Friday, June 26, 2009

Preparing for Bow Season - Episode One: Fletching Arrows

In light of many new articles that have been written regarding early bow preparation, I have decided to heed their advice and start preparing now. For the first episode, I've decided to tackle a project that I've been needing to complete for a while--refletching arrows. Last year's bow season snuck up on me very quickly. If I recall correctly, the season began October 1st, and I didn't even get my bow off the rack until mid October. Knowing the best part of the season was approaching, I refletched only a few arrows...and did a poor job refletching in my haste. I did well enough to get by for the season, but I've decided to get all my arrows fletched and ready to go so I can get some well needed practice before October.

1. Vanes or Feathers: The vanes I shoot are called Blazers by Bohning Archery. They are 2" long and made of rather durable material. The vanes I'm using are neon(they might not look neon in the pictures) pink and yellow. I've found when I go to a range to shoot with others present, I always hear, "Nice pink vanes, sissy." I choose pink for one reason: visibility. If you've ever shot at an animal when it gets close to dark, you know you want to see as much of that arrow as possible. Pink is the only color that allows me to do this well. I've tried many other colors: Orange/yellow are not easy to see after the shot. The vanes blend in with the colors of changing leaves--White is a bust when it snows. Pink is a great color that doesn't really blend in with anything and is easy to pick up. I'm using one yellow vane for these arrows just to use them up.

2. Fletching Jig: I'm using an Arizona EZ Fletch jig that is made specifically for carbon arrow shafts. It is set at a right helical, as well. I prefer this jig above others because of its retail price (significantly cheaper than other jigs), ease of use, and the speed/efficiency it can get arrows fletched.

3. Fletching Adhesive: Cheap and relatively easy to find.

4. Pocket Knife: Some people go all out and by a tool that strips vanes/feathers, but I'm cheap.

5. Rubbing Alcohol/Rag: Use for cleaning the shafts after they have been defletched

I'm shooting Gold Tip XT Hunter 7595 carbon arrows. Gold Tip was the first brand of carbon arrow I had, so I've decided to stick with them ever since. I can't say I've ever had the slightest complaint with them.

To start the process off, you need to strip off the old or damaged vanes you want to replace. I use a sharp pocket knife for this process. After the vane is stripped off, you'll probably find glue and small pieces of vane still stuck on the arrow shaft. Use your pocket knife and gently scrape off the old glue. Make sure you are careful with this process--you don't want to gouge the arrow. As you begin to scrape, you might find that you're scraping what looks like dark powder along with the glue. You're scraping into the arrow now, but don't worry. I've done this many times and have never had a problem. Just be careful you don't gouge the arrow--keep it smooth. If you're unsure if you've scraped too far, give the arrow a bend test to see if cracking occurs. If it doesn't, you should be good to go.

After you get that taken care of, use your rubbing alcohol and rag to clean the arrow. I want to say I've heard people using denatured alcohol for this process, but I've used rubbing alcohol for a few years now and have found that it cleans the surface well for the adhesive.

Next, place your vanes in the fletching jig and apply a thin line of adhesive to them. Make sure it is thin--a thick line of adhesive will create thick globs of glue alone the edges of the vane. Also, make sure you get adhesive all the way to the tips. You want as much of that vane glued to your arrow as possible. **Helpful tip: Make sure your vanes are all pointing the right direction when you put them in the jig. There is nothing worse than taking the time to do this job and getting an arrow with a backwards vane. **Helpful tip 2: Make sure the vanes are pushed all the way down into the jig so they are even with each other.

Once your glue and vanes are in place, put the arrow into the jig. This particular jig has three arms that fold up around the arrow shaft. A small piece comes over the three arms to keep them in place. Then the whole jig is moved into a "locking" position. This ensures the vanes will not move once they are set in the jig. I usually leave the arrows in the jig for 3-5 minutes (or however long it takes me to ready another arrow for gluing.

When it comes time to take the arrow out of the jig, be very gentle with the vanes. The 3-5 minutes gives the adhesive long enough to stick decently to the arrow, but they are still very fragile. Many people will leave the arrows in the jig for 15 minutes a piece. If you're fletching a dozen arrows, 15 minutes a piece turns into hours of waiting. If you're careful, 3-5 minutes should be enough to get the vanes attached to the arrow sufficiently.

In my own opinion, the next step is the most crucial. Take your adhesive and put a small bit of a glue on the tips and ends of each vane. The tip of the vane comes in contact with so much air flow during a shot, a vane that isn't glued down well in the front will rip right off. As the arrow flies, the vane creates a significant amount of drag which will affect the back half of the vane. Again, if not glued properly, the vane will rip right off. I also like to see a thin line of glue coming out of the sides of the vanes. This shows that there was enough glue on the vane to make a good connection. If the sides of your vanes look like they lack glue, run a very thin line of glue along the side.

Allow your arrows to dry for 12-24 hours before shooting. The longer you allow them to dry, the less you have to worry about them coming off.

Fletching your own arrows has many advantages. I started mine because I hated paying labor costs at a shop. By doing them myself, I have the ability to fix them whenever I want or need to. No more waiting a week for the shop to get around to finishing them. Another advantage is that I can buy vanes in bulk for a relatively cheap price. I usually buy packs of 100 Blazer vanes. By having an abundance of materials, I can work on grouping my arrows and not worry about mangling my vanes in the process. Lastly, there is is nothing like finishing your own arrows. By choosing your vanes and doing all the work yourself, you are personalizing your arrow. Taking an animal with one of your own arrows is just a cherry that tops the sundae.

1 comment:

  1. Very Nice! I don't see anything wrong with the pink fletchings. My husband used green and yellow on his last set which I didn't appreciate.. It took forever to search for those arrows! ;)