The pile (pilum, a javelin) is the steel head, with bevel point for target shooting, and was so named from a regulation of Henry VII for keepers of the royal forests, who were obliged to use the blunt pile on account of the game; hence this became the general term for the point of the arrow. The pile for most purposes very slightly diminishes in size toward the point and ends with a blunted cone. The sharp pile is made still smaller toward the end, and the old sharp pile is a long cone ending in a sharp point. The round-ended is like the first, with a round end instead of a cone.
For the proper hunting arrow, now rarely found, a flat-barbed metal point was used, which was attached by a wrapping of wire, and this was done in much the same way as the fastening of the stone point by the Indians, previously described by Mr. Hough.
The nock is made of horn, with a notch or slit in which to receive the string. Its proper construction has much to do with the precision of the flight of the arrow. It must be just large enough to let the string loosen easily when the bow is drawn, and, on the other hand, must be small enough not to allow any vibration on the string.
Last, but not least, is the feathering. Most arrows have three feathers, a very few, two. In proper modern archery there are always three feathers, and these are arranged on the sides of the arrow near the nock, parallel with the stele and equidistant from each other, at an angle of 120 degrees; one feather, called the cock-feather, is always at right angles to the nock. This arrangement avoids injury to the feathers when the arrow is loosed. Experiments have been made with arrows feathered on a spiral to make the arrow turn like a bullet from a rifle, but with very poor results: first, because the feathering is injured in loosing, and secondly because this spiral motion rather retards the flight of the arrow without giving greater precision.
The length of the target arrow varies very little at the present time, being 28 inches for gentlemen and 25 for ladies; but expert bowmen will adjust the length of their arrows very accurately, so as to be able to draw to the full length in practice.
Roger Ascham quaintly says: " Our English yeoman who fought with Harry of Monmouth, at Agincourt, drew every man his cloth-yard shaft," and Paulus Jovius mentions the length as two cubits—that is, about a yard; but the statute of Edward IV provides that the arrow shall be three-quarters of the standard, and if this refers to the yard instead of an ell, as is most probable, the arrow used must have been 27 inches, about the standard length to-day. It is most interesting to note that this is just the old Flemish ell. Old King Lear says:
"Draw me a clothier's yard."
And in the Percy Ballads we are told:
"An arrow of a cloth-yard long
Unto the head drew he."
"The Lyttel Geste " of Robin Hode has also this line:
"And every arrow an elle longe."
From all these quotations it would seem that the length of the arrow was formerly a very important matter, as it is to-day.