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Home > Books > A Treatise on Archery > The art of archery
The Art of Archery
Part 2 of 4

Many Archers rub their Bows with a piece of waxed cloth, which is of great utility, as it not only gives them a polish, but is a preventative against damps penetrating: this precaution however, is not so much required for self Bows, as backed ones.

Self Bows are made of one piece of wood only, and that is generally of yew, but the long known difficulty of procuring good yew,[5] has compelled Bow makers of late years, to resort to various other woods, all containing great spring, but little pliability ; the deficiency of the latter is amply supplied by the addition of a slip of ash, or some other tough wood glued to them ; the toughness of the one combined to the elasticity of the other, both acting in conjunction, make capital Bows, and these it is that are called Back'd Bows.

It is these Bows that require some care in keeping the damp from: and again on the contrary, from being kept in too dry a situation, such as being in a very hot room, for that will perish the glue, and make the pieces come asunder;—the best, place is a closet, or a wooden case made for the purpose, and fixed up in a hall, called an ascham, as mentioned in page 45.

An Archer should never lend his Bow to another, while shooting with it himself: for two persons to shoot with the same Bow, at the same time, is working it too much, for it is being doubly kept in full bend which destroys its elasticity.

A Bow when not in use, should always be locked up, or otherwise secured, that it might not fall into the hands of others, for more Bows are broke by strangers and servants, through their being exposed to their curiosity, than by the shooters themselves ; for as it is most commonly the case, that they do not know how to use them, nor even to string them, they generally commit some mischief, which if they do not absolutely break in pieces, they perhaps so far damage that the Bow breaks in the Archer's hand the first time he draws it; and as the cause of the accident is seldom known, it is often unjustly imputed to the fault of the wood.

As this hint is given for the benefit of young Archers, it is to be hoped they will not neglect it, and should they be from home, where they cannot have that convenience, let them take off the string.

The handle should not be in the centre of the Bow, but under it; thus the lower limb is shorter than the upper one, by the depth of the handle; it is therefore made stronger than the upper.

If the centre of a Bow is in the centre of the handle, both limbs are of the same length, and must therefore be of the same strength, and should approach in shape the sixth segment of a circle, so far the Bow is correct ; but to send an Arrow from the centre of the string, and centre of the Bow is rendered impossible from the situation of the hand, which holds the Bow covering its centre : the Arrow then must go from the Bow at least two inches and a half above the centre : supposing the handle five inches deep, the upper part of the string measuring from where the Arrow is placed, is shorter by five inches than the lower part, consequently the upper limb is more bent when drawn to the length of an Arrow, than the lower limb, therefore incorrect, as not acting in conjunction which they ought to do: to make the Arrow then go from the centre of the Bow, the handle must be placed below the centre, which is then met by another circumstance, that the lower limb becomes shorter by five inches than the upper, and would therefore, when drawn up to the length of an Arrow be most bent, therefore again irregular : to remedy this, the lower limb is made the strongest, by which it so much resists the pull of the string, as to be enabled to keep pace in the drawing with the upper limb, and the shooting therefore, becomes more steady and correct. Observe, that both limbs of the Bow must bend equally when the handle is exactly centrical; nor does it matter which end of the Bow is held upwards, but where one limb is longer than the other, then the longest, must always be drawn upwards ; if by accident it should be drawn with the short limb upwards, the Bow will have a narrow escape if it is not broke, for a long Arrow is not only drawn against the short limb, but likewise with the short part of the string,

A good guide to a young Archer will be the silk hipping, for if he nocks his Arrow on the string where there is no silk, he will at once see he has got, the wrong end of the Bow.

It will be observed, that every Bow has generally a number immediately over the handle, which is the number of pounds it takes to draw the Bow down to the length of an Arrow.

Thus a man according to the Bow he can pull may judge of his own strength. Fifty pounds is the standard weight of a Bow, and he who can draw one of sixty with case, as his regular shooting Bow, may reckon himself a strong man; though some can draw a Bow of seventy and eighty pounds, but they are very few.

A man has to exercise double the strength that the Bow is marked; for if he draws a Bow of fifty pounds with his right hand, he must have the same strength in the left to reist that pull.

Ladies Bows are from twenty-four pounds to thirty four.

Upon Arrows.

Arrows for shooting are generally selected according to the power of the Bow, and are weighed against silver money at the mint standard weight; thus Arrows weigh from three to twenty shillings; though seldom shot with above six.

Mr. Roberts, in his English Bowman, (page 153,) gives the following table for directing what Arrows to shoot with, at any particular distance.

