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Make a Continuous Loop Bowstring – Part 3

So now that we have our string jig and our serving dispenser together, we can make a bowstring. You can use many different things for the actual string. You can buy some B-50 Dacron that is specifically made for bowstrings, but I prefer to use the waxed Dacron that is sometimes referred to as artificial sinew. It’s easy to find at craft stores and relatively inexpensive. It also has the advantage of already being waxed. If you use B-50 you will also need beeswax to rub on the string.

Before we start wrapping our string onto the jig I want to give you a little diagram of what we are doing. Since my string jig is over five feet long it makes it hard to show it all in a photo. I thought a diagram might help.

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Now let’s get started. My two starter dowels are glued permanently in place. I’m going to make a 60 inch bowstring, so I set my two movable dowels with the tall one at 60 and the short one at 62.

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To start the wrapping I tie the end of my Dacron string below the cross pin of the permanent short dowel and then I bring the string over the cross pin on the permanent tall dowel. You can start on either side of the tall dowel.

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Now I run the string down and loop it around the tall movable dowel. You should be on the same side of this dowel as you were on the permanent dowel. You don’t want your string criss-crossing in the middle.

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Keep a little tension on the string and run it back to the permanent tall dowel and around. You continue this until you have as many strands as you want in your bowstring. If you want to make a bowstring with a total of six strands you will continue looping the string until you have five strands on the side that is tied to an end post and four strands on the side that is not tied to an end post. The reason for this will become clear in a moment.

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When you tie the end of your string off at the finish, it must be tied to the opposite end from where you started.

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You now have two runs of Dacron that are separated by about a ½ inch of space. It is time to apply the serving to what will become the loops of our bowstring.

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Measure to the center of the bowstring. Since we are making a 60 inch string, the center will be 30 inches. Mark the center and the measure out four inches to each side of center and make a mark. We are going to apply serving to each of these eight inch sections of bowstring.

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To make it easier to work on each strand, place your string spreaders in between the strands to hold them apart.

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Being right-handed I always serve from right to left, so that’s how the pictures show the process. I start at the mark on the right side of the closest strand and loop my serving around it. I leave an inch or two of tail on the serving and wrap my loops over the top of it. It is important to lay your serving loops right next to each other and to keep the serving tight.

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Your serving dispenser should be adjusted so that a firm pull will feed more serving out, but if you let the dispenser hang, it will not let serving come out on its own.

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When you have covered up about ¾ inch of the tail, you can snip the remainder off. The wrappings will not let the tail come loose.

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Keep wrapping the serving around and around until you are about ¾ inch from the far left mark.

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At this point you want to take a scrap of Dacron about two feet long. Fold it into a loop and hold it along the bowstring as shown.

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Now continue your wrapping, only now you are also wrapping on top of the loop.

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Keep wrapping until you go about a ¼ inch past your mark; and then you can stop, reel out about six inches of serving and snip the serving off with scissors. Be sure and keep tension on the serving so that it doesn’t un-spool when you cut it.

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Now take the end of the serving and stick it through your loop of Dacron.

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Pull on the loose ends of the loop, and the end of your serving will be pulled back under the wraps. Snip any excess off, and the wraps will hold the, now hidden, end in place. You have to pull pretty hard on the loop ends, and it will probably compress the loops of serving back up the string. This is why you go about ¼ inch past your mark before ending the serving.

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So now you have one section of serving done. Turn your jig around so that you are working from right to left again and do the same thing to the other strand.

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Now it’s time to cut the ties loose from the short dowels with a pair of scissors.

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When you have snipped the string loose, lift it up so that it exposed all the way back to the serving. Now take your scissors and cut off the string right at the edge of the serving. Be careful not to cut the serving or any other strings. Do the same thing to the other tied off string.

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Now you can slip the bowstring around on the dowels so that the served area is around the dowels on each end. Off-set the ends of the serving about an inch or so as shown in the photo.

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Now we can form the loops. All that you have to do to make the loops is squeeze the two strands together and apply a layer of serving over them as show below.

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Run the serving down about six inches and finish it off just like you did before. Voila, you have a loop.

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Now do the same thing to the other end. I usually make one small loop to stay in place on the bow, and one larger loop that will slide down onto the limb when I unstring the bow.

