How To Splice Feathers - The quick and easy way
Tutorial by RMSG
Pictures and Writing by Tommy Clum
Feather Splicing by Tommy Clum

Splicing your own feathers is an enjoyable way to spend time while also adding a personal touch to your arrows. When I wanted to learn how to splice feathers I scoured the internet looking for various techniques. I never found one that I thought was easy or quick (that still suited my perfectionist expectations), so after a little experimentation, and borrowing bits and pieces of other methods I had seen, I came up with the method I will show here.

Being a perfectionist, I was not happy with several of the methods that I first experimented with. The feathers didn't line up, the connection was not clean, and it didn't "look" as good as I wanted.

To my knowledge, and in my opinion, this is the cleanest and best looking method of splicing feathers.

Another side note, Trueflight feathers are by far and away the easiest feathers to splice with. They have very consistent bases and stiff rigid quills. Gateway feathers don't have the same consistency, otherwise they are okay. And the hardest feather I have ever spliced, bar none, is a real wild turkey feather. Partly because I split and grind them myself and I am not as consistent, partley because they are sometimes dirty, but a lot of times it is because they quills do not attach to the membrane as well. You'll have fun trying the different types of feathers.

A video of the process:

 

 

Below are several examples of finished feathers on arrows. Several things that I look for when examining splices are: How well do the quills connect, does one color shoot off the base at a different angle? Is there a gap anywhere along the connection line? Do the bases fit together seamlessly? Do all of the feathers line up with each other? Etc...

My Splicing Terms

Lets make sure we're on the same page with the terms that I am using. We'll use the picture below as an example. I am not sure if these are the scientifically correct terms. My feather splicing pals all use or understand these terms, so I'm sticking with them!

  • Individual quills: The quills are the individual strands of feather that can be separated. Each quill is attached to the others by minute barbs.
  • Base: The base of the feather is the remaining piece of the main shaft, which has been split and ground to form a rigid, smooth, and consistent surface to glue on to your arrow. The quills are connected to a membrane, which is connected to the base.
  • Membrane: The membrane is a small layer that holds the quills on to the base. We can remove this membrane from the base, as you will see.
  • Connection line: I will refer to the connection line as the place where two separate feathers fit together. It's role in the overall look of our finished feathers is perhaps the most important. Insuring that the quills stick together at the connection line can make or break our splice.

 

STEP 1: Peeling back the membrane

Lets get started! There are a couple of things to think about... First of all, after much experimentation, I have learned that it is far easier to start with a full length feather. It is also easier to leave yourself a lot of room. Trying to splice the exact length you would like to finish with is doable, but it is a little bit of a pain and adds time to the whole process.

In this instance I am going to splice a white cap on to the back of a real turkey feather.

 

Starting somewhere near the top (like I said above, I find it easier to leave myself a lot of room to play with so I am not going for exact measurements yet) separate the quills where you want to start peeling back the membrane.

I use the three fingers on my left hand to support the base of the feather. By doing so I avoid ripping the base as I tear away the membrane. Without support the base folds and creases, breaking at the crease every time.

 

In this instance you can see that I am using a right wing feather. With a right wing feather, pull the quills at a slight angle to the left (as the picture is shown). Pulling at a slight angle to the left helps the membrane detach from the base.

Once you have detached the membrane and pulled it back a half inch or so you can pull the remainder of the membrane straight back to your desired length.

STEP 2: Cutting the membrane off of the base

Once you have peeled the membrane back to your desired length it is time to cut it from the base. If you leave even 1/16th inch of detached membrane on the base it will be difficult to match your splices together and insure that the quills lock together. So it is important to have a smooth, clean cut.

Here I have reached the my desired length, you can see where the membrane is lifted off of the base.

 

I insert a brand new and very sharp razor blade several quills back from where I have stopped.

 

Here, I lift the membrane up, applying ZERO pressure on the razor blade. What I am trying to do, is to peel the membrane up to the razor blade. Once the membrane hits the razor blade, the blade will cut through the membrane, leaving a smooth cut without any overhanging membrane still attached to the base.

 

Once the membrane has been cut away, you can see the smooth base that is left behind.

 

Another view of the base with the membrane taken off.

