Why two-strand string instead of three-strand string?

KalleMandelstam
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KalleMandelstam
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Joined: January 9th, 2008, 10:44 am

January 9th, 2008, 10:44 am #1

Ok, first of all I'm new to bow making, I haven't even made my first bow yet! Just on the stage where I'm trying to get as much information about this as possible before I start.

I have been thinking about these flemmish strings. What I reacted to was the fact that it's constructed of two strands instead of, like in traditional rope, three. Is this simply because making three-strand rope with just your two hands is harder and is of a later origin or is there any other reason, like two-stranded are stronger than three-stranded? I know that three-stranded rope is a bit stronger than four-stranded, about one fifth. I can understand that traditionally you could find yourself in the situation where you have to make a new string on the spot, in the field, and then a simple two-strand rope is so much easier to make than a three-stranded one.

As I'm quite interrested in knots, mostly maritime of origin, I know that the most common rope is three-stranded. So my thought was why not make a three-stranded bowstring? It has a much rounder cross section and is basically prettier (I think ) and is spliceable which is important. You'll need a small simple handoperated machine, whick is not so hard to make, and then you can make long segments of string which you just cut up and eye-splice in both ends to match the length you need.

Does any of this make any sense or am I just rambling jibberish?
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ChaskeDeerHunter
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January 10th, 2008, 6:35 pm #2

I'm not sure but I'm also trying to figure out the same thing. I've posted some agave bowstrings I made over in the primitive archery section. Search under "Agave Bowstring" I've been geeting some feedback and it looks as if we're interested in the same thing. If you do find out anything please let me know too. Thanks
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KalleMandelstam
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January 10th, 2008, 9:28 pm #3

Really nice strings there! Good work!

My idea whas to use a small machine called simply a "rope machine". I don't know it's origins or how long it's been around for but it's certainly not a "primitive" machine though. It's very simple to construct from scrap wood and some old wire coat hangers. It's strength is that it makes it easy to make quite long ropes with three or even four strands (In ropes you first have fibers wich makes up a thin yarn wich in turn form thicker strands and finally form the finished rope) and to apply exactly the same amount of twist to these strands. It's basically a form of loom for ropemaking. Because of i'ts speed you could probably quite simply make a string from even very thin thread made from your choice of fibres by starting with making the yarn for the strands. You could also probably make your string much harder and denser than with just your fingers or if you start with thicker looser thread and especially a lot faster. I know though that time isn't most peoples concern here. In that case we wouldn't be doing what we do.

Found these video tutorials of ropemaking with rope machines to show how easy it is. http://www.mkdrafting.com/Rope_maker_Howtomakerope.html

Some manufacturers make their rope in a four stage process from fibre to finished rope. The following text is from http://www.boatus.com/boattech/cord.htm
Every rope starts with fibers, which are then twisted to form yarn. Then the yarns are twisted in the original direction (stage two) to form a mini-strand. These mini-strands are grouped together and twisted in the opposite direction to make one strand. Finally, in stage four, three strands are laid in the opposite direction to form the finished rope. Some manufacturers cut their costs by eliminating stage two, taking yarns directly into strands. Others have developed a less expensive, three-stage process, which skips stage two. While about as strong as four-stage rope, this "unbalanced," three-stage rope is far less durable because there are two stages pulling against one stage. Our four-stage rope feels firm to the hand, takes a good splice, and lasts longer.
To tell the difference, hold one type of rope in each hand. With the four-stage rope you can see the twisted mini-strands; with the three-stage rope, yarns and fibers are loose. Four-stage rope also feels firm when you squeeze it; three-stage feels mushy.


Ofcourse, a bowstring is much thinner and can't hold as many fibres as a rope, but it gives a good idea on how to "build up" one from scratch I think.

Haven't tried it myself yet but are planning to in the near future from linnen and hemp to see how it works out.
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Akkaid
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January 11th, 2008, 2:52 am #4

Not sure on your Q, but I've had great luck with my 2 strand reverse wrapped strings, mostly yucca. I know Jim Hamm and Tim Baker both suggest 2 ply for primitive strings, but I haven't paid much attention to what they say about flemmish strings. Actually, Im not sure if it was Tim in BB2 on strings, but one of those guys.



The only thing I could think of is 3 strands would creat more resistance/wieght? The lighter and less resistant a string, the faster the string. My two cents.
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KalleMandelstam
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January 11th, 2008, 9:13 am #5

I'm talking about using the same amount of fibres but distributing it in three strands instead of two, just to make that clear first. And maybe two strands are the best way to go, this was just a question that came to mind due to the fact that I'm more used to work with three-stranded string. I'm sure you could handtwist this three-stranded ones as well but it would take much longer time, that was why I thought about the handoperated "twister".



The basic question was (before I started to ramble): Is there another reason than being more simple to make to use two-stranded string?
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toxophileken
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January 12th, 2008, 7:53 am #6

Kalle, nice info and topic. I couldn't find the original post, so I'll answer here.



Sal has a funny joke about two and three bundle strings. "The two bundle strings I make for other people, the three bundle are for me". I feel pretty much the same way.



Making a same strand number and weight, three bundle string is little different from making a two bundle string, even by hand. Some people might not like it, because they pay close attention to which bundle is twisted next, and it takes time and concentration to keep in order. Me, I don't worry about it. I twist away, and if the bundles get out of order, I untwist the large rope a bit, and it retwists itself into a nice, clean, orderly rope when I twist it back.



