"THE ESSENTIALS OF ARCHERY", "How to Use and Make Bows and Arrows" is an attempt to present the fundamentals of Archery to those who wish to take up the sport. It tells how to use bows and arrows, gives rules and regulations of the game, and contains a variety of other archery information.
For those who like to do something in their spare time, it contains information on the making of tackle which may help them to employ their leisure in a profitable and pleasurable manner.
Archery as a sport is growing, there is no question of that. Archery matter in the press, in sport news, rotogravure section and cartoon is common. Articles in the better magazines appear frequently, and each year sees some new book on the subject. Every National Tournament has been larger than the one before; every season sees more clubs, and individual archers are everywhere. The famous double York Round record of the Englishman, Horace Ford, which remained a mark to shoot at for over fifty years, has been broken so many times that one rarely alludes to it any more. Scores that are well nigh impossible have been set up - only to be broken again and again. Interest in archer is widespread and genuine.
Hunting laws, specifically mentioning Bows
and Arrows, indicate how widely these primitive weapons are used for taking
game. Many states, Oregon in particular, have set aside forest preserves where
hunting is permitted only with Bows and Arrows. The archer's implements are the
true weapons of the real woodcrafter and conservationist. Deer and all manner of
small game are constantly being taken by the archer. It is indeed a proud moment
when your hunt with the bow and arrow is successful. You knew the quarry had
every chance, and it was your own skill and strength of arm that won.
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF ARCHERY
Stringing or Bracing the Bow
Shooting the Bow
MAKING ARCHERY TACKLE AS A HOBBY
Archery Camp Programs
Bow Woods and Bow Staves
Arrow Woods and arrows
How to Take Care of Your Bows and Arrows
Common Archery Terms
THE urge to shoot bows and arrows is latent in all of us. Bows and arrows standing in a corner or hung on the wall draw people like honey does flies. Pick up a bow, brace it and place an arrow on the string. Go through the motions of shooting, and everybody is at once interested. They just itch to try it. The use of the bow goes back to the days of early man, to the reindeer hunters and to the caves of our ancestors. No wonder the desire to pull a strong bow and loose a keen shaft survives.
Primitive bows and arrows were very crude. Arrows were neither feathered nor straight. They were tipped with sharp flints, splinters of bone or had fire-hardened points. The bows probably had every possible fault that a finicky archer of today can discover even in a fine yew, osage or lemonwood weapon of modern make. Yet the men of the Neolithic age met beasts of all kinds - and conquered; for we, their descendants, are alive today. The love of the bow is our heritage.
When we consider that guns, as effective weapons, are only four to five hundred years old, we can easily realize how those first crude bent sticks and rather pitiful arrows eventually became the glorious weapons of the English yeoman, the crossbows of Europe and the amazing works of art that the Turks, Persians and East Indians called bows. Man can do a lot with an idea in fifty thousand years; a conservative estimate of the age of archery.
Every nation used the bow and arrows and, as time progressed, developed its own individual type of tackle. Early Saxon and Norman archery grew up to be the famous English long bow and cloth-yard arrow. Germany, France, Spain and Italy seemed temperamentally unsuited to long bow archery and developed the cross bow. When we see the workmanship of these weapons, we marvel at the craftsmen who did the work. Exquisite carving, inlay work and decoration beautified the stocks. The steel prods or bows were made by master metal workers, and those that have survived can still drive a quarril or cross bow arrow four to five hundred yards.
With their composite bows, the Orientals reached perfection in the bowyer's art. How long it took them to discover that animal sinew, wood and horn combined, make weapons of exceptional cast and power is a mystery. Shredded sinew, laid in a specialized glue, formed the backs. A very thin strip of wood separated the back from the horn belly. The sinew back, the thin wood core and the horn were all glued together skillfully, and the ends of their short weapons were reflexed.
The Turks, who produced the most beautiful weapons, left the polished horn belly exposed, while the Persians and men of India covered the whole bow with rawhide, birch bark or thin shark skin. Artists vied with each other in decorating the masterpieces of the old bowyers. Gold leaf, brilliant lacquer and colored embellishment of fantastic design enhanced the work of the bow maker. They were fit gifts to and from sultans and shahs.
The bows of the American Indian were all shapes and sizes. They were usually quite crude but nevertheless effective. The Indian was a hunter rather than a long distance archer. His knowledge of woodcraft and his ability to stalk game made up for what his weapon lacked in range. African bows and arrows also are all forms and lengths. The pygmies of the Iturbi forests have little implements three feet long, while the Ikoma bows are regular long bows.
No wonder then, that all youth, when it reaches the tribal stage of development, similar to that lived through by ancient forebears, wants to shoot the bow. The hunting, fishing and camping urge is strong in him, and the thrill he gets when his arrow whistles to the mark is a survival of the savage joy of that ancestor of centuries ago, who watched his feathered stick plunge into the heaving side of reindeer or wild horse.
History is full of tales of the bow. Regiments of sturdy English archers met and conquered panoplied and armored knights at Crecy, Poictiers and Agincourt. When the masses of the English got the long bow, along with it they got liberty, confidence, pride and self reliance.
Archery is a grand sport and knows no age limit. Sixteen or sixty may shoot the bow and arrow. You may go in for formal target shooting. You may take your cherished bows and arrows on hikes and camping trips. You may stroll over the landscape with a good friend and shoot at anything, trees, stumps, bunches of grass, a conspicuous bush or what you will. That sort of shooting is called roving, and is the finest training for hunting. You may try for distance. The record is over 500 yards, so you have something to look forward to. You may experiment with trick shooting, or else see how many arrows you can keep in the air at one time. Archery-golf is played over a golf course.
Shooting the bow naturally falls into three classes -
Formal Target Shooting, Field Shooting or Roving, and
Formal Archery is Target Shooting, and the game, as a sport, is very old. Courtesies, rules and regulations, hallowed by time, are part of it. In America we pattern ourselves after the English system, but have added many ideas of our own. Competition at the targets is keen, enjoyable fun. The National Tournament, at which the champions of the United States are chosen is based on the following Archery Rounds.
FOR MEN. York Round: 72 arrows shot at 100 yards, 48 arrows shot at 80 yards, 24 arrows at 60 yards. American Round: 30 arrows at 60 yards, 30 at 50 yards, 30 at 40 yards. Team shoot (four archers): 96 arrows at 60 yards.
FOR WOMEN. National Round: 48 arrows at 60 yards, 24 at 50 yards. Columbia Round: 24 arrows shot at 50 yards, 24 at 40 yards, 24 at 30 yards. Team Shoot (four archers): 96 arrows at 50 yards.
FOR JUNIORS. (Young people not passed their sixteenth birthday): Boys-junior American Round: 30 arrows at 50 yards, 30 at 40 yards and 30 at 30 yards. Girls-junior Columbia Round: 24 arrows at 40 yards, 24 at 30 yards, 24 at 20 yards. Team Shoot for Boys (four archers): 96 arrows at 50 yards. Team Shoot for Girls (four archers): 96 arrows at 40 yards.
The Standard 48" Diameter Tournament Target is used at Archery Meets. The standard target is a round bast of spirally sewn straw, covered with a face divided into a central disc, 9 3 /5 " in diameter, and four concentric rings, each 4 4/5" in width; painted respectively, from within out, gold, red, pale blue, black and white.
The target values shall be: gold, 9; red, 7; pale blue, 5, black, 3; white, 1.
The targets shall be placed on easels made of soft wood, the center of the gold being four feet from the ground.
