Of the Grease Box, Tassell, Belt, etc.
THE GREASE BOX.
The grease box is an invention, as its name implies, for the purpose of holding grease, which may be lard, deer's fat, or any other "anti-sticking" mixture that the varying fancies of different individuals may delight in. There is nothing to be said against the use of such matters; but to those who, like myself, object to messing with grease, a lapping of floss silk, or any other smooth substance will be preferable, and will answer every required purpose: but this is one of those points that can be safely left to each individual Archer to decide, by his own experience, for himself, more or less assistance being required, according to varying strength and powers of the fingers. Thus much, however, should be said, that it is quite possible to have the string so slippery as to prevent that perfect command of the time of loosing which is a main ingredient in successful shooting. The grease box is generally made of wood, horn, or ivory.
He must be a good Archer indeed who can do without this necessary appendage to his equipment. It is simply a tassel, made of green worsted, for the purpose of removing any dirt that may adhere to the arrow after it has been drawn from the ground. It need not be a yard in circumference, as, to judge from the stupendous size of their tassels, would seem to be the opinion of some Archers, but of as small a size as is compatible with its answering the required purpose.
This is a strap with a small pouch attached, which fastens round the waist, and serves the purpose of holding the arrows, tassel, grease pot, spare string, and any other little paraphernalia of Archery, as also to assist in rendering one as hot and wretched as possible whilst shooting in warm Weather. It is better to have a small deep pocket made in the; right-hand side of the shooting coat; this will serve to hold the arrows, and the other matters can be hung on to a button of the coat, or, if it be liked better, kept in the ordinary pocket. These remarks, however, do not apply to the fair sex ; the shooting belt is an evil they must perforce put up with.
THE SCORING APPARATUS.
The scoring apparatus is of various kinds and shapes, suitable to all tastes, and consists of a scoring card, a frame (generally of wood, silver, or ivory) to bold it, and a needle, enclosed, with the exception of the point, in a case of the like material, to prick the hits as they occur upon the card. It would be a waste of time and space to attempt a description of the different apparatus in use; suffice it to say that each Archer can suit his own taste, and, by having a plate struck for himself, can have the card arranged in that manner as will best accommodate the distances and number of arrows he is in the habit of shooting. For those who practise the national round, an excellent card and frame to suit, originated by Mr. Bramhall, of Norfolk, are in use. The former is so arranged as to embrace two rounds, and to keep a separate and distinct account of each distance and each individual arrow shot, and this all within a very small compass. The frame contains a pricker to mark with, and a pencil to do the additions afterwards. It can be strongly recommended to all those who take an interest in ascertaining the exact particulars of each day's shooting.
This term is applied to a small narrow cupboard, constructed for the purpose of holding the Archer's implements. It should be so arranged that the bows can stand upright, and each individual arrow in the same position, and sufficiently apart from its neighbour to prevent the feathers raffling each other. The principal point to be mentioned, however, is not as respects the Ascham itself, but concerning the locality in which it should be kept. This should be in a room free from damp, and the temperature of which is as even as may be; if on the ground floor, to insure safety, the Ascham should be raised five or six inches from the ground. This is especially called for in country houses, as these are often built directly on the earth, and ill drained. The very best place for the Ascham is a room over the kitchen, as this gives that medium temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, which is especially suited to the preservation of bows, arrows and strings.
This is simply a book, ruled and arranged in such a manner as to enable the Archer to keep an accurate account of his shooting. Those who have not been in the habit of having one can have no idea of the great interest with which it invests the most solitary practice, and how conducive it is to its steady and persevering continuance. It begets a great desire to improve, for no man likes to have evidence before his eyes of his pains and exertions being of no avail, and himself at a stand-still in any pursuit he takes an interest in; it ensures a due carefulness in the shooting of every arrow, since without it, the score will be bad, and therefore disagreeable to chronicle; it excites emulation, by enabling one man's average shooting to be compared with anothers, and restrains, by its sternly demonstrating figures, those flights of imagination occasionally indulged in by bad memories, as to feats performed and scores achieved. By noting too in this register the causes of failure at different times, a less chance will exist of their occuring again, as it keeps the same always in the mind's eye, and their necessary avoidance prominently before the attention. In short, the Archer will find the little trouble the keeping of it occasions him so abundantly repaid in a variety of ways, that having once commenced it, he will never afterwards be induced to abandon its use.
