Building Your Own Arrows
Nock installation:

It's well worth the few extra dollars required for rotating nocks such as Easton's Super Nock, Saunders' Kwik Nock, Gold Tip's Lock-Nock and Bohning's Signature Nock. These systems will make tuning a lot easier, and they hold up to harder shooting than will glue-on nocks. If you'll be using either Easton or Bohning nocks you can buy your raw shafts with Easton Uni-Bushings pre-installed or you can buy the bushings separately and install them yourself. (This requires that you cut off the nock taper on each arrow - a step for which you save no money over buying the shafts with the bushings installed.) The Saunders nock requires a bushing too, but it is specific to the Kwik-Nock and is purely an after-market product. Gold Tip nocks install into the shaft itself, and don't require a bushing but do require you to cut off the arrow's existing nock taper.

Assuming you aren't going to paint (crest) your arrows, nock installation is the first step in the arrow building process. Use hot melt glue or epoxy when installing bushings into aluminum. When installing them in (or over) carbon shafts, use a rubber-based epoxy such as that available from Beman or Arizona Archery Enterprises (AAE).

Regular glue-on nocks should be pressed firmly into place (without glue) until after the fletching has been attached. When the arrow is finished you can rotate the nocks to the proper orientation so the fletching clears your rest and then glue them in place. Bohning Fletch-Tite works fine for this.

Applying the fletching:

You need a fletching jig, but it doesn't have to be fancy. I've had good luck with the $20 plastic Martin jig I bought more than 10 years ago. Other good ones are made by Bohning, Bitzenburger and Grayling. You have three clamp options: left helical, right helical and straight (no helical). For hunting and 3-D shooting, right helical is the most popular choice. If you'll be using feathers, make sure to order feathers from the same wing as the clamp (right helical takes right wing). Vanes are manufactured straight and can be used with any clamp, so you don't have to specify left or right when ordering. The best fletching adhesive I've used for vanes is Fast-Set Gel made by AAE. This is a super-glue product that sets up in only 10 seconds allowing you to use a single-clamp jig and still fletch a dozen arrows in mere minutes. Fast-Set Gel will work on all shaft styles except film-dipped carbon arrows, which require a traditional cement such as Bohning's Fletch-Tite. Of course, Fletch-Tite will also work on aluminum arrows but takes about 10 minutes per fletching to set-up before you can remove the clamp. Fletch-Tite is still the best choice for feather fletching, however.

Place your fletching in the clamp so that its back edge will be about 3/4 inch ahead of the nock taper or nock bushing on your arrow. Adjust the back of the magnet on your jig (the magnet holds the clamp in place while the glue dries) inward or outward until the tail of the fletching sits squarely on top of the arrow. Next, adjust the forward end of the magnet to achieve the desired amount of helical. Easton's technical representatives recommend four to five degrees of helical. I use a bit more myself - probably closer to seven degrees - but this is only on large diameter aluminum arrows. On smaller diameter carbon arrows I stay closer to Easton's standard.

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When using a straight clamp, (as opposed to a helical clamp) you don't have as much leeway and must either install your fletching perfectly straight or with a very slight off-set.

Why choose feathers:

Feather fletching offers greater forgiveness of slight contact with the arrow rest. Even though plastic fletching has been improved to make it less rigid, it is still stiffer than feathers. One of the most important steps in tuning a bow is to eliminate contact between the rest and arrow fletching. Contact will flip the tail of the arrow upward and usually outward from the bow, causing arrow flight problems that can translate into trouble when shooting fixed-blade broadheads. If you have been shooting plastic vanes and having trouble getting rid of rest contact, feather fletching may yield nearly perfect flight. This is especially relevant if you hunt under very cold conditions. Vanes tend to get harder as they get colder, meaning that they will be even less forgiving of slight contact. If you sight-in vane-equipped broadhead arrows under warm conditions, you may notice a difference in where they hit when it gets cold. This, of course, is the result of contact. Point of impact won’t change because of temperature if you use feathers, however. But again, this is only if you have some fletching contact in the first place.

Feather fletching is a must for traditional archers resting their arrow on the shelf of a recurve or longbow. Even with a correctly selected arrow with proper paradox - causing the arrow to curve around the sight window on release - a certain amount of fletching contact with the shelf or sight window often occurs. Feather fletching will minimize its effects.

Sometimes finger shooters will encounter fletching contact when using shoot-around rests like springs or flippers. When using these rests the bottom fletching will often hit the support finger as it passes. Again, feathers offer better arrow flight under these conditions.

Feathers are lighter than plastic fletching of the same length and produce arrow flight that is approximately five feet per second faster right at the bow. Certainly not a lot, but if you are speed conscious, it is a factor to consider.

Why choose vanes:

Plastic vanes perform better than feathers under wet conditions. Utilizing the rotating nock systems now available and choosing a rest that maximizes clearance, you can fine-tune each arrow so that you have absolutely no fletching contact.

Plastic fletching is also more durable than feathers, meaning you will not have to replace them as often. Plastic is also quicker to apply than feathers, especially when utilizing today’s great Fast Set super-glue adhesives.

In the past several years New Archery Products has taken the fletching market by storm with their QuikSpin vanes.  Featuring a small "kicker" and patented micro-grooves, the QuikSpin vanes rotate your arrow faster than traditional vanes and thus provide for more stable arrow flight.  QuikSpin vanes are available in 3 sizes and 7 colors.  For  more information on these great products visit http://www.newarchery.com .


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