High-ho, High-ho…

ArcheryAlmost everyone knows that students need to work during the summer to help pay for school; I am not special. Once school finished I started looking for a summer job to help me pay for my education too, however getting that job has not been very easy so far. Since I am studying Kinesiology, I was hoping to get some work experience in a physiotherapy office or something similar. I have applied at several places but have had no luck yet.

leahurstSince,  I am a certified NCCP Intermediate level archery coach, I thought in the meantime I could continue to coach during the summers or whenever I had free time. So far, I have been doing a lot of advertising like making business cards and posters, to help promote archery lessons. Hopefully I’ll soon have some students sign-up for lessons. I love teaching everybody about the sport of archery, helping students improve and learn to love the sport as much as I do.

I also have been tossing the idea around about doing private lessons online (via Skype, or video chat). I remember getting comments from a couple of followers that they do not have a lot of coaching options. Although, I can only offer lessons in English, if anyone is interested in trying coaching over the web, please let me know. We can setup a lessons and handle payment through Paypal.

Cheap Bow Storage

As I mentioned in my last blog, there were about seven students in total, which is the most amount of students that I have personally coached at once. Introducing archery to Leahurst College students was a lot of fun. To teach that many students with only one hour for a lesson, I needed to make sure everyone had their own bow. Luckily, I had several bows, so the number was not a problem. The challenge I experienced was where to store them until the lessons and where to store them during lessons as I did not want lying in the grass. Solutions: Basement Ceiling Storage – Two T-Bars Storage from Dollarama ($3 each)   Roof T (Medium)Roof T front(Medium) Old Hockey Net Bow Stand – Removed Net hockey net(Medium)bow stand(Medium)     These are not ideal storage ideas for an official archery shop but if you have a lot of bows or give lessons they are good solutions for minimal investment.

Keeping Your Equipment Dry

NB 2013 1 546All weather conditions present various challenges for competing as my earlier blog about weather can attest. If you have been shooting for some time, you probably already have experienced what the weather can do to your equipment. The rain, or any adverse weather, can have some undesired long-term effects on your bow.

Rain is especially tricky as it can get into all kinds of small places that you would never even expect like inside your string, inside your plunger or other various tiny screw holes. It can even impact the inserts for your limbs. If ignored, rust can form and make things very difficult to adjust in the future, which can lead to a lot of work to fix or money to replace.

peeledRain can also create havoc during competition with your equipment like impacting plunger performance, making your handle slippery, and it can even impact limb reaction speed. However the most common and problematic is with your sight. Besides the potential of additional weight on the arrows, impacting your sight marks, there is the potential of faded sight marks or the sight mark tape losing adhesive and peeling completely off.

Although shooting in the rain is unavoidable for any competitive archer, there are a few things you can do before, during and after a rainy competition.

Pre-Competition

  • String: Make sure your string is waxed
  • Handle: Add grip (adhesive or wrap) to the handle
  • Pack: A Towel, Small Tarp, Plastic bags, Umbrella, Footwear, etc…

During Competition

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  • Before Each End:
    • String: Pluck your string to remove any accumulation of water.
  • Between Ends
    • Sight : Protect your sight with a Ziploc or small plastic bag when not shooting
    • Bow: Store your bow under a tent, tarp or umbrella
    • Finger Tab: Store your finger tab in a dry place.
  • During Breaks
    • All Equipment:  Use a towel to dry off all surfaces

Afterwards

  • String: Pluck the string before taking it off the bow.
  • All Metal and Plastic Equipment: Thoroughly dry off all surfaces and meticulously towel dry all small parts of your bow including sight, limb fittings, plunger, any screws, etc..
  • All Other Material Equipment: Take a hair dryer to your finger tab, sling, arm guard etc…
  • Bow & arrows: Towel dry each arrow shaft and dry your feathers.

Personally, I love shooting in the rain, it can be lots of fun if you are in the right mindset. So, if you are prepared, all you need to do enjoy it.

The Evolution of the Riser

2012-MidasIn this series I am going to discuss the evolution of the riser or the structural strength of the bow which houses the handle, to which the limbs are attached and other various accessories.  Originally the riser and the limbs were actually one piece, as you would see in a bare bow or instinctive bow, however in most modern bows the riser is completely independent component.

Historically, the original construction material was wood and sometimes combinations of different types of wood. Other historical materials included horn and sinew (A piece of tough fibrous tissue uniting muscle to bone or bone to bone; a tendon or ligament) to create composite bows.  Beautiful laminated wooden bows and risers are still manufactured for lightweight, beauty, tradition, and style.

1212210010_L1Although some bows are still manufactured from various laminated hardwoods and are quite durable, the development of other modern components with materials such as carbon arrows and various strings, wooden risers were strained.  Therefore bow makers were forced to invest in the development of other more durable materials for competitive archers to maintain that competitive edge.  Competition target archers need enough arrow speed with great sight marks, with minimal string creep, since they practice a lot of shooting (anywhere from 150 – 1000 arrows a day).  Wooden bows will eventually break under the additional loads of pressure applied from the stress and strain.

Today there are two primary types of risers used by Olympic target archers, CNC machined aluminium and Carbon fibre or a combination of the two.  In the past, other materials and manufacturing methods were used such as forging and casting.

Forging

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This method hammers a metal bar under high temperature and high pressure that results in an extremely strong riser. Typically forging is an expense development process which requires machining, straightening and painting with very few variations.

Casting

ben-castingUsually a mix of aluminium and magnesium were developed with either die-casting or sand-casting methods.  Still available in the market today with low-to-mid range bow are a relatively cheap to make once you have the mould.