If an arrow cuts two colors it shall count as having hit the inner one. An arrow rebounding from, or passing through, any part of the scoring face of the target shall count as blue.
Until one does a little figuring, the exercise enjoyed and the energy expended, is not realized. Let us assume that you shoot a Single American Round (90 shots) with a bow weighing or pulling forty-five pounds-about the average for men. Ninety shots means pulling ninety times forty-five or 4,050 pounds. That's about two tons. Each time you loose the arrow, that 45 pounds for each shot is taken up by your bow arm, the arrow and your shoulders. In walking to the targets and back again, after each six shots, in running about looking for misses, you walk at least a mile. If you use a stronger bow, say fifty pounds, you can see that the poundage mounts up. Shooting the York Round, since the distances are longer, requires a bow of respectable weight. Fifty and fifty-five pounds is not unusual. A hundred and forty four arrows at fifty pounds pull each makes a tidy sum - 7,200 pounds-and you walk about two and a half miles.
A National Tournament is a never-to-be-forgotten sight. A
hundred gay targets all in a row! Flags and pennants joyously fluttering from
tall bamboo poles! Lines of bowmen in action! The arrows hiss through the air
and strike the targets with a “puck", "puck", "puck". The picture is all color,
graceful action and romance. Old friends meet year after year, new ones are made
and ideas on tackle and shooting are exchanged. After the tournament a banquet
is held and the prizes awarded. Everyone goes home sure that there are no finer
ladies and gentlemen, no better sports and no nicer people generally than
Get yourself a good long bow and go roving. Tuck half a dozen tough birch shafts, fletched with long, low turkey feathers, under your belt or slip them in your quiver. Adjust your leather armguard and put the "tab" in place. If you have a dog, take him along, he'll get as much fun out of it as you will. Saunter down the lane or strike off across the fields. The first target that catches your eye is a corner fence post. Draw, hold a second and away whistles your arrow. You miss by an inch, but you secretly figure it was a darn close shot at that.
Next there is a burdock bush. "Now if there was a rabbit right at the base of it, I'll bet I'd get him." A quick draw, a snappy release and the arrow speeds clean and true-right through the imaginary bunny. "That's shooting," say you. You walk a bit more and catch up with a friend. "Let's see you hit that telegraph pole, bet you can't." You nock a shaft - a favorite one, for now you're shooting under the eyes of a skeptic and critic. You take careful aim, loose perfectly and-a real thrill - you hit the pole dead center. "Gosh, you hit it!" "I'd like to shoot too, must be lots of fun." You affect indifference, as if socking a pole at that distance - all of forty yards-is nothing at all, and begin telling him something about bows and arrows.
After four or five of your friends are equipped, you can have real fun. You plan a roving course through the woods and over a hill. You lay out targets of various kinds. A corrugated box full of sod, a small flour sack full of leaves and dirt, a whitened stake, a wooden figure cut to resemble a bird, a toy balloon. Each one is placed from twenty to fifty yards apart, down the road, through the woods and up the hillside. You start at number one and shoot from mark to mark. He who gets around with the least number of shots, wins.
Years ago, in England, the home of the yeoman and long bow archery, elaborate roving courses were laid out. One of the famous ones, built about 1594, was near London and was called Finsbury Fields. The names of the butts or targets breathe romance and adventure. From The Castle to Gardstone was 185 yards: from Turkswale to Lambeth was 75 yards; from Bloody House Ridge to Arndol was 154 ,lards. From the Scarlet Lion to Jehu was 82 yards.
The course had hundreds of marks and could be shot over
from many directions. After an exhilarating round of the course, the merry party
could drop off at the Egg Pye or Whitehall for a tankard of ale and a cut of
The logical outcome of Roving is Hunting. During the Spring and Summer months all your roving is a preparation for hunting. Hunting rabbits becomes a more than fascinating sport. A cottontail goes bounding away. Cautiously you are after him, and finally locate the game hunched against the roots of a maple. To get a clear shot is important. Any little twig will deflect your arrow. You back away and work to one side. By crouching a little you get your shot-a good twenty yards and everything in his favor. Your loose is faulty and you miss, but does bunny scamper off into the next county? He does not - he very suspiciously sniffs at the thing that plunked down two inches from his nose.
That gives you another shot. This time you are careful. You draw until you feel the small broadhead touch the knuckle of your bow hand; the shaft leaps from the bow, and you know the second you loosed that you have him.
A fat grey squirrel in a hickory tree - he's smart and
wary, and keeps a limb between you. You stand still. You don't move for what
seems hours and his curiosity gets the better of him. He peeks over the limb and
you have a fair shot at his head. A blunt shaft this time, so you won't have to
climb for an arrow sticking in a limb. You don't get him, but the thrill of the
fine shot you made is there. Better luck next time.
Archery furnishes clean and companionable enjoyment and is perhaps man’s oldest sport. Once, man depended on the bow and arrow for his livelihood and protection. Now, he is thrilled to find he has latent ability to user archery tackle. Feeling the tug of the bow string, hearing the whiz of the arrow and the "thuck" as it hits the target gives pleasure to any outdoor-minded person. Satisfaction comes when you see your arrow speed away to stand quivering in a difficult target. Even a near miss gives you the hope that the next shot will hit. Once intiated, few ever escape the "Witchery of Archery".
DEER. A fascinating book for boys is "Two Little Savages" by Ernest Thompson Seton. It was the writer's bible. In it is described a splendid archery game called "Deer". A dummy deer (a bag stuffed with leaves or straw will serve) is carried from a starting point by the archer being "it". The "deer" leaves a trail of cut up paper or one made with tracking irons. After a prearranged interval the others follow the trail and locate the "deer". The one sighting the hidden "deer" counts ten points and gets first shot. Each hit counts five. If no one hits from the first sight of the "deer", everybody moves in ten paces. Moves are made until the "deer" is hit (but not closer than fifteen paces) and then all shooting is done from that point. If the "deer" is so well hidden that it is not found, the "deer" (the one carrying it) scores twenty-five.
INDIAN GAMES. The Indians used to make wooden hoops two feet in diameter with gaudy feathers tied around the rim. These were rolled down a hillside or along a level place and the object was to shoot through the moving hoops. In winter a frozen pond or a flat piece of hard-surfaced snow was picked out. One archer would skim his arrow along the slippery surface and another at right angles to him would try to hit the sliding arrow. Keeping arrows in the air was another stunt. The one who could keep the most in the air, won. Seven is considered exceptional.
ARCHERY-GOLF. This is played over a golf course. Instead of driving a ball from hole to hole, arrows are shot from target to target. The one getting around in the smallest number of shots, wins. Official Rules for this game may be had from The Ohio Archery Golf and Hunting Association, Mr. Paris B. Stockdale, Secretary, Department of Geology, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio.
One who shoots the bow and arrow is called an Archer. His equipment or tackle consists of:
THE BOW. Nine-tenths of all moderately priced, good bows are made of Lemonwood. More expensive ones are made of Lemonwood Staves backed with hickory, rawhide, fibre, fibre glass and plastics. Self Osage Orange and Yew, Osage Orange and Yew backed with various substances, are also in the upper price range. Hickory and Ash are also used for beginners' and youngsters' bows. For the novice, a moderately priced lemonwood bow is recommended. Whether you choose a Flat Bow or a Long Bow is immaterial; both are good. Later you may want a, fine Osage bow or a backed or laminated lemonwood. Men and grown boys take a 5'6" to 5'8" Flat Bow. (6'0" Long Bow). Your bow should not be too strong. You should be able to pull and loose it without too much effort. Thirty-five to forty-five pounds pulling weight is sufficient. Grown girls and women take a 5'6" Flat Bow. (5'6" Long Bow). Weights (pull in pounds) of twenty to thirty-five pounds are enough. juveniles take bows the same height as themselves and with pulls of fifteen to twenty-five pounds.