The target is made of thrashed or unthrashed straw (rye is best), firmly bound together with tarred string, somewhat similar in its Formation to a beehive, and is covered with stout canvass, upon which are painted five different coloured rings, white, black, blue, or inner white, red, and gold (commencing from the outside). It should be exactly four feet in diameter, neither more nor less, the breadth of all the rings being the same. This gives 9 3-5ths inches for the gold or centre, and 4 4-5lbs inches for each of the rings to the right and left of it. The circles are valued as follows:—Nine, for the gold, seven for the red, five for the blue, three for the black, and one for the white. These figures, however, do not represent the correct value of the rings according to their respective areas; for reckoning the gold to score nine as above, strictly speaking the red should count but three, the inner white or blue two, the black one and a quarter (or five for every four hits), and the outer white one, (vide Waring's treatise, page 39). This incorrectness in the number scored for each ring, however, is altogether unimportant, for as one man's score is only good or bad as compared with another's, and all use the same target and mode of counting, each Archer gets the same proportionate benefit from the excess of counting, and so the comparative result is the same.
Formerly, if an arrow lodged on the border of two rings, the least valuable of the two was counted; but of late years the higher has been allowed—and this is right, as where a man hits two rings, he should have the option of choosing which he likes; of course, he will take the highest. I believe the Woodmen of Arden, however, still retain the old mode of reckoning the hits, allowing the Archer only to score the lowest of the two circles struck by the arrow.
The facing of the target should be covered with nothing but paint; there is too prevalent a custom amongst the target-makers of laying on, previously to the paint, a coating of whiting or some other villanous compound, in order to cheapen the process of colouring, and to smarten the appearance of the facing, and the consequence is, that after a day or two's use, and even without it, this original coating adheres to the arrow, and peals off in little flakes (of course carrying the paint with it), so that in a very short time, and long before either straw or canvass are one quarter destroyed, hardly a remnant of colour remains to distinguish the circles; and in addition to this, the Archer is bored with the necessity of removing this sticky compound from the end of his arrow, every time it is removed from the target. I know of nothing more annoying to the Archer than this. He has paid a high price for his targets, and perhaps for long carriage besides, and does not get a quarter of the wear out of the facings he has justly a right to expect. The proprietors of Archery warehouses, did they but consult their own interests, would soon put a stop to this obnoxious practice, the result of it being, that every Archer who has it in his power gets the facings of his targets made in his own neighbourhood under his own eye, instead of purchasing them. "Verbum sap." &c.
The present colours of the target are not well adapted for the most accurate shooting, being too bright and glaring, confusing the eye, and attracting it from the, centre. Thus it is most difficult to aim at the gold, and not at the target generally. A black centre, with the rest of the target white, or vice versâ, would be much more conducive to central hitting. The rings might still be equally well marked.
These consist of three pieces of wood or iron, about six feet in length, fastened together by hinges at the top, and form a triangle, upon which the target is suspended. There is little or nothing to be said about them, excepting that, if made of iron, they should invariably be covered with a thick coat of leather or gutta percha; otherwise the arrows will be constantly broken against them, especially in windy weather; but even with this precaution, the wooden ones are the safest, and if these latter are faced from end to end with about two square inches of good solid stuffing of tow or shavings, inclosed in canvass, they will last a great many years, and never do injury to a single arrow.
A new kind of stand was introduced by the late Rev. J. Meyler, and is now, and has been for some years past, in use on the Toxopholite Grounds in Regent's Park. It is of iron, and constructed in such a manner that no part of the stand is visible to the shooter. Though considered perfection by its author, it is open to several objections; the chief of which are, that it is very expensive, can only be used as a fixture, and is occasionally the cause of a broken arrow; since, in spite of its careful construction, in dry weather the shaft will often rebound from the ground against it. I do not see, indeed, how the triangular wooden stand, well guarded, is to be surpassed.
The accompanying plate will give an idea of the Meyler stand.
The quiver is commonly a case made of tin, to hold about a dozen arrows, sometimes having a small receptacle in the top to contain a spare string, a piece of wax, some twine and silk, and a file. These old-fashioned quivers are, however, very objectionable, as there is no provision made for keeping the arrows separate, so that too often they are squeezed in anyhow, and the feathers are crushed, and the arrows warped. The best sort of quiver (which now generally fits the travelling bow-case) is made of wood or tin, flat-sided, and fitted inside (at nine inches from the top and six inches from the bottom) with two shelves (one inch thick), bored with as many holes (half-inch in diameter) as there is room for arrows. These two shelves have the holes exactly perpendicular to each other, so that the arrows, passing through the two, are kept steady in their places, without danger of warping or crushing the feathers. If made of tin, the bottom should be lined with a piece of leather, gutta percha, or cork.