One question that often gets asked is how to properly make arrows. As soon as I got into archery I knew pretty quick that I wanted to make my own arrows. The first dozen I ever bought came pre-fletched but after that I have only used self-fletched arrows. For several years I worked in a pro shop and can’t even count how many arrows I fletched and how much I learned about what to do, and also what not to do!
Outlined here is my current method for preparing and fletching arrows. Some may regard this method as way overboard and requiring too many steps, but I am a stickler when it comes to fletching and it’s worth the extra effort to get things done right. When arrows are done right, they will fly truer, group tighter and last longer.
- Get all tools necessary. Lay everything out and make sure that you have absolutely everything necessary. If you don’t have it at hand, get it before starting.
- Determine arrow length by either measuring your current arrows or getting some help and measure the desired length using a bow. Always make measurements from the nock throat to tip of the shaft.
- Cut arrows to length using a quality saw or have them cut by someone who has a good saw.
- Square BOTH ends of the shaft using either an off the shelf arrow squaring tool, lathe or other solution. I use a silver permanent marker to cover the end of the shaft so that I can tell when enough material has been removed to get the shaft perfectly squared.
- Clean the tip area of the shaft by removing any burrs left from cutting/squaring.
- Using a q-tip or similar and high purity alcohol (90% or better) clean out the inside of the shaft where the point or insert will be glued. After using the alcohol, clean it again with a q-tip and water.
- Use a small, round, medium grit file to lightly rough up the area where the glue with bond to the inside of the shaft. Do not sand or remove material! All that is needed is a slight roughness on the surface to get better bonding.
- Glue in the inserts or points with your adhesive of choice. For arrows I know that will not have the inserts removed, I use a good, slow cure epoxy. Hot-melt glue with a low melting temperature can also be used if care is taken not to overhead carbon shafts.
- If installing inserts, square the inserts. This time use a dark colored permanent marker to cover the front of the insert before squaring.
- Clean fletching area by using hot water, a Scotch-Brite pad and powdered cleanser (Ajax or Comet or similar.) This will remove any manufacturing residue or build up that has occurred on the shafts without leaving anything behind. Rinse thoroughly and let air dry.
- If your fletching jig is adjustable, make sure that the vanes are seating properly before applying any glue. Put a bare vane into the clamp and check for perfect alignment with the arrow shaft.
- Fletch the arrows with your choice of vanes or feathers. There are many quality glues that can be used; I prefer Loctite 380 Black Max for my fletching.
- Clean up any excess glue around the vanes by using a adhesive solvent and q-tips. They need to look pretty!
- Optional: put a dab of glue on the tip and back of the fletching to give it a little more adhesive when they get roughed up by passing through targets or getting hit by other arrows.
- Number all of the arrows. This is important to do to keep track of any arrow that is not performing up to par.
- Shoot and have fun!
Will these steps always lead to perfect arrows? No, but if followed correctly the arrows should turn out good and last for a long time.