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It is customary to apply serving to the string in the area where the arrow is nocked. This helps to prevent wear on the string. To locate where to put this serving, just string the bow, nock an arrow, and make a mark on the bowstring.

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Apply serving to this area using the same method. I usually make my serving about four inches long with the nocking point in the center of the serving.

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If you made your string a little too long, or if it stretches out, all you have to do is twist the string a little to shorten it. I always make my string a little long because it is easy to make it shorter; not so easy to make it longer. In fact, if it is too short you are going to have to start from the beginning and make a longer string.

Make a Continuous Loop Bowstring – Part 2

Note: Sorry to be slow in posting part 2. My camera bit the dust and I had to buy a new one before I could continue. So on with the show.

The second piece of equipment that we need to make our continuous loop bowstring is a string jig. This is so easy to build that you can probably make one faster than you can read this post. Material wise all you need is a six foot piece of 2” x 4” lumber, four pieces of 9/16” dowel rod with two of them being 7 inches long and two of them 4 inches long, four small nails (about 4 penny), and some glue. For tools you will need a saw, a drill, a 9/16” paddle-bit, a bit that is the same diameter as your finish nails, some heavy pliers that will cut the nails, a tape measure and a marking pen.

So let’s build this thing.

First you need to cut your 2” x 4” to a length of about six feet. This is assuming that you won’t have to make a string that is longer than 68 inches.

001Now at one end of the 2” x 4” you want to measure up and make a mark at 1 1/2 inchs and another mark at 3 1/2 inches. Try to keep the marks running pretty straight up the center of the board.

003Take your drill and 9/16” paddle bit and drill a one inch deep hole at each mark.

006The second hole is where you will place a dowel to hold one end of your bowstring, so you want to measure from this hole on up the board to drill some more holes to make various different lengths of bowstrings.

007I made holes for 60 through 65 inches. I drilled a few others at 22, 23, 24 and 44 inches so that I could make shorter bowstrings. It really doesn’t matter too much. If you need a different length string than you are set up for, it’s just a matter of drilling a couple of new holes. Notice that after the 65 inch hole I went up another two inches and drilled another hole. The reason for this will become apparent when we start building a bowstring.

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Now we need to get our dowel rods fixed up. We need to put a small cross pin in each of the dowels. The cross pins will be made out of our 4 penny nails.

008First take your pliers or wire cutters and cut the heads off of the nails.

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011Now use the small drill bit to drill a hole through each dowel about an inch down from the end.

012Insert one of your headless nails through each dowel so that the nail sticks out on both sides. If the nail is too loose in hole you can put a drop of glue in the hole to help secure the nail.

013The dowels that go in the first two holes that you drilled in your 2 x 4 will stay there permanently, so you can glue them in place. A short dowel goes in the first hole and a long dowel goes in the second hole.

014The remaining two dowels will be temporarily pushed down into different holes depending on the length of the bowstring that you making at the time.

015One other thing that you will need for your string jig is some string spreaders. The function of these will, once again, become obvious when we start building a string. I made my spreaders out of a couple of old paint stir sticks. The spreaders are about eight inches long and have a one inch long slot sawn into each end. The slots are about 1/8 inch wide.

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017Now you’ve got everything you need to make a continuous loop bowstring. Next post we’ll build one.

Make a Continuous Loop Bowstring – Part 1

I’m not sure when the continuous loop bowstring came into being. If I had to guess, I’d say it was in the 1960’s when modern longbows were in their prime. If you buy a longbow today it will probably be equipped with a continuous loop bowstring. What are the advantages of a continuous loop bowstring? For one thing they are extremely strong. They are just one continuous loop of string; no splices. The loops are not spliced in as on a reverse-wrap bowstring, and you have the same type of loop on both ends of the string. The continuous loop bowstring is also one of the quickest and simplest bowstrings to make, probably why they were so popular with mass producers of bows.

It takes a couple of pieces of equipment to make a continuous loop bowstring, so if you only need one bowstring you are probably better off to just buy one. I’ve seen them in stores that carry traditional archery supplies for around $15.00 US. If you make a lot of bowstrings, it is far cheaper to make the two simple pieces of equipment and make your own strings. This post is a tutorial on how to make one of the two pieces of equipment that you will need. In the next post I will show you how to make the other piece of equipment, and in the third post we will go over how to make the actual string.

