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Part 6 of 6
Not having a special tool to do the work with, the end may be rounded by cutting with a fair sized carpenter's gouge. Just lay the feather on a block, hold the gouge in position and hit a tap with a light mallet or hammer. Continue the straight cut with a chisel, or else use scissors or a knife. I cannot recommend the latter, as it often means a cutting or drawing pressure across the fiber of the feather. If the work is expertly done, with a curving blade which can be given a rocking motion, well and good. An excellent tool for the purpose can be made from a steel scraper, the blade be-ing ground to circular shape and given a keen edge. It must be rocked in use, not drawn across the feather.
But, some may say, nothing has been said about polishing and varnishing the shaft. They object to having to varnish between the feathers. But I for my part object even more to applying glue on top of varnish. When I am fletching I want my glue to go right on the wood; and if I had to mix the varnish with my glue I would prefer to do it in the pot, and not attempt it by smearing hot glue on cold varnish.
Polishing was touched on in the preceding chapter. And paint, like glue, certainly should be applied before varnish.
The colors to use for the archer's crest, as the paint has become known, is just a matter of choice. But the kind of paints to use seems to puzzle many. Oil paint, enamels, artist's oil paints in tubes, and many others, have been suggested. I have had no experience with art-ist's oils, but must condemn the ordinary oil paints and enamels. Oil will run, so will turpentine and most other thinners. The only exception I know of is the flat paints that are ground in japan. Touching a feather with paint of this kind will mean nothing, as the color will not run above where you touch it. And it stands the wear and tear, is smooth, makes a fine finish, and except perhaps vermillion, it is cheap.
Gold presents another problem. For many years I used gold leaf alone for gilding. Then I discovered how to use gold powder. The latter always had been easily applied, alike on arrows and on targets; but unfortunately the beautiful gold soon turned to deep brown, and sometimes almost black. It could not stand exposure to the air. By experimenting I found the air could be kept out and the gold powder then answered the purpose of gold leaf. My method is to mix up gold powder with gold size, adding a very little turpentine for thinning when needed. This preparation keeps its original color indefinitely.
For painting arrows, many suggest using a lathe to spin them. There is, however, a better way. Take a board and fit it with a stopper made of a 1-inch strip of hardwood across one end. Provide a movable rest 5/8 of an inch high for the arrow to lie on. Bore a small hole in the hardwood stopper for the tip of the arrow point to rest in. With this simple apparatus painting the arrow shafts is simple. You place your arrow on the rest with the tip in the little hold in the stopper to your right. Paint brush in hand, you turn the shaft with the left hand as wanted, and paint with the right. This is vastly better than a lathe, being so easy to control. It is ideal for striping or hair lines. And by the way, lampblack ground in japan will not spread, and with it and this little painting stand even a beginner can make neat thin lines.
Varnishing with a good transparent varnish is the last thing. For drying, stand the arrows as straight up as you can, on their points, with the nocks resting against a support of some kind, or stand in crib or rack.
Arrows are weighed in both grains and shillings. The latter is the survival of the old British custom. It being as easy to get the coins as it is to get the weights, there is really no preference. The following table, based on weights obtained with new English coins on a tested gold-beater's scale, gives the equivalents: