Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

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Man from Coventry
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Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Man from Coventry » Fri Jun 08, 2012 2:49 pm

I'm in the process of attempting to make a new batch of "authentic" arrows and trying to improve on the standards that of those that I have previously made. An issue that has occurred to me is identification (or not) of the cock feather.

Today we typically use a different colour to denote the cock feather on an arrow to assist in nocking, but was this done in the 15th Century ?

Most modern "replica" 15th Century arrows that I have seen seem to assume that they did, but on what basis ? Is this just a re-enactorism ?

I am only aware one picture that definitely shows a cock feather that is marked, one shown in a portrait of Antoine, The Grand B******d of Burgundy, which shows a cock feather marked with two red stripes, in part to denote his victory in an archery contest in Bruges, but how typical was this in general, for war and general use arrows ?


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EnglishArcher
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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby EnglishArcher » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:16 pm

There's no need for different-coloured fletches. As a professional archer, if you can't nock an arrow correctly without a 'special' feather to help you really shouldn't be shooting. I suspect it's a re-enactorism carried over from Victorian archery.

If you're going for 'authentic' arrows please don't fall into the common trap of making everything over-chunky:

Fletches don't need to be any more than 3/4" high (by about 7 1/2" long). Avoid stupid 1.5" high feathers.

Also avoid bloody great 3mm-thick slabs of buffalo horn in the nock. A 1mm cow horn sliver is perfect; and more than strong enough to strengthen the nock (on any bow up to and above)

Finally, if you whip the fletchings use a fine silk, wrapped at about 6 turns to the inch - not huffing great bailing twine wrapped at two turns per inch.

I'd recommend the EWBS Livery arrow as a good template for medieval arrows if you want something that looks 'right' (and flies well):

http://www.englishwarbowsociety.com/tud ... ow_EN.html

or the Welsh class arrow, for something earlier:

http://www.englishwarbowsociety.com/wel ... ow_EN.html


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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Phoenix Rising » Fri Jun 08, 2012 7:26 pm

Agree with English Archer - would imagine that both levied and retained archers would have been able to nock their arrows more or less blindfold, having done it so many times, not just for warfare but in their own day-to-day life, hunting, recreation etc.

And yes, avoid some of the pitfalls he mentions - massive fletchings are not needed. After all, its an arrow, not a quill! :D



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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby gregory23b » Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:29 am

"After all, its an arrow, not a quill! "

Which don't have any feathers on them at all as it happens, or at least shouldn't have great big plumes ;-)


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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Sat Jun 09, 2012 11:57 am

And in both cases would get in the way of them being used correctly.


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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Phoenix Rising » Sat Jun 09, 2012 1:23 pm

Ah, the quill bit - 'twas a deliberate mistake m'lords - well, it was actually a 'senior' moment but it sounds better when put like that!!! :wasntme: :drunk: :lol:



Man from Coventry
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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Man from Coventry » Tue Jun 12, 2012 5:43 pm

Thanks for the advice, which is useful, though most of it didn't directly address the question I'd asked !

Clearly there is some contemporary evidence (the Portrait mentioned above) that Cock Feathers were marked for certain (possibly luxury sets of arrows), is there any other evidence either way for general use arrows ? The consensus from the discussion and my own researches, suggests not.

The other comments, with respect, are opinion, an opinion which I might add I share (my fletches to date have been three all grey turkey feathers, cut to 7 " Length, triangular profile, max height 5/8" ). This time around I'm using collected wild (Canada) Goose Feathers, and Swan which I've collected spilt and cut myself - is anyone aware of anyone who supplies proper grey goose feathers commercially.

Historically I have used Buffalo horn as an insert due to being able to get hold of it commercially, but have filed/ground this down to approx 1-1.5mm (a smelly and time consuming job). Does anyone know of a supplier of cowhorn plates/sheets in 1mm thickness as, I don't really want to get into the business of making them from raw horn ?

I've typically used undyed Fine linen (embroidery thread) rather than silk. I'm aware that the Westminster Arrow used Red silk, but would question how widely this was used and whether Linen, which was more widely available and less of a 'luxury item' was also used. Other than the Westminster arrow is their any evidence either way ?


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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Langley » Wed Jun 13, 2012 11:15 am

I learned most of what I know from Tony Harcourt who runs the Badminton shoots and has researched deeply every aspect of his archery. Not sure of his sources and he is not a fan of computers so not likely we can get an electronic response but will check when next I see him. For what it is worth, here are his words of wisdom on some of your queries. First, red silk bindings. According to Tony these were used by the company of King's Archers. (Still are - the company is still in existance). Quite possible they were responsible for the Westminster arrow and also could well have been on board Mary Rose. Fletchings - Tony told me off for having grey goose as cock feather and white for the hens. He said only beginners would do that. I now use only white and get my supplies from Richard Head who does mail order. http://www.english-longbow.co.uk/ Richard supplies 2mm horn inserts and linen binding thread as well as white and grey goose feathers at 42p each.



Man from Coventry
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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Man from Coventry » Thu Jun 14, 2012 12:12 pm

Thanks for the advice. I'm inclining more to going for silk bindings.

I wasn't aware that Richard Head stocked Goosefeathers - last time I looked a couple months ago all he sold were Turkey feathers.
The horn inserts he sells are Buffalo and the 2mm thickness is nominal I've found that they can be alot thicker. I found the binding thread he supplies to be little on the thick side.


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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Grymm » Fri Jun 15, 2012 7:00 pm

EnglishArcher wrote:There's no need for different-coloured fletches. As a professional archer, if you can't nock an arrow correctly without a 'special' feather to help you really shouldn't be shooting. I suspect it's a re-enactorism carried over from Victorian archery.


They (differently coloured cock feathers or feathers with coloured stripes) turn up in muddyevil art, not as often as plain but they do turn up.

a quick google and the first two out the traps:-

Image

Image

There's another that has a border of arrows with a cock' of blue or red but my memory is fading ...


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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Hraefn » Sun Jun 17, 2012 12:53 pm

That nice Mr Ascham wrote about them too
"...surelye it standeth with good reaso to have the cocke fether black or greye, as it were to gyue a man warning to noche right."


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Man from Coventry
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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Man from Coventry » Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:41 am

Thanks all. One gain the impression that both marked or different coloured cock feathers were used, but this wasn't uniformly the case. The remark from Ascham seems to suggest that it was agood common-sense idea (to have a different coloured cock-feather) but that not everyone did it.

Interesting to note that the archers are all shown with the arrows on the 'wrong side' of the bow, and the nocking orientation is varies.


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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Dave B » Tue Jun 26, 2012 9:58 am

There are some more nice pictures of archers and thier equipment here:

http://www.larsdatter.com/archers.htm


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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Grymm » Tue Jun 26, 2012 10:22 am

Just a theory but target and matched hunting arrows then cock fletchings striped fletchings and banded shafts would make sense for IDing your own arrows.
Mass produced 'war' arrows prob'ly not a lot of point (pun unintended).

Image


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Man from Coventry
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Re: Archery - Cock feathers in different colours ?

Postby Man from Coventry » Tue Jun 26, 2012 2:33 pm

Thanks Grymm, your suggestion would make alot of sense.

The final picture you've posted is the one I was originally referring to of Antoine the Grand B*****d of Burgundy, your clearly rather more adroit at posting pictures than I am.


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