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    Period fletching glue?

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    Basilisk120
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    Period fletching glue?

    Post by Basilisk120 on Wed May 18, 2011 2:45 pm

    I am looking for any information on period glues that could be used for fletching.
    If anyone has any information on how bolts were fletched that would be intersting as well.

    I did find an interesting PDF on Medieval glues www.rocks4brains.com/glue.pdf (PDF). The cheese glue doesn't look to hard to make. Might have to make some and compare it to hide glue.



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    Re: Period fletching glue?

    Post by Paulius on Thu May 19, 2011 8:54 am

    I believe that fish glue could be used for fletching, as they were used for making horn bows. But I am still not sure what is the proper way to make them.
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    Re: Period fletching glue?

    Post by Basilisk120 on Thu May 19, 2011 11:12 am

    Yeah I could see fish glue being a better choice than the less refined hide glue. But neither are water proof (yeah not a big problem here in the dessert) and they may end up on the brittle side.
    Fish glue is a subset of hide glue. Fish glue is traditionlly made from the swim bladders of fish and is made in the same way as hide glue but the final product is a little lighter, more refined. That is the little bit I know about fish glue.

    Interesting side note. Fish gelatin powder (the raw material for fish glue) is called isinglass which can be used in tradional beer making to clarify the beer. And now that I think about it I may have some in my Hard Cider Making supplies, have to remember to look when I get home.

    Anouther side note. It seems that fish glue is still being made and sold commercially. Its not cheap and its not "pure" fish glue. It is sold in bottles like modern glues and could be a much more convient alternative to making it from powder. But I have to make my own glue at least once to see how it works.



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    Re: Period fletching glue?

    Post by Paulius on Thu May 19, 2011 11:55 am

    But I have to make my own glue at least once to see how it works.
    I think the same way Smile . Its very rewarding, when you make something instead of buying (even if it costs more than buying).
    For now I am trying to get used to bone glue (purchased in market). I glued birch bark fletchings to one of my bolts with these glue. I made shallow grooves in shaft to match fletchings, and simply glued them in place. It worked good (until birch bark cracked). I think that self made hide or fish glue should work just fine too.
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    Re: Period fletching glue?

    Post by Jason D on Thu May 19, 2011 11:49 pm

    I don't recall seeing anything on the glue used on fletching. I would suspect that it would be hide glue however. Fish glue was used in the production of composite bows because it remains more flexible than hide glue. In addition its' main use in medieval Europe was in the production of artwork, parchment and paper products. It was one of the common sizes for parchment and was used in the production of illuminated manuscripts as an adhesive for gold leaf and the production of ultramarine (ground lapis lazuli). I have not seen studies of the amount of fish bladders or prepared glue imported to Central and Western Europe in trade studies, but I have seen mention of the expense and difficulty in obtaining top quality material, and several artists "handbooks" give recipies for lesser quality fish glues to be used to cut costs or in case of zero supply. Historically the best fish glue was made of the imported swim bladders of sturgeon from Russia which made it rather expensive. When one considers the fact that most (all?) of the surviving medieval bolts are leftovers discovered abandoned in the corner of an armoury somewhere or preserved as a trophy, it would stand to reason that they would have been made as economically as possible. All of the bolts that I have seen published are of this type and would have been purchased as part of a lot order that may have run into the hundreds of thousands. They have uniformly had wooden vanes, either complete or the remains of them, although I do recall reading somewhere that bolts made for hunting had feather vanes as they flew more accurately and quieter.

    If I am recalling correctly (anyone know what source I may have read?) as mentioned, hunting bolts may have had feather vanes, and here it is more probable that the much more expensive fish glue was used (fish glue has a very high initial tack, and like all animal glues, is self clamping). After all, we do have records of hunting arrows being fletched with peacock feather, bound to an ash or poplar shaft with the finest imported silk (red is the most common colour mentioned) and protected with an antifungal/herbicidal/insecticide compound made of verdigris (archaeological speculation as to the purpose) so the use of top of the line materials certainly cannot be discounted.

    It is also likely, although it is complete speculation on my part, that rabbit skin glue would be used as it remains one of the most flexible of the animal glues when dry, which would make it less likely to set up a too solid glue line which might be prone to cracking under the stress of being loosed. Until someone can produce a copy of a chemical analysis of the adhesive on an extant bolt, I think this is about as far as we can speculate.
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    Re: Period fletching glue?

    Post by Basilisk120 on Mon May 23, 2011 4:55 pm

    Thanks Jason, That is a lot of good information. The self clamping aspect of hide glues is interesting and one of the more unique and usefull features of the glue.
    So from your research are wood vanes just more common than leather or parchment vanes? And how much more? The little research I have seems to support the idea that wood was more common but there are a few that look like rawhide fletching. Granted I haven't looked at that many samples in enought detail to tell the differnce.



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    Re: Period fletching glue?

    Post by Jason D on Tue May 24, 2011 12:19 am

    I would have to check some more sources, but here is a quick breakdown from the book Crossbows in the Royal Netherlands Army Museum; of the bolts that dated to 1500 and prior, 74 had wood vanes, 8 had no vanes or no evidence to show what type, and 3 had leather vanes. I do not recall reading anything to contradict the thought that wood fletched bolts would be the most common in a military situation. Payne-Gallwey mentions wood, leather, skin, or horn for military bolts and goose or swan feathers for hunting weapons.

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