Living History Experimental Workshop
It has long been stated that we should all have more than one string to our bows, and this has been passed down the years, to mean; we should have more than one skill to hand, in order to bend with the changing and challenging ebbs and tides of life; to have a second skill or something in reserve.
In traditional archery circles, it has come to mean that you would "literately" have a spare string to hand, either under your hat, in a pouch, or on your belt, ready to hand, enabling a quick recovery from a failed string; particularly in war time.
But, the question of the ability of available materials of the medieval time; hemp, silk or bulks therms string, being able to take the strain of a medieval or Tudor longbow; braced to between 160lb and 200lb plus, and being thin enough, for the arrows nock to accept the thickness of that string, has been raised. The string would be too thick to enter and arrow nock, which is a bit awkward, since we have definite examples of the size of bow and arrow shafts taken from the Marry Rose: The bows are big, circa 180lb draw weight, and the arrow shafts are small; with no examples of the strings used to bridge the gap of this conundrum.
The current workshop experiment takes a statement from Aschams book Toxophilus. Ascham or Toxophilus, one synonymous with the other, in archery circles. This is a book written by Roger Ascham in the rein of king Henry the VIII: The last book written in a time when longbow archery was still very important to the king, as a means of defences to the realm of England, and the first book written in English: In short, a very important book; then and today.
Jan 10th 2012
The Current Experiment
Within the book Toxophilus / Ascham states: In war, if a string break, the man is lost, and is no man, for his weapon is gone; and although he have two strings put on at once, yet he shall have small leisure and less room to bend his bow: therefore God send us good stringers both for war and peace. This statement is made in the context of the ability to purchase good strings, from good stringers, but, he clearly states that TWO strings are put on at once "in wartime" and if one breaks, then the archer is no good, lost, because he cannot draw his bow fully. This seems to deal with the potential problem of a string that is too thick for the arrow shaft, and not strong enough for the bow power; you need to put on two strings to take the weight and power of the bow, but presumably being "half" the gauge per string, you can now nock on your arrow to one or other of the strings.
Well, how does this work? What does it look like? This gives us the basis of our current experiment.
To Start: We have made our bow, which is a triple laminate and currently on the tillaring stick; being taken down to around a 70 - 80lb draw weight. We intend to use two 10 strand strings. These are not capable of taking the 80lbs weight on their own "dynamically" when shooting, but can take the poundage in a static braced position. Importantly, the single 10strand string is significantly smaller than the 20 strand equivalent; half the size and very important to this idea.
Nocks: The nock design for two strings is speculative, but the bow has been taken down to a good shape and weight prior to tillaring, so we have fitted a first guess nock that will take the two strings. These nocks are identical on upper and lower limb but are designed to take the loop of one string in the lower nock point, and the bowyers knot of the second string in the upper nock point.
Once the bow is is off the tillaring stick we will add the strings and show the crossover: The crossover does raise some questions; with the strings slightly offset to each other:
How will the strings move together on the bow and in the hand?
How do we nock on the arrow and to which string?
Can the strings be put on with the same tension (if the tension is less on one string; then the other may take all of the weight)?
If the string tensions are different, what will happen to the bow / strings on loosing an arrow?
Its all good historical fun!