Applying Mylar vane fletching for arrows (IE, SpinWings or KurlyVanes)
Carbon arrow shafts will tolerate feather fletching, but are not really appropriate for the size of most carbon shafts. Archers in general prefer a thinner plasticized vane for outdoor target shooting for several reasons:
PROS of Mylar vanes:
CONS of Mylar vanes:
(EACH THUMBNAIL PICTURE BELOW LINKS TO A LARGE IMAGE - YOU WILL NEED TO USE YOUR "BACK" BUTTON TO RETURN TO THIS PAGE AFTER VIEWING THE LARGER IMAGE)
HOW TO FLETCH A CARBON SHAFT WITH MYLAR VANES
You will need:
Brand-new singled edged razor blades (buy in 50's from Home Depot paint
department for best price per blade)
Oil-based adhesive remover - GOO GONE, a citrus oil-based solvent, works
well, smells a lot. Least negative impact to your arrows' composition - I like
it more and more as I use it. A little alcohol removes the residue of goo
You can also get some wraps. Wraps are sheets of plastic that are sized for your particular shaft, and have lines on them. You apply the wrap, and your three vane placement lines are automatically perfect. Provided you put the wrap on perfectly. Jason McKittrick makes and sells these at a reasonable price, and I hereby give him a plug. Write Jason if you want some, and let him know you read about him on the TSAA site please - maybe he will give me a wrap sometime down the line. The savvy archer will ask, "hey, won't the weight of the wrap make my arrow like totally stiffer?" to which I reply, no. not so that you would be able to tell unless you are in line for a gold medal at a grand prix or olympic event. The weight is very, very slight, and your shot-to-shot variability in your release technique has a far larger impact on whether the arrow's dynamic spine is weak or stiff. So use a wrap if you want to make your life simpler.
Oh yeah, you need some vanes. I have not found much significant difference between spin wings and Kurly vanes. BUT many advanced archers have a preference so perhaps there is a difference. I'd recommend you get one or the other, and try it. The Kurly vanes are available in more custom designs, and I've actually had special TEXAS vanes printed up that looked really nice. (The wallpaper design you see on this page is the logo of the TSAA, designed by archer Lindsey Carmichael, and made a great Kurly vane design, but for use only by Texans - secret ingredients made them misbehave if non-Texans (including GWB) tried them). The vanes will have a straight edge which will be the point of contact with the shaft. The vanes have a natural curl to them and the vane is applied such that the curl is "UP" away from the shaft, using a 1/8 inch wide length of double-stick tape. So the one long/straight side of the vane is stuck to the shaft and the unstuck end will curl up and away from the shaft. Then the leading tip of each vane is taped down using a wrap of stretchable 1/8" tape. The trailing edges are likewise secured with the wrap tape. Now, some will not wrap tape around the trailing ends of the vanes, and as long as they don't slap arrows into tight groups on the target they probably won't have problems. But if the tip of an incoming arrow, or the leading edge of the vanes on that incoming arrow, hit the trailing end of the vane of the arrow already in the target then said vane is much more likely to be shaved off or damaged. Others skip the tape wrap altogether, and just put a minute dot of fletchtite glue on the point ends of the vanes to minimize vanes peeling off the shaft.
One note - Spin wings come in a variety of colors, and the paper that comes
with the spin wings says each color has a certain
different stiffness from the other colors, so you cannot MIX colors without
introducing oddity in flight which most archers consider bad. (others like
it because then they have an excuse for their "special"
groups). So you must
rely on the NOCKS, which usually have a small indicator nub or dot, to indicate where the key fletch is, rather than having one
vane be different than the others. Some archers will use a marksalot
on the "key" vane (happy faces, name of the arrow, etc.)
There are also two types of spin wings, the regular and the
"elite". The elite have a different curve to them. I've
tried both and cannot tell you a significant difference. Again, try
one and then the other and see if you can tell a difference. Let me
know. Or better yet, don't.
Do not start the stroke at the nock end of the shaft to insure that you don't damage the end of the shaft (if there is no nock on the shaft). It is easy to accidentally shave a sliver of carbon off if you reach too far. (That is bad)
You do not need to worry about damaging the shaft as long as you keep the angle low and go lightly on the pressure. The old tape will accrue in a gloppy blob which can be picked up and discarded, although getting it off of your fingers will be somewhat akin to discarding a booger. Guys will know what I mean - women don't seem to do boogers, at least that is what my wife says.
If you pay attention to the feel, the razor blade will feel smooth on clean shaft and rough as it slides over adhesive - once the majority of residue is removed you will need to remove the rest using the Goo Gone or the stovetop polish.
2. I use the paper towel with an ample application of Goo Gone. You are not scrubbing it, you are lightly pressing between fingertips and feeling for nubs of adhesive on the shaft that need to come off. You can rotate the shaft or pull it back and forth, all the while feeling for adhesive lumps. Do STOP once the shaft feels smooth. You can put a drop of the stove top polish on a new paper towel and gently scrub the area where the vanes will be applied to further prepare the surface, but do it only a little and press GENTLY. If you use too much pressure you might abrade the shaft itself and that is unnecessarily harsh, dude.
3. Now use the alcohol on paper towel to rub and clean the shaft to remove the polish/goo residue. At each step you will find only a small amount of black on the paper towel - this signifies some of the shaft itself that has been removed. Or dirt from under your finger nails, depending on technique and personal hygiene. You will notice also that any arrow markings made by gel pens or sharpies (required in FITA events) will be removed during this cleaning.
After this has been done a few times you will find very little black on the paper. Once the alcohol has dried you are ready for the next step.
I find that it works best to do all of the shafts at each step before doing the next step.
4. If you are not using wraps then it is time to mark the shafts with THREE parallel lines lengthways on the shaft at 120 degree increments. You'd think that at the $$ each shaft costs, Easton would be kind enough to put three permanent lines on the shaft for you, but noooooooo. Anyway, the carbon shaft does not take marks well. I have tried a variety of markers and still find the soft graphite pencil to be best. Others will use a gel pen and then let them dry before the next step. Every time I go to use a gel pen I discover that it has either died or else it barfs excess ink over the arrow and the jig. Also I feel the pen's ink tends to impair adhesion and is messy due to rub-off and so I stay with the pencil. The three jigs mentioned will ALL do the job. The Bitzenberger is too large for easy travel but has the ability to be adjusted very nicely. The Spigarelli jig works, but mine will not slide onto the ACE shaft unless I first remove the nock or the point of the arrow - a nuisance. It does slide over the current style of break-off point supplied for X10s. The Beiter TriLiner is designed very nicely for this job and so I'll use it for the following pictures for ACE shafts.
The following uses the TriLiner which requires a nock be in place as does the
Bitzenberger. The Spigarelli does not require a nock, in fact I have to
remove the nock just to get it on the shaft. Again ALL three will provide
adequate marks on the shaft.
5. Insert the nock into the TriLiner and fold all three arms onto the shaft. Note that unless your arrow is a perfect diameter for the tool, that you cannot put all three arms against the shaft and have all three be parallel to the shaft surface. This is by design to allow use with varying shaft diameters and darn clever it is! My ACEs are of a diameter where only ONE arm at a time can be made parallel for marking purposes at a time. This is no problem since the nock properly inserted into the barrel of the TriLiner will prevent error.
ONLY ONE arm will be marked at a time, it doesn't matter which. For first time use the TriLiner must be set up with the little red clips in the picture. What determines where to put them? They will be your indicators for where the vane will be applied on the shaft, the front and back ends of the vane. I chose to place the clips by putting a finger across the opening where the nock goes and placing a red marker(see the thin red clips on the picture above) on an arm at least the thickness of my finger. This provides good clearance.
You want the vanes to clear your fingers when nocked on the bowstring and this provides a good general starting point. Conversely you want the vanes as far back as possible on the shaft to provide maximum leverage on the shaft in flight, without interfering with your fingers. There is some rumor that you can stagger the vanes to provide bigger clearance of the rest, but I cannot provide further advice on this. If nothing else it would be a good way to mess with other archer's minds. Just do one arrow really "off", and solemnly pronounce this is reserved for your final OR Gold Medal shot.....
