Author Topic: Medieval Fletching  (Read 59602 times)

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Adam Keiper

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Medieval Fletching
« on: July 05, 2009, 10:59:01 pm »
I've found information on the net about the size and shape of medieval fletchings, but nothing as to whether they were applied straight or with a helical twist.  Nor have I seen reference as to what was glue may have been used to attach the feathers, nor what finish was used to seal the shafts or fletch wrappings.   Can anyone provide info?

Offline adb

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #1 on: July 06, 2009, 12:09:00 pm »
Check out the EWBS website, they have some info on arrow standards.

Offline bow-toxo

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2009, 05:33:33 pm »
I've found information on the net about the size and shape of medieval fletchings, but nothing as to whether they were applied straight or with a helical twist.  Nor have I seen reference as to what was glue may have been used to attach the feathers, nor what finish was used to seal the shafts or fletch wrappings.   Can anyone provide info?

    As noted in ‘The Art of Archery’ [you can look it up on ‘Archery Library’], arrows in MR time were either glued or waxed. Those found on the MR were waxed with a mixture of wax, resin and viridian. The mixture is heated until fluid and applied to the shaftment. When cool the feathers are tied in position with spiraly wrapped thread, and then carefully heated to again melt the mixture and fuse everything together. A similar earlier process used birch tar made from birch bark.. This was used in the Nydam arrows as well as in the Viking period. There is an excellent and thorough article on this in the current June/July issue of ‘Primitive Archer’, Glue was probably animal glue, used until fairly recently, or isinglass and Bronze Age arrows are reported to have used bluebell glue. Viking and Alemannic fletching and I think Mary Rose too, were helical.

                                                                                                                                                      Cheers,
                                                                                                                                                         Erik

Offline adb

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2009, 07:13:24 pm »
Mary Rose fletchings were helical??  ??? Not the ones I saw. They looked like they were fletched straight, or maybe offset a very small amount. Why would you want a battleshaft to be helically fletched? You'd probably lose 50 yards in cast with helical fletching.

Offline alanesq

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2009, 03:14:27 am »

There is no reason to helically fletch them - the arrow will spin because of the natural shape of the feathers

I know this to be true from my high speed filming - http://homepage.ntlworld.com/alan.blackham/ewbs/hscam/shooting/shot1.avi

Yewboy

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2009, 05:54:57 am »
I've found information on the net about the size and shape of medieval fletchings, but nothing as to whether they were applied straight or with a helical twist.  Nor have I seen reference as to what was glue may have been used to attach the feathers, nor what finish was used to seal the shafts or fletch wrappings.   Can anyone provide info?

    As noted in ‘The Art of Archery’ [you can look it up on ‘Archery Library’], arrows in MR time were either glued or waxed. Those found on the MR were waxed with a mixture of wax, resin and viridian. The mixture is heated until fluid and applied to the shaftment. When cool the feathers are tied in position with spiraly wrapped thread, and then carefully heated to again melt the mixture and fuse everything together. A similar earlier process used birch tar made from birch bark.. This was used in the Nydam arrows as well as in the Viking period. There is an excellent and thorough article on this in the current June/July issue of ‘Primitive Archer’, Glue was probably animal glue, used until fairly recently, or isinglass and Bronze Age arrows are reported to have used bluebell glue. Viking and Alemannic fletching and I think Mary Rose too, were helical.

                                                                                                                                                      Cheers,
                                                                                                                                                         Erik

As far as I know the glue used was a Verdigris mixture, this is an animal based glue (Rabbit Glue) mixed with copper for waterproofing, also this glue dries very quickly, the feather was then stuck on straight and not helical, the silk whipping was then put in place and as you can see by the MR arrow below the whipping thread has all but dissapeared so the glue could not have been heated and sealed the thread otherwise it would still be there and you can plainly see that the thread has gone leaving an imprint where it once was. Also to heat the glue to a temperature that it would melt would cause the feather to burn.


Offline bow-toxo

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2009, 07:38:25 pm »

As far as I know the glue used was a Verdigris mixture, this is an animal based glue (Rabbit Glue) mixed with copper for waterproofing, also this glue dries very quickly, the feather was then stuck on straight and not helical, the silk whipping was then put in place and as you can see by the MR arrow below the whipping thread has all but dissapeared so the glue could not have been heated and sealed the thread otherwise it would still be there and you can plainly see that the thread has gone leaving an imprint where it once was. Also to heat the glue to a temperature that it would melt would cause the feather to burn.



 Hugh Soar writes that the mixture was bees wax, pitch and verdegris, no glue per se.Verdegris is acetate of copper and gives the green colour. If you have better information, I would like to see it.The red silk [some is reported to have been preserved] binding would have been wound onto the feathers over the cooled mixture. You can see the fletching placement and the imprint of the thread left in the reheated fused mixture. Yes, you can heat the wax without burning the feathers. It is clear from your comments that you have not read the excellent article on this topic in 'Primitive Archer' magazine. Try it. You can learn something.
 