The first piece of equipment you will need is a serving dispenser as pictured below.

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Serving is a small cordage that is wrapped around the loops to strengthen them and hold them closed.

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Serving is also wrapped around the center portion of the string to prevent wear at the point where arrows are nocked. You can buy a serving dispenser, but if you have a few simple tools it is super easy to make one. All that you need is a small strip of light gauge metal, some tin snips, a drill and drill bit, a bolt and wing-nut, and four washers. I used a scrap of metal and some odds-and-ends from my shop to build mine for zero dollars.

The first thing you will need to do is buy a spool of serving thread so you can build the dispenser to the proper dimensions. I bought my serving at Academy. I’m sure that other stores carry serving, and you can also order it on line.

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My serving spool is two inches long.

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The dispenser will have to accommodate the length of the spool plus about an eighth of an inch of play on each end. In addition I will need to turn the metal up about an inch and three-quarters on each end to hold the spool. With these dimensions in mind, I cut a strip of metal 5 ¾ inches long by 1 ¾ inches wide.

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I used a ruler and laid out the strip into three sections; 1 ¾” on each end and 2 ¼” in the middle.

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I drew an X in each section to find the center.

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Then I used a hammer and punch to make a pilot dent in the center of each X.

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Now we are going to drill some holes in the strip, but first we need to get our other hardware together so that we can make sure that the holes are the right size. You will need a bolt that is long enough to go through the length of the spool plus about a half inch. The bolt also needs to be small enough in diameter to fit through the spool without binding.

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When you find, or buy, the right size bolt, nut, and washers; you will need a drill bit that is just a little larger in diameter than the bolt.

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Use this bit to drill a hole in each of the two end sections, and drill a smaller hole in the center section.

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The next step is to put the metal strip in a vice and bend the end sections up at a 90 degree angle. Actually, I bent them a little past 90 degrees, and then bent the tops out a little by hand. This gives the ends a slight bow so that the center of the ends will contact the spool better.

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Use a file and/or sand paper to smooth out the holes and remove any burrs. I gave my dispenser a coat of silver spray paint, but this is not really necessary.

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Now you’re ready to assemble the whole thing. First run your serving thread through the hole in the center section.

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Then use the wing-nut, bolt, and washers to mount the spool. Put a washer on the inside and outside of each end section.

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Use the wing-nut to adjust the tension on the spool. The tension is right when a slight tug will pull thread off of the spool; but when the dispenser is held up by the thread, more thread will not slip off on its own.

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In the next post we will build an adjustable string jig. Super simple. It takes about 15 minutes.

Putting a New Handle on a Sledge, Axe, or Hammer

I use a sledge hammer for a lot of things on my farm. I drive t-posts with it, I bust up rocks with it, I split fence rails with it, but mostly I use it and a couple of wedges to make the first split on large blocks of oak that I am turning into firewood. Maybe you have better hand-to-eye coordination than I do; but every five years or so, my sledge handle ends up looking like this:

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So, I find myself needing to put a new handle on it. The process outlined below is the same method used for replacing handles on axes, hatchets, and hammers.

Before you start you will need a new handle. You can make the handle, or you can buy the handle. Making a handle is considerable work. You must have the right kind of wood, usually ash or hickory, and you must have the wood already seasoned. I make or re-purpose handles for rakes, hoes, hatchets, hammers, and etc., but I prefer to buy handles for axes and sledges. The hardware store prices are way too high for me, so I always keep my eyes open at flea markets and garage sales for tool handles. If you buy handles this way you must know what you are looking for. You only want the ones that have straight grain, no cross-grain, no knots, and no cracks. Most of those guys at flea markets are selling factory seconds, so you really have to be choosey. I went to a flea market a couple of years ago and one of the sellers had barrels of tool handles. I must have looked at 200 tool handles, and I came away with two axe handles and three sledge handles.

So now you have your new handle. First thing to do is remove the old handle. I clamp the sledge in a vise and use a hand saw to cut the handle off right at the base of the head.

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Then I set the head on top of two boards, top down, and use a hammer and a drift bar to drive the old handle out.

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Be sure and save the little steel wedge that is in the top of the handle. You are going to use it again.

