Tag Archives: Wood Arrows

Coaching Cheap Thrills

I just received a notice of another follower of this blog. (There I’ve told you there aren’t so many followers of this blog (there are 142 of you to date), if there were I would have turned off that notification long ago, otherwise one’s Inbox gets swamped.) The new follower is “rosecityarchery.” (Be still, my beating heart.) For those of you who don’t know Rose City Archery, it is the premier producer of wood target archery shafts and arrows. They may also produce the world’s best hunting shafts, but I cannot attest to that as I have never hunted with wood arrows.

Rose City Archery is located in Oregon and they claim to be the world’s largest wood arrow and shaft manufacturer. I have no way to verify that, so I take them at their word. They have been in business since the early 1930’s.

If you are interested in traditional archery and wood arrows, check out their web site and their blog (https://rosecityarchery.wordpress.com). You will find not only the highest quality products for sale, but also some high quality information about building them.

Also, there are a great many false claims made about wood arrows, such as they can’t be shot from compound bows safely, so that if you decide to “go wood” you will need to educate yourself. Traditional archery icon Dan Quillian wrote a series on such myths for Archery Focus magazine a while back (all back-issues are available for free with a subscription for the next six new issues).

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Musing About Strings

QandA logoI have a student I am teaching to make bowstrings (recurve, not compound) and he has a great many questions, quite a few of which I cannot answer. Those questions, though, got me speculating about a number of things, specifically nock fit and string diameters, in that arena. I would love somebody more knowledgeable about these things to comment on this!

One of the questions involved a discussion of the numbers of strands used to make a bowstring and hence its diameter. Please recognize that I am speculating more than quite a bit here.

Back in the old days (when string materials were natural and more easily broken, the pattern became: heavier drawing bows required thicker strings. the string materials: silk, linen, hemp, etc. were not particularly strong and so strings broke fairly easily. (I remember one war bow researcher stating that a string on one of those heavy bows might last six shots!) Thicker strings were made of more strands. Arrow nocks were generally just a slot cut in the back of the arrow (self nocks) and the fit wasn’t particularly a concern as the arrow was pinched between the fingers.

Easton Super Nock

Easton Super Nock

When manufactured nocks came into being, they were made in four different throat sizes to allow for this. Heavier bows required larger arrows (to get more stiffness, wooden arrows were just made thicker), and larger arrows required bigger nocks (think glue-on nocks at this time) and the larger nocks had bigger nock grooves because the bows had thicker strings. Smaller shafts used smaller nocks which had smaller grooves because those bows had smaller strings (in diameter/numbers of strands).

Fast forward to modern bowstring materials (Fastflight and beyond). These materials are much stronger and more resistant to wear/abrasion and breakage than the old materials but they were introduced into a system that was already created for the older materials. If you look at the breaking strengths, it only takes a few (roughly four) strands to carry the load for any recurve bow. The additional strands tend to be for nock fit. You have an example of this in aluminum arrows. Easton sells its line leader X7s with inserts for Super Nocks (large groove) if 20/64˝ diameter or larger and G Nocks for the smaller shafts (both large and small grooved G Nocks have smaller grooves than the one in a Super Nock). The assumption is still that the larger arrows are stiffer, going to be used on a heavier bow, with a larger diameter string.

I think modern materials have provided us with all kinds of options we aren’t taking advantage of. We can use strings of fewer strands on heavier bows, which would make them (marginally) faster. Some barebow archers use a triple center serving in lieu of using a tab (or a thicker one). We can use heavier strings on lighter bows but there are few advantages to this. We can put smaller nocks on bigger arrows. (Before Easton started making G Nock inserts for their larger arrows, I took ACC 3-71 nock inserts and epoxied them into Super Nock bushings to create the equivalent (so I wouldn’t have to change the bowstrings I was using to use those arrows with Super Nocks).

I think this is one of those examples of a system created under vastly different circumstances but which is maintained now to create some continuity with the past. I suspect that the number of strands recommendations by the various string material vendors is based more on nock fit than it is on having a strong enough string. Maybe secondary to nock fit is a thicker string distributes the pressure better on the draw fingers and therefore makes shooting more comfortable. I’d even place that in front of string strength as a guide to how many strands are needed to make up a string.

Easton G Nocks

Easton G Nocks

Another example of these phenomena is aluminum arrow sixes, e.g. 2114, in which the first two digits is the size of the shaft in 64ths of an inch. Sixty-fourths was chosen because the common wood arrow diameters were: 1/4˝, 3/8˝, 5/16˝, 11/32˝, etc. All of these are translatable into 64ths (being 16, 24, 20, and 22 sixty-fourths respectively). The benefit of any such connect (between aluminum and wood shafts) has dubious value in my mind, other than making aluminums more acceptable to those who were used to the sizes of wood shafts.