You can hold the base of a vane up against the TriLiner arm, with the base end (which has a steeper angle than the front end) next to the first red clip and place a second red marker clip on the arm at the tip of the vane. You are going to use these two red clips as the start and stop points for drawing the pencil line on the shaft, so they need to be around the same distance as the length of the vanes you purchased. If you do not draw a line the full length of the vane then you will not be consistent in laying the vane down. All three arms of the TriLiner should have clips at the same points. If you use a magnifying glass you can just make out that the arms are actually graduated with small marks and numbers to help in this. If your eyes are young enough that you don't need the magnifying glass, well who asked you anyway, sonny?
6. The TriLiner design works by letting one arm at a time nestle down on the arrow, and drawing the line onto the shaft down the edge of the arm from one red clip to the other. If you press the arm down, it will center on the shaft and become parallel to the shaft even though the arms are farther apart than the diameter of the shaft. That's a clever design, but requires proper technique.
Mark the shaft once with each arm, and always keep the arrow oriented the same way for each arm so that the marks will be equidistant from each other.
While the TriLiner will let you adjust the key nock point attitude so that you can orient the shaft properly beforehand I have found that it is easier to adjust the nock after all the vanes are on. If your nocks are glued in then put an arrow already fletched in the jig and dial the indicator in appropriately.
I also put a small mark across the shaft to help locate the line you are drawing. The cross-mark stands out more clearly than the long marks so it helps in finding the long mark.
Once all of the arrows have been marked you are ready to apply the double-stick tape. The tape that comes with the spin wings needs to be cut in half to approximate the length of the vane. The Kurly Vane tape also needs to be trimmed to appropriate length. I'm not sure why they make us do this, but anyway, trim them. I'm not enamored of the tape that comes with the Kurly Vanes for anchoring purposes.
You need to eliminate the natural oils from your fingers for the next step, and repeat it occasionally throughout the fletching phase. These oils will diminish the adhesion so put some alcohol on a paper towel and wipe your hands with them repeatedly and often during the next steps.
Peel the backing off of one tape. This takes practice and a good fingernail or a razorblade to begin the split. I align the bottom edge of the tape with the cross mark, and set it down gingerly where the lengthways edge of the tape is flush with the long pencil mark. I press it down at the very base end (first point of contact) with a fingernail and then hold the free long end by it's edges so I don't mess up the sticky, and hold it taughtly as I push it down on the shaft, running a finger LIGHTLY from the base UP the tape until the end is reached. If the tape is crooked I remove it immediately. Since it hasn't been pressed down hard yet it usually comes up free and easy. If I look at it and it is "right", then I use a pencil to rub it down hard on the shaft. Leave the backing on till all the other tapes are on the shaft.
The graphite mark from the pencil MAY interfere with adhesion, so I try to put the tape to one side or the other just beside the mark. What is important is that you are uniform in your manner so that ALL three tapes end up exactly the same relation to the marks you drew on this shaft. Consistency is the important aspect.
The tape is made by 3M and is slightly heat-sensitive. It may be that if you heat the end of the arrow up using a blow dryer or a lighter (GENTLY and BRIEFLY) the tape will soften/activate and you will get better binding. Again if you don't see equal gaps between the tapes as you roll the shaft over then you need to stop and fix it so they are both parallel and equal.
Now you need to prepare the vanes. They have residues on them that the alcohol will remove so just before you stick them on the shaft you will wipe the edge with alcohol and allow it to dry. If you notice that it takes a long time for the beads of moisture to disappear from the vane then your paper towel's alcohol needs freshening. Alcohol evaporates, leaving behind water which doesn't dry very fast. You can speed up the process by wiping on dry/clean paper towel. Do NOT use kleenex, which often has additives that will leave residues.
