From the 13th to 16th centuries, Medieval fletchers were called upon to craft arrows of all shapes and sizes in order to supply archers on both sides of the battlefield with the arrows they needed.
This process was especially important during war time, as archers could spend an entire day firing volley after volley into the enemy ranks and needed to have enough arrows in their quiver.
Fletchers were generally one of the most important members of an army, as it was not uncommon for an archer to fire between 12 and 20 arrows per minute if he was in a heated battle.
The Medieval fletcher’s job was to create and maintain a supply of arrows. They were usually recruited into armies – one might require ten or so fletchers and their apprentices. The Fletcher used a variety of equipment to fashion arrows.
The medieval fletcher’s tools of the trade included bow strings, arrow shafts, fletching feathers and nocks. Stringers had to make sure that the archer’s bow was strung tightly enough to shoot an arrow but not too tightly as to break or snap it on release.
Shafts were often cut to size with a drawknife before being shaped into arrows by shaping and tapering the wood.
The materials of a Fletcher are fairly simple and not too expensive. The tools and equipment used in the process of making arrows include:
Arrowheads themselves could be made out of bronze or steel sheet stock and hammered into shape, usually from a wire template.
They would then be tempered by heating the arrowhead red hot and dunking it into cold water multiple times until it was hard.
The shafts of arrows, called shafts, are the most important part of the arrow. A good arrow shaft is made from a durable wood that is straight and free of knots. Arrow shafts can be made from ash or yew.
The length of an arrow shaft affects its weight and how much damage it can do to a target. Extra-long arrows are difficult to handle because they are heavy and slow-moving. On the other hand, short arrows lack distance and power.
The feather is the most important part of an arrow. The fletcher would carefully select feathers from a variety of birds and place them in specific positions to create a balanced arrow.
This helped the projectile fly straight and accurate through the air, leading to more successful hunting and war.
Feathers were also used as evidence in criminal cases because they could be traced back to a certain animal or bird species. A well-made arrow could pierce armor too heavy for a sword!
On average, a skilled medieval fletcher could produce anywhere from 12 to 20 arrows in a day. This number could vary significantly. Simple arrows with basic fletching and tips might be produced more quickly, while specialized or ornate arrows, such as those used for hunting or ceremonial purposes, could take longer to craft.
This meant that there were often not enough fletchers during wartime, leading to higher prices when they were commissioned.
In the early medieval times, bowyers and fletchers were not separate guilds. When Edward III reigned, there was a great demand for bows and arrows. The war between the French and English lasted from 1337 to 1453.
For six hundred years, guilds for bowyers and fletchers had been around.
A fletcher might use a variety of equipment to fashion arrows.
Common Tools of The Fletcher
To create arrows they had to work closely with bow makers who would supply them with the right materials.
A fletcher needed to be a skilled craftsman as they used many different materials and techniques to make an arrow.
There were also times when a fletcher might have been recruited by an army and required ten or so fletchers and their apprentices.
During the Hundred Years’ War, there was higher demand for archery as it was seen as more reliable than other forms of weaponry during siege warfare or on the battlefield where everything could be thrown up in the air by artillery fire.