[English Longbow] longbow question

Macbow

New member
If it's of any help I can post a photo of a linen string for a 50lb flatbow - it's an original string for a Rex Oakes Saggitarius flatbow. Looks more like a length of rope than a bow string and none of my nocks will fit the served section.
 


stevesjem

New member
Hi everyone,
I have been reading this thread with much interest and find it quite incredible how so many people nowadays think of themselves as having the skill and strength of a medieval archer, there are a few things that you must think about before making claims about medieval archery in warfare with regards bow weights, string material and arrow lengths.

Bow weights.
The MR bows, These bows are High Altitude Italian, Spanish and Portuguese Yew, this wood is totally different from American yew and much denser than English yew, the dimensions of the MR bows average at about 39mm wide and 37mm thick at the centre, across the back they taper very little for about 12" either side of centre and then gradually to approx 9 - 12mm at the tip, the average length is about 78". Here is a picture of me holding one of them.

I have had more experience than most with regards Italian high Altitude Yew and even with the worst quality piece of yew made to the same dimensions the bow is well over the 100lb more like 120lb.
Now the John Holder Challenge mark is a competition that was set up by Simon Stanley and myself and the arrow spec was taken from one of Simon Stanley's Arrows, the weight was calculated by using an average length shaft that came of the MR, (These range between 27" and 34") see picture.
and fitting it with a type 10 or similar forged head, the fletchings size was taken from the average size fletch of a MR arrow. see picture

Now with all this in mind you now have to look at statutes laid down in medieval times regarding archery practice, which state that the MINIMUM practice distance for men over the age of 15 was 220yds. Now to shoot this arrow the required practice distance you must have a bow of 120lb+,proved by tests carried out by people who have shot this arrow and the ability to shoot the bow well shoot, this means that you are comfortable with this bow weight.
All this information is available if you want to look it up.
The strings made of linen or hemp, now i have made a linen string for a bow of 118lb and this has been shot many times without breaking, the 1/8" nock theory is utter crap, this i beleive as last weekend i was in Italy and visited the Otzi museum, his bow is easily 100lb + looking at its dimensions and knowing the quality of his bow wood (High Altitude Alpine Yew) the nocks on his arrows were less than 1/8" and his string was made from a form of grass, the string is there and is in perfect condition and is constructed as a complete "Flemish Twist" over its whole length. Now if he can do it 5000 years ago why can't the stringmakers of medieval times do it after 4500 years of making them?
The Japanese have been using hemp for their Kyudo bows for 100's of years.

The arrow lengths are different on the MR for a number of reasons.
1. These are all shafts with no heads. If you fitted a type 10 to one of the shorter shafts eg. 27" you can add a further 2"+ of socket and draw the arrow to 29", if you fitted a type 7 to the same you now have an arrow of
30"+,

the thing you are forgetting is that all the arrow heads are hand forged by different arrowsmiths so the chance of all the sockets being the same is 1 in a million, eg. if you bought a type 10 bodkin off Hector Cole and then bought one off Simon Stanley and another off Mark Stretton, you can bet your life the sockets would all be different lengths. also the longer shafts could have been used for a type 16 as this head has longer barbs which come below the socket so to get a full draw you must have a longer shaft or the barbs will hit your bow hand as you draw it.

Now to sum up.
The bow weights must be over 120lb to be able to shoot an arrow the minimum practice distance.
The arrow lengths are different because they were fitted with different heads.
The string could withstand these bow weight (If the Iceman could do it 5000 years ago it stands to reason that the stringmakers 4500 years later could.)

And lastly accurate shooting with these bow weights is possible as proved by Simon and Mark and many others, i myself shoot bows up to 120lb and i only weigh 11 stone, it is about technique, i have been shooting for only 5 years and started when i was 41yrs old, so it stands to reason that if i can get to the minimum bow weight needed to shoot this arrow 200yds + then medieval men who started from boyhood could easily do it.


Anyway sorry it went on a bit but there were questions i thought i could help with.

Cheers

Steve
 


alanesq

New member
FANTASTIC post Steve - thanks :)


Is there anyone around who would be able to make a linen/hemp string for a very heavy bow ?
just to dispel this idea once and for all
 


stevesjem

New member
Hi Alan
You will struggle to get a string made from hemp, as the hemp plant we used was a hybrid plant of a variety of Cannabis cross polinated with common nettles, these reached 14' tall, there are none left, you may want to contact someone in the Kyudo archery world for a japanese string, you cannot use the balls of hemp string that are supplied by craft shops nowadays as this is not the same, the individual strands are much shorter making them less strong when spun together.
 


kernowtom

New member
Thanks Steve

For the hands on input - very interesting and deals with a couple of the points I was less confident about. I am still interested in the fletching length. You are clearly shooting a close replica to the medieval weapon system, probably inside its normal tolerances - Is the guess that the MR arrows had 6" fletches supported by your experience?
Tom
 


stevesjem

New member
Hi Tom

The arrows on the MR had a 7.5 - 8.5" fletch, we know this because of the binding marks left on the shaft where the fletch was bound on the shafts.