THE ARROW. Modestly priced arrows are recommended for beginners. Arrows are perishable, and while learning, it is best to use and abuse a low priced set. After you become more proficient, better, straighter arrows of Port Orford Cedar are necessary. Footed Tournament Arrows are for the more advanced target shot. The following scale gives the proper length of arrow for bows:
Length of Bow Length of Arrow 4'0" 21" 4'6" 23" 5'0" 24" 5'3" 25" 5'6" 26" 6'0" 27" or 28"
The arrows of the Field Archer or Rover are usually fletched with long, low, triangular turkey wing feathers and the heads are heavy steel piles or rounded roving heads. The Hunter's arrows too, have long, low, rakish feathers and his shafts are headed with keen bladed hunting heads.
THE ARMGUARD. It is a heavy leather guard for the left wrist and covers the inside of the left arm from the hand almost to the elbow. Its use is to protect the left wrist and forearm from the bowstring's strike after the arrow is shot. A good Armguard is a very essential part of an archer's tackle.
FINGER GUARDS. They are also very necessary. They protect the first three fingers of the right hand-the shooting fingers. Constant friction with the bowstring causes soreness unless they are protected by a glove padded on the first three fingers, semi-gloves or "tabs".
THE QUIVER. A receptacle for conveniently carrying arrows. It is a long, narrow bag, in which arrows are placed. It has a belt for the waist, or a shoulder harness when worn on the back.
THE TARGET. Archery targets, with the standard target rings of gold, red, blue, black and white come in various sizes 24", 30", 36", and 48". The scoring, beginning with the gold or center counts 9, 7, 5, 3, and 1. The tournament size is 48". There are two kinds of targets - the regulation, hand-wound, rye straw targets, and those made of rye straw or other filler, covered with burlap.
THE TASSEL. It is a worsted or woolen tassel and is used
to wipe arrows clean when soiled or muddied after a shot. It is hung at the
If you buy a bow, it will come to you unstrung. The bow will be straight and the string will run limply along the belly, held in place by the string keeper. Whether you bought your bow or made it, before it may be shot, it must be strung or "braced". In other words, the string must be in position so that the bow is sprung, and will be held that way by the string, which is shorter than the bow. "Bracing" or stringing a bow means putting the top loop or "eye" of the string into the notch at the top of bow. The notch may be cut into the wood itself, as in plain ended bows, or in horn, fibre or metal as in tipped bows.
When a beginner comes to my shop, one of the first questions is: "Do you know how to string a bow?" The answer invariably is: "Sure," whereupon the eager novice either tries to climb the bow like a monkey does a stick, or grabs it by the top and attempts to drive it into the floor like he would a nail into a board. Others contort themselves into horrible shapes, wrap one leg around the bottom limb and yank the top limb east by west. You can spoil a good bow by bracing it improperly. The ways just mentioned will spring the lower limb all out of shape and the result is usually a bow that will no longer bend evenly. More bows are broken or spoiled by improper bracing than by any other abuse. The proper method is an easy, simple, graceful maneuver. The bottom of the bow has the string permanently attached to it. Place it on the floor, inside the instep of your left foot.
Take hold of the grip with your left hand. The flat side of the bow, or back, is toward you. The rounded side, or belly, along which the loose string hangs, is away from you. See Figure 1, above.
Place the heel of the right hand four inches below the loop or eye of the string, and on the flat back. Your thumb tip and second joint of the bent, first finger of the right hand should be just under the loop. Your other three fingers should be raised and not under the string on the belly side, where they are sure to get badly pinched. Now, pull with your left hand toward and against your left hip; push with the heel of your right hand against the upper limb of the bow, just under the loop. The bow, since it is stopped at the bottom by your left instep, will bend. It ought to bend quite a good deal, and as it bends, run the loop of the bowstring into the notch with the tip of your right thumb and second joint of your bent first finger of the right hand. See Figure 2. Some people find it easier to string a bow by grasping it about six inches above the handle.
You unstring your bow by reversing the above operation.
Place the bottom of the strung bow inside the left instep. Get a firm grip on
the handle with the left hand. Place the heel of the right hand under the nock.
Pull with the left hand and push with the right so the bow bends and as it does,
lift the loop of the bowstring out of the notch with the fingers and let the bow
spring straight. Bows should always be unstrung after a shoot to preserve their
In 1545 Roger Ascham, the grand-daddy of archery, wrote a
book called "Toxopbilus", "The Schole of Shootinge Conteyned in tvvo Bookes". In
it he states that "fayre shootynge came of these thynges: Of standynge,
nockynge, drawynge, howldynge and lowsynge". Every writer since has reiterated
these essential five points:-Standing, Nocking, Drawing, Holding and Loosing.
STANDING. Stand naturally and squarely on your two feet;
don't try to toe in or out, and at right angles to your mark - your left
shoulder toward the target, your bow in your left hand. The arrow is held in
your right hand at the nock end, just above the feathers, and between your thumb
and first finger. Figure 1.
NOCKING. Which means placing the arrow on the string.
Pick up a shaft by the notch, carry it over the string while your bow is in a
horizontal position so that it lays on the knuclde of the first finger of the
left band. If you look down an arrow, you will see that the three feathers are
placed so there is a free space between two of them. This permits the arrow to
leave the bow without any feather hitting. The feather that is colored
differently than the other two is the cock feather, and it is at right angles to
the nock. When the arrow is properly nocked, it is also at right angles to the
string. Arrows are shot from the left side of the bow (right banded archers),
and they must be at right angles to the bow and string. They must not be tilted
either up or down. Figure 2.
The bowstring is drawn or pulled with the first three
fingers of the right hand. These three fingers are hooked around the string. The
arrow goes between the first and second fingers. The bowstring cuts across the
middles of the first phalanges or palm side of the tips of these fingers. With
the string in place, as shown on Figure 3, you are ready to draw your bow.
DRAWING. You are standing at right angles to the target,
and you are looking at it down your left shoulder and left arm. The draw is
accomplished by a simultaneous movement of both arms-the left pushing out and
the right pulling toward you and across the upper chest or should ers. You
extend your left or bow arm and pull with the three shooting fingers hooked
around the string. It is absolutely essential that you always draw the arrow to
the head no matter what distance you are shooting, and that you draw the arrow
so your right hand always comes to rest under your jaw or on the jaw or cheek,
whichever suits your nature best. Figure 4.
HOLDING. After you have completed the draw, hold this
position for a few seconds, during which time you get your aim and release the
arrow, called "loosing". A common failing with beginners is to have the arrow
fall away from the left side of the bow. Only practice in drawing will overcome
this fault. Figure 5.
LOOSING. Means what it says-you loose or release the
arrow and the bowstring propels it. Quickly straighten the three fingers hooked
or curled around the bow string. You must learn to snap these three fingers
straight at the same time, so that the release is true and smooth. Figure 6.
The first time you shoot a bow and arrow, the whole business feels awkward. Your shooting glove or the "tabs" feel thick and clumsy, the arrow may keep falling away from the left side of the bow, and your first shots will seem futile. Persist in your efforts and you will soon be able to shoot an arrow in the general direction of your mark. To shoot with a fair degree of accuracy means practice and lots of it. Sometimes a novice will pick up a bow and at once shoot with some precision-it is instinct with some others must follow the slower road of practice.
