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Making your own bow part 10: making a flemish bowstring

Cleve Cheney gives instruction on how to make your own Flemish bowstring.

By now you will have made your bow and a conventional bowstring. For those of you who wish to go "the whole hog" in the traditional sense, you can make a Flemish bowstring.

Making a Flemish bowstring is more complicated than an endless loop bowstring. You must start by making a jig. A jig for making Flemish bowstrings is illustrated in figure 1.

Figure 1: Jig for making Flemish bowstringsFigure 1

Figure 2< Figure 2

Begin by clamping the end of the Dacron string in the clamp. Wrap the string around the outside of the nails and on down around the peg. Return to the peg and go back around the first set of nails. The second loop wraps around the second set of nails and the third around the third etc. Continue wrapping until the required number of strands (usually five) is completed. Keep even tension on the string at all times. Now, holding the strings down against the jig, cut down the centre of the nails with a sharp knife. Sever all threads cleanly. See figure 2.

Figure 3> Figure 3

Wrap one end of the thread set around the left index finger to retain the threads in the same position relative to one another, leaving eight to ten inches of the set sticking out. Press the string against the jig with the edge of a sharp knife and draw the set from out under the blade to "thin out" the end, taking precautions not to cut the end off. While still holding the set, heavily wax the exposed end. Reverse the set around the left index finger and wax towards the other end. After completing the above, coil the thread set and then make two more sets exactly the same. See figure 3.

Now take your three thread sets and align the ends together. Measure 71/4 inch (about 185 mm) from the ends and grasp the three sets at this position with the left hand. With the tips pointing away twist each of the three sets in a counterclockwise (CCW) direction. The thread sets have now become twisted strands. Now take the left strand and twist it over the other two. The centre strand now becomes the left one. Twist it in turn over the other two. Continue this motion until 20 twists have been made. Continuously twist the strands CCW while pulling them clockwise (CW) over the other two.

Figure 4< Figure 4

Keep the braiding tight and uniform. Press the ends of the braided portion together. Be sure to keep the strands aligned as shown. The loop end of the string has now taken shape. Grasp the loop in the left hand and following the same procedure as on the previous page, start braiding the throat of the loop. Keep twisting the braids counterclockwise as you braid. As the braiding progresses the strands will become tangled. Stop every few twists to unravel the kinks. Continue braiding for about 35 twists. Straighten out the strands down to the other end. Make the other loop in the same way. See figure 4.

Figure 5> Figure 5

After completing the second loop the string must be twisted. Place one loop over the peg in your jig. Take the other loop and give it about 12 twists CCW to tighten it. Place your finger through the loop and give it a good tug to check that the loops are tight. This should be the case if the string was properly made. It is now ready to be strung on the bow. Wax the string well beforehand and rub it vigorously with a piece of leather to heat up the wax so that it penetrates well into the fibres. The string can be twisted tighter to shorten its length or untwisted to lengthen it. Maintain at least six twists to the string. Draw the bow a few times once it is strung and leave the string on the bow for an hour or two to allow it to stretch. Mark the middle of the string and serve it as has been demonstrated for two inches above and six inches below the centre. You now have a traditional Flemish bowstring. See figure 5.

In the final article in this series we will look at making and customising traditional arrows.

About the Author

Cleve Cheney

Cleve Cheney

Cleve Cheney,  hunting and environmental editor of Africa’s Bowhunter is a very well known figure in bow hunting and in conservation circles in South Africa. Cleve Cheney has been in conservation for 27 years, of which 20 years were spent with the National Parks Board – most of it in the Kruger National Park. During the time spent in the Kruger National Park Cleve culled no less than 50 elephants with a rifle and he has hunted most African game during culling operations.

Cleve has also been an avid bow hunter for 22 years and he has an extensive technical knowledge on bows, arrows and broadheads. Cleve is also an accomplished bowyer and has built many recurves over the years. He began offering bowhunting education courses more than 15 years ago. Until recently, Cleve was a lecturer at the South African Wildlife College where was a lecturer and instructor. He has a diploma in Nature Conservations and a MA degree in animal Physiology. Over the years Cleve has written more than a hundred articles on tracking, hunting, survival skills, and bow and rifle hunting. He started an 18 month long professional hunters course at the SA Wildlife College where he trained the first group of professional hunters.

Cleve has trained many bow hunters and his educative articles on how to hunt African game, as well as many other articles on different aspects of archery bow hunting an bush skills has been published in Africa’s Bowhunter, Game and Hunt magazine, Universal Hunter and many other magazines. He has been the lead article writer for Africa’s Bowhunter for more than 14 years.

His book on tracking, The Comprehensive Guide to Tracking: In-depth information on how to track animals and humans alike, is probably the most in-depth study on this subject available. For those who want to learn more than the basics, this book is a treasure trove of tracking information, insights, methods, and knowledge. The book is divided into logical sections: teaching yourself to track; understanding wildlife behavior; identification of tracks and signs; gait patterns and pressure release; blood trailing; tracking specific animals; track, stalk, and approach; bird, reptile, and invertebrate sign; man tracking; and dangers in the bush.


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