Once you have chosen the wooden shafts, you need to first prepare them for fletching then fletch them. The process is not simple or quick, but it’s very gratifying to be able to shoot arrows you’ve built to your own specifications.
You begin by cutting the shafts to the proper length. You can determine the arrow length by drawing any arrow. When you are comfortable at full draw, have someone place a mark on the shaft about one inch beyond the back of the bow. Measure the arrow to this mark and cut all arrows to that length. You can use a common miter saw. Try to do this without splitting the ends. Some people recommend rolling the shaft so the entire circumference is cut before you slice through the middle.
Now the ends of the shafts need to be shaped to receive the nocks and points. You can do this with a taper tool,which is nothing more than a pencil sharpener angled to match the inside of the nocks and points. Use light sandpaper to smooth the tapered ends and the lengths of the shafts, then wipe clean with a dry cloth. Twist the nocks onto the shafts but do not glue them yet.
Staining and painting wooden shafts is a long-standing tradition. You can rub wood stain onto the shaft with a cloth or apply paint by aerosol spray or by dipping the shafts into a paint tube. Be sure to allow plenty of time for drying before beginning the cresting process.
Cresting, or painting rings and bands on the fletched ends of the shafts, has been done for centuries so that one’s arrows are marked uniquely and thus are distinguishable from arrows of other archers.
Point and Nock Installation
Now the nocks and the points are glued in place. Apply hot-melt glue on the tapered end of the shaft and then push the point on in the proper position. Rotate the nock so that the tighter grain of the wood shaft is on the side that will be next to the bow. Use fletching cement to affix the nock.
Wooden arrows are usually fletched with feathers rather than plastic vanes. You will need a fletching jig to hold the arrow while you glue the fletch onto the shaft. For wooden arrows I recommend using a single-fletch jig and three feathers that are four or five inches long. The longer feathers will help the arrow stabilize more quickly in flight.
Place one feather in the jig’s holding clamp and set it on the jig next to the arrow shaft. Adjust the angle of the clamp so that the entire base of the feather is touching the shaft. Do not place the feather in line with the shaft; having feathers at a slight angle will help stabilize the flight of the arrow. Most feathers available are form the left wing, so you should angle the clamp tow or three degrees to the left as it runs down the shaft.
Run a bead of fletching cement along the base of the feather. Next, place the clamp on the magnet of the jig so that the base of the feather is close to but not touching the arrow shaft. After you position the feather i the desired location near the shaft, slide the clamp to the shaft until th base of the feather is against it. Be sure the base is touching at all points along the shaft so that no gaps are present.
Allow the glue for each feather to dry for about fifteen minutes.
Once the three feathers have been installed on a shaft, your last step is to place a spot of fletching cement at the ends of each one. This helps prevent the fletching from coming loose when the arrow passes through a target. Allow completed arrows to set for a day before you shoot them.