Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

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chidokan
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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby chidokan » Fri Aug 17, 2012 12:05 am

The pertinent question seems to be: What do we not know about period bowstrings that allows them to support the draw-weight of these bows?


The only question I could ask is are they glued or waxed? If so, is there a difference?
I found out in conversation that italian hemp is better than, say, english hemp, as an aside from one of the guys I know who makes reproduction fishing boats and likes the 'real thing' rather than modern nylon type rope. You can still buy this, so stripping a piece down and trying it with glues and wax in a set size string would give a decent guide to breaking strains. Any experts on medieval glue making??? I am guessing cobblers wax would be ok, as well as straight beeswax to see if these give any variance.
Going through my MR book( weapons of war vol1), pages 636/637 also refers to hemp and silk and gives knock sizes that would allow a 3mm string, so that seems a reasonable size to pick.



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EnglishArcher
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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby EnglishArcher » Fri Aug 17, 2012 8:51 am

There are a few questions I'd like answers to:

Were medieval strings made with a Flemish loop or was some other pattern used? We know crossbow strings are made differently to modern bow strings, and capable of holding heavy weights, so did they use a crossbow-style string?

We know hemp can be grow to great size (3m+) so is using a fibre with a long staple better than the modern short staple hemp?

Was the 'glue' used to add strength to the string, or merely water-proofing? If so, how does it aid strength?

Was the string single-looped, double-looped or hitched at both ends? If a string breaks in battle you don't have a spare ten minutes to adjust your string to your bow.

Was the string served, maybe to tighten-up and reduce the diameter of the string at the nocking point? If so, with what material?

How does a medieval string perform against a modern string? Of course it's unlikely to be better, but how much worse, and is that significant to combat needs?

What's the life of a military-spec string? Is it dozens of arrows, hundreds, or merely (as some have speculated) just a few?

Is wear in the medieval string visible? Could an archer see or feel that their string was failing and replace it before it took out the bow, or did they have to wait until it snapped and then hope the bow (and the archer!) survived?


We can speculate on all of these questions, but without any period evidence it's all guess work. Hopefully in the near future we'll have some empirical results which may shed some light on the topic.

The one thing I am convinced of: The strings did not limit the draw-weights of the bows. There is too much evidence (in my mind) to support the hypothesis of 140lb+ military bows; certainly in the later period.


English Warbow: When you absolutely, positively have to kill every muthaf**king Frenchman on the field. Accept no substitutes.

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Colin Middleton
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Re: Medieval Longbow Draw Weights

Postby Colin Middleton » Fri Aug 17, 2012 1:03 pm

chidokan wrote:
The pertinent question seems to be: What do we not know about period bowstrings that allows them to support the draw-weight of these bows?


The only question I could ask is are they glued or waxed? If so, is there a difference?
I found out in conversation that italian hemp is better than, say, english hemp, as an aside from one of the guys I know who makes reproduction fishing boats and likes the 'real thing' rather than modern nylon type rope. You can still buy this, so stripping a piece down and trying it with glues and wax in a set size string would give a decent guide to breaking strains. Any experts on medieval glue making??? I am guessing cobblers wax would be ok, as well as straight beeswax to see if these give any variance.
Going through my MR book( weapons of war vol1), pages 636/637 also refers to hemp and silk and gives knock sizes that would allow a 3mm string, so that seems a reasonable size to pick.


I'd give the beeswax a miss, I'm pretty sure that they would have.

Code is supposed to be solid(ish) at air tempreture, but flexible when warmed by the hand. It should also remain 'tacky' to cause the threads to adhere to each other, spreading the load more efficiently (I think) and making it stronger. Beeswax does a similar thing (which is why it's a major component of Code), but isn't as sticky and tends to work at a higher temperature, which is why it was mixed with other things in Code to bring that temperature down.


Colin

"May 'Blood, blood, blood' be your motto!"

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