INSTINCTIVE SHOOTING. We don't know just exactly how we aim a stone or a baseball when we throw it. Some coordination of muscle and mind directs the missile and with practice we become accurate throwers. Just so with the natural or instinctive method of shooting a bow. This "snap-shooting" is used in roving, hunting and by some target shots. The arrow is usually drawn to the cheek or jaw, and the pull and release is quick and snappy. The writer has a quiver full of assorted arrows, no two of which are alike, but, because the peculiarities of each arrow are known, excellent snap shooting can be done with them. The writer has always admired a good snap shooter or an archer who is an instinctive shot. It is real archery, and if a fellow can go out and hit rabbits, stumps or any other mark at from thirty to fifty yards and do it regularly, then he is an archer of the true breed.
POINT OF AIM SHOOTING. This is the only method to use if you expect to become a proficient target shot. All the top notchers either use "Point of Aim" or a sight of some sort. Study the Plate "Aiming by Point of Aim." What you do is to find a spot on the ground (for short ranges-say 60 yards and under) or a spot in a tree (for long ranges-say 80 to 100 yards) on which you rest the pile or tip of your arrow. If you always rest the tip of your arrow on this spot, your arrows, if they are all the same in length and flying qualities, will fly and land in the same place. Suppose you want to find your "Point of Aim" at 40 yards. With a 6'0" bow 45 pounds drawing weight, it may be halfway between you and the target. Go back to where you first stood. Draw the arrow under your chin, sight down diagonally across the head. Follow this imaginary line to the ground. It may rest on a tuft of grass or bunch of clover. Place a point of aim, marker, a wad of paper or a stone at this spot. Draw your arrow under your chin, rest the tip of your arrow on the "point of aim" which you just marked with some object, and release your shot. If your arrow flies over the target, move the marker in closer. If it falls under the target, advance your marker. You also can control left and right direction by moving the marker either way. An important point to remember: Keep your eye on the "Point of Aim". You see the target only vaguely or not at all. Experiment until you get the idea. The Plate shows the method quite clearly. Once you have mastered "Point of Aim Shooting", your target scores will go up by leaps and bounds, you will begin to find fault with your arrows, and demand better and better matching until you have driven honest fletchers crazy.
SHOOTING WITH SIGHTS. During the past ten years, a great
variety of sights and sighting devices have been developed. There are so many
different kinds that it would be useless to attempt to describe them all. Some
evidently are excellent, for very high target scores have been made with them.
Sights generally fall into two classes; one includes those where the point of
aim would be below the target, as in short ranges, and the other where it would
be higher, as in longer distances. From the diagram entitled "Aiming by point of
aim for short Ranges", imagine the bow held in exactly the same position, where
the same arrow flight would hit the bullseye, and imagine a point on the upper
limb of the bow, above the arrow plate which would be in the line of sight, if
the archer were looking at the bullseye. This point would be about two inches up
the handle from the arrow plate. Anything might be used as a sighting point,
such as a match or a wire, or a brad-headed nail. Some archers actually paint
lines on the belly of the bow, their position being determined by experimenting
and practice, to help them in odd range shooting where they judge the distance
from the mark and look at it across the line corresponding to the distance they
think they are from it. There are many mechanisms for sighting purposes, of
which the main requirements are ease of moving and stability of position, once
set. Any cross bar with a small knob on the end will serve the purpose while an
elastic band makes a good position fixing member. We make a very simple sight
which will do anything that more complicated ones will do.
Every archer should also be something of a craftsman. He should at least be able to make minor repairs to his gear. He ought to know how to whip a bowstring, how to re-tiller his bow, how to put on a needed feather or re-head his arrows. If you want to get all the fun possible out of this Sport of Archery, you should investigate the handicraft aspect of making bows and arrows. The writer strongly recommends that everyone seriously intending to make Archery his hobby, learn to make his own bows, arrows and accessories. There is genuine satisfaction in making your own tackle. To see a shaft made by your own hands, speed from a bow fashioned on your own workbench, gives you a bit of sound, honest happiness. The joy of creating is real and lasting.
Camp, to those youngsters who are fortunate enough to be able to go, is a grand summer adventure. Home government is far away, and they can go "native" or "Indian" in a big way. Naturally, they look forward to all the sports and games that go with camping. Swimming, horseback riding, hiking, shooting, archery, etc., are all part of the picture.
Archery is unique in that it combines sport and handicraft. It offers interesting exercise, competitive play and makes hikes doubly interesting. As a handicraft project, the making of bows and arrows is well within the abilities of boys and young men. Bow staves may be bought in the square or so shaped and fashioned that very little work is required to turn them into excellent bows. Arrow materials, too, may be had in various stages of finish, so that making a set of decent arrows is not too much work. The fabrication of quivers, armguards, shooting gloves and "tabs" offers the camper leather work on which he may exercise all the ingenuity and craftsmanship of which he is capable.
All camps have a building or part of the mess hall or recreation room set aside for handicrafts. Facilities for those who wish to make bows and arrows can easily be provided. Only simple hand tools are needed-small block planes, coarse and fine wood rasps, a hack saw, a six inch flat file with thin edge, two or three round, rat-tailed files six to eight inches long, a scraper (The Hook Scraper is fine), a jackknife or two, medium and fine sandpaper.
For making arrows you need a couple of small flat
containers for mixing glue, assorted paint brushes and enamels for decorating
the arrows, some large headed pins for holding feathers in place on arrows,
scissors and penknives. Ten or fifteen years ago, it was rather difficult to
find councillors who knew anything at all about archery or the making of bows
and arrows. Now, among those who go in for camp work, the archercraftsman is not
a rarity. Making archery targets is a project that will save money. Round burlap
sacks may be bought. These come in various sizes 24", 30", 36" and 48" diameter.
Straw, hay, leaves, etc. are always available in the country, and with this
material the sacks are stuffed. Then they are tufted or sewn like a mattress. A
slip-on target face, with draw string, fits over these backs. In laying out your
target range, it is well to use the tournament size 48". Beginners in archery
should be permitted to get quite close to the target so they hit it promptly.
Later they may be moved off, and eventually the junior American Round for boys
and junior Columbian Round for girls should be shot. Whether the bows are
"boughten" ones or made in camp, they should be lengths as described under "The
Bow" in "The Fundamentals of Archery". Arrow lengths should also conform to the
The simplest kind of a bowstring is made of linen or flax twine prepared especially for this purpose. All that is required is to splice an "eye" in one end and fasten the string to the bow.
A bowstring is usually affixed to the bottom of the bow, in the lower nock or notch, with a timber hitch. It is better, however, to have two "eyes" on your string. The bottom one may be made small so that it fits tightly. The upper "eye" should be large enough to permit it to slide easily down the bow limb. The "eye" of the string, and the middle, where the fingers and arrow touch, should be whipped or wound with linen thread. These are the wearing points and should be protected. Good whipping is tedious work, but it doubles the life of a string.
In my shop we use strings of various kinds; strings of prepared linen or flax twine; strings made of linen thread, handmade in three plies; strings made of three lays of linen threads, thickened at the upper and lower ends; strings made of linen threads, one lay for the body of the string, three lays for the thickened top and bottom.
Linen is the best fibre of which to make a string. It is
very strong and does not stretch. Stretch in a fibre is an objection, a
bowstring must always maintain one length.