Cheers

Steve
 


kernowtom

New member
MR fletchings

Thanks! I had in my head that they were thought to be 6" based on the traces of some substance including a copper compound left on some shafts... but as I mention somewhere up above most of my books are packed and my memory seems somehow less acute these days. As Homer Simpson says - every new fact I learn pushes an old one out of my head:) Your correction also answers my other query above, so thanks again.
tom
 


English Bowman

Well-known member
Now to sum up.
The bow weights must be over 120lb to be able to shoot an arrow the minimum practice distance.
Has anyone tried shooting that distance with bows of less than 120lbs using lower profile fletchings with the long draw? If so how far short did they fall? Admittedly with modern equipment and lighter arrows I have seen a 50lb bow shoot 200yds whereas an archer shooting the same weight arrow from a 65lb bow was falling at 170yds.
The arrow lengths are different because they were fitted with different heads.
I still find it hard to imagine drawing the head inside the bow. I think that it's more likely that the feel of the metal against the hand would be the draw check. The metal against the arrow pass would surely cause undue wear on the bow. I have no proof that this wasn't done, but it seems to me that if your life depended on your bow lasting and not breaking you'd take care of it.

The string could withstand these bow weight (If the Iceman could do it 5000 years ago it stands to reason that the stringmakers 4500 years later could.)
I didn't know this about the strings, as I've only had experience of modern hemp, which as you know won't take the strain. It's this sort of information that needs to be shared. I'd like to see one of these natural strings that can take the draw weight of 100lbs+
Out of interest do you know what string material Simon and Mark use?
And lastly accurate shooting with these bow weights is possible as proved by Simon and Mark and many others, i myself shoot bows up to 120lb and i only weigh 11 stone, it is about technique, i have been shooting for only 5 years and started when i was 41yrs old, so it stands to reason that if i can get to the minimum bow weight needed to shoot this arrow 200yds + then medieval men who started from boyhood could easily do it.
I agree that it's possible, but there is a danger of hero worshipping our forbears. They were men, just as we are. Now I have no doubt that there were archers who could draw extremely heavy bows, but could all the army, and did they?
Could they have still shot 150lbs when half starved and suffering from dysentery? If they had say 90lbs then would that achieve the end results with the right arrow, and if so would they be better able to cope with that weight in adverse conditions?
Anyway sorry it went on a bit but there were questions i thought i could help with.

Cheers

Steve
No problem with the length of post it was a good one, and interesting to read.

Daniel
 


stevesjem

New member
Has anyone tried shooting that distance with bows of less than 120lbs using lower profile fletchings with the long draw? If so how far short did they fall? Admittedly with modern equipment and lighter arrows I have seen a 50lb bow shoot 200yds whereas an archer shooting the same weight arrow from a 65lb bow was falling at 170yds.

Yes we have tried shooting these arrows with lower cut fletchings and they do not fly straight, they flap all over the place.


I still find it hard to imagine drawing the head inside the bow. I think that it's more likely that the feel of the metal against the hand would be the draw check. The metal against the arrow pass would surely cause undue wear on the bow. I have no proof that this wasn't done, but it seems to me that if your life depended on your bow lasting and not breaking you'd take care of it.

During the 100yrs war bows were a military issue item and during battle once the archer had run out of arrows the bow was useless to them, they would not have lovingly wrapped it up in a bow bag but probably would have thrown it to one side so they could fight with Falchion or similar.


I didn't know this about the strings, as I've only had experience of modern hemp, which as you know won't take the strain. It's this sort of information that needs to be shared. I'd like to see one of these natural strings that can take the draw weight of 100lbs+
Out of interest do you know what string material Simon and Mark use?

Both Matk and Simon use Fast flight and maybe a S4, with regards to a natural string on a bow over 100lb, i can only help you with linen nhot hemp, if you want to see these then it's of to Japan to see the Kyudo bows.

I agree that it's possible, but there is a danger of hero worshipping our forbears. They were men, just as we are. Now I have no doubt that there were archers who could draw extremely heavy bows, but could all the army, and did they?

As i have already said these bows were military issue and as such must be of a weight every archer can shoot, the MR bows are all different sizes, this has nothing to do with different bow weights, just wood density, a less dense piece of yew must be physicall bigger to make the weight.

Could they have still shot 150lbs when half starved and suffering from dysentery?

Yes if your life depended on it, it's amazing what you can do when your scared stiff and think you may die.
If they had say 90lbs then would that achieve the end results with the right arrow, and if so would they be better able to cope with that weight in adverse conditions?

Bow weights of 150lb can and are shot quite comfortably all day by people nowadays, so why not by a trained archer who has been at it since boyhood.



No problem with the length of post it was a good one, and interesting to read.

Daniel
In Red are some answers to your questions.

Cheers

Steve
 


steve58

New member
Just come back from holiday so a bit late in saying thanks to StevesJem for a detailed and interesting post. The question that keeps going through my mind is where on earth is it possible to shoot long distances safely with a heavy war bow these days?
 


stevesjem

New member
Hi Steve58

You would need to join a Roving Marks society, eg. The Pickwick Pepperpotts, this is where i shoot along with Simon Stanley, Mark Stretton, Nigel Canning and many others shooting bows over 100lb.

www.pickwicks.org.uk

Cheers

Steve
 


Top