Offline adb

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2009, 08:03:31 pm »
I think we can all learn (and teach) things along the way, if we're willing, and be gracious about how that happens. Learning is not a contest to reveal who thinks they know more.

As far as glue goes, there are many types, and I think pitch qualifies. Plain old water can be glue. I'm not sure anyone knows definitively what the purpose of the verdegris actually was. Also, if anyone was interested, they could go to the Mary Rose museum and see these things for themself firsthand, and not have to guess.

« Last Edit: July 07, 2009, 08:16:38 pm by adb »

Yewboy

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #8 on: July 08, 2009, 05:40:59 am »

As far as I know the glue used was a Verdigris mixture, this is an animal based glue (Rabbit Glue) mixed with copper for waterproofing, also this glue dries very quickly, the feather was then stuck on straight and not helical, the silk whipping was then put in place and as you can see by the MR arrow below the whipping thread has all but dissapeared so the glue could not have been heated and sealed the thread otherwise it would still be there and you can plainly see that the thread has gone leaving an imprint where it once was. Also to heat the glue to a temperature that it would melt would cause the feather to burn.



 Hugh Soar writes that the mixture was bees wax, pitch and verdegris, no glue per se.Verdegris is acetate of copper and gives the green colour. If you have better information, I would like to see it.The red silk [some is reported to have been preserved] binding would have been wound onto the feathers over the cooled mixture. You can see the fletching placement and the imprint of the thread left in the reheated fused mixture. Yes, you can heat the wax without burning the feathers. It is clear from your comments that you have not read the excellent article on this topic in 'Primitive Archer' magazine. Try it. You can learn something.
 

Hi Bow-Toxo

Look everything I have written comes from 1st hand knowledge, by this I mean I have studied the arrows, Bows and many other artifacts on the MR, not through a glass case but actually holding them, You see I have personal access to all of the archery related artifacts and use a special study room at the Mary Rose Trust to do my research, so please don't tell me to read some article probably written by another academic who has never handled these bows or arrows.
There are far to many so called experts who make statements but have never handled or been up close and personal to the items we are talking about, So please do not quote books at me or authors.
Hugh Soar is a close and personal freind, I very much doubt you have ever met him, So much new information has been gleaned by people like me and Mark Stretton with regards these artifacts that a lot of our previous beliefs about what was and what could be has been updated, research does not stop once someone has written a book about it, things move on like anything else we get better at it.
Mark Stretton and I are now helping medieval historians and academics in getting a better understanding of what they are teaching their students, We have recently done a lecture with Dr Anne Curry at Southampton University and are now booked to do a similar lecture at Reading University on the bows and arrows of the medieval period.

As ADB says this is not a pissing competition, however please accept that their are others out here who know a lot more about the actual artifacts than you do.


Offline adb

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #9 on: July 08, 2009, 10:28:07 am »
Well said, yewboy.

Offline jb.68

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #10 on: July 08, 2009, 07:07:48 pm »
Hi Bow-Toxo

Look everything I have written comes from 1st hand knowledge, by this I mean I have studied the arrows, Bows and many other artifacts on the MR, not through a glass case but actually holding them, You see I have personal access to all of the archery related artifacts and use a special study room at the Mary Rose Trust to do my research, so please don't tell me to read some article probably written by another academic who has never handled these bows or arrows.
There are far to many so called experts who make statements but have never handled or been up close and personal to the items we are talking about, So please do not quote books at me or authors.
Hugh Soar is a close and personal freind, I very much doubt you have ever met him, So much new information has been gleaned by people like me and Mark Stretton with regards these artifacts that a lot of our previous beliefs about what was and what could be has been updated, research does not stop once someone has written a book about it, things move on like anything else we get better at it.
Mark Stretton and I are now helping medieval historians and academics in getting a better understanding of what they are teaching their students, We have recently done a lecture with Dr Anne Curry at Southampton University and are now booked to do a similar lecture at Reading University on the bows and arrows of the medieval period.

As ADB says this is not a pissing competition, however please accept that their are others out here who know a lot more about the actual artifacts than you do.



I was beginning to think that you were Mark, or maybe you are, just trying to throw us of the scent.  ;)

Anyway, there is some interesting stuff here gents. Just to add something, when speaking to Chris Boyton some time ago the subject of the copper in the glue came up and he has a good theory, which is that the glue (being nocked up in copper pots) would have absorbed the copper.

Offline bow-toxo

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #11 on: July 08, 2009, 07:53:06 pm »
[

 Hugh Soar writes that the mixture was bees wax, pitch and verdegris, no glue per se.Verdegris is acetate of copper and gives the green colour. If you have better information, I would like to see it.The red silk [some is reported to have been preserved] binding would have been wound onto the feathers over the cooled mixture. You can see the fletching placement and the imprint of the thread left in the reheated fused mixture. Yes, you can heat the wax without burning the feathers. It is clear from your comments that you have not read the excellent article on this topic in 'Primitive Archer' magazine. Try it. You can learn something.
 
