The String, Bracer, and Other Implements
Part 1 of 2
The string is made of hemp treated in a particular way with some preparation of glue, the composition of which was a secret possessed only by a maker named Mules, who lived in Belgium, in whose family it had been for generations. He died without revealing the secret; consequently it was lost, and for some years no really good strings have been procurable, new ones frequently, breaking without any apparent cause. Mr. Izzard, however, believes that he has at last succeeded in solving the problem of how a good string should be made, and it is devoutly to be hoped that he is right.
The string should be three-stranded, round, smooth, and of even size throughout, gradually thickening towards the ends so as to be strong enough for the eye and loop. The thickness should be regulated by the strength of the bow; a thin string undoubtedly gives a better cast, but it is not advisable to use too thin a string with a strong bow, as it might break, in which case the bow would probably break also. A string breaking at either horn is tolerably certain to break or crysal the bow (which may also happen if it goes at the nocking-point, though it is not so probable). It cannot therefore be too strongly impressed on archers that they should always carefully examine their strings before beginning to shoot, and at once replace one that shows any sign of weakness.
Every string has an eye spliced on it at one end which is intended to go over the upper horn of the bow, and a loop has to be made for the lower horn at such a distance from the other end, by means of a 'timber hitch,' that when the bow is strung, there is for a gentleman's at least six, and for u lady's five, inches between the inside of the bow and the string at the nocking-point. In order to put on a new string, it should be unrolled, the eye-splice pushed over the top of the bow and drawn sufficiently far down the bow to allow of the loop being made and placed over the lower horn, care being taken that the string is not overtwisted, and that there are no kinks in it. The loop (fig. 157) is made by giving the end a turn round the string at the necessary distance, and twisting the end of the string three timesround the looped portion. This is the ordinary way of putting on a String, and it has the advantage of being easily adjustable, but the neatest way is to make a second eyesplice, and so have an eye at each end.
To make this second eye, it is necessary to make an ink mark at the point A (fig. 157), where the loop of the timber hitch comes against the centre of the horn, and to unstring the bow. Untie the loop, and at one inch and a quarter on each side of the mark, B and C, fig. 156 (or one inch for a lady's string), tie a piece of waxed thread tight round the string, and cut off the end of the string two inches and a half from C.
Unlay the end of the string up to C, separate and straighten the three strands, and bend the string down, placing the middle strand on the top of the string at B (fig. 158),
The middle strand is now forced under the strand at B (as in fig. 159), with a stiletto, or small marlinspike.
The left-hand strand is now forced from right to left over one strand and under the next on the left, as in fig. 160.
Now turn the string round to the left, so as to bring the remaining, or right-hand, strand on the top of all, as in fig. 161.
The right-hand strand is then forced from right to left under the strand of the string immediately on the right of the one under which the first or middle strand was placed, as in fig. 162. If it is desired to taper the ends so as to make the splice neat, the under part of the yarn of each strand can now be cut off and the ends waxed.
To complete the splice each strand is taken over one strand of the string; and under the next one, it being immaterial which is used first.
The eye-splice can also be made by putting the middle strand of the unlaid end of the string three times round the strand under which it is placed in the above method, and treating each strand in the same manner. 'This splice does not look so neat, but is as strong as the former one.
A string with two eyes cannot be lengthened without undoing the splice; it can however be shortened by twisting it once or twice in the same direction as it is laid, but it is not safe to do this if the string is new and hard, and it is not at any time a good plan, as it may break the string.
It is necessary that the string should be lapped or served with some material for about two inches above and five inches below the nocking-point, in order to protect and prevent its fraying should it hit the arm, and also to get a better loose. All sorts of things have been used for this purpose, but the best materials are thin strips of whalebone, carpet thread, and silk. Whalebone gives a very good loose, but is somewhat difficult to put on the string, as it must be securely wrapped at both ends with waxed thread to keep it in its place. The material now generally used is carpet thread, and it should be of such thickness as will allow of thin silk or filoselle being placed on the nocking-point.
It is important that the nocking-point should exactly fit the nock of the arrow, as, unless this is the case, a good flight cannot be obtained : the nock should fit sufficiently tight on the string just to bear the weight of the arrow. It is also most important that the nocking-point should be in the proper place, so that the arrow when shot shall leave the string at right angles to it, as, if the nocking-point is either too high or too low on the string, the arrow does not receive its propulsion directly through its centre from nock to point, which causes a certain amount of 'upset,' and spoils its flight.
