How to make fletchings

29 Jul

Fletchings are the feathers on the end of arrows. We were asked to help up to 30 little children make arrows for a Sunday school class.  We will use 3/8″ dowels, cut 18-24″ for the shafts.  The kids will saw a notch in the end and use sandpaper to approximate a point.  But gluing plastic fletchings on would be no fun, right?   Daren had some old wild turkey wing feathers he had saved for his arrow making.  And since there are new ones coming in each fall and spring from hunts, he let us have some so I did not have to give up the feathers I use on the Christmas tree.

This morning I spent about an hour and a quarter making over 100 individual fletches.  Here is a primer:

Tools: feathers, cutting mat, very sharp meat knife, sharp scissors.  (Dead warbler found on the road optional.)

So.  Take one feather and turn it wrong side up.  Locate the depression in the rachis, the central vein,  of the feather.  Using the long sharp knife, cut through the rachis down its length on the rise between the depression and the longer trailing edge where the barbs are longest.  Only cut the thicker portion of the rachis with the knife; starting from the feather tip, use scissors to cut down the midline of the rachis to meet the knife cut to finish the job.

Now the feather will easily come apart in two pieces.

What you have now are the long trailing edge barbs attached to a thin piece of rachis. All there is left to do is cut the fletches to size.  Separate the barbs and scissor through the  rachis.

I like the look of these fletches, but will make a few templates the children can use to cut them into the more traditional shape.  These will be glued on to the shaft.


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