That same Sal has his "secret weapon". It is a battery operated hair braider, that probably operates much the same way as your rope machine...



Tim Baker covered strings very thoroughly in Volume I of the TBB. There are many considerations to strand size within the bundles, and it is all very complicated and interesting...



Ken
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KalleMandelstam
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January 12th, 2008, 9:30 am #7

Ken, thanks for interresting reply! I knew that it probably wasn't a new question for bowyers so it's good to get some clarity in the question. I'm definetely going to start both handtwisting and machine twisting strings soon to try out the different techniques and how they work out.
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GungyWamp
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January 24th, 2009, 1:13 am #8

I like to make a sinew string two times as long as my bow, then reverse wrap to make a two-ply bowstring that is very strong (very small diameter bowstring, 2/16 of an inch thick). Of course I like to rub pine pitch or hide glue onto the cordage to insure the splices stay locked together as the sinew drys and shrinks. Weaker material would probablly require a three-ply string, like the inner bark of Willow and such. Eithier way, I usually use two-ply cordage becuase it requires less material.
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WesleyDS
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March 14th, 2009, 2:47 am #9

The only thing I could think of that may be a problem with a 3 ply string made with a rope making machine would be the amount of twist introduced into it. That may cause alot of streach. I don't know if this is true, just conjecture. We use a rope making machine with the Cub Scouts at our annual lock in every year. We use yarn so they can get all kinds of colors. They love it.
The only real mistakes are the ones from which you learn nothing.
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beardedhorse
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May 9th, 2009, 7:41 pm #10

Ilearned to make Flemish linien strings as a three strand affair, not two. Someone told me one was English and another Flemish tradition. The secret to the superiority of the Flemish strings lie in the flax plants and how they retted them. The Three Strand Flemish string is definitely more complicated and takes more skill to make. You need good linen, some beeswax, a sharp knife and maybe some clothespins. The strands are actually untwisted and laid flat and waxed near the loop end. The three strands are staggered and the ends of each strand cut at an angled. This contributed to a smoother transition from where the six strands meet on the main string once the loop is twisted and the tails of the standing line are laid on top of the running line and waxed together. The three main strands are not twisted in one direction and locked in the other in the manner of a two strand reverse twist cordage but once tightly twisted at the loop, all three get twisted in the same directionh. Thus there is not a lot of excess twist and weight in the string. Sometimes the baqse of the loop is wrapped to prevent untwisting. The end of the string is also waxed flat (unwind the twist in the strands) and scored and the ends of the strands are staggered so that when you get to the final twist you get the traditional and characteristic rat tail. I wish I could do a build along for a three strand Flelmish loop string. Adrian Eliot Hodgkin's book The Archer's Craft demonstrates this quite well and I read it as a 7 or 8 year old years ago. It is interesting that this English author was turning to two Ametricans, Pope and Young as his source of information when he had the original sources in his home country. A lot of Boy Scout archery merit badge pamphlets showed this but you will have to dig to find them. The two strand, two color strings designated as Flemish loop are easy to sell jigs for and I don't really care for them. If incorrectly made, both three and two strand bowstrings of linen or dacron can pull oose with heavy weight bows. Reinforcing strands of linen should be spliced in by waxing at the loop and the bottom of the bow where it is near the nock. These two areas get a lot of shock when the bow returns to brace height upon release. I teach both methods but outsell the three with two strand because they are cheaper. Pine pitch ground fine and a little Vaseline melted into beeswax makes for softer, more user friendly string wax, though Vaseline is not traditional or primitive or natural. Petrolatum is the general term for the brand name product marketed as Vaseline.
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Carl the Piper
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June 12th, 2009, 3:14 am #11

Ho there, I have always done three strands for my strings. Reason being I was shooting 80 pound plus bows. It is easier to work with many individual strands grouped into three bundles and the string comes out better and stronger. I have used linen, hemp and Dacron for material. I think this is why they used three strand bundles on the English long bows, since they were possibly a 100pounds plus.

Carl
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Rod
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March 11th, 2013, 5:35 pm #12





Above is a real commercial flemish string of long hemp fibres, the original string on an Aldred kid's English longbow, here slightly untwisted to better show the long hemp fibres.
You will notice that it is not made "like a rope" since the body of the string is just "rolled" long fibres, no counter twisting of plies, no two or three ply cordage.
It was originally coated with a definite "glue" layer, which bound the fibres together and gave a harder, smoother appearance that you can still see a little of in the picture of the laid in loop, much of which is now absent from the main body of the string.




Likewise, the body of an English string is typically not made as two or three ply cordage, only the loop end and the tail being made as three ply cordage.
Why three ply? In my case because I can't divide 15 strands by two as easily as by three, and anyway it makes a string with a more rounded cross section.
The main body of threads is just gathered and has a slight twist rolled in, enough for it to keep together and hold a round cross section, not so much that it coils like a spring.




From the top down:

My version of a light commercial 3 ply string, made in the hand.

My own made in the hand 3 ply, 15 strand fast flight with re-inforced loop. Tails fully tapered and laid in

A US made string, in this case a light 2 ply string where the laid in section of the loop is braided and the string corded throughout the whole length, but the tails of the laid in part are not tapered, just cut off.
Particularly when "slackly" made, which is all too common, these tend to not hold as round a cross section in the body of the string when under tension when braced as does the uncorded twist.

A typical light commercial 2 ply 12 strand English made in the hand string.

 
Last edited by Rod on February 28th, 2015, 9:41 am, edited 3 times in total.
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