Useful Reference Works
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Archery Help for Writers in Middle-earth: 4. Miscellaneous Archery Info
Anchor point - Position to which the string hand and arm are brought at full-draw for firing. This MUST be the same position taken every time an arrow is drawn, for any sort of consistency in aim. Elbow of string-hand must be about shoulder-high, in order to bring shoulder and forearm into line with the arrow, and upper edge of end segment of forefinger touches just under the corner of the archer's jaw.
To Draw - Muscles of archer's back press bow and pull string simultaneously, so that push and pull bring both hands to full draw at about the same time. One must never employ only arm-strength to draw, but must engage back and shoulders as well, as if scrunching the shoulder blades together.
Release - The instant your aim is found, string is released simply by allowing the fingers to quit holding. ONLY fingers relax, however; arm and shoulder and back muscles will remain in push/pull of bow and string, until the arrow has fled. Hands of bow and string will naturally spring apart in follow-through, an involuntary motion which should not be made voluntary.
Bow Care - Bow must be unstrung when not in use, to avoid springing the bow by constant tension, and preferably stored in a soft leather case. String must be kept away from the damp, or it will lose its snap and elasticity. "Dry-firing" a bow is unwise, as this can set up high-frequency vibrations that crack the bow. Over-drawing a bow (as with an arrow too long for it) is likewise detrimental. Bows do NOT take whacks and dings well. Any least crack in the wood or horn can fracture to result in total bow failure. At best, such a crack or chip can be sanded/scraped out, but then the entire bow must be worked down to match, which can result in a lighter, weaker bow. The wood of the bow must be periodically waxed to keep it in condition, but never so heavily as to be sticky or tacky.
Waxing - Bowstrings are kept waxed for smoothness and elasticity, yet not so much so that they become tacky. Only the Serving (wrapped thread where the fingers and arrow go) is left un-waxed. If the bowstring starts to look fuzzy, light wax is rubbed in with a bit of leather, and any excess gently scraped off. A few little frays in the bowstring can be simply snipped off and waxed away, but care must be taken that a string does not become weak enough to snap.
Pulling Arrows from Target - Place left hand against target with arrow protruding between first and second fingers, and grasp arrow close to the target with right hand. Then push the left hand against the target with the same force it takes to pull the arrow right-handed from the target. Arrow must be drawn straight to avoid kinking or bending. If arrow penetrates until feathers have entered the target, or has slid along the ground into grass roots and weeds, the arrow must be drawn forward and out the other side to prevent stripping or fraying of fletching.
Arrow Quality - It is of benefit to the archer to have quality arrows made to very nearly match in weight and "spine," or springy-stiffness. Arrows of differing weight, "spine," length, or fletching will not fly the same nor achieve consistent accuracy.
Arrowheads, Pinned or Knurled vs. Glued - Changes in temperature or weather/humidity can loosen arrowheads, as can much use. A glued arrowhead is easily replaced if the rest of the shaft is still good, but is also more easily lost. A pinned or knurled arrowhead will withstand more use, but cannot be replaced once it splinters from the shaft.
Arrowhead Replacement - If the arrowhead was glued on, it can be replaced if the rest of the arrow is still good. However, if it was pinned/knurled on, likely the shaft will be splintered when the arrowhead is broken or torn loose.
Arrow / Bow Compatibility - Arrows made for another bow can be ineffective or even hazardous. For instance, a clothyard shaft for a Longbow would be an ill match for a Short Bow, and could in fact injure the shorter bow, if the archer over-drew the bow to compensate for the greater length of arrow. In contrast, a too-short arrow in a longer bow will have a weak cast, because the bow cannot be drawn to its full strength without dropping the arrow.
Warped arrows - Warped wooden arrows may sometimes be straightened by heating over low flame (don't scorch it!) and carefully bending it straight, then holding it until it is cool and set. One can look down the shaft of an arrow and twirl it, to see if it is warped from use.
Feathers/Fletching - Can be replaced if the rest of the arrow is still good.
Self-Bows - Bows which are made of a single type of wood.
Backed Bows - Bows which are strengthened by having a thin strip of tough wood, rawhide, or fiber glued to the back (outermost) of the stave.
Note: Sometimes bows are made from a single stave, but often they are spliced and/or laminated, since it is often easier to find two shorter pieces of good quality which can be made to match, than to find one long, high-quality stave.
Bow Weight - this is the pounds of pull required to draw the bow and bring the arrow to its full length.
Bow Length - is determined by the length of arrow it is intended to shoot. Longer arrows require a longer bow, and vice versa for shorter.
Finger-Protection - Many written works espouse the use of finger protection for the string-hand, when a bow is to be used with great regularity. These can take several forms. A) "Shooting glove", a very fine, close-fitting leather glove, with thumb and least finger cut out for ventilation.
B) "Tab", simply a fine piece of leather (preferably Cordovan) with two holes cut in it, so that when the fingertips wrap around the string the leather shields them.
C) "Stalls" which are simply fingertips custom-sewn of leather to fit just the string fingers. All of these are made of good leather that is sturdy enough to protect the fingers, but fine enough that the archer can still feel and control the string through it.
(As an added note, I have NO idea if gloves or other things were used in the Middle Ages, or if habitual archers simply grew sturdy calluses. This is just for our edification.)
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