30 yards from. . . .4s. to 6s.
60. . . . . . . . . . . . 3s. 6d. to 5s. 6d.
90 } . . . . . . . 3s to 4s. 6d.
120

Thus it will appear, that an Arrow of 4s. and 4s. 6d. is a proper weight for any of the above distances, which shews there is no absolute rule what; Arrows to shoot with, as what suits one person may not suit another, for a great deal depends upon the strength of the Bow, and whether it has a sharp or dull loose, (for two Bows may be of the same strength, yet one shall send an Arrow further than the other, for it is not only strength that is required, but a quick cast,) upon the method of drawing and loosing, and various other causes, in short it seldom occurs, that two Archers shall shoot exactly alike: it. is this part in Archery that is so difficult to acquire, what is called a knack, and which only can be obtained by attention and practice, and all errors attending these must be corrected by the Archers own observation.

A light Arrow may be used with a strong Bow, but a heavy Arrow should not be used with a weak one.

A shooter should always select his Arrows, and set apart particular ones for particular distances.

In shooting at one distance, let the Arrows be of an equal weight, for when the Archer has got into a train for shooting well, an Arrow that is heavier or lighter than the one that shoots best, must vary more or less in the distance. Thus the Toxophilite Society, though they only shoot with two Arrows, have always another of the same weight in their pouches, that in case, one of the two gets broke or anyways damaged, it may instantly be replaced, and thus they denominate three Arrows a pair.

This expression is only current among themselves, to call three a pair certainly does not sound well; a pouch of Arrows would he a more appropriate expression.

Arrows beside their weight vary in length; ladies' Arrows, or for Bows of 5-feet long, are 24-inches in length. Bows under 5-feet 9-inches have Arrows of 27-inches in length; and above 5-feet-9, 28, 29, and sometimes 30; but the last must be to a very long Bow indeed, and a man must have very long arms to draw such a one up to the head, but after all, such long Arrows are hazardous to the Bow, even a 20-inch Arrow is very dangerous to some. To Bows therefore of 5-feet 10-inches long, no Arrows above 28-inches ought to be used, though for many years 27-inches has been the general length, and to those who wish to preserve their Bows, rather than be ambitious of drawing a long Arrow, are recommended to shoot with them only.

Arrows are likewise shaped differently, some are thick at the. pile and gradually slope to the nock. Some are made to be thickest near the middle, and others are stoutest close under the feathers, and taper gradually to the pile ; but Arrows of any shape if they are straight, will fly well at almost every distance within the power of the Bow,

A great many Archers however differ in this respect, even down to the very pile, who maintain that blunt-headed Arrows are preferable to sharp ones, and others again maintain the contrary.

The only advantage attending the blunt pile, is that when it is shot into the target-frame, or any other wood- work, it is more easily extracted.

Some again think that an Arrow with a blunt pile goes further than with a sharp one, for as a sharp pile is made something in the shape of a sugar loaf, and the sides incline broader as it lengthens, so it is supposed to have a greater superficial front, therefore meets with greater difficulty in penetrating the air than the blunt one, which being equally thick, has but its bare circumference to contend against, and consequently meets with less resistance then the other.

The truth of this argument is left to the practitioner, who will by his own experiments be able to judge for himself.

He should however be careful not to shoot with Arrows of various lengths.

All Arrows have generally three feathers, either goose or Turkey; two of which consist of one color, and the third of another, which odd color is to point out the feather that should be uppermost.

Upon a trifling inspection, the learner will observe that every Arrow is inlaid at the nock with horn, on one side of which a feather is laid, on the opposite side, none; that feather which is placed on the horn is the cock-feather; the other two are placed at an equal distance from it.

Now place the Arrow on the string with the cock-feather uppermost, that is to say, the further side from the Bow, and the other two will slide over it without being rumpled or discomposed, but place the cock-feather downwards, or next the Bow, and the feather will go directly upon it, which not only injures the feather very much, but very soon takes it oft"; besides an Arrow so shot, is turned from the course of its destination by the feather as it passes over the Bow, raising the end of it.

The cock-feather therefore must always be uppermost, and that it may be the more easily found, it is often different in color from the other two, but let this be a guide to the learner, that the feather which is placed on the horn is the cock-feather, let the color he what it will; many Archers prefer all of the same color, and to one of any experience it is of no consequence.

Every Archer should have his mark painted on his Arrows under the feathers, (this is generally a pattern of some ribbon) to distinguish them from others, else where four or five are shooting together it, creates great confusion and delay in each collecting his own, but where the Arrows are painted, each Archer can see his own before he draws them from out of the ground. The mark should be about an inch broad.

Great care should be taken in drawing the Arrow from the ground or mark.

Inexperienced shooters will take hold of their Arrows by the nearest part they can reach, which is bad, for it sometimes breaks the Arrow, very often bends it, and almost always rumples the feathers.

If the Arrow is in the mark, take hold of it close to the mark, and in drawing it out, turn it: the same to be observed when in the ground, take hold of the Arrow close to the ground, and be careful to draw it out in the same direction that it went in before it is raised, else the Arrow will break in the ground.

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