Building Your Own Arrows Part 2

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Amount of helical:

Finger shooters and release shooters have different fletching clearance needs. An arrow released with fingers will curve around the rest (paradox) because of how the string moves forward. Properly timed (through shaft stiffness) the paradox will keep the fletching away from the rest. The exact orientation and degree of helical applied to the fletching is less critical for the finger shooter than for the release shooter, whose arrow shaft remains very close to the rest as it moves forward and leaves the bow. For this reason a finger shooter can (and should) use a more aggressive helical than a release shooter. Under hunting conditions you are always better off with more stability than you think you need rather than taking a chance with too little. You get maximum stability by using large fletching set to an aggressive helical. This set-up will create maximum drag and spin to bring a poorly released hunting arrow under control faster. For this reason, five-inch fletching with the maximum amount of helical that can be fed through your arrow rest is always a good place to start when setting up hunting arrows.

Most commercially fletched helical arrows have between two and five degrees of offset in the helical. Easton’s technical reps recommend four degrees. This designation refers to the angle the base of the fletching makes with the shaft’s centerline. Large diameter SuperLite or UltraLite aluminum shafts will permit you to increase the degree of helical and still get acceptable clearance (release shooters can increase the separation between rest support arms to permit a more aggressive helical to pass). When shooting 2413’s, 2512’s, or 2514’s I will often go to a helical offset angle that is closer to seven degrees.

Smaller diameter aluminum shafts, on the other hand, will not tolerate as much offset before rest contact becomes a problem. Very small shafts such as those made of carbon, will accept only a small amount of offset. Different rest styles will also dictate the amount of helical that can be applied, as some permit less clearance than others.

Some fletching clamps produce more helical offset than others. For example, the Bitzenburger left helical clamp has a more aggressive wrap forcing you to use a greater offset to get a good bond with the arrow shaft. The right helical is less aggressive permitting a smaller degree of helical offset. I am assuming that other companies also offer this feature. If you can’t get a helical clamp to produce the necessary small amount of offset, you may have to go with a straight clamp which will produce better adhesion between the fletching and the shaft with small degrees of offset.

Fletching length:

Long fletching requires more space between the rest arms for proper clearance than shorter fletching simply because the longer fletching wraps around the shaft more. Four-inch helical fletching is recommended with small diameter aluminum and all styles of carbon arrows. This is a compromise between rest clearance for easy tuning and stability for quick recovery and accuracy. If you opt for four-inch fletching to improve arrow flight and couple this with a fast arrow (over about 260 fps) you may have to switch to mechanical broadheads to achieve acceptable accuracy.

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Specialized fletching styles:

A shaft with four fletchings will be a bit more stable in flight than a three-fletched version. This again is due to the increased drag of the added fletching. The fletchings are generally applied in a pattern called 105×75. This means that the spacing between fletchings alternates between 105 and 75 degrees. Since the maximum radial distance between fletchings is only 105 degrees (less than the 120 degrees of a three-fletched arrow) four-fletched arrows make rest clearance even harder to attain. For this reason I recommend them only for finger shooters. Index the nock so that the wider (105 degree) gap is facing the side plate.

Some bowhunters who shoot at squirrels and birds use what are called flu-flu arrows. These have huge fletchings made from weathers set at a very aggressive helical offset. The goal of this fletching orientation is to keep the arrow from traveling far should it miss it quarry. Of course, this makes retrieving the shafts not only possible, but fairly easy.

Feather Waterproofing:

New waterproofing powders promise much better performance for feather fletching than the silicone-based foam carpet sealer I used 10 years ago. I’ve seen some dramatic demonstrations of the effectiveness of these new powders. Simply dump some powder into a plastic sandwich bag, insert the fletched end of your arrow and give it a vigorous shaking. You’re set for tough hunting conditions. One good source of waterproofing powder is Gateway Feathers (608) 526-4490

Cutting arrows to length:

Draw an arrow and have someone mark it about a half to 3/4 inch in front of the rest. Cutting arrows is easy with the right equipment, but with the wrong equipment it can be a real headache. For limited quantities of aluminum arrows you can get by with a small rotating pipe cutter. I’ve done it a few times, but I’ve also made some pretty rough cuts, and basically ruined some arrows, in the process. You’re far better off pooling your money with a couple of buddies and getting an electric cut-off tool. You can also take your arrows to a pro shop (that’s equipped with a cut-off tool) to have them sized – usually for a price.

Installing inserts and outserts:

Inserts and outserts (outserts are used with some types of carbon arrows) shouldn’t be taken for granted. Consistent accuracy with broadheads can be difficult to achieve when these components fit loosely. Inserts and outserts should install without any free-play. Usually you don’t have too many options with outserts – you get what the arrow maker offer


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