Fletching 2 (Shaft Preparation and Layout)


CLEANING: Okay, now that you have your shafts selected and they are matched for spine and weight. You need to make sure that you take a bit of time to make sure they are ready to be used for the next set of arrows. At this point I will wear rubber gloves to keep the skin oil off of the shafts. I like to take out the “graininess” feeling of the shafts using 000 or 0000 steel wool, lightly run each shaft through the steel wool pad.

Once that is done, I then take a paper towel and with some 91% or better alcohol, rub each shaft down to assure it is clean. I can tell you that if you skimp in this step and you’re planning on dip cresting them, you will regret it later. You never know what oils are on the wood from people handling them in packing.


Okay, now that you have clean arrows I would suggest that you wear rubber gloves to keep any oils from your skin off of the shafts. This is not required but I highly recommend it.

The first step in the layout of the arrow making process is to decide what type of arrows you want to make. Do you want a simple “period” style arrow that is only stained and uses a simple “shield” cut feather as in the picture below? These are the most simple type of arrow to make because you are only applying one stain on the whole length of the arrow shaft. There are no lines to measure or crest.

traditional arrows






Or are you after a more intense arrow that has a bit more flash like in the picture below? These arrows are much harder to complete and will take you some time to get good at making. There are multiple techniques in play on these arrows to include, staining, cresting and feather splicing.








This is a decision you will need to make before proceeding. You will need to assure you have the correct materials to properly color your arrow shafts and assure you have the layout of measurements in your head. So, lets begin. Lets say for now you want to do a simple one color stain and fletch for your set of arrows. There are many different types of stain you can use to create arrows but you need to be aware and careful of mixing components that wont work well together. I would stay away from the “Minwax” type of stains from the hardware stores that have stain and urethane in them unless you are trying to spend as little as possible to complete your arrows. The glue used to attach your fletching to the shafts also needs to be compatible with whatever stain / clear you use.

I order most of my supplies from www.3riversarchery.com, they have most everything you could want to complete your arrows. It is a bit more expensive to use those components but I feel the arrows are more professional when you are done. So lets talk about the color components now.


I like to use the alcohol based stain from 3 Rivers, they offer many colors and it works very well. You can see different colors of stain in the above picture and those all are colors you can purchase. I also use leather stain and dyes that come in a powder form called “Analine” dye. The sky is the limit in your imagination of what you want to accomplish with the colors, just remember to assure that what you are using will be compatible with all the components. The picture below shows one of my new shafts with a two color stain on it. I used a red leather dye for the fletching end and an alcohol based dye from 3 Rivers for the main part of the shaft. This is an example of the first step of the process. I marked the arrow where I wanted to stop the stain and stained the shafts up to those marks. I will add something special to the natural area in between the stained areas.

multi base







It is important to protect your shafts from the elements and there are many ways to clear the shafts ranging from simple clear to a product that I use called “Gasket lacquer”. Gasket lacquer is a product that was originally designed to coat pencils. It comes in a few colors and also in clear. You will need a device called a “dip tube” as shown in the picture below to use gasket lacquer. These are also sold by many archery stores. The top has a rubber piece that has 3 small holes in it, that you draw the arrow through. This in effect is the gasket that removes all the excess lacquer and makes a very smooth and shiny coating on your arrows. I like to use 3 or 4 coats of lacquer to cover my arrows once I am done with the base color and cresting. The amount of clear you use is dependent on how shiny of a surface you are after. What you see here is a simple setup (I am getting a very nice rack to hold my tubes from Santa), to hold my dip tubes. Right now I use 3 different tubes. One that is 13″ for the white “Cap” dips of gasket lacquer and the end ones are for the clear gasket lacquer. Some stains tend to bleed and contaminate the clear lacquer so that is why I have one called “oak”, it has a bit a yellow tint to it now so I don’t use it when I need a perfectly clear lacquer coat. This was a simple holder I made to hold my dip tubes, I now have a very nice dip tube rack thanks to my wife.

Dip tubes






So lets review the steps in this stage:

1. Clean the shafts.

2. Apply the base color or stain. (Make sure you allow it dry before moving on)

3. Apply the clear either by a simple method or gasket laquer.

4. Sand with steel wool to smooth shafts prior to clear and in between coats.

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