Cut off a piece of flax twine. Allow 18" more than the
length of your bow. This twine is made of four lays or plies. Open the lays in
one end for a distance of 6". Leave 3-1/2" of twine, and open the twine again.
Insert an ice pick, fair sized nail or small marlin spike so that two lays are
on each side of the instrument. In this opening insert two of the opened end
lays, pull them down and you will have an eye about 1-l/4" in diameter. Open the
twine again under the insertion and pull through the first pair of lays and then
the other pair so they cross each other. Continue this opening and crossing of
the lays down the twine. The last two inches of the loose lays you can thin out
so the crisscross splicing tapers into the body of the string. Whip the eye, and
under it for a couple of inches, and wax well.
This string looks like a little rope, and that is what
you really are making-a small three ply rope. Eighteen threads of No. 10 Linen
makes a string strong enough for the average 5'6" and 6'0" bow. Drive two nails
in a board. These nails are to be 18" further apart than the length of the
string you wish to make. For a 5'6" string this would be 7"; and for a 6'0"
string it would be 7-1/2". Run out 6 strands of thread between the nails. Fasten
one end to a nail and twist the threads 20 to 25 times clockwise or until it
begins to kink from twisting. Wax the strand well. Clip a spring clothespin on
each end of the strand and put it aside. The spring clips will keep it from
untwisting while you work on the other two strands. Prepare your three strands
of 6 threads each, fasten them to a nail, pull them all even and carefully roll
the three strands counter-clockwise. Any kinks in the strands will work out
during this process. Wax well. The result should be a smooth round rope. Open
six inches of this rope into three strands, and back splice an eye about l-1/4"
in diameter. Thin out the strands so the splice flows into the rope in a neat
taper. See Plate 1. Whip the eye and the bottom of the splice.
This string is made the same as the Three Ply Hand Laid
String, except that it is thickened at the loop or eye and at the bottom for
additional strength. Run out six threads of No. 10 Linen. Now cut off four
threads each 12" long. Wax each of these 12" threads. Beginning 4" down from the
nail, apply a waxed thread to the six on the nails; 6" from the nail apply and
work in another; 8" down another and 10" down another. Cut off four more 12"
threads and do the same to the other end of the untwisted six strands. After you
have thickened both ends with the addition of these four staggered threads, wax
over them. The wax is to make them stick in place. Now loosen one end of the
strand and carefully twist it clockwise about twenty-five times. Prepare your
other two strands the same way. Fasten the three well waxed strands to a nail,
pull all even and straight and roll the three strands counter-clockwise until
you have a nice little rope thickened at both ends. Eye splice your loop as
described, wbip it well around the eye and below it. See Plate 1.
Run off 18 threads of No. 10 Linen between two nails as described. Remove one end, and twist or roll all eighteen threads clockwise about twenty-five times. Wax the strand well. Nineteen inches down the strand bind it with a piece of cord, so that you can open the strand above this tie. Be careful that you make a tight tie, yet one that may be easily cut off when ready. Open up the strand to this tie. Divide it into three parts-6 strands to a part. See that there is no twist in anv third. Cut 4 threads each 12" long. Beginning at the tie apply one thread. Wax it in with the other 6 strands. Two inches down wax in another 12" thread; 4" down another and 6" down another. Thicken each 6 thread strand this way. Fasten the cord at the tie to a nail. Roll each thickened strand counter-clockwise until it begins to kink. Clip on a spring clip clothespin to hold it, and twist the other two strands the same way. Pull the three well twisted strands out straight and roll them clockwise so they assume the form of a rope. Do both ends of your string this way. Make your loop or loops and wax well over all.
Wax is to a string maker what tar is to a sailor. A string should be always well waxed and the best wax for a bowstring is pure beeswax to which sufficient resin has been added to give it body and stickiness.
A bowstring is always shorter than the bow. The distance between the taut string, when the bow is strung, and the handle is called the "fist-mele", and is the distance between the edge of the clenched fist and the tip of the extended thumb. See Plate 7.
There is a certain amount of stretch in a laid bowstring, and this must be pulled out before the string is used. The bow itself usually does this the first time you put on a new string. You then take up a little on the string by twisting it a few times or taking in on the timber hitch.
Fifteen threads of No. 10 Linen are sufficient to hold 5'0", 5'3" and 5'6" bows up to 35 lbs. pull. Eighteen strands are sufficient for 6'0" bows with weights up to 45 pounds; twenty-one threads holds up to 60 lbs., and for very heavy bows of over 60lbs. 24 threads are enough.
On unstrung 5'0" and 5'3" bows the loop of the bowstring
should be 3" below the nock. This gives you about 6" between the string and
handle when the bow is braced. It should be 3-1/2 " down for a 5'6" bow. This
gives you a fist-mele of 6-1/2". The loop should be down 4" on an unstrung 6'0"
bow. This gives you 7" between string and handle when the bow is braced.
Making Lemonwood Bows
Horn and Fiber tipped Bows
Backed and Laminated Bows
How Backings Are Applied
Flat-Limbed Lemonwood Bows
Making Yew and Osage Orange Longbows
Flat Osange Orange Bows
LEMONWOOD (Calycophyllum candidissimum), the degame of the wood importers, is a native of Cuba. It is hard, heavy, tough and springy. It comes in small logs or spars and is straight enough to be sawn into bowstaves. It is the most satisfactory and reasonably priced wood of which to make a bow. It grows in the mountains, and most of it is carted by oxen to a port for shipment by steamer. The bark is a reddish brown, rather stringy and somewhat resembles red cedar bark. It has nothing to do with lemons; the name refers to its color. It varies from a light yellow to a light brown and is often mottled. We have found that the spars yielding the very best bowstaves have a distinct apple green streak just under the bark. Lemonwood is a true bow wood, and for an all-around bow, as good as any that comes. The fact that the highest score ever made in tournament for the American Round was made with a lemonwood bow speaks well for its qualities.
OSAGE ORANGE (Maclura or Toylon) belongs to the mulberry
family (Moraceae), and is one of our finest native bow woods. It seems to grow
throughout the whole of the United States, and is known in many sections as the
Mock Orange. Years ago this tree was planted extensively for hedges. The best of
it comes from our Middle West. It is a very hard wood, ranging in color from a
very pale yellow to chocolate brown. Sometimes it comes in a light yellow
prettily mottled with dark brown spots. Since the wood takes an exceptionally
fine polish, such a piece results in a bow of unusual beauty.
Osage Orange bowstaves, unlike Lemonwood, come directly from the log section, with the bark, heartwood and sapwood intact. Before the staves are stored away for seasoning, the bark is removed and the staves given a coat of shellac. This permits them to dry out slowly and prevents warping and checking. As an all-around bow wood, Osage Orange ranks high. Good staves yield hard shooting, tough, sturdy bows that will stand lots of abuse. This wood possesses none of the temperamental aspects of yew, and for a bow that is equally good in the heat or cold, one good for target work, hunting or roving, Osage Orange is the wood. Osage Orange Staves may be worked up into Standard Long Bows, the shorter, semi-Indian type flat bows, and the Flat Reflexed Bows. All are good; the maker's personal preference
alone being the guide.
YEW (Taxus) is a soft wood. Compared to Lemonwood and Osage Orange, which are hardwoods, it is light in weight. The heartwood of yew is reddish, and ranges in color from light to nut brown. Our American supply comes from Oregon, Washington and California. The yew staves are split or sawn directly from the trunk and come with the bark, sapwood and heartwood intact. After the staves season, the bark, which is quite thin, readily chips off.