Vanes refuse to lay flat by their very design, so you need to flatten them for the next step unless Like Steven Hawking you have a really warped view of things and can see a straight imaginary line on a curved object. I have supplied Beiter with the design parameters they need to create the perfect vane flattener/holder, but until they heed my advice and create the wondrous plastic butterfly vane holder I am forced to use two razor blades to hold the vane and hold it flat. I have large hands, and find the Bitzenberger's vane holder to be too large for easy use. Perhaps small hands will like it more, but using two razor blades works best for me. Addendum: Beiter has indeed come out with a butterfly holder for mylar vanes that is an improvement over "two razor blades". I'll take some photos and update this article "one of these days". Bravo to Beiter for what is one of the most useful "bang-for-the-buck" tools they've ever come out with (even if they did not give me credit for the basic design idea :)
First remove the protective cover on one tape on the shaft. After you have done this a few times, you can remove all three on a shaft at one time without accidentally sticking yourself to one.
For the next step, single-edged razor blades work best. Put the vane between the two CLEAN blades, with the straight edge of the vane parallel to and even with the sharp edges of the two blades. Create a sandwich with the vane in the middle and the straight edge of the vane nearest to the sharp edges of the blades. Move the bottom blade back slightly, revealing 1/8 of an inch or so of the vane. This is the part of the vane to be put onto the tape/shaft. Stroke this exposed area of the vane on a paper towel that has some fresh alcohol on it to remove any oils or residue.
I am right handed, so I hold the sandwich in my right hand with the vane's straight edge to the left. I hold the shaft with the nock towards me and the point away. I rest the arrow on the table so it will be steady, and then rest my hand on the table as well.
Carefully align the sandwich edge with the tape, and set the near end down on the tape.
You want the edge to COVER the tape completely, just even with the edge of the tape leaving none exposed. You want to gently lay the edge of the sandwich down along the tape, keeping the edge parallel to the mark. By making the vane FLAT this step becomes much easier to perform. Just for fun, try it without the razor blades.
Once the vane has touched down completely slide the blades to the right leaving the vane on the shaft. By the way, if you cut the vane in two with the razor blade sandwich then you did it wrong. Blood on the shaft or vane is yet another indicator of poor technique.
Inspect the vane and if it is not right then peel it off immediately using the sandwich technique (it will probably come off without damage). If it is positioned ok, then press it down/rub it down with a pencil shaft or thumbnail to impress (burnish) it fully on the adhesive. After this you will damage it if you try to get it off the shaft.
Move on to the next tape and vane. Each vane needs to be set so that it starts consistently the same distance from the nock allowing sufficient clearance for the string fingers. It's important that each arrow's vanes be the same on that arrow. Be sure you impress the vane to the adhesive thoroughly using a fingernail to burnish the vane's contact point. You can use your thumb to lay the vanes down on the shaft by rotating the shaft as you press them down. The unstuck part of the vanes will spring up when you release them. There should be NO exposed adhesive tape beside the edge of the vane. If there is then you will have two problems - the vane has less adhesion than the other vanes and may fail sooner, and more importantly, the other arrows' vanes will stick to it in the quiver. In which case you'll go to pull one arrow from the quiver and the other will go flipping into the dust. "cool" points will be deducted by other archers witnessing this faux pas. If this happens be sure to loudly curse the vane tape vainly in an attempt to regain cool prior to shooting. If other archers nod knowingly then cool is intact. If they don't, then only an ensuing X with the miscreant arrow will return coolth to proper levels.
Once the vanes are done on one arrow then you need to wrap the tips of the vanes so that they won't peel off as easily. This is done by using a stretchable black tape that comes with the spin wings. You can also purchase PIN STRIPING tape at auto parts stores if you want different colors. Apparently the Kurly Vane folks expect you to buy this tape separately. hmm. NOT!