[/quote]

Hi Bow-Toxo

Look everything I have written comes from 1st hand knowledge, by this I mean I have studied the arrows, Bows and many other artifacts on the MR, not through a glass case but actually holding them, You see I have personal access to all of the archery related artifacts and use a special study room at the Mary Rose Trust to do my research, so please don't tell me to read some article probably written by another academic who has never handled these bows or arrows.
There are far to many so called experts who make statements but have never handled or been up close and personal to the items we are talking about, So please do not quote books at me or authors.
Hugh Soar is a close and personal freind, I very much doubt you have ever met him, So much new information has been gleaned by people like me and Mark Stretton with regards these artifacts that a lot of our previous beliefs about what was and what could be has been updated, research does not stop once someone has written a book about it, things move on like anything else we get better at it.
Mark Stretton and I are now helping medieval historians and academics in getting a better understanding of what they are teaching their students, We have recently done a lecture with Dr Anne Curry at Southampton University and are now booked to do a similar lecture at Reading University on the bows and arrows of the medieval period.

As ADB says this is not a pissing competition, however please accept that their are others out here who know a lot more about the actual artifacts than you do.


[/quote]
 Hi Yewboy;
I suggested that you to read an article not by an academic, but by an archer and fletdher who has worked with the materials that were actually found to have been used on mediaeval arrows and who shows step by step how it was and is done, with photographs. As I thought you were interested, I recommended an informative article. If you are not, or think you don't have anything to learn from anyone else, don't bother. How did your study of the arrows convince you that rabbit glue was used ?  As Hugh Soar is a close personal friend, you can of course ask him if I am misquoting him. If my information is incorrect, I want to correct it. I welcome information from those who know more about the artifacts than I do and I have requested lt. Unfortunately they seem unwilling to share. I wish you good luck and an open mind in your research. ADB says this is not a pissing competition. Can you please convince him of that ?

                                                                                                        Erik

Offline adb

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #12 on: July 09, 2009, 12:36:46 pm »
Bow-toxo,

Sorry, mate... you've misquoted me. I said nothing about a "pissing contest." That was someone else. However, do you have any idea how arrogant you sound? There are people who have seen, handled and studied the Mary Rose artifacts. I have seen and handled a few of them, but have not studied any in detail. Have you? You telling these people that you know more is beyond arrogance. It's insulting. Open your mind and be willing to learn from those who know. I am no expert on this, and could not imagine telling those that are what they should know or do.

Rod

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #13 on: July 09, 2009, 01:36:53 pm »
I have to say that I have some sympathy with anyone who knows their subject, in the face of some of the uninformed comment which is not unusual in topics such as these.

But knowing the sensitivity of the proprietors to the use of plain Anglo Saxon, I would prefer that we do not resort to it's use on this site.

Gentlemen, please make your point without resorting to the colloquial English usage.

And as has been observed, a little more graciousness from those with some knowledge would not go amiss.

Nuff said?

Rod.

If the article in PA was by Hugh Soar, then I think it likely to be an informed opinion worthy of consideration, unlike an earlier article I saw in the magazine, which featured a "modified" field point pretending to be a bodkin, no coating on the shaftment, a stock parallel standard arrow shaft and no horn nock insert.


Viridian, as a pigment, is no doubt useful as a tint to replicate the appearance of the verdigris content.

Do we as yet have a scientific analyses of the chemical content of the shaftment coating?
In my last conversation on this topic, copper sulfate was mooted.
Before that copper oxide had been mentioned.
An acetate of copper is a new one as far as I know, but then I have not made a study of the composition of shaftment coating.

As for helical fletches on a livery shaft, we only have to look at the artefacts and at contemporary illustration.
Straight fletching was the order of the day.

Spin derives from the aerodynamic affect of the smooth/rough sides of the fletch and the consequent difference in air pressure thus generated in flight.

(Nonetheless the effect of helicals on distance is often exagerrated.
On hunting shafts using straight fletch and helicals on otherwise identical shafts, the difference in distance is not so great as you might think, but that is another topic....)

Rod.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2009, 02:00:37 pm by Rod »

Offline bow-toxo

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Re: Medieval Fletching
« Reply #14 on: July 09, 2009, 01:59:07 pm »
Bow-toxo,

Sorry, mate... you've misquoted me. I said nothing about a "pissing contest." That was someone else. However, do you have any idea how arrogant you sound? There are people who have seen, handled and studied the Mary Rose artifacts. I have seen and handled a few of them, but have not studied any in detail. Have you? You telling these people that you know more is beyond arrogance. It's insulting. Open your mind and be willing to learn from those who know. I am no expert on this, and could not imagine telling those that are what they should know or do.

Check again. It was Yewboy who misquoted you. The end of his post#8 ? I haven't told anyone that I know more. In response to questions like "Can anyone provide info ?" I post what information I have. If it disagrees with someone elses information let's find out which is correct. Both parties can back up their information. Isn't that the point of a forum ?
« Last Edit: July 17, 2009, 07:22:49 am by Rod »