In some circles, it’s said that left-handed shooters must shoot arrows with left offset, or left helical fletching, and the opposite for righties. Truth is it doesn’t matter. Spin is spin, no matter which side of the bow the arrow is coming from. Vanes are universal, but feathers come in either the left-wing or right-wing variety. Again, the hand you draw with does not dictate which feather you must choose. However, if you choose a right-wing feather, then only mount it at a right offset or right helical. Do the opposite with left-wing fletching.

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PJ Reilly

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1 Comment on "Arrow Fletching 101"

Re: Arrow Fletching 101 #
Great article. Very informative for newcomer...thanks!
Posted by rick on 3/6/2013 10:11:01 AM

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