A Compendium of Useful Information for the Practical Man/Bow and Arrows
Determining the Length of Bow and Arrow
Among some of the Indian tribes of today, certain rules, regarding the bow and arrow which were worked out centuries ago are still in use. Of course, a boy could not use a bow that was made for a man, and two men differing in physical strength could not well use the same bow; so a difference in the size and strength of the individual led to modifications of the bow and arrow so that they could meet the requirements of each individual. Each individual made his own bow and arrow, and in making them certain units of measurement were and are still employed. The Indian hunter in making his bow does not use a standard length; the bow must be exactly eight times the span from the thumb to the little finger of the hunter using it, and the length of the arrow must be exactly the distance from the armpit to the end of the thumb, measuring on the inside of the extended arm.
Apache Bow Tools
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Making an Indian Bow
As the Indian bow is considered the most powerful and best, a description of its construction will be a good guide for making one for civilized use. The Indian bow is generally four feet long, one and one-half inches wide, and an inch thick at the middle. It tapers from the center toward the ends, and is but half an inch wide and half an inch thick at the extremities.
At one end, the bow string is notched into the wood and made permanently fast, while at the other end two notches are cut, and the string at that end of the bow is made like a slip-knot or loop.
When the bow is to be used, the warrior sets the end to which the string is made fast firmly on the ground, and then bends down the other end until the loop slips into the notch. It is never kept strung except when in actual use, as it would lose its strength and elasticity by being constantly bent. The wood used is ash, hickory, ironwood, elm and cedar. All of the wood, save cedar, requires seasoning, and is not worked until thoroughly dry. For the use of boys and beginners the size should be much reduced.
The Indians do not generally put a very attractive mechanical finish upon their bows. The weapons are made for practical purposes and not for ornamentation. The bow made after the fashion given above may be attractively finished by giving the inner surface and the edges an oval shape. After smoothing up, rub with a woolen cloth dampened in linseed oil, then glue to the central part of the bow a strip of green or red velvet six inches long.
To Make a Good Bow
Take a good, clear billet split from mulberry, sassafras, southern cedar, black locust, ash, or apple-tree, giving preference to the woods in the order named. Let the billet be from five to seven feet long, according to the desired length of the bow. Now, with great care shave the piece down to a uniform size for its whole length, say nearly circular, and two and a half inches in diameter. Lay the piece away to dry in the shade for two months, taking care that no hint of moisture ever reaches it. When it is thoroughly seasoned, finish as follows; first, mark the exact center of the billet, and from this point in the direction of what is to be the lower end of the bow lay off a space of five inches for the handle. Trom each extremity of the handle taper the bow to the ends, each of which must be a shade larger than the tip of the archer's third finger. Now dress the handle and body of the bow down till by trying it you find it nearly of the proper strength, then flatten the back a little the whole length of the bow, glue a bit of green plush round the handle and your bow is ready for the horn tips, which are the ends of cow-horns bored out to fit over the bow's ends and nocked or notched as seen in the detail drawings (here reprinted from Scribner's for July); but it must be noticed that the drawing marked b was either by my own fault or by a mistake of the engraver made wrong. The wood of the bow is there made flat on the inner side and rounded on the outer or back; it should be just the reverse. The hole bored in the horn to receive the tips of the bow should be deep enough to let the wood pass in to slightly above the nock. To make the horn work easily, boil it in water for an hour or two. A bow of six feet in length and of sixty pounds
drawing power will throw a good arrow two hundred and twenty-five yards. Of course the reader knows at once that his bow must be suited to his muscular force and to the experience he has in archery. Fifty pounds drawing weight is about right for an ordinary man to begin with. The length of the bow should be two or three inches in excess of the archer's height. A lady's bow may be from twenty-eight to forty pounds strong. I have somewhere seen it stated that Her Majesty Queen Victoria in her younger days greatly enjoyed archery, and gloried in her ability to brace and draw a fifty-five pound bow.
Tools of the Arrow Maker
Fig. 1. Shaft Straightener. The example figured is from the Hupa (Athapascan) tribe of California. It is a piece of yew ten inches long, spindle-shaped and having an oblong hole through the middle. The arrow shaft is drawn through the hole and straightened by pressure on the ends of the tool.
Fig. 2. The Glue Stick, which is simply a bit of wood having one end covered with glue, used like a tinner's soldering iron.
Figs. 3 and 4. Arrowhead Chippers. Showing the primitive method of joining the working parts to the handle. One point is a bit of bone, the other a rod of soft iron, which in this example replaces one of bone or antler.
Fig. 5. The Pitching Tool. A column of antler used like a cold chisel in knocking off spalls or flakes or blades by means of some kind of hammer.
Figs. 6 and 7. Rasping And Polishing Stones. All the American tribes used coarse sandstone for wood rasps, and in the making of arrow shafts cut grooves in the rasp to give rotundity to the wood. The polishing was done with finer sandstone, shagreen, siliceous grass, etc.
Fig. 8. Glue Shell. An implement made of muscle shell worn over the finger and employed in smoothing down glue and sinew on bows and arrows.
Fig. 9. Saw. In this example an old case knife blade, hacked on the edge. In primitive times wood saws were made of chipped siliceous stone.
Making an Arrow
The arrows must be of well seasoned sticks, perfectly straight and of exactly the same length, for if of different lengths, they fly differently, and unless made in all respects alike, the aim is destroyed. The shafts being made even, the next work is to form the stringnotch. This is done with a sharp knife, and when made properly, the bottom of the notch will be precisely in the center of the shaft.
Heading the arrow - blunt arrows are used for shooting at a mark, etc., but when used for game, steel points or heads are put in. Where the heads are used, a slit is sawed opposite the notch end and the stem of the arrow-head inserted and held by binding with thread. The slit must be exactly in the center.
Feathering the arrow - the next process is to put on the feathers. To do this properly, great care must be taken. Turkey quills are soaked in warm water to make them split easily and uniformly. The leather is then stripped from the quill and put on the shaft.
Three feathers are placed on each shaft and laid equidistant along the stem. The big end of the feather is fastened near the notch of the shaft and laid six inches along the wood, The feathers are glued to the arrow.