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Chapter VI
The Bowstring
Part 2 of 3

The first problem is to secure the best substitute for that wonderfully long-fibered Flemish flax. While we have the best in the world so far as strength is concerned, our American flax is too short to make a satisfactory bowstring. The best substitute for the real Flemish, that we know of, is Barbour's Irish flax. This can be had in almost any large city, in either skein or reel, and the thread spun of almost any degree of thickness desired. Thus a bowstring can be made of this material with anywhere from twelve threads to forty to the single string. The proper number to use is beyond me to say positively. My preference (and I get very few broken strings, no matter what the weight of the bow) is any number of threads and the greater the number used, the better the string. However, this is only a matter of personal choice. Naturally, the string must be small enough so that, when whipped, or bound with waxed linen thread at the center, it still will not wedge in the nock of the arrow. The average diameter is about 3/32 of an inch. A skein of flax is ample for one bowstring.

Having found the length of the string desired, lay out on the workbench a space 9 inches longer than this, and drive a nail into the wood at each end. Then, taking your reel of finely spun flax thread, proceed to wind the thread around the nails, from one to the other. When the threads taken together assume the approximate thickness desired, cut your small skein thus made right in two at the nail where you started to wind. Holding the accumulated threads, which you will have removed from the other nail, divide them evenly at the loop and wax them there (where they formed a loop around the nail). This waxed place, when again looped, is to become the base of the eye or loop at one end of your bowstring. There will be no eye at the other end.

Count the number of threads at the eye; not the number doubled, just those threads which actually form the eye. There will be half the number you have in the doubled length of your budding string. This means the eye must be reinforced, to give it necessary strength and durability. Add an equal number of threads, well waxed and cut to a length of 24 inches, placing them beside the base of your loop. Add still another equal number of threads, waxed and 24 inches long. Now you have three separate collections of threads, each set well waxed. Take each and twist it, cord fashion. Last, having your three cords, take the long one, double it, and weave the two short ones together with it so as to form the eye and its splice. I shall not attempt to describe this; the best direction will be found in a careful examination of a professionally made bowstring. It will be noted that where the splice starts, it is twice as thick as the eye. This is reduced by taking out several of the shorter threads at each alternate turn in the roping, so that the splice gradually tapers into the string. The last of the short threads (12 inches long when doubled at the loop) will lose itself in the bowstring below the splice. Now rub in more wax, to bind the eye.

By drawing your fingers through the length of the string, any tangles in the threads may be removed. Then the string is ready for carding —as far as already spun thread can be carded. The rest is only a matter of care in laying the twist, or cording as in rope making, stretching at the same time, gradually tightening, and al-ways seeing to it that there are no slack threads. Do not use an excessive amount of twist, as this will weaken the string; in fact, very little twist is desired in the string away from the reinforced ends.

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