Find which of the 3 vanes' tip is LEAST closest to the arrow point and start there. Wrap from the adhesive base to the loose end of the vane and go around the shaft covering all three vane tips with the tape. Looking down the shaft from the nock end for a right-hander, the wrap goes CLOCKWISE. The tip should be covered by the width of the tape, and subsequent wraps (around three revolutions total) move out a half-width of the tape so there is overlap on the tape. On the last revolution or so, start exerting more tension on the tape, pulling the tape tighter and you will see it start to stretch. There is a trick to learn about stretching the tape a little without too much. You will recognize "too much" because the tape breaks. oops. After the last (third or so) revolution you need to pinch the tape near the shaft and pull sharply to break the tape off. Wimps will cut it with the razor blade instead. OK.... Rub the tape with the side of the pencil to impress the adhesive thoroughly. If you do not burnish this tape down with a fingernail or pencil it will also come away some. Your call. There are those that maintain the direction of the wrap should be determined by whether you are north or south of the equator. whatever.
Wrap the same way with the trailing tips of the vanes (closest to the nock). I usually flip the arrow end-for-end to wrap the nock end of the vanes, again starting with the vane whose end is furthest from the nock.
Insure the nock is arranged properly for arrow rest clearance. Set aside and do the next shaft.
The last step is best accomplished when the women of the household are not around. At least, I have found that it is best to avoid marital discord whenever possible so this I do carefully. Find the container of flour in the kitchen, remove the lid, listen for wife/daughter to make sure they are not nearby. When the coast is clear, stick the nock end of the arrow into the flour and rotate the shaft first one way and then the other, like a washing machine agitator. Any exposed adhesive will be coated with flour, reducing the propensity for the arrows to stick to each other in the quiver. The flour that sticks to the vanes will remove itself in just a shot or two, no worries there. Do NOT use Bisquit Mix (aka Bisquick) because it contains a lot of trans fats which are bad for you, and will make the arrows greasy.
That is ONE way to do Mylar fletching. Not the only way, not the best way, but it works for me. I'd appreciate any suggestions or enhancements. On second thought, keep your smartalecky remarks to yourself. Thanks to Lindsey for modeling for all the pictures.
A very good comment/suggestion came from Don Solomon of Georgia, VT : Use the Bitzenburger jig with a METAL RULER instead of the straight clamp!! The ruler is held in place with the magnet and has graduations (of course) for marking. But I don't mark, I apply the tape along side the ruler as a guide with the help from my stiletto switchblade (the sharp point is perfect for pressing the tape down). Just rotate for the next tape application. I do mark where to apply the wings. Next, I use the straight clamp to hold the wing when applying.
ADDENDUM: Lately I have been using the Beiter WingHolder with great success. There is a fixed space between the blue and yellow layers in the picture, and you can see the yellow dots describe the outline of the vane. You insert the vane between the two colors leaving the straight edge exposed, just like I describe with the two razorblades earlier in this document.
Once the vane is inserted, you can then apply the adhesive to the edge of the vane instead of to the shaft. This is a change and I like it! The blue side of the holder also has two pegs that help to align the vane parallel to the shaft. If you are going to use mylar vanes then I recommend trying these to see if you like them. Beiter has provided this set of instructions as an acrobat file.
Another enhancement I have taken to using is to wrap the entire sent of vanes with some saran wrap. The idea is to apply pressure to the adhesives so that they "set" as good as possible. You wind the saran wrap in a manner that causes the vanes to lay down tightly against the shaft, snugly stretching the saran wrap plastic. This will cause the vanes to look funny once you unwrap them but they quickly regain their original warp and fly correctly. Which direction do you wrap? Holding the arrow tip away from you, nock closes to you, for a right-hand archer/vane, the saranwrap starts at the body of the shaft and goes CLOCKWISE, at least three or five revolutions. Leave overnight, and when you unwrap them the vanes are totally stuck to the adhesive. This is also a good way to transport them in a bowcase - the vanes do not stick to each other and the vanes remain uniform.
Further Update, 9/2007: I have tried Jason McKittrick's spin wraps, and found them to be EXCELLENT. They are a lightweight clear wrap that you apply to the shaft, that includes printed lines that are specifically designed for X10s. Coupled with the Beiter WingHolders and you have the best solution for fletching X10 arrow shafts quickly, accurately, and CONSISTENTLY. Check this link for further information on this product - it is $10 well spent..