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Notes on Bow Making
Part 3 of 3

As soon as this dries it should be dressed on the sides and edges so as to make it nicely rounding, and the belly at this point should be rounded into shape for the handle. As stated in the former article your finished bow will vary between an inch and an inch and a quarter, at the largest part of the limb, depending upon the wood being used. The handle must be larger than the largest part of the limbs, so there will be no bending there. When you have shaped the handle, you must put on a whipping of very stout cord or cotton tape, starting well outside the ends of the joint, winding close, smooth and as tight as your whipping will allow. The whipping should be laid on in glue, and if it will not make the handle too bulky, there should be at least three layers of it. There is a severe strain on this joint, and you cannot make it with too much care or too strong. The more whipping you put on and tighter you draw it, the stronger will be your joint. Let the glue in this whipping dry at least a week before you attempt to brace the bow, which of course you have not attempted heretofore. The bow will be finished the same as a one-piece bow, excepting the handle will receive two coats of varnish to make it waterproof.

The backed bow is a most excellent weapon, and one in which hickory demonstrates its peculiar merit, as most all backed bows are made with such backs. Yew of course is preferable, but is not to be had excepting by the elect. The backed bow is made of two different varieties of wood, the belly of one kind, the back of another. The belly may be all one stick or it may be grafted as described above, excepting there will be no thin piece glued on the back of the joint to make the handle; glue it on the back opposite the handle. To make such a bow, secure a piece of well-seasoned, straight-grained, second growth white hickory of the width and length you want your bow. This is to be planed perfectly flat and smooth and reduced to three-sixteenth inch in thickness. Excellent backs may be secured by procuring from a carriage maker or hardwood dealer a buggy coupling or reach. These are six feet long and one and a quarter inches square. By looking over a large stock you can most likely find one in which the grain is straight and even and does not run out, which when taken to a planing mill and ripped on a sharp circular saw will afford material for three or four backs. Be sure the saw is sharp; if not, the heat from it will warp the strips. Carefully dress the back you select with a fore-plane, seeing that it is the same thickness throughout. The belly will be made along the lines indicated for making a self bow, excepting it will be all of heart wood, and will not be as thick as a self bow. It should be as wide as the back for fourteen inches on either side of the handle. It is not advisable to taper it at all until the back is glued on. The back of the belly should be planed smooth, true and straight, and upon this true surface the back is to be glued. The back of the belly and the under side of the back should be scored by combing them with the teeth of a fine saw. There are planes made for this purpose, but a saw will answer very well. This is done for the purpose of making the glue hold better. The glue must be of the best, in perfect solution, and applied boiling hot. As soon as it is applied to all portions of the surfaces to be glued, immense pressure must be applied to the two pieces to force out all excess glue. This pressure may be applied by clamps or wedges. If clamps are used, lay the bow back down on a two-inch board and apply as many cabinet makers' clamps as you can borrow, beg or steal. One every six inches is not too many. If your belly is thin and flexible, the clamps must be closer together than if it is more rigid. If you wish to use wedges, nail two two-inch boards on your bench parallel to each other and about three inches apart. Provide a series of short double wedges for the entire length of the bow, and so arranged that the small square end of one is snug against the large end of the next one and so on. By driving the end wedge, all are thus moved, and a uniform pressure is exerted throughout the entire length of the bow. The back of course is against one of the boards, and the wedges are applied to the belly. Another method, used by the professionals, is to provide a series of strap iron loops on the edge of a board the same thickness as the bow and drive wedges under these loops, or rather between the loops and the belly of the bow. Immense pressure is the secret of any good glue joint, and if you keep this constantly in mind and apply pressure at every available point, and by every means at hand, the result will justify the pains. The bow should not be taken out of the clamps for at least a week in order to give the glue a chance to thoroughly dry, and after taking it from the clamps, it should dry for a few days before you attempt to brace it. Dress down and finish as for a self bow, excepting you will do no work whatever on the back, save rounding the corners and sandpapering it. The belly must be shaped so that when the bow is braced, the back is flat and smooth and without any twist. A backed bow should always be provided with horn tips and protected from dampness by three coats of good varnish, well rubbed.