Feathers and Old Words Made New

October 24, 2009

Feathers on arrows.

Feathers on arrows.

I learned a lot about feathers today.  Not just in general but as a component in arrows for archery.  Who knew that there was so much to the art of making an arrow?

An arrow kit.

An arrow kit.

I never even thought about the fact that the feathers on an arrow have to brush against the bow when let fly.  This would of course change the trajectory of the arrow so the archer needs to compensate for that or every arrow would go somewhere off in the wrong direction.

Of course the feathers have to be attached to the arrow shaft properly and this is called ‘Fletching’.  The feathers are fletched so that they help the arrow stay aloft along it’s path.  Did you ever know anyone with the last name of Fletcher?  Someone in their family way back made arrows!

Each fin of an arrow is called a ‘fletch’ and when one is fletching an arrow, they are attaching the feathers.  The word ‘fletch’ comes from an old French word: fleche (with an accent over the first ‘e’).    Fletching is the specifically the ancient art of aerodynamically stabilizing arrows with materials such as feathers.   Traditionally, fletches were attached using silk thread.  The whole point of putting fletches on an arrow to apply drag to the back end of the projectile so it won’t just tumble when in flight.  Like the tail fins on a paper airplane.  We all know how important those are.

Folding a paper airplane.

Folding a paper airplane.


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