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Part 4 of 5
I have used a lot of Douglas fir, when no other suitable wood for arrows was to be had at any price. The archers did not permit me to be the judge of its merit; they quite emphatically reported the wood not the best. And yet, at times you may get good arrows out of it. It is like spruce, except the return appears to be somewhat slower; which, however, will not affect the shooting of the archer who uses a bow of medium weight.
As to other woods for arrows, I need but repeat what has been said of innovations in bow woods. The professional makers have all culled over all that the forests of the globe have to offer, I am quite sure, and if better wood was to be found than Norway pine, from the shores of the Baltic, or our white spruce, it certainly would have been in use long ago.
Selecting and seasoning arrow wood calls for the exercise of considerable care. It must not be too heavy, and the way to make sure is to take a sample and make and weigh an arrow. Next, the grain of course should be straight, and knots avoided. Sapwood or the outer sides of the wood must be discarded; this is useless for arrow making.
The method of seasoning is simple. Select a dry place with a fair amount of heat, and if possible some draught. Stand the wood (which should first be cut into suitable lengths) on end and leave for at least one full year. At the end of this time, cut it up into the desired arrow staves, which should be fully 3/8 of an inch square. Then stand these up on end for further seasoning, as near the ceiling of the room as possible. At intervals during the year, turn each stave around and reverse the ends. Continue this treatment for three years at least. And that is all there is to it.
I have said so much about real Norway pine that I perhaps am discouraging. However, as this, in my opinion, is the best wood for arrows I must present it fully. Genuine native-grown Norway pine is a different wood than the so-called Norway pine grown in this country. I have tried Norway pine from every part of the United States where obtainable, and allowed the archers to be the judges. And hundreds have declared the best to be had did not compare with the imported wood. The real stuff is shipped from Memil, on the Baltic. It is classed as a sort of bastard yellow pine, and is very rigid, yet still springy, and just light enough to make the best arrow for target work. Its gummy nature is such, however, that it takes at least five years to season properly. Indeed, the longer after that period the wood can be left the better it becomes.
Unlike yew (unsuited for arrows, of course) native Norway pine can be dried out first in a kiln, if the heat be not so great as to kill the wood.
Most of it grows as straight as if drawn with a perfect straight-edge, and it can be had with the so much desired—yet really unnecessary— close-reeded grain. The return, or speed of come-back to normal from a sprung position, of real Norway pine is second to none. And the rule is, the quicker the return the better the spine.
To speak of the spine of an arrow has been to refer to its stiffness. But this is a term which is undergoing a change. The claim that any stiff shaft has a good spine does not hold good, as far as my knowledge goes, because a good spine really calls for spring, not absence of it. For example: When the bowstring is released in shooting an arrow, the string takes a direction toward the center of the bow, the arrow thus being forced to the left, according to the width of the bow. At the same time, the arrow is passing the bow on the side of the latter, and if it is to go true must follow its pile, or point, and not be deflected by that side drive of the string. Just so. If the arrow is absolutely rigid, you may count on the shot being deflected to the one side by the action of the string being toward the center of the bow instead of toward the edge. If, however, there is spring in the shaft, the sudden force behind it will put a little bend in it, and this momentary bend aids it to "get around" the bow on a straight course. Having done this, however, there is no more need for the bend; on the other hand, it must be gotten rid of as quickly as possible, for a bent shaft will wobble. Now, if the shaft lacks spine, does not quickly return to straight, the arrow may almost reach the mark before it ceases to wobble. But if the return is quick, a straight flight is the result.