Turning Feather Into Fletch
(by Glenn Mucha)
Processing turkey, goose or any other bird feather is fairly easy with a few shop tools, patience, and a little know how. The end result is an attractive fletch that is usually more durable than domestic turkey feathers used in most commercial fletching. In addition, if you have a source for feathers, the expense is next to nothing.
Sharp Razor Blade Cutting Board Ruler
Belt Sander (fine grit) Straight Fletching Clamp Small Scissors
1. Once you have obtained feathers, separate out right and left wings. This can be determined by looking at the leading edge of the wing. The leading edge of the feather should have fewer vanes. The leading edge faces into the wind as the bird flies. The base of the quill should also gently curve away from the leading edge.
Left - Right
Feathers should be stored in a sealed container with either cedar chips or moth balls to prevent mites from eating the vanes.
2. You may also wish to separate out the primary and secondary wing feathers. The primaries make the best and most durable flight feather. The secondary feathers work well for practice or flu flu arrows.
Primary Feathers have a thin leading edge. They are also more durable
Secondary Feathers are more symmetrical. The leading edge should still be discarded
3. Using a razor blade and a cutting board, slice lengthwise down the center of the quill. Go slow and be careful to go down the center of the quill. If you run off you will cut the vanes of the feather and may have to start over. You may need to take several passes to get through the base of the quill. Discard the leading edge.
4. Using a ruler, cut the feather 1 inch longer than the desired finish length. For example: 6 inches if you want a 5” fletch. On some feathers you may be able to squeeze out 2 sections. If not, use the center of the feather for your fletch. Using a sharp pair of scissors, trim the height of the feather, so it fits better in the clamp. The height should be higher then the finished height of the fletch.
5. Place the cut feather section in the straight fletching clamp and proceed to the belt sander. Use a spare clamp, dedicated for this job. Begin sanding the quill flat, with the clamp turned slightly away from the dark side of the feather. Take your time and go slow. You want to make a base that is just under 1/8th of an inch. Use a commercially prepared fletch for reference until you get the hang of it. Be mindful to keep even pressure on the grind to make the base even from front to back.
6. Once the base of the quill is flat and uniform, use a small pair of scissors and trim the width of the quill to about 1/8th of an inch.
7. Place the feather in the chopper and cut out your desired shape. Choppers are made specifically for wing orientation, fletching style, and length. They can be obtained from archery vendors for just under $20. Some folks prefer to trim the fletching to shape using a scissors. You may also glue the uncut fletching to the shaft and use a feather burner.
8. Congratulations, you have made you first fletching. They may be glued to any arrow with adhesive that is compatible to the shaft of the arrow.