In bowhunting, everything matters. Big things. Little things.
So where does arrow fletching fit on that continuum? Is it a big consideration…or a little one? Whether they are feathers or vanes, fletching guides the arrow shaft, gives it rotational stability in flight. For very short-distance shooting—as in bowfishing—arrow fletching isn’t so critical. Beyond 10 yards though, a hunting arrow carrying a steel broadhead needs in-flight stabilization. Otherwise, flight will be erratic. A single carefully aimed shot may hit perfectly and the next one may miss by a mile.
The Pope & Young Club says most whitetail trophies are taken at about 20 yards: further than bowfishing, shorter than the space shuttle. This means however, that fletching is—and it is official—a big thing.
Chris Metzger started VaneTec in 2003 because, “Archers need fewer things to worry about, not more.” Chris grew up fishing and bowhunting. Because he subsequently worked with a (different) vane company for 10 years and because he was a naturally skilled machinist, he figured there were ways to make vanes cheaper and better—vanes that would give better results than what he believed was available.
Starting VaneTec was Chris’ way of living the American Dream. He combined his passion for bowhunting with his livelihood. Plus the business gave him a chance to do what any guy who works with his hands likes to do most—tinker with tools and equipment, build stuff, fix stuff. He thought, “Why buy stuff [even little stuff] when you can make it yourself?” And so, he did.
In a “former life” he was part of the team that developed and built the well-known DuraVane. “Bowhunters need something on the back of the arrow that’s flexible, but stiff and tough as well,” Metzger said. “They need a rigid blade for stability and durability, a blade that is vibration-dampened and tear-resistant. A vane that is not affected by ‘biscuit-style’ rests.
“Urethane—a plastic—accomplishes these things awfully well. It’s resistant to flame, to heat and to impacts: It isn’t brittle. It doesn’t absorb water, is easily machined and resists being destroyed by solvents and oils. It’s easily formed and has terrific memory.
“Urethane has a high coefficient of friction, which means it’s slick, almost frictionless, which is important for smooth arrow flight. You must minimize the turbulence around the rear of the arrow. So a lot of the technique for building a stiff, tough vane comes down to how you take the raw product and manufacture the vane. We know how to do that.”
Metzger says the ability to produce quality vanes and cut the price began with his curiosity about building machinery. “We streamlined the process of making vanes by tooling efficient equipment. Plus we don’t feel that we have to come out with new styles or experiment with different materials every year. And we’re focused on one thing [He did not say one “small thing.”], vanes for arrows. These abilities and philosophies let us cut the price by a third and still deliver a consistent, excellent vane and make a profit, too.”
VaneTec’s original marketing plan relied on word of mouth, always important to a start-up facing stiff competition from established products or different ideas. To help his company become successful, however, Chris Metzger gives away “tons of samples” on the assumption that if you use his vanes, you’ll like them and want more.
Other than owners with 50 years of experience in the vane design and fletching business, these are his guiding principles:
1. Tight tolerances in weight, shape, dimension, texture, and color. Instant adhesion with no special preparation, plasticizer or mold release needed. An unlimited shelf life without primers or coatings. A narrow base (0.110 inches) with a “flush fit” profile and a temperature range of -40 to +170 Fahrenheit.
2. A high-performing adhesive, VaneTec’s VT-1000. (“A vane is only as good as the bond that holds it.”)
VaneTec vanes are compatible for hand or machine fletching and come in multiple profiles and 13 colors.
HP high profile vanes ($12/100) are tough and lightweight. “Fletched with VT-1000, these vanes won’t come off an arrow,” Metzger says. “They increase steering capabilities with zero flutter.” The 1.5-inch HP weighs 3.2 gr. and is 0.460 inches high. The 2.0-inch HP weighs 5.0 gr. and is 0.545 inches high.
Super Spine vanes ($16/100) are low profile, lightweight vanes for extreme accuracy when shooting long distance. They create less wind drift and maintain a flatter trajectory. Super Spine vanes are available in 4 sizes: 1.75-inch (2.6 gr., 0.320 inches high), 1.80-inch (3.3 gr., 0.375 inches high), 2.3-inch (4.1 gr., 0.375 inches high) and 6.0-inch (6.0 gr., 0.375 inches high).
V-Max is a durable, standard profile vane ($12/100) designed to increase the surface area for immediate control. There are 3 V-Max sizes: 2.5-inch (5.5 gr., 0.430 inches high), 3.0-inch (6.4 gr., 0.485 inches high) and 4.0-inch (9.6 gr., 0.485 inches high).
There are two vanes in the new Swift Series. These are sleek shield cut vanes ($16/100) with a narrow base and excellent memory. They are simple to apply with no prep required, and will withstand the abuse of field archery. Swift vanes are available in two sizes: 1.87-inch (3.2 gr., 0.315 inches high) and 2.25-inch (4.5 gr., 0.375 inches high).
VaneTec’s signature adhesive, VT-1000, is made with “Permabond cyanoacrylate, an industrial-quality, single-component adhesive that absorbs surface moisture and creates rapid bonds.”
Only a chemist would understand that description, but Metzger says, “A tiny drop of VT-1000 is all that’s needed for fletching that’ll outlast the arrow. It’s available in 20-gram bottles for manual applications and 1-pound bottles for hand fletching refills.
“Our 20-gram soft bottle ($12) permits total control over the flow of adhesive. Bottles have ultra-fine tip applicators to take hand fletching out of the Dark Ages and make it a precision procedure. Fixture time is between 4 and 8 seconds, so the overall fletching time is significantly reduced.”
VaneTec is located at 20477 Highway 42, Myrtle Point, Oregon 97458. Call (541) 572-5251 or go to www.vanetec.com.