The situation regarding nocks and strings is that I think you can use any nock on any string for any reason and still be safe. I know Larry Wise preferred small groove G nocks over large grooved ones as they presently less of a target for another arrow’s point and a glance-off costing him points. Any reason can be good, the possibilities are very large, so feel free to experiment.

Toute réponse?

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Going Trad

I have decided to post here more frequently. I was hoping those of you following would send in your questions but that hasn’t taken off yet, so I will plow on using my own compass as a guide.

Modern Longbow

A Modern Longbow

Lately I have been thinking a lot about training traditional archers. I have one student on my college team who got so excited when I let him try a longbow that he ran out and bought one. Happy archer, that; he found his bliss!

Generally, traditional archers shoot longbows or one-piece recurves but may shoot “takedown” bows as they are often used by hunters. (Takedown bows break down into two or three parts.)

Trad Recurve

A One-Piece Recurve Bow

Recurve or Longbow?
This is a matter of taste. Recurve bows shoot a little more smoothly and have less “hand shock” (vibration transferred from the bow into the bow hand). Some longbows come with a shelf (see photos) others require you to “shoot off your knuckle,” that is use your hand as an arrow rest. Almost all traditional recurves have an arrow shelf. If the shelf is rounded, it is designed to be shot with the arrow resting on it (usually a soft piece of leather or fur provides the resting place). If the shelf is flat, some kind of arrow rest is needed (often these are just plastic stick-on rests).

How Long?
Both types of bows come in various lengths. The shorter versions are generally used by hunters (less likely to catch on brush or tree branches or bang against a stand) and longer versions for target archers (less pinch of the draw fingers by the bowstring, smoother draw), In general, target archers prefer longbows to be about as tall as they are, while recurve people think a strung recurve bow, stood on one’s shoe top, should have it’s top limb tip reach between the chin and nose.

Longbow Shelf

This longbow has an arrow shelf, note the leather pad installed.

How Stout?  
Archers who have been shooting compound bows often make the mistake of getting a traditional bow of the same draw weight as their compound bow, e.g. “If I can handle a 40# compound, I should get a 40# longbow.” Ahhhn, wrong! A #40 compound bow with 65% letoff has a draw weight at full draw of 14#. The longbow has a draw weight of 40# at full draw (assuming a 28˝ draw length)! (This is the definition of heavy lifting!) Also realize that recurves and longbows get harder to pull the farther back you pull them (from brace!). The listed draw weight of a recurve or longbow is the weight or pull force at 28˝ of draw (for adults, typically 24˝ of draw for youth bows, and many traditional bowyers list their draw weights at the design draw length (as they are often made to order) such as 42#@26˝ of draw). If your draw length is different from this, the actual draw weight will be different. Typically 1-2# of draw is lost for every 1˝ short of 28˝ the bow is drawn and 1-2# of draw is gained for every 1˝ past 28˝ the bow is drawn (this is the rule of thumb for the relatively light drawing bows used by beginners; heavier bows can go up/down 3# per inch, for example).

As a general rule, a compound archer should look at a longbow that is 10-15# lighter than his/her compound. Recurve archers can get traditional recurves or longbows anywhere near their normal draw weight and they will be fine.

Realize that if you buy a longbow or one piece recurve, if you get the wrong draw weight, you will have to buy another bow, a whole new one! There are no limb swaps or limb bolts to crank up or down. So, be cautious when you buy and, if possible, always “try before you buy.”

Arrows: Wood or. . . ?
Many traditional archers use wood arrows. Beginners should not. The reason is that they break easily. I recommend that you start with inexpensive aluminum arrows and after you gain control of your new bow, then try wood arrows. (They are fun to make from parts, by the way.)

Wooden arrows . . . you may need a lot of them as they do break easily.

Wooden arrows . . . you may need a lot of them as they do break easily.

The markings regarding the stiffness of wood arrows is different from aluminum and carbon arrows. With aluminum and carbon arrows, the arrow’s “spine” is usually listed (a number like 720 or 480). This number is simply the number of thousandths of an inch an arrow shaft sags when a two pound weight is hung on its middle. A “spine” of 520 means the shaft sagged 0.520˝ when it was supported at both ends horizontally with a two pound weight hung in the middle.

Wood arrows are more likely to list the spine as something like 35-40# which is a reference to the draw weight range the arrows were designed for. This is tricky though, as you can’t just match your bow’s draw weight to the wood arrow’s rating. The reason is that when the arrow’s are cut, they become stiffer. If you have a very short or very long draw length, you have to adjust things. My longbow is 30# @ 28˝ but I buy 35-40# arrow shafts because my draw length is 31˝ which means I don’t cut the arrows at all! There are charts to help you with this process. Send me an email if you can’t find one.

Horsebow

There are even traditional bows designed to be shot from horseback! (Yes, a galloping horse!)

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