How a Real Feather Shuttlecock Is Made

Shuttle disassembled
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Last Updated on 02/01/2024 by Kriss

Have you ever wondered how a shuttlecock is made? There is a lot that goes into crafting a real feather birdie, from feather selection all the way to gluing everything together and testing the shuttlecock.

Want to know more? Let’s dive right in!

Making The Shuttlecock

The main parts of the shuttlecock are quite simple: we need a cork, some feathers and that’s it – right? There is a lot more involved in making the shuttlecock. You need specific feathers, sort them, drill holes into the cork, and even more!

Feather Selection and Sorting

The process begins with the selection of feathers. The feathers being used come from ducks. Once delivered, workers start by aligning them with the feather side up and storing them in cups in preparation for the next phase of production. A specialized sorting machine measures the parameters of each feather. The feathers must be a specific size and have a precise angle to them. The machine sorts feathers of the same size and angle into different bins.

The number of feathers per duck is actually very limited. Only specific feathers underneath the wing are suited for the shuttlecock.

The individual feather length can go from 78mm to 81mm (3.07″ – 3.18″), which means a shuttlecock also has a variable length.

Also read: Plastic vs. Real Feather Shuttlecock

Cork and Synthetic Foam Tips

The tips of shuttlecocks are made of cork and synthetic foam covered with white leather. This forms the “bulb” of the shuttle and is the part that the players strike with their rackets.

While the cork is very light, the cork tip is still the heaviest part of the shuttlecock. Because of this, the shuttlecock also falls nose-first when you throw it up in the air.

In this step, the cork is being cut and formed into the right shape. After this step, the cork is ready to be modified so it can hold the feathers.

Shuttlecocks on badminton racket

Assembling the Shuttlecocks

Each shuttlecock must have exactly 16 feathers, which must be all precisely the same length. As we said before – the feathers need to be sorted because not all feathers have the same length.

A punching machine begins the assembly process by punching 16 holes in the perimeter of the shuttlecock tip. A worker then feeds the feathers into the device, keeping pace with the machine, which produces shuttlecocks at the rate of one per minute.

Shuttle disassembled
You can see the holes the punching machine made in the cork.

Final Steps And Quality Control

The main parts of the shuttlecock are now assembled, but we still need to make sure it doesn’t fall apart and that it flies as it should.

That is why gluing the feathers, binding, and quality control are all essential parts of the process of making a shuttlecock

Feather Adjustment and Gluing

Just because all feathers are sitting inside the cork now doesn’t mean that the shuttlecock will already fly straight through the air.

In this step, a worker has to adjust the angle of the feathers carefully with flat nose pliers, until it the birdie has a stable flight path. This is tested by placing the shuttlecock into a miniature wind tunnel. Once the angle of the feathers has been adjusted, they’re transferred to a machine engineered to apply a bead of glue around the interior perimeter of the shuttlecock tip. This secures the feathers in place.

Mini wind tunnel for testing shuttlecocks.
Miniature wind tunnel that is used to test the shuttlecocks (source).

Binding and Final Tuning

To further stabilize the feathers, workers place them in a specialized sewing machine that binds them securely together with two rows of thread. The threads stitch each feather to the next, strengthening the shuttlecocks and helping them maintain their shape.

After the machine has finished stitching a shuttlecock, a worker ties off the thread to keep it from unraveling and cuts off the excess. Finally, she evens out the thread rows. The shuttlecocks then undergo a final tuning, where a worker once again adjusts the feathers to ensure proper balance.

Gluing Everything Together

In the final step, a machine applies glue to the threads on the shuttlecock, locking them in place to give them the necessary rigidity. The thread is calibrated to quickly absorb the glue.

This step is crucial for the durability of the shuttlecock. Without it – the feathers would quickly deform and the shuttlecock would not fly straight anymore. A secret tip to make your shuttlecocks more durable is to steam them before you play – this makes the glue a bit more flexible and the feathers less prone to break.

Here you can clearly see the binding and the glue on the shuttle

Quality Control Testing

In the final stage, a machine equipped with a racket-like arm fires the shuttlecocks to a waiting worker for quality control testing. Shuttlecocks can reach very high speeds. The fastest recorded smash in a competition was 426 kph (264,7 mph). In this final stage, the shuttlecock also gets its speed rating. Because of the different sizes and general discrepancies during the process – each shuttle has a different speed.

Also Read: Shuttlecock Speed Ratings Demystified: How to Choose the Right Shuttle

Once the shuttlecocks have passed the quality control test, a worker inserts 12 at a time into long cardboard tubes.

The shuttles are ready to be shipped!

If you want to see the whole process in action, you can check out this video on YouTube

Conclusion

The process of making real feather badminton shuttlecocks requires precision, skill, and a deep understanding of the game’s requirements. The next time you play badminton, take a moment to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into each shuttle.

Happy Playing!

FAQ

How is a shuttlecock made?

Making a shuttlecock involves seven steps: Selecting the feathers, preparing the cork, drilling holes and putting the feathers in the cork, adjusting the angle of the feathers, gluing the cork, binding and gluing the shuttlecock, and quality control at the end.

What is a shuttlecock made of?

There are multiple types of shuttlecocks. The most common ones are plastic and real feather shuttlecocks. Both have a cork. plastic shuttlecocks feature a plastic cage often made of nylon, while real feather shuttlecocks have real goose feathers.


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