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Your new handle will not fit into your sledge. It will be too long and too big around. You will have to shape it to fit. I lay the head down on the handle where I want it to sit at the bottom and then I mark the top for cutting. I always add a quarter inch to the length. You may need that quarter inch, and if you don’t you can cut it off later.

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When you have sawed the top off of the handle, look at the slot that your wedge goes down into. It may now be too short. You want this slot to be about half the depth of you head, or a little more. If it’s too short, take your trusty hand saw and make it a little deeper.

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Now comes the slow part; sizing the handle to fit into the hole in the head. The best way that I have found is to clamp the handle in your vise and use a wood rasp to slowly work the handle down. I rasp on about the top half-inch of the handle until the head will just barely fit on.

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Then I take a hammer and drive the head on a little bit, and then pull it off. You will see darker spots where the wood has been compressed when driving the head on. Rasp very lightly on these areas and then continue rasping down another half-inch. Drive the head on, pull it off, rasp a little more, etc, etc, etc. It takes a while, but it will insure that you have a good tight fit.

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When you have the head seated down tightly on the handle, it is time to cut a wedge to drive into the slot. Hickory is best for this. You may be able to use the portion that you cut off of the top of the handle to make a wedge. If not you can use oak or even pine. When cutting the wedge make sure that it has a smooth taper and is not too wide at the top. You want the wedge to contact the sides of the slot all the way down. If the wedge is too wide, and tapers down too quickly; it will only be touching the slot at the top, and it will pop out during use.

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I like to coat my wedges with carpenter’s wood glue before I drive them in.

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When you drive the wedge in, place a small board on top of it and use your hammer on the board. If you hammer directly on the wedge it will likely split.

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When you have the wedge firmly seated you can cut off the excess wedge and handle so they are flush with the top of the head.

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The last step is to drive the little steel wedge into the top of the handle. It should be in the center of the handle and perpendicular to the wooden wedge.

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Set the sledge aside for a day so that the glue on the wedge can dry thoroughly and you should be good to go for a few more years. Oh, and be sure too keep that old handle. At some point in the future you can cut it down and use it on something else that breaks.

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Every Prepper Should Own a French Coffee Press

If you drink coffee, tea, or herb tea; the French coffee press is the most prepper friendly device for preparing it. I used to think that a French press was something that was just for coffee snobs, but then my wife, who is kind of a coffee snob, brought one home. I immediately saw how wrong I had been. The French press is such simple and effective tool that I went out and bought another one to put in my back-up supplies.

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How does a French press work? It’s basically just a glass cylinder with a lid on it. In the middle of the lid is a hole. Coming up out of the hole is a plunger, and on the bottom of the plunger is a fine mesh screen that fits down inside of the cylinder. That’s it. Only one moving part, no electricity required, and no coffee filters. What could be better for a prepper?

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Here’s how you use it.

Take the lid off and pour your ground coffee into the cylinder. I use three heaping tablespoons to make about a quart of coffee.

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Put your kettle on the stove or campfire and get the water boiling.

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Pour the boiling water into the cylinder, filling it to about an inch-and-a-half from the top.

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Stir the coffee grounds a little to get them distributed evenly in the water.

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Pull the plunger on the lid all the way up and put the lid on the cylinder.

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Now the hard part, let the coffee steep for four or five minutes.

After five minutes push the plunger down. The screen will push all of the coffee grounds to the bottom of the cylinder and hold them there.

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Pour yourself a cup of hot coffee.

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It’s just as easy to make herb teas with the French press. In the pictures below I’m using some fresh mint from my mint bed to make a quart of nice, clean, mint tea.

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If you don’t have a French press, get one. In fact get two of them. There may come a day when you wish that you had one.

Avoid Confusion with a Garden Journal

When I was working as a teacher it was easy to keep up with my garden. I planted in the spring and harvested when things were ready. I didn’t plant anything in the summer or fall because I wouldn’t have time to deal with it after school started back. Simple.

Now that I’m retired I garden year-round and it gets kind of confusing as to what varieties I’ve planted, when I’ve planted them, when I’ve started seed pots, etc, etc, etc. So, to help me keep up with it all; I decided to start a garden journal. It’s nothing fancy, just a three-ring binder with a spiral notebook inside.

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I have four sections in the notebook.

