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Part 7 of 7
The method of making the fishtail splice in a two-piece bow—as of necessity most yew bows are—will be easily understood from the ac-companying diagram. The limbs must be partly shaped, and the back of each limb at the handle fairly smooth. As will be seen, one limb is to have three prongs and the other two; it matters not which has three or two. In-cidentally, if there has been any choice—as there usually is—the maker will have done well to select the least perfect ends of his two staves for the handle ends of the limbs, as they are not cut down materially, but the string ends are.
Diagram each half of the splice right on the back of the limb. Then very carefully cut the fishtails out with a tenon saw with its back removed. The cuts, of course being made from back to belly.
Nothing but hot glue is to be used for joining the splice. (See subsequent remarks on
glue.) Melt the glue to the consistency of medium motor oil; for if too stiff it will cause the fishtails to spread. On the other hand, it must not be too thin, or too much will enter the wood. Two or three coats of glue are to be applied, the two parts of the splice placed firmly together and clamped in a vise. Before tightening the latter, align the back very carefully. If using an iron vise, protect the sides of the bow with blocks of wood. Screw up snugly and let stand 48 hours. Then proceed to dress down as with a self bow.
Often I am asked if it is a good thing to oil a yew bow to preserve it, and how often. The answer is "No." A little raw linseed oil applied at times, principally at the end of the season, is desirable, especially as the bow is about to be laid away. But continual oiling makes the wood soft.
The question of what glues to use in making bows and arrows is one I am reluctant to discuss. I am not giving instructions for building backed bows. And the majority of writers on archery are so positive that any one of the multitude of patented and newly invented glues is superior to the best hoof glue that I am strongly tempted to pass the subject by, as though it does not amount to much. Surely that would be the best way to keep the goodwill of these writers and other archers with whom I cannot agree. But there is a saying that fortune favors the brave, and besides I must not forget my trusting beginners; and so I shall say just a little here, and a little more when discussing arrow making.
During the war I worked in a carpenters' shop in connection with one of the foremost shipbuilding yards in the country. And there I had every opportunity of trying out every glue that came along—quick, waterproof, and every other kind, including casein glue. I am very familiar with the qualities of these patented, special, liquid and otherwise out-of-the-ordinary glues. But I still import my own glues. If I were interested in telling how to make backed bows—where a waterproof glue is needed—I should at least say that casein glue has a deal of merit for that purpose. One important point is that the amateur is of necessity a slow hand in working with glue, and hoof glue demands speed, whereas casein glue does not. Again, hoof glue will not stand much damp, and with it backs are continually coming apart from bellies in backed bows. If the use of casein glues will remedy this, then I should recommend it to you. However, my interest in backed bows, so far as this book is concerned, is nothing at all; for I am unwilling to encourage any one in any way, especially a novice in bow making, to spend time, money and effort on so risky an undertaking as making a backed bow, when there is no real excuse for such bows.
For your splice, when you come to that point in making your two-part bow of yew, you will do well to disregard any and all advice concerning newfangled glues and use the best obtainable hoof glue, known as cabinet maker's or joiner's glue. Or should it be probable that this bow will be exposed to dampness, as in hunting, then use casein glue.