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Chapter VII
Part 3 of 5

For a great many years English archers relied explicitly upon the reputation of certain arrow makers whose names are high lights in the literature of the sport. And likewise many of the best archers in this country; in fact they are even to-day to be found claiming that arrows made by this English firm or that one are the best that can be bought with money. One prominent archer swore by Aldred's arrows, another by Buchanan's. There were others who would have none but Muir's, and still others just as positively wedded to the Highfield arrow. To read and hear of these preferences has often amused me not a little; for my observation during my connection with the archery goods business in England made it clear as day that the archers, past and present, too often attributed merit to arrows for their name, not for their actual merits. I was not long in finding out that Peter Muir, for example, never had been able to make a really good arrow. His great reputation was built, not on his own arrows, but instead, on the work of Dick Thompson, who for nearly sixty years made the celebrated Muir arrow—the same Dick Thompson mentioned in the preface of this book. Nobody ever heard of Thompson as an arrow maker. Again, I was manager of the archery department for Buchanan, and I later took over the firm of Highfield, and so had plenty of opportunity of seeing things as they were under the roofs dignified by these great names. During all the many years I was in London, the finest arrow maker known to me was Harry Purle, whose name is utterly unknown to archers. And Purle made the arrows for Aldred, Buchanan and Highfield, all three I Every arrow, whether an Aldred, a Buchanan or a Highfield, was in reality a Purle, as the Muir arrow was actually a Thompson. The proprietors each contributed their famous identifying stamp, and charged according to the cost of maintaining their business houses, which in turn was governed by the location. Yet for all this, the archers apparently found a great deal of difference in the various makes and swore by their favorites!

In this country, forty years ago an arrow maker named Grainger was said to be a wonder. Whitman was also a name to be conjured with. The arrows of these men doubtless would have compared favorably with those of the best arrow makers in any country. Old-time archers still speak reverently of their work. I have no knowledge of their methods or the woods they used, but I believe they used white spruce, principally. Those were the days when there was plenty of it, in big stuff, and I fancy the canny maker went himself to the sawmill and got some choice cuts from butt logs. The butt log of a big tree is, of course, the part in which the fibre is toughest. This wood is especially to be preferred in spruce. Spruce in the average is light, so this heavier wood in the butt log is still light enough; and its greater toughness affects the tendency to brittleness of the higher cuts.

The early American makers doubtless used other woods, too. The temptation to use pine surely must have been great, there was so much of it, wonderfully good pine—white, yellow, Southern, Western, but best of all, when cut from the butt log of a true patriarch, hard or white pine. But the American pines, though splendid of growth, are not equal to native Norway pine. Best of all, I would say, would have been some of the western woods, if obtainable. The Oregon fir, Douglas fir, and sugar pine, are some that occur to me.

Spruce of the right kind is my second choice for arrow wood. It is easily obtained, and as previously said is tough and light. Were it not somewhat brittle it might well be classed about as good as any wood ever tried in arrows. In the choice of spruce, I find there is a par-ticular growth sought by the makers of ladders, that is excellent for arrows; always provided the buyer takes care to avoid the center wood, also the red, brown and cross-grained growths.