During the past couple of years advocates of various inethods of seasoning have pushed their pet claims -some are for kiln drying, some want to place the staves in running water or streams until the sap and resin is washed out. These methods may have merit, but why go to all that fuss when you can pile it up in a nice dry attic and leave it alone for a year or two. Turn it over once or twice for luck if you wish.
Generally, the ner or more grain lines to the inch, the better the wood is. Yet I have seen a yew bow with six grain lines to the inch that shot better and harder than any close grained stock. After making a thousand yew bows in my shop, the writer is of the opinion that the excellence of each bow depends on the individual stave and the care with which it has been handled by the bowyer.
Yew may lose weight and cast in hot weather, it picks up in cold; in freezing weather it may break in your hand, it develops crisals (a peculiar crack that works at right angles to the grain of the wood) which occurs with Osage or Lemonwood only in rare instances, and may prove cussed beyond belief in more ways than one. Yet we are frank to confess that a fine yew bow is a joy to shoot and something to cherish.
Perfect six foot staves of Yew are rare. Most staves will
have small pins, the grain is sure to dip at some spot and little knots may
appear. Since it is easier to secure this wood in lengths of 3'6", two such
pieces are joined to make one six foot piece.
Ash, hickory, black walnut, sassafras, ironwood, mulberry, apple and many other native woods have been made into bows. These woods are not true bow woods, but have been used only because nothing better was at hand. They produce bows that shoot fairly well in the beginning, but they soon lose cast and become flabby and weak. When they dry out thoroughly they become brittle and break.
This is true of the average run of these woods, but
sometimes a bow of northern ash or hickory yields a fair weapon. There is a tree
called hop hornbeam, with a white, very tough wood resembling hickory. This
makes a fair bow.
Nine-tenths of all good bows made in this country are Lemonwood. Lemonwood bowstaves are different from yew and osage staves. They are sawn from the spar. The trees grow straight and round and the grain runs true, making it possible to saw out staves with the grain running from end to end. While it may be better to make a Lemonwood bow with the grain running flat, in practice it doesn't seem to make any difference whether the grain runs flat, diagonally or some other way. This is such a hard, dense, close grained wood, that the direction may be ignored.
In my shop Lemonwood Bowstaves are prepared in various ways. There are plain square staves, square staves backed with rawhide or fibre, roughed out or semi-finished plain staves, and roughed out or semi-finished staves backed with rawhide or fibre.
Staves are also selected for quality, as you will see in the catalog. The Blue Ribbon Staves are the cream of the crop. From these staves self and backed bows may be made. Your bow may be plain ended, that is, have the notches cut into the wood itself, or you may tip it with cow horn, stag horn or fibre.
Semi-finished bowstaves have a good portion of the preliminary work done. Their general outline is that of the finished product. Square staves must first be planed to the approximate shape of the bow. If you are going to make a plain self bow, the first work is done on the back. Staves from us have the backs marked. No work need be done on the back of a rawhide or fibre backed stave, since the backing is smooth and ready for sandpapering and polish. A self bow is one that is made of a single piece of wood, without backing.
The tools needed are-two small steel block planes, one
set fine and one set very fine, (and they must be sharp), coarse and fine wood
rasps, fine wood file, six inch round rat-tailed file, coarse, medium and fine
sandpaper, steel wool, jackknife and a scraper. (The Hook Scraper No. 25 made by
the Hook Scraper Co. is excellent.)
With a square stave in your possession, smooth the back
with the plane set very fine. If the plane digs in, turn the stave around. Plane
the back smooth and finish it with the scraper. Around the middle of the stave
draw a pencil line. One inch above this line draw ahother. Three inches below
the center line draw another. This four inches will be your handle, and it is so
placed to permit the arrow to leave the bow one inch above the true center.
Now look down along the stave. While Lemonwood bowstaves are reasonably straight, very few of them are absolutely true. There is bound to be some side warp. Straighten the stave by planing. If the warp is to the right, take off sufficient on that side to straighten it. At the same time you will, of course, be tapering the stave. On most staves a little planing is sufficient; more work is necessary with others. A stave with a concave or reflexed back is sought after. The bow is built against the natural tendency of the stave to warp in this direction, and usually results in a better casting bow. When your bow has been straightened as to side warps, you want a true center line penciled down the back, so that you may lay it out according to the following tables of measurements. Insert a pin or thumb tack in each butt end of the stave, and stretch a string between them. See Plate 2.
The following tables give actual measurements, in sixteenths of an inch, taken from finished Lemonwood bows 5'0", 5'6" and 6'0" long. The weights (the pull in pounds) are given. Since bow making is a non-dimensional art, these figures are not absolute, and the measurements of a 60 pound bow may result in one of 45 pounds, or some other weight. You can always take off wood, hence it is better to figure on making your bow stronger-four or five pounds more than the finished bow will be.
Now, using your center line, measure off on each side of it half of the figures given under the heading "across back", depending, of course, on whether you are making a 6'0", 5'6" or 5'0" bow. Connect up these measurements and plane down to this line-just up to the line, not past it-this will give you a little leeway. Plate 2.
Then, on the tapered sides, pencil in the belly measurements - that is, the distance from back to belly, or thickness of the bow you propose to make. Plane down on the belly side up to these lines. Round off the handle section until it looks like cross section "A", Plate 2. Continue this rounding of the belly to the ends, so that cross sections look like those on Plate 2.
One of the commonest faults of amateur bow makers is to take off too much wood in the upper limbs and not enough just above and below the handle. The result is that only two or three feet of the entire bow works or bends, undue strain is placed on these weak spots and the bow breaks. A good bow should be stiff at the handle, a distance of about 6", and then the entire limb should bend evenly to the tip. A long graceful curve is to be striven for. See Plate 7.
A distinct dip should be made above and below the handle-called the Buchanan dips. The handle or grip proper takes up 4", then the dips begin and the dips take up about 1" on each side of this 4". Look at the finished bow on Plate 2.
If you bought a roughed out stave, practically all the prelitninary work has been done for you, and making the bow is a far simpler job. It is best to work slowly and cautiously, always remembering that it is a simple matter to take off wood, but impossible to put it back on. When you have one limb about finished, place the tip on the floor and bend the limb. You can tell if it is far too strong or about right. Look at the curve the limb is assuming. There may be spots in your stave that are difficult to plane. The wood rasp may be used on them to advantage. Keep your bow wider than it is thick, or, after you have strung it, it may turn. When you have both limbs worked out, you are ready to cut the notches in the ends of the bow.
Begin an inch down from each end, and with the round file, cut notches diagonally on each side on the ends as shown on Plate 2. Do not cut the notches across the back, because the grain of the back must be left whole and without breaks. The notches should be at least Ys" deep. After you have finished with the notches a preliminary stringing or bracing of your bow is in order. It is assumed that you have made, or now will make, a bowstring as described under string making. Read carefully "Stringing or Bracing the Bow". Slip the loop or eye of the string over the top limb, run it down the bow the proper distance (given under "Making Bow Strings"), fasten the lower end to the bottom notch, and brace the bow. Lay the strung bow on the floor and look at it. If the limbs bend evenly and both alike, you are ready for a trial draw. If they do not bend evenly, it will be necessary to unstring your bow and scrape away wood from the stiff portions. Scraping is safer than planing, as you may easily take off too much.
