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Chapter III

Bow technology
Part 1 of 3

Classification of Bows.—We may classify bows as (a) self, (b) backed; also as (c) spliced or grafted, and (d) jointed.

A self bow is one in which the back and belly are of one piece of wood. It may at the same time be a spliced or a jointed bow. The self bow out of a single full-length stave is the most desirable and the easiest for the amateur bowyer to make.

A backed bow is one which is reinforced by gluing a strip of tough wood, rawhide, or fiber to the back. There are some woods which strongly resist crushing but which, on the other hand, are rather brittle or tend to splinter at the back when bent. Bows of such woods are benefitted by a suitable backing, such as hickory. Also they may be spliced or jointed.

A spliced or grafted bow is one in which two halfstaves are united with glue at the handle. Sound 6-foot staves of yew or osage orange are relatively scarce, while shorter billets of good quality and wide enough to be split into two half-staves are less difficult to obtain. By suitably gluing the ends of these short staves together, a bow may be made with the upper and lower limbs of very similar appearance and mechanical properties. Figure 9, B and C, shows the two styles of splice joints used.

A jointed bow is one in which the two limbs fit snugly into a socket handle and may be taken apart for more convenient transportation.

FIGURE 2. The Parts of a Bow
FIGURE 2. The Parts of a Bow

The Parts of a Bow.—Figure 2 illustrates the several parts of the bow. The limbs are carefully tapered and shaped so that every part does its share of the work in producing the maximum of results. The upper limb is a little longer than the lower. The junction of the two limbs forms the rigid part of the bow called the handle or grip, which is wrapped with cord, gimp, leather, or other material to suit the individual taste. Just above the handle, where the arrow crosses the bow, is the arrow plate, whose function is to protect the bow from the friction of the arrow. It may be of mother-of-pearl, metal, or horn set into the wood; but the personal preference of the writer is leather, which, if used, might as well be of one piece with the half-inch band of leather serving as a finish or edging to the handle. The leather arrow plate may be easily replaced when necessary. The back of the bow is flat or slightly convex in accordance with the natural curvature of the log out of which the bow stave came. The body or belly, which is the part of the bow facing the archer on the draw, is rounded or arched.

The String or Bow-cord is composed of an appropriate number of linen threads divided into three equal strands which in turn are twisted together in rope fashion. The ends of the string are fashioned into eyes to fit the mocks or grooves at the ends of the bow. Instead of an eye at the lower end of the string, the timber hitch may be used. The nocks are either made directly on the wood or made on horn, fiber, or aluminum tips fitted to the ends of the bow. The tips, while adding a finish to the bow, should be as light as possible so as not to slow up the bow appreciably. The nocking point is the correct place to fit the arrow to the string. It is just opposite the arrow plate and may be identified by a special serving of thread on the String.