The Archery Library
Old Archery Books, Articles and Prints
Home > Books > The Art of Archerie > Chapter VI
Chapter VI
Of the String and the use.

The bow string though it be but a little thing to the eye, and but a small twine in the hand, yet it is a thing of high esteem and worthy of a mans best circumspection, only the infelicity is that, in this instrument a man is forced to put all his confidence in the honesty of the string maker, and surely, the string maker ought more diligently to be looked unto by appointed officers, then either Bower or Fletcher; because they may deceive a simple man with more ease. An evil string break many a good bow, yea no other thing half so many; in war if a string break, the man is lost and is no man, for his weapon is gone; and though he have two strings put on at one, yet he shall have small leisure and less room to bend his bow; and therefore, God send honest string makers both for peace and war.

Touching what a string ought to be made on, as whether of good hemp (according to our now modern practice) or of fine flax or silk, I leave it to the decision of the string maker, of whom we must buy them who are most conversant with the virtue of every several substance.

Eustathius upon this verse in Homer - Twang quoth the Bow, and twang quoth the String, out quickly the Shaft flew - does tell, that in old time, they made their bow strings of bullockes tharmes, or guts, which they twined together as they do ropes, or as they do great harpstrings, or other like strings for great instruments, which occasioned them to give a great twang.

Bow strings also have been made of the hair of an horsetail, and were called by reason of the substance whereof they were made, Hippias, as appear in many good authors; great strings and little strings be for diverse purposes, the great string is more sure for the bow, more stable to prick with all, but slower for the cast; the little string is clean contrary, not so sure, & therefore to be taken heed of, least with long tarrying on it break you bow, being more fit to shoot far, then apt to prick near; therefore when you know the nature of both big and little, you may fit your bow according to your occasions.

In the stringing of your bow, though this theme belong rather to the handling than to the thing itself; yet because the thing and the handling of the thing, be so joined together; I must needs sometimes couple the one with the other.

First therefore, in the stringing of your bow, you must mark the fit length of your bow; for if the string be too short, the bending will give, and at the last slip, and so put the bow in hazard, if it be too long, the bending must needs be in the small of the string, which being twined hard, must needs snap in sunder, which is the utter destruction of many a good bow, moreover, you must look that your bow be well nocked, for fear the sharpness of the horn shear in sunder the string, which chance often, when in bending, the string has but one wap to strengthen it with all; you must look also, that your string be straight and even put on; otherwise, one end will writhe contrary to the other, and so in danger the bow. When the string begin never so little to wear, trust it not, but away with it, for it is an evil saved penny that loose a man a crown.

Thus you see, how many jeopardies hang over the poor bow, by reason only of the string, as when it is either too short, or too long, when the nock is naught, when the string has but one wap, or when it tarry too long on the bow; yet these, are not all the reasons for the breaking of the bow, for it is broken diverse other ways, and by diverse other means, as shall be declared.

In stringing your bow, you must have respect to much bend and little bend, for they be clean contrary one to the other. The little bend has but one commodity, which is in shooting faster and farther, the reason being, because the string has so far a passage ere it part with the shaft. The great bend has many commodities, for it make easier shooting, the bow being half drawn before; it need no bracer, for the string stop before it comes to the arm, it will not so soon hit a mans sleeve, or other parts of his garments, it hurt not the feathers of the shaft as the low bend does, it also suffer a man the better to spy his mark; therefore let your bow have a reasonable good bend, as about a shaftment and more at the least, for the reasons before rehearsed.

Lastly, it is not amiss, if in the mid part of the string, just where you nock your arrow, you wrap it about for the space of four fingers, with fine silk well waxed, for it will both be a good defense for the string to keep it from wearing, and also fill the nock of the arrow the better, and make it fly with more certainty. And thus much of the bow string.