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Chapter V
Bow Making—Concluded
Part 4 of 7

Assuming the bow has at last been found satisfactory in performance and having the desired weight, we come to the finishing. At this point, strange to say, the average writer on bow making instructs the pupil to secure a piece of broken window glass and proceed to scrape out all the marks, bruises and irregularities on the bow's surfaces before sanding. But glass is a miserable substitute for an ordinary steel scraper, sold for a few cents by any tool dealer, and the scraper will be found useful for other work as well and lasts indefinitely. The manner of sharpening a scraper is no great secret nor does it require extraordinary skill. Just file the edge perfectly flat and rub the blaze, or rough edges, away, then with an ice pick or similar piece of rounded steel, turn back a new edge. This will be free from roughness and will cut like a lance.

Some also recommend having the bow sanded on a power-driven sand belt. This method is about a hundred years old; but no professional bowyer with pride in his work will attempt the use of a belt. The manufactured bows, I know, are so finished; but the serious archer knows better than to accept the product of machine work. My advance is to use a hollow piece of cork lined with No. 2 sandpaper for the first rub. Then follow with No. 1 and finally No. 0. Once you have made a comparison of your job when finished with a sand-belt job you'll think no further of using the latter method.

For the polishing, I again have to disagree with the methods of the get-there-quickly instructors. The latest and best in varnishes would certainly appeal to me if they would produce the kind of finish I could be proud of. While they doubtless are excellent for fishing rods, the charitable thing to say of them as an archer is that the target bow is not a weapon which should be varnished. The best that can be said is that a good varnish like Valspar will keep water out of a hunting bow. The hunter being the only archer who, valuing his tackle, will still shoot in the rain.

To the archer who wants a good finish without too much bother and work, I recommend polishing with ordinary orange shellac. Take a piece of any old woolen cloth, such as the toe of a stocking, and pour on it a little denatured alcohol, to moisten and soften it. Add some shellac, and then cover with a piece of real linen, the older the better. Use this rubber to rub the bow thoroughly all over, so the shellac gets into the wood. Let the bow stand for a few minutes, then rub it down with a pad of No. 0 steel wool. Repeat the shellac processes until the finish is to your liking. The steel wool is never to be used after the first rubbing. In the first rubbing the alcohol raises the grain of the wood and the shellac enters as a filler. After this first rubbing the alcohol has more or less evaporated, and the wood being filled, the rest is polishing.

Do not attempt to use oil unless you are an expert.

Some claim that in using shellac or French polish, linseed oil should be added in equal quantity. This is wrong, as the result will show before long. At the time the work is being done it will appear excellent. But stand the bow up to dry, and as soon as the shellac begins to harden the oil will commence to sweat through, making the whole finish dull. It then becomes necessary to rub the oil off, or lift it off with alcohol, and this is work for the expert only. If the beginner attempts it he will find himself lifting off the shellac along with the oil. The oil is not required anyhow.