You should also look down along your strung bow and see if the string bisects the belly. If it does not, but throws off to one side, your bow has a turn in it. This is corrected by taking off wood from the side of the bow opposite, i.e., if your string bears to the left, take off on the right side of the bellv and vice versa. Turning is usually caused by "stacking" a bow, which means it is thicker from back to belly than it is wide. Flat, Semi-Indian Type Bows have no tendency to turn because they are ever so much wider than thick. While it is said a bowstring should bisect the belly of a long bow, in practice a bowstring that throws off to the left-the arrow side of the bow-is no objection, at least, that is the writer's opinion. Many fine osage hunting bows I have used were made with this in view. Then the plane of the arrow nock and the string are about the same, and the arrow goes straighter to the mark
After your bow has been corrected where needed, string or brace it again. The next step is tillering it, which means working on the limbs until they bend evenly and are well balanced at full draw. There are two ways to do this. First, pull your bowstring five or six times a distance of twelve to fifteen inches. This settles the wood a bit. Now have a friend draw the bow about half the arrow length and get off and look at it. You can easily see if it is bending nicely. If it isn't, mark it with a pencil, and take off wood where needed. (Whenever you scrape off a bit of wood, pull your bow a few times to settle the new bend.) Continue this until the bow is at full draw. Lengths of arrows are given under "The Arrow" in the "Fundamentals of Archery". When, at full draw, the bow bends evenly and the limbs have a graceful arch, you are ready for a final very light scraping, coarse and fine sandpapering and finishing.
The second method of tillering is to make yourself a tiller. This is a wooden instrument with a notch at the top to hold the handle of your bow and other notches cut in the side to which you can pull the bowstring. See Plate 7.
. Space the notches
for the string three or four inches apart until the last one is the proper draw
length from the handle. Now, by stringing your bow and drawing it to the top
notch you can get off and look at the bend. Pull it up notch by notch until the
full draw is accomplished and you can see your bow at full arc.
The finish on your bow is a matter of taste. The smoother you sandpaper and steel wool the wood, the finer will be the polish. A good one is orange shellac and a bit of linseed oil. Dip a soft rag in a drop or two of the oil, then dip in the shellac and rub it on the bow. Dip and rub, dip and rub, until the whole has a fine polish. A couple of coats of good varnish, steel wool rubbed between coats, is good too.
An attractive handle on a bow dresses up the whole weapon. Colored cords, braids or tapes may be used. Fancy dyed leather with a narrow binding of a contrasting hue is fine. A grip of heavy calfskin, laced up the back with a thin leather thong looks sturdy and businesslike.
You laid out the handle when you started the bow. For guides draw these pencil lines in again. The back of the handle is padded so that the grip is thick and comfortable. A block of soft wood, 4" long and as wide as the back of the bow and half an inch thick is glued or tacked to the back of the handle. Then it is tapered off and rounded so the grip feels right. Your handle material goes on over this wooden pad and belly of the bow. Glue it on with waterproof glue and wrap it tight.
A string keeper adds the last neat touch. Drill a very
small hole in the upper extremity of your bow, run a leather thong or fancy cord
through it and tic it to the top of the eye in your bowstring. Pull it up so the
string lays along the belly of the bow. This string keeper prevents the string
from sliding down the bow limb.
Horn or fibre tipped bows are made exactly the same as
plain ended bows. The only difference is in the tips. The traditional shape of
horn tips is shown on Plate 2 - "Cow Horn Tips". The top has a scroll and the
bottom is pointed. Stag horn tips are pointed while fibre and aluminum tips are
shaped as shown on the same plate. Cow or Steer Horn and Stag Horn Tips have
tapered holes, and the ends of your bow must be tapered to fit them. With the
wood rasp and file, taper the ends of your bow, so that they fit 3/ perfectly
inside the horns. Five foot bows take a horn with a 8" hole, 5'3" and 5'6" takes
7/16" holes and 6'0" bows take horns with 1/2" holes. The holes in fibre and
metal tips are usually 3/8" and are bored straight. The illustrations on Plate 2
depict this and show how the ends of the bow should be worked to fit these
various tips. It is well to both glue and pin the tips to the bow. A very small
hole to take an 18 gauge brad is large enough, and the brad should go right
through and be filed off even with the sides of the tip.
A backed bow is any bow-flat or long type-that has been backed with a substance intended to prolong its life or improve its shooting qualities. The bow consists of two pieces; the bow itself and the back. A laminated bow is a bow made of three or more pieces, joined or laminated together. Wood, rawhide, fibre, fibre glass, sinew and various plastics are used for backs and for laminated bows.
A wood backing is a piece of fine, straight grained, tough white hickory, ash, elm or lemonwood. It is one-eighth to a quarter of an inch thick and adds strength and cast to the bow. If the wood back is put on so that the stave has a reflex toward the back (in other words, the back is concave) this adds to the cast. Before the new resin and plastic glues were developed, backing a bow with wood was a chancy business and there were many failures because of the back and belly of the bow parting company. Now, with these new glues, joints are actually stronger than the rest of the stave. The secret of making good joints is to be sure the back and stave are absolutely flat so that contact between the two pieces is made everywhere.
The rawhide for backing bows is drum head rawhide, a clear parchment-like calfskin. This is exceedingly tough and strong and makes an excellent backing. The black or red fibre used in bowmaking is quite thin and makes a very pretty back. The fibre polishes very well and the colors are attractive. Neither rawhide nor fibre increase the strength of a bow much. Their principal function is to protect the back of the bow from hard knocks and to keep splinters from lifting.
Sinew is what the Indians used to back their bows, but it is difficult to get, unless you have access to the dead animal itself. The longer the strands of sinew the better, and the longest comes from under the back bone. The hock tendons are good too, but are much shorter.
Fibre glass backings are made of spun glass fibres laid
in a plastic to hold them in place and thus make a workable product. Plastics
have been developed that are hard and horn like and make fair backs and facings
for laminated bows.
Wood-See that the back of your stave is absolutely flat. Sand it well with coarse sandpaper. See that your backinp, piece is absolutely flat also, and well sanded with coarse abrasive too. Apply glue (Casein, Weldwood or any resin glue) liberally to both backing and bow back. Cut a pressure board of pine or other wood Y4" thick and Y4" narrower than your wood back. Place this over the back and bind your pressure board, wood back and bowstave together with rubber strips cut from an inner tube. Cut the strips Y2" wide and use plenty. See that glue squeezes out all along the joint. Let it dry for at least a day before working on your backed stave.
Rawhide-Scrape or plane the back of your stave smooth and sandpaper it with coarse sandpaper. Clarified calfskin or rawhide comes in various widths. Two pieces are used on a bow. Each length covers half the back. Soak the two strips in cold water for ten minutes and wipe off the excess moisture. The strips will now be soft and pliable. When you take the calfskin out of the water stretch it very carefully. It will have a tendency to curl-apply the concave side to the bow back. Apply smooth, thick, creamy waterproof glue along the back of your stave. At the center tack one piece to the back, run the rawhide up to the end, smooth out all air bubbles and tack it at the tip with a thumb tack. Butt your second piece against the first, tack it, and run it down the second half of the back of the stave. Be sure all air bubbles are worked out and the rawhide adheres everywhere. Watch it for half an hour or so and keep working it down where needed.
Fibre-Fibre comes in strips and is glued directly to the back with waterproof glue. It is best to cut a thin slat (Y4" thick) exactly the width of your bow back, for a pressure board. Lay the fibre in the glue on the back, press the slat on, and bind down with rubber strips Y2" wide cut from an inner tube. Let it dry overnight and remove the slat.