 

In one of the inside pockets I keep my planting guides. I have three of them. One is from the agricultural extension service, one is from the local garden club, and one is from a local feed store. You would be surprised at how much variation there is in planting dates. I actually took the information from all of them and then made up my own chart where I tried to hit the sweet spot by averaging the dates on the three others.

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In the other pocket I keep print-outs from the extension service on how to care for plants that I have not planted before. For example; in the last year I have planted asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, figs, and almonds. I have sheets on all of these telling me when to prune, when to fertilize, when to harvest, etc.

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In the spiral notebook I keep a day to day record of what varieties I have planted, when I planted them, when they sprouted, etc. I also include a scale drawing of my garden and where everything is planted. This helps me rotate crops, and plan my companion planting. I will update the garden diagram in mid-summer and fall as I replant.

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The final thing I keep (or will keep, since I haven’t started harvesting yet) Is a detailed list of the yields that I get from the garden. It should be a simple matter to drop each basket of produce on my scale and jot it down on the list. I will be very interested to see exactly how much I harvest of each crop.

The Difference Between Heirloom Seeds, Hybrid Seeds, and GMO Seeds

Special Note: After several years of writing all of the posts on this blog (over 220) I have decided to start accepting guest posts from readers. I will accept articles that are on topic; wilderness survival, gardening, food storage, prepping, primitive skills, primitive weapons, modern weapons, etc. I will not accept articles that focus on politics, race, gender, religion, or illegal activities, and if an article is posted I reserve the right to edit it for length and/or content. Please make sure that your submission is your own work and that it is based on your own experience and not just a second-hand account of how to do something. If you wish to submit an article you can e-mail it to sensiblesurvival@gmail.com. If you are going to include photos, which is a definite plus, please send them in jpeg format. Your article will be credited to you; and, if published, will be received by a wide audience. This blog has had over 950,000 views throughout the world and is currently receiving from 25,000 to 30,000 hits per month. Thanks, and hope to hear from you, Hank

The following article is a guest post from Sam. It is a good explanation of the different types of gardening seeds that are available today. You can visit Sam’s blog at http://www.organiclesson.com/

The Difference Between Heirloom Seeds, Hybrid Seeds, and GMO Seeds

Are you confused by the variety of seeds available in the market these days? You are not alone. Many gardening newbies have trouble understanding the differences between heirloom, hybrid, and GMO seeds. Although GMO seeds are not available for home gardeners, it is still important to understand the role of these seeds and how they could affect the future of gardening.

So what exactly does heirloom refer to? Heirloom plants are considered those that breed true. This means they pass on the same characteristics from the parent plant to the child plant. This is extremely useful and efficient for gardeners and farmers who are looking to harvest the same type of plant from season to season. One confusing concept that is most often associated with heirloom is the time when it was introduced. Some gardeners would say they that heirloom varieties were introduced before the 1920s, while others would state that they were introduced before 1951. In the end, the time when they were introduced would probably not have a significant impact on your choice of seeds. However, it is still important to understand the historical importance of heirloom seeds in general since heirloom does refer to the heritage of a plant.

So how exactly do heirlooms differ from hybrid seeds? Well, hybrid seeds can form from both natural and human-induced processes. For example, some heirloom plants appear after cross-pollination occurs between two varieties of plants. This can offer certain benefits and advantages. For example, if plant A has a natural pest-resistant trait and plant B has a trait of producing beautiful colors, the plant that results from the cross-pollination of plant A and B could get the beneficial trait from each parent plant. However, the degree of how much trait a child plant receives from each parent plant is not always consistent. Therefore, there is always that problem of reproducing the same type of hybrid plant from year-to-year.

Aside from being able to breed true, heirloom plants offer a number of other great benefits. For example, heirloom vegetables and fruits are known to have more flavor and taste. They may not look as appealing in terms of appearance, but such concerns will be blown away once you take a bite out of most heirloom fruits, vegetables, and even herbs. Another benefit is the nutrients. Some heirloom varieties are known to contain more nutrients than their hybrid counterparts. Last but not least, heirloom plants play an important part in preserving the genetic diversity of plants. Without heirloom plants, there wouldn’t even be hybrid plants on this planet. It is important to preserve the original species of plants in order to maintain the beautiful selection of fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other types of plants that exist in front of us today.

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