As I intimated in a previous chapter, the average beginner in archery has very little conception of the importance attending the making of arrows for serious use. On the other hand, the accomplished archer is as finicky and exacting about his arrows as an expect rifleman is concerning his match ammunition. The fact is, the arrow must be considered as a highly specialized missile, with flight efficiency affected by many variable factors. Added to the problem of flight efficiency is that of durability. Just think it over, and there soon will be an accumulation of reasons why arrow making is no ordinary task. Learn something about it and it becomes a real art, and the value of a really good arrow multiplies in your estimation.
At first the archer desiring to make his own arrows is impatient of such difficulties as inserting a footing and a nock of material different from the shaft itself. He finds enough difficulty in producing satisfactory shafts without adding these desirable reinforcements. Difficulty too in doing the feathering satisfactorily. However, for the best understanding I shall cover the whole subject, of making suitable arrows for target use. Hunting arrows I shall not discuss, instead referring the reader to Dr. Saxton T. Pope's exhaustive book on hunting with the bow. There are many differences in hunting arrows, perhaps the greatest being in the points used. Naturally, the kind of arrow to use depends largely upon the kind of game it is to be shot at. Unfortunately, there seem to be no two hunters who believe in the same kind of hunting arrows. In other words, there is no set standard. Consequently no professional maker will give the time and attention to this branch of the craft that it really needs. With no little amusement, I read some astonishing statements about arrow making, written in all seriousness by archers looked up to as authorities. One of these tells of the old-time makers in England, and the fine arrows they produced. They could have enhanced their great reputation, I am told, by using some other wood than Scotch pine for their shafts. This surprises me; for I spent nearly eighteen years among the best English makers of archery equipment, and many a time was set the task of visiting the importers for the purpose of selecting genuine Norway pine.
I wonder how the impression originated that the English arrow makers used Scotch pine. I wonder if it really was done, say a century ago. When I think of the Scottish pine—that is, if the wood referred to is intended to mean the pine grown in Scotland and not some other growth called by that name—I cannot imagine any one ever attempting to make good arrows from that class of wood. I would just as soon go out after the Christmas holidays and gather up the discarded Christmas trees from which to make my arrows.
Oddly enough, the archers accept these queer tales and look askance at the old bowyer if he so much as shakes his head at them. Here is another example, and one we of the craft can not laugh off. There is a belief extant among the writers on archery that wood of fine grain is superior for arrows to that of coarse grain. As a matter of fact, the grain of the wood does not affect the quality of the shaft. Every professional arrow maker has known this and reiterated it for many a year. Yet the archers keep right on demanding the close-grained shafts.
Again, the word "deal" is often used in writing about arrow woods. We read that those same mythical old makers "who knew their business" relied entirely upon deal for the best class of work. The archer studying such an authority, upon setting out to procure some deal finds after long search that "there ain't no such animal," as the saying goes. Neither lumber merchant nor architect has any knowledge of what is meant by deal. Often enough, the archer then writes to me to find out. He seldom presumes that I may have some to sell; he just wants to know what's the other, or maybe the American, name for it.