Sinew-Secure three to four dozen Achilles heel tendon sinews. These will run from 6" to 12" long. Shred them fine by pulling apart with flat jawed pliers. Rough the smoothed back of your bowstave with very coarse sandpaper. Apply Special Formula Glue (a glue developed by the writer for glueing sinew to sinew, sinew to wood, horn to horn and horn to wood) liberally along half the back. Take a handful of shredded sinew, work it in lukewarm water for a few minutes, squeeze out all water, and pull out a soft strand. Lay it lengthwise in the glue, and continue this process until you have covered the back with the strands of sinew. Lap them, and so arrange them that the back is covered. Then do the same to the other limb. Apply another layer and continue this process until you have 1/8" to Y4" of sinew and glue on the back. Apply glue between each layer. Let it dry for at least two weeks, and you will have a hard, hornlike back. The longer this back dries, the harder it gets and the more cast it develops.
Fibre Glass-Fibre Glass comes in the form of strips ly2 wide by 1/16" to 3/32" thick and about 5'6" long. It isglued to the flat back with a resin glue. Some fibre glass backs come already glued to a very thin strip of wood, and the thin wood piece (plus fibre glass) is glued to the bow back. A pressure board should be used-as described under Wood Backs. To get a good glue joint with fibre glass is quite a job.
To improve the cast of the finished bow, backs are glued
to the stave while it is held in a reflexed position. Make a wooden form 2"
thick, 2" longer than the stave you are working with and 6" wide. One edge of
this wooden form piece is worked into an arc, the cord of which is 3" to 4". By
bending around this form, your stave will come out with a concave back. The
backing goes on the form first, stave on top. Start at the center, and with
rubber strips (spaced I" apart) cut from an inner tube, tightly bind down one
limb. Bind all around the form. Then bind down the other limb. Before binding to
the form, the stave should be tapered on the flat belly side. Begin 20" down
from the ends and taper to 3/8" at the ends. This will make bending around the
form a lot easier.
A demountable bow, or carriage bow, is a bow that is made to come apart. The two limbs are joined under the handle in a stee! tube, which acts as a ferrule, so that the top limb may be pulled out. The advantage of a bow of this kind is its convenience in packing and carrying. A 6'0" bow reduces itself to a package a little over three feet long.
The handle consists of three pieces of seamless steel tubing - one piece 4" long and two smaller pieces 2" long. The two shorter pieces are fitted to the ends of your limbs; and care must be taken to see that the billets of lemonwood, yew or osage, whichever wood you are using, fit snugly and perfectly into these 2" pieces. A hole 3/32" in diameter is drilled through steel and wood and a long thin nail driven through and filed off even with the tubing. This is to hold the tubing securely in place. Then the two limbs with their steel ends are inserted into the longer tube and lined up; another long nail is pinned right through the large 4" tube and the lower section, which is held permanently in place. A socket and post is made from a nail 3/32" in diameter for the top limb so that it lines up easily each time you assemble the bow. See Plate 4.
It is essential that when the two 2" pieces of tubing are
fitted to the bow ends that you do not cut shoulders of any kind. The wood of
the limbs must fit inside the tubes, so that there is no chance of a break
starting at a shoulder.
The Flat, Semi-Indian type bow merits special
consideration. Although the idea is not new, its present growing popularity is
due to the many advantages it possesses. The fundamental principle of this type
of bow is that a wide, thin, flat slat will bend easier and be less liable to
fracture than a square stick of the same volume of wood. This feature makes it
possible to use a 28" arrow in a 5'6" bow, and, naturally, since a shorter bow
of the same weight will shoot farther and faster than a longer bow, you get a
flatter trajectory. Further, a well proportioned flat bow is easy to string,
sweet to use and has lots of punch. It is well established that the nearer to
the center of a bow the arrow can pass, the less side variation there is in its
flight-hence the narrowed handle of the flat bow, thickened from back to belly
for the necessary stiffness and strength. See Plate 3.
The Flat Bow is the easiest of all bows to make, and is, therefore, an excellent type for the beginner to attempt. It presents fewer problems than the making of a long bow, yet the finished bow is entirely satisfactory and a worthwhile weapon in every respect.
The Flat Side of the stave is the Back. The side with the handle riser is the Belly. Caution: Do not attempt to bend your stave until you have tapered the limbs on the sides and belly, as described below, otherwise the riser may pop off. If it should loosen, take it off, smooth off the surface of the riser and stave, glue it back into place with casein glue. Use rubber strips cut from an old inner tube to hold it in place while the glue is drying.
Since a 5'6" Flat Bow is the proper length for the greatest number of archers, let us begin with that size stave. The Flat Bowstave you get from us will look like that shown on Plate 3.
It will be 5'6" long, IY2" wide and 9/8" thick in the limbs. The handle riser or thickening piece will be glued in place and be sawn to the approximate shape of the finished handle. At this point it will be I Y2" thick, ample bulk to result in a stiff middle.
The back of the bow is left flat. Smooth it up with a sharp hand plane set very fine. At each end of the stave, measuring from side to side, place a dot. These marks will be Y4" from the edges. Measure off Y4" from each side of the center mark and make two more dots. Eighteen inches from each end of the stave draw a line across the back. Connect the ends of this line with the two dots which are Y4" from the center point. Plane off the wood on either side of these lines. This gives the limb taper. See Plate 3.
Note: Sometimes your stave will not be absolutely straight, but may have a side warp. In this event the above measurements would not hold, because it would then be necessary to take off more wood on the side toward which warp curves, i.e., the concave side. When you finish tapering the limbs, however, each should be a long, narrow, triangular figure measuring ly2" wide just above the handle riser and continuing this IY2" width for about a foot, then tapering to Y2" wide at the ends of the stave.
The Belly side of the bow is tapered from the handle riser, where it is @/8" thick to Y4" at the ends-just a slight taper. Then round off all the corners on the belly side, so that the cross section is a low, flat arch. The handle of the Flat Bow is accomplished by making an abrupt, sharp dip in the riser, rounding off the corners and working the wood into the limbs. A coarse file is good for this work. Plate 3.
Next comes the notches for the bowstring. These may be cut into the wood, or be of stag horn, cow horn, or metal. Plate 3 shows how the ends will look when the notches are cut into the wood. A round, rat-tail file 8" long is excellent for this work. If you wish to embellish your bow with cow or stag horn tips, the ends of the stave must be carefully tapered and rounded into a cone that will snugly fit into the horn bow tips. Be very careful not to force the wood into the horns, or a split will result. Work slowly and carefully, and when the horns fit perfectly, glue and pin in place.
Put the loop of your bowstring over what is to be the top limb of the bow in such a fashion that the string lies along the belly. Slide the loop down a few inches below the notch (3y2"), lay it out straight along the bow and fasten at the bottom with a bowyer's knot (timber hitch). After the bow is strung or braced the string should be 5y2" from the top of the handle riser.
When your bow is cut out, and before you apply the final finish, it should bend evenly in both limbs and its shape should be a segment of a circle with a flattened middle of about 6". One of the commonest faults of amateur bow makers is that their bows are stiff for about two feet in the middle. Too much wood is cut from the upper limbs which leaves them too weak. The result is that only about 24" of the whole bow does the work of bending. This sets up undue strain on your weak limbs and breakage occurs. Plate 7.
The following measurements are taken from finished flat
bows of Lemonwood. The lengths of the bow and weights are given, but since
bow-making is non-dimensional, these tables are not absolute. In other words
even though you might work closely to these figures, the bow may or may not be
the weights given. It is better to leave a bit more wood all around, and then
scrape down to the weight you wish.