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Home > Articles > The New Sporting Magazine > The accoutrements of an archer
The accoutrements of an archer
By Toxophilus
Part 2 of 3

The handle, in order that the grasp may be firmer, is covered with velvet or worsted-lace. It is generally about five inches deep, and is placed, not in the centre of the bow, but under it. The lower limb is thus rendered shorter than the upper by the depth of the handle, and consequently, when drawn to the full extent of the arrow, is exposed to a much greater strain, and very liable to be broken. To remedy this, it is always made proportionably strong, and requiring greater force to draw it than the upper, serves to counteract the inequality in length. The two extremities of the bow, in which are the notches or nocks for the eyes of the string, are cased with horn, the upper one usually longer and somewhat curved.

Silk and flax, as well as hemp, were formerly used for bow-strings; but in the present day they are generally made of Italian hemp, which has longer and finer fibres, and is of a stronger texture than other kinds. The string is made of the longest threads of the hemp, twisted very tight, and afterwards rubbed with gum or Indian glue, to preserve it from wet. The eyes, or, more correctly speaking, the eye and the noose (the former being that end of the string which is inserted in the upper nock, and the latter in the lower end of the bow) are frequently whipped with silk, ribbon, or glove-leather, to preserve them from wearing; and the nocking-point-that part of the string where the nock of the arrow is placed-as well as a little above and below it, about the breadth of the fingers used in drawing, should always be whipped with stout sewing silk. Without this precaution the string is constantly liable to break, from the rubbing of the nock of the arrow against it. The nocking-point of the string should also be waxed before it is whipped, that the whipping may hold the firmer; and to prevent its collecting moisture or becoming untwisted, the whole string should occasionally be rubbed with bees'-wax. The distance of the string from the centre, should not in a bow five feet long exceed five inches; and, in the longest bow, not more than six inches nor less than five and a half.

An Arrow, or Shaft, has three principal parts-the stele, the head or pile, and the feather.

The stele is, in fact, the arrow itself, and the term is seldom used except in treatises where it is necessary to he precise and technical. Steles, then, or Arrows, are made of different sorts of wood, accord-mg to the distances and kinds of shooting in which they are to be used; for roving they are made much heavier, and for flight-shooting, much lighter than others. The woods chiefly used at present are deal and asp for light, and lime for heavy shafts. Much attention should be paid to the weight of arrows, which ought to vary with the distances at which they are to be used, those intended for the same distance being as nearly alike as possible.

Arrows are sometimes weighed against silver at the Mint standard, and are chosen for different distances according to their weight. The following is the scale given by Mr. Roberts.

Distance Weight
s.d. s.d.
For30 yards, from about4 0 to 6 0
60 · · · · · · · · · · · ·3 6 to 5 6
90 }· · · · · · · · · · · 3 0 to4 6

To this scale Mr. Waring (the best modern authority on the subject) does not appear to attach much faith; he states that arrows should always be selected according to the strength of the bow, upon which, and upon the quickness of its cast, the method of drawing and loosing, and various other causes so much depends that no positive scale or table can be laid down. Observation, he adds, and practice will avail more than any rule that can be offered.

The length of the arrow is regulated by that of the bow. For bows of five feet, arrows of twenty-four inches are generally used; under five feet nine inches, those of about twenty-seven inches; and longer than five feet nine inches, arrows of twenty-eight, twenty-nine, and sometimes, but very rarely, of thirty inches. We read, indeed, of arrows of a cloth yard and an ell in length; but these measures could not be such as are now in use, or our ancestors must have greatly surpassed the men of these degenerate days both in strength and length of arm.

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