In order to lap a string, first string the bow, and grasping the handle, as would be done in the act of shooting, with the left hand, place an arrow on the string so that it is at right angles to it when resting on the left hand, and the place where the nock of the arrow rests on the string is the nocking-point. Two inches above this point make a mark on the string; wax the string well for seven inches below the mark, and also the thread which is to be used for the lapping. Place the thread on the mark, double half an inch of one end of the thread down on the string, wrap the thread tightly over the end of the lapping and round the string, and continue the process till about 6 3/4 inches of the string is lapped. It is now necessary to finish off and fasten the end of the lapping. This is done by placing the thumb of the left hand on the end of the lapped portion of the string to hold the lapping in its place. Then bring the lapping over the thumb and string, and take. five or six turns round the string with the lapping in the reverse way to that in which the string was lapped. Bring the end of the lapping, c (fig. 163), to where the lapping was left unfinished, lay it straight along the string, and lap it and the string with the part a of the loop a b; this. will undo the turns taken round the string with lapping in the reverse way. As soon as all these turns are unwound, hold the lapping tight with the left hand to prevent its rucking up, by means of the end c pull the remainder of the thread through the part of the lapping which was last done, and cut off the waste.
Now hold the bow as before, and having found the nocking-point, as previously explained, wrap the string with filoselle at that place for half an inch. If the string has two eyes spliced on it, reverse it on the how and wrap a second nocking-point on it, the alternative use of which will save the string considerably at this point. If it is desired to have filoselle for loosing, the string must be lapped over again with this material, but the nocking-point should in this. case always be marked by a different colour being used for it.
It is not a bad plan to lap a string with two or three strands of thread at the same time, as, if the string breaks at the nocking-point, the resistance offered by the threads materially lessens the jar on the bow.
Every archer should invariably have a second string lapped, and in every way ready for immediate use, for every one of his bows. Before shooting on a damp day, the string should be well waxed, and after shooting in rain it should be carefully wiped all over, and then waxed.
The armguard or bracer is intended to protect the arm from the blow of the string when the arrow is loosed, and it has been made of many materials and shapes. Of course the arm should not be hit at all; but as this will occasionally happen even to the most expert shooter, and often does so with the less experienced, very few archers can dispense with a bracer. Formerly it was made of stiff leather and padded, there being some sort of idea that it was rather a good thing that the string should glide off it; and it has also been made of silver and ivory. Even now there are many patterns in use, from the lace-up gauntlet that goes right round the arm to the simple expedient of a thick postcard fastened to the arm by means of two elastic bands, which is the registered pattern of a well-known shot.
The bracer should fit as close to the arm as possible, so that no straps or edges can get in the way of the string The I best shape is the graduated one introduced by Colonel Lewin, which is made of horse-butt. It fits the arm well, and from the entire bracer, straps and all being made out of one piece, the leather has no tendency to stick out, which is the case if the straps are, as is often the case, sewn on.
The gauntlet shape, which laces, is equally good, but it is open to the objection of taking longer to put on; and if it is laced with hooks instead of eyelet holes, these are liable to catch, and may also damage a bow. A cheaper but also good bracer is made of calf-skin, with three straps (the whole cut out of one piece of leather). This is the shape generally used, especially by ladies : it has the drawback of occasionally slipping down, but this can be avoided by having a. strap to fasten above the elbow, with another strap of sufficient length sewn inside it, and also outside the top of the bracer.
Before putting on the bracer, it is advisable to undo the shirt-cuff and turn it back over the arm; it is also necessary see that the coat sleeve is folded smooth, so as to occupy as little space as possible. The. bracer should then be firmly but not too tightly strapped on, care being taken that no part of the straps are in the way. The upper part of the sleeve above the bracer should also be carefully arranged, and, if necessary, pinned back, as anything touching the string interferes more or less with the flight of the arrow. The bracer is sometimes sewn to the left sleeve of the shooting coat, the straps being left on so that they can he fastened round the arm, and this plan certainly ensures its fitting close; but it is not always convenient to follow it, as it necessitates keeping a coat specially for shooting.