By Jerry Long, June 20, 2011 

In lieu of another fletching video, of which there are plenty, I thought I’d share some arrow building tips that work for me.

I’ve always wanted to do a DIY arrow fletching video, but I’m mostly a blithering idiot on camera, I’ve decided I don’t like editing videos all that much and there are a lot of good ones on YouTube already.  However, I have developed some arrow building and maintenance tips over time that I think are worth sharing.

Removing Old Fletching

For years and years I used an old, dull steak knife for this task.  Then I got hooked up with Norway Industries and gave their Zip Strip a try.  Eureka Smelly Bowhunter!  Many products available are named with marketing hype.  There is no hype in this one.  No kidding, my first attempt at using it shot the vane off the arrow and sent it about 3 feet to my right.  It also removes wraps without first dunking them in boiling hot water.  Highly recommended.

After installing inserts I like to square them with the axis of the arrow as one more aid to broadhead alignment.  That’s easily done with a homemade arrow squaring jig which can be found here, DIY – Arrow Squaring Rig (

I highly recommend the Norway Industries Zip Strip for removing vanes, feathers, wraps and lumps of old glue.

Clean Arrows, Clean Fletching

Whether fletching or installing inserts it is very important to start with a clean arrow.  For most cleaning I use denatured alcohol which also doubles for use in my alcohol lamp when working with hot melt.  If the situation calls for more aggressive action I’ll reach for acetone.  Use the solvent on a Q-tip to clean the inside of arrow shafts for insert installation.  Use a rag to prepare the nock end of the arrow shaft for fletching.  I also clean the bases of vanes and feathers.  There is one manufacturer who recommends against this practice, but I’ve never had fletching come off for being too clean.

Insert Removal

Have a broken carbon arrow that you’d like to salvage the insert from?  Find a length of brass or steel rod like that shown in the picture that will fit inside the arrow.  Insert it at the fletching end, then hold the arrow tip up with nock end down and whip the tip end towards the floor so that the rod smacks into the back of the insert.  Coordinating the whip’s terminal location over a rag or towel on the floor ensures a soft landing for the insert and rod.  This doesn’t work 100% of the time, but works reliably enough to put it in your “bag o’ tricks”.  Sometimes a little heat, such as that from a small torch, helps to break things free.

dv’s  Time Out Corner:  It should, but won’t, go without saying that safety glasses should be worn when employing this tip and the area around you should be free of people and other items that could be damaged by a flying insert and/or rod.


Closing the Gap on Fletching Contact

Sometimes when I’m fletching arrows there is a slight gap between the shaft and the base of the fletching, especially with feathers, even after adjusting the jig to its best advantage.  Immediately after glue is applied to the fletch and it is placed I’ll use a knife-blade or pointy scribe to push its base against the shaft for better long-term adhesion.

Glue Fore and Aft

I thought I’d throw in a little nautical language there.  Put a small drop of glue at the fore (forward) leading edge of the fletch and at the aft (trailing) edge of the fletch.  How many times have you had to pull your arrow through or push it back through a soft target?  These two little drops of extra glue are insurance against fletching failure. 

The trailing end of this vane came loose.  The original arrow builder did not add the extra drops of glue to the leading and trailing edges allowing the failure.  The photo shows the little drops of glue in place as part of the repair.

Screw That Broken Nock

Ever break a nock off flush with the back of the arrow?  Prying it out with a knife tip risks splitting the arrow.  Screw a number 6 or 8 screw into the back end of the broken nock then pull the screw and nock out with pliers.

Cut Your Own for Precision

The last time I had arrows cut at a “pro” shop the result was a jagged end that I wouldn’t trust for its negative result on broadhead alignment and flight.  For about the price of a dozen premium arrow shafts I picked up a Weston Gear 8000 RPM arrow saw and now take the time to cut them right.  I really can’t communicate how pleased I am with this purchase and highly recommend it to the serious archer and bowhunter.

Here is an example of a poorly cut aluminum arrow. 

The Weston Gear 8000 RPM arrow saw.

Squaring Inserts

After installing inserts I like to square them with the axis of the arrow as one more aid to broadhead alignment.  That’s easily done with a homemade arrow squaring jig which can be found here, DIY – Arrow Squaring Rig.

Get a Grip on Your Nock

Sometimes nocks are seated so securely in an arrow or nock adapter a person can’t pull them out with finger power alone while pliers and teeth distort and tear up the nocks almost ensuring poor arrow flight or nock failure in the future.  I discovered this trick by accident after developing the arrow squaring jig described above.  Grab your Irwin Quick-Grip clamp off the arrow spinner, clamp its padded jaws down on the nock and rotate it out.  This works well and results in no destroyed nocks.

Well, that’s it.  When I started this post I thought there’d be just 4-5 tips.  I was surprised at just how many there are in the end.  Hopefully, one or more of them will be helpful to you.

happy hunting, dv   

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Copyright © Jerry E Long, 2009-2011