An Archer is only as good as his arrows, and making a good arrow is easier said than done. An important part of arrows is the fletching; it plays a key role in making the arrow fly straight. Installing the fletching can be tricky, which is why fletching jigs were invented. A fletching jig holds the feathers or vanes in the correct position as you attach them to the arrow shaft.
There are lots of commercial fletching jigs available, but they can be fairly pricey. They certainly don't cost $1 like my jig did!
I wanted this jig to be easy to print and easy to use, so I decided to build the folding arm variety of fletching jig. It's quite simple; the nock clips into the base and the arms fold up and hold the fletching in the correct position. For convenience, the arm that positions the cock feather is printed in a different colour. It took a few iterations to settle on a design I liked, but I'm fairly happy with the current design.
Here's the final jig next to some of the previous arm designs. As you can see it sometimes takes a few attempts to get things perfect. That's the beauty of rapid prototyping.
The first version was designed to be printed vertically, which lessened the quality of the print (tall skinny objects Wobble when printed). Also, it was hard to keep everything held down while all three vanes were being glued on.
The second version is designed to be printed laying flat, which improves print quality. This time, the arms are all different lengths so that an elastic band can be used to hold one arm in place without getting in the way of the other arms. The arms are also thicker, with reliefs so that the vane can be held into the jig as you tilt the arm into place. These improvements make the jig much more effective.
The jig has a 3 degree offset, but the design is easily modified for straight fletching, helical fletching, or other degrees of offset. This jig is designed specifically for 5/16" shafts, but given that the jig only costs $1 you could have a separate jig for every size of shaft at a fraction of the cost of any commercial jig. In addition, having it sized exactly for one shaft diameter makes it more accurate.
As I mentioned earlier the jig is very easy to use and the results are excellent, as can be seen in the pictures below.
If you have a 3D printer and would like to build your own jig, you can download the files below. The only other parts you'll need are three 12mm M3 bolts.
If you'd like the jig resized for a specific shaft size, let me know.