 

I'm now left with a base ready for my white splice, and a natural turkey membrane that I will use in the future.

STEP 3: Removing the white membrane

Repeat STEP 2 with the other color.

Start to peel back the membrane.

 

Continue peeling to the desire length.

 

Use the razor blade to cut the membrane from the base.

 

The finished product.

Now I have all my white membranes ready to glue on to my turkey feather bases.

STEP 4: Trimming the membrane, preparing to glue

 

The back end is always a little "frilly". I trim the back off so that I have a clean edge to glue.

 

Trim the front end as well. It is important that I do not have any membrane sticking in front of the first quill. If I do, the quills will not be close enough to properly lock together.

STEP 5: Check alignment before gluing

 

Always check to make sure you have a clean fit before gluing. Once we apply the glue it will be near impossible to make corrections.

 

You can see the the quills lock together nicely, from the base all the way up to the tips.

 

Looking down the feather I can see that the angle of the quills is the same. The angle will be different at different parts of the feather. Using a splice from the front of one feather, and trying to apply it to the back of another will not work. The quills will be at such a different angle that they will not lock together strong enough and will separate. It will not look nice if your quills are not locked together.

 

Below, you can see a good example of a splice coming off at a bad angle. You will never want to glue this one in place, it will never interlock correctly. In this example, the red splice is from the back of one feather, and I am trying to fit it on the front end of the white feather. The quills are coming off the base at too much of a different angle...

STEP 6: Gluing in the membrane

 

Most any glue that you use to adhere your feathers to your shafts will work for gluing the membrane onto the base. I prefer to use a fast drying glue, such as the Bohning Quantum XT, or an equivalent (like pictured). The fast drying glue is easier for me to work with. However, I have used the Bohning Fletch-Tite many times with satisfactory results.

I like to apply glue to the base. I have experimented applying glue to either the membrane or the base first. They both work. The only reason I like applying glue to the base is because I seem to glue my fingers together less, ha! You can experiment and find what you like best.

 

The final product, ready to be cut. You can see that the back end has some frills and is not stuck down completely. Like I said above, I leave myself a lot of extra room. The back end will be trimmed off anyway, depending on how long I want my white cap to be. In this instance, I was not concerned with the back not being glued down perfectly because I'm trimming off a 1/4inch or so anyway.

STEP 7: Cutting the feather

Depending on how long you wish to make your feather, and how long you would like the splice to be, I like to cut my feather at this stage. If I am trying to line up my splice with a cresting line I have found it much easier to do at this point, rather than at the beginning.

 

Below, I have measure how long I want my white "cap", and then measure the overall length of the feather.

 

Personally, I prefer to glue on the feathers at the stage in the picture above, and then use a burner to shape my feathers. However, using a chopper (like I did below) produces fine results as well.

The main thing that you have to be sure of, whether chopping or burning, is that the quills have locked together everywhere. If there is a gap somewhere in the quills then there will be an uneven place in the feather.

You're done. Next step is to apply to arrow, and shoot!

 

Tips and Tricks

Here is a simple thing that I have found to make life easier when splicing. If I am using more than one color, I like to fit them together to make sure everything locks properly before I glue anything.

In the picture below, you can see that the splice membranes are not glued to the base. I have set them in first, making sure that everything lines up well and that the quills all lock together properly. After I have seen that all is good I will glue them.

 

Often times when feathers are dyed the base is dyed as well. As you can see in the picture below, even though I have a white feather spliced in, the base which I glued it on to is still red.

 

Using my razor blade, I hold it perpendicular to the feather and gently scrape away the top layer of the base at the connection line. As you can see in the following pictures, this does a nice job of making the feather look a little cleaner.

 

The finished product, all cleaned up, compared to where we started.

 

That's all I got. There may be quicker ways of splicing feathers, but I have yet to see anything that looks as clean, or fits as nicely, as this method. You don't need any special dremel tools or sand paper. Just glue and a razor blade (and a burner or a chopper). Have fun, and please send me some pictures of your feather splicings. I always enjoy to see other's work.

This website cannot be copied or reproduced without the express written permission of Rocky Mountain Specialty Gear.
Special thanks to Dale R Petefish for allowing us to use his photography
Website designed and built by Tommy Clum