Finishing Wild Turkey Feathers

You have managed to acquire a batch of nice wild turkey primary wing feathers, now what? You really have two options, do them yourself or send them to someone and pay to have them done. Personally, I do the latter, but I will describe a method to finish them yourself if you are so inclined.

If you do prefer to send them off and have them professionally done a good place to send them is Trueflight Feathers. They will grind the bases of the feathers and return the full-length feathers to you for $15 per 100. They will only do this work during their slow time which is November – December. I have been very pleased with the quality of the work that they have done and they are pretty prompt with their service. Their address is P.O. Box 1000, Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin 54545.

Splitting the quills and finishing the bases isn’t really very hard to do. To start with you need to split the quill. I have found that using a new (very sharp) single edge razor works quite well. The primary wing feather has a trough that runs the length of the feather. This trough is very prominent at the base of the feather and fades out towards the end. Get a piece of plywood or particleboard to work on. Use something that you don’t mind scratching up. Push the razor through the middle of the feather near the base end. (See photo on top). Push the corner of the razor into the board so that it is secure. Keeping the razor in place pull the feather through the razor splitting the feather as you go. Use a slow steady speed.

Trim the ends of the feather off to the desired length that you want, i.e. 5.5". You are now ready to sand down the quill to desired thickness. It helps to look at a finished feather to get an idea of what you are trying to achieve. There are two ways to sand down the quill, either by hand or with a power belt sander. If you are going to do a lot of feathers then you will probably want to get proficient with the belt sander. Put the feather into a straight clamp. If you don’t have a commercial straight clamp you can make one using a couple of metal strips and some binder clips that you can buy in any office supply store. Using medium grade sandpaper and a sanding block sand down the quill to about 1/16" thickness. This takes a little practice, particularly keeping the plane of the quill surface perpendicular to the feather. (See photo #2). The belt sander does it a lot faster. You just have to be a little careful not to sand off too much.


When you have completed the sanding you will probably have a base that is a little wide for your taste. To trim the width of the base, use a sharp single-edged razor and a metal straight edge to trim it down. Now you can fletch and use a feather burner, or use a chopper to cut the feather to its desired shape.

I like using turkey feathers for my hunting arrows. They seem to be a little more sturdy than the commercial feathers and they have more oil that makes them stand up better in wet conditions. The only drawback is also what makes them so desirable – their color. Natural barred feathers are hard to see in flight. To get the best of both worlds, try splicing a bright color into the back 1.5" or so of each feather. So where do you get these feathers? The best advice that I can give is to let everyone, particularly shotgun turkey hunters, know that you want them. You would be surprised at how many turkey wings get thrown away each year. If you have some that you don’t want, give me a call, I’ll gladly take them off of your hands.

Raw Arrow Materials
Weight and Spine
Straightening Wood Shafts
Tapering Tools
Nock Alignment
Aneline Dyes
Feathers - Wing Choice
Feathers continued..
Splicing Feathers
Arrow Finishes - Part I
Arrow Finishes - Part II Bohning Paints
Arrow Finishes Part III - Other finishes
Cresting - Part 1
Cresting Part II
PBS Arrow Building Contest 
Finishing Wild Turkey Feathers
Homemade Cresting Machine
Marble Dip
Self Nocks

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