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CNC Machined Aluminium

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A computer controlled method to machine a riser from stress-relieved aircraft grade aluminium alloy until they weigh less than 3 pounds. Sometimes, in order to reduce the costs, risers can be extruded through a die to minimise the amount of machining required. CNC risers are usually anodised to provide a hard wearing finish.

Carbon Fibre

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A method of layering synthetic fibres usually over a dense foam core mould, which is cured with resin epoxy to develop an extremely strong and lightweight riser. Although this method can be expensive to develop and test with, the process has almost infinite number of possibilities in terms of strength and flexibility of design.

Currently, the market is primarily CNC Machined Aluminium with overlayed Carbon Fibre to gain the best of both worlds. Who knows what the future holds for risers as target archers look to find the competitive edge and manufacturers investigate in cost savings.

Bowstring Maintenance & Replacement

P1230461In the last blog, we discussed the purpose and application of bowstring wax as a part of proper string maintenance. Another way to prolong the life of your string includes proper storage. Obviously, you should store your string in a safe dry place, and protect it the best way you can to prevent damage. However, you spend time tuning your bow including adding the “perfect” number of twists to the string, therefore you should store your string to maintain this tuning.

The easiest way to accomplish this is to interlace the teardrop loops together as shown here.

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Although, proper maintenance and storage of a string can help a string last years, every archer will eventually need to change their string. Before any shooting sessions or tournament, it should be a part of your regular routine to check your equipment for damage. Where your string is concerned, if there are signs of damage such as signs of fraying or one or more strand breaks you should consider changing your string.

Although as string materials have evolved, the strength of individual strands have far exceeded where they need to be in terms of breaking under strain.  The number of strands impact the nock fit and when shooting with the extra strands added, it was found that it could help make the bow a bit more stable. Competitive archers rarely will shot with even a minimally damaged sting since it may impact the performance and therefore, any competitive archer should have two strings for tournaments. The two strings should be exactly the same, ideally created at the same time, on the same day, on the same jig, by the same person; this way you can swap them confidently. Personally if a single strand breaks, I immediately switch to my backup string or alternatively during a tournament to my back up bow.

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Strings are so important that some archers schedule string changes so they can maintain the same performance, since strings can stretch over time, and also not worry too much about potential damage.  Depending on your budget this may or may not be an option. Another option includes custom strings and making your own using a string jig however that is the topic of another blog.

Bowstring Wax

Applying bowstring wax is part of regular maintenance and the main purpose is to help prolong the life of your string. It also helps keep the string together longer, maintain the number of twists in the string and protect the string from fraying and moisture.

uvbowwaxUsually manufactured strings are purchase pre-waxed and only need to be maintained. How often depends on the amount you shoot and the condition of the string. Often you can tell if your bowstring needs waxing as small “hairs” or “fuzz” appear on your string. This happens because bowstrings are made-up of multiple strands and the fibers get dried-out and separate from regular shooting and the elements.

To re-apply bowstring wax to an existing string, apply wax to all sides of the string (avoiding the center serving) and use your fingers and rub it up and down 360 degrees of the string, this will heat the wax up so that it is able to soak into the string.

Quick Tip: You can use a piece of dental floss to spread the wax by wrapping the floss around the string once, holding both ends and dragging it up and down. Note: It has been my understanding that using leather is another option however this must be done very carefully as it can also damage the string.

For those of you who choose to make your own strings, you will need to apply bowstring wax several times before shooting the bow the first time.

Bowstring Wax is usually a silcone-based wax sold in tube form for easy application and is usually available at almost archery retailer or repair shops. Alternatively some archers use bees wax mixed with other materials to produce their own recipes. Here are a couple of recipes I found on the web include

  1. 2 parts beeswax to 1 part anhydrous lanolin (available from pharmacies)
  2. 4 parts beeswax to 1 part pine sap
  3. One pound of bees wax and one wax toilet ring seal, melted together
  4. 3 parts beeswax and 1 part coco butter
  5. 50% bear grease (rendered bear fat) and 50% beeswax
  6. 3 parts bees wax and 1 part toilet bowl wax ring.
  7. OR Pure bees wax needs no softening, it is perfect like it is

Proper maintenance will help keep your string in tip-top shape and tournament ready and help make a string last several years. However there are times when you should replace your string and in the next blog we will discuss string replacement.

String Alignment

Consistency is the key to a successful archer. In an earlier blog, we developed a consistent anchor point to develop a starting point for your hand and grip to help develop consistent vertical groupings. Now we need to address consistent horizontal groupings through the use of string alignment.

IMG_8525So, while at full draw at your anchor point, you should be able see a blurred image of your string; align this “blurry” image of the string with the riser. If it’s slightly off, rotating your head either left or right slightly will correct this. (Remember to maintain your anchor as you quickly check for this alignment). If the string picture is in the wrong place, then your aiming accuracy will be off and the result will be groups which are spread horizontally.

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Quick Tip : Note that sometimes a dark string is difficult to see against a dark riser, therefore try adding a small strip of white tape along the inside of a dark riser to help see the string.

Ideally, you should try to use the same spot for all distances, however this can be different for all people. It can help some archers by aligning the string on the inside of riser for close distances, middle of the riser for middle distances, and outside of the riser for long distances. The best alignment it is different for everyone because everyone has different head and nose structures. Therefore, you will need to experiment with the string alignment until you have the perfect string alignment for you.

Quick Tip: If you are having difficulty seeing your string, try closing you non-dominant eye.

Remember once you have your string alignment, changing things such bow length, draw length, arrows or anything else can effect your “perfect spot”. Consistent form is vital for consistent groupings, if you get a consistent string alignment, the bow will be at a consistent horizontal angle, and your horizontal grouping should improve.