I just had to tie a bunch of bowstrings so I just want to make some notes to myself for future reference:
- To determine the length, put the lower loop over the urahazu and pull the string taut. The correct place for the bottom of the knot on the upper loop is apparently already marked by a line across the kilogram label on the bows from Terauchi Kyuguten (no web site). Mark that with a pencil.
- Tie the loop so that, before you make the knot, it is snug (but not too tight) around your thumb at the base of the thumbnail. Obviously this will vary with thumb size but that’s what seems to work for me.
- Using the two-loop method, be sure to tie the knot so that the pencil mark is just barely visible.
- Sometimes in cold weather it helps to warm the upper (red) part of the string over a heater, or just with friction, so that the kusune melts, but in summer you get the opposite problem and the whole string is sticky.
- Tie it and try it. Adjust if necessary. Since I’m making strings for 4-sun nobi bows, the distance from the grip to the string should be 16cm. If you make that a little higher the string should be just right when it stretches out a little after the first couple of shots. But no more than a few mm or the bow will be unhappy.
- The loop will seem small and you may have to push it down onto the bow at first.
For the nakajikake:
- You need about a 20cm length of asa (hemp), flat, and maybe 1.5mm wide. Unfortunately the stuff that comes with my favourite strings is cut 14cm long, which I guess must be the standard, but for some reason that doesn’t work well for me.
- Mark the spot opposite the top of the grip by using an arrow: Holding the bow vertically, put the tip of the arrow down at the motohazu of the bow, then tilt it until it touches the top of the grip. Mark that spot on the arrow (or just keep your fingers there), then tilt the arrow back to vertical to line up with the string. Use a pencil to mark the place (call this point B) where the mark on the arrow touches the string. Because of the geometry, point B on the string to be slightly higher than the top of the grip, which is what you want.
- Now mark a spot on the string 2cm above that (call this mark A), and 1cm below that (mark C). This 3cm area (A-B-C) is the critical area where the hazu will contact the string.
- Apply the glue from mark A down to a place 9cm below. Call that mark D.
- With the bow facing away from you (string facing toward you) hold the asa behind the string so that 6cm is to the right of mark A and the rest to the left. Wind that 6cm clockwise (as seen from above) down from A, over point B, to point C.
- You may want to refresh the glue from A-B-C a bit, and then wind the left-hand 14cm of the asa anti-clockwise (as seen from above) around the string all the way down to point D. Note that because A-B-C gets two wrappings it will be twice as thick as the area from C to D, which where the glove will contact the string.
- Try to keep the asa flat, rather than letting it twist. If it twists, it will become thinner (like thread) and you may need more (is that why I need 20cm rather than 14?)
- Then finish the nakajikake with the dohou, the two blocks of wood, sliding the one to the right forward while pulling the one on the left back, thus giving the the nakajikake an anticlockwise twist (matching the way the fibres in the string are twisted).
- Let it sit for a while until the glue dries, then wind the new string into a tsurumaki.
A useful hint I got the other day from a veteran is to use one of the larger, wider tsurumaki and keep three strings in it. Each string should be used a few times to “season” it, then you can wind them on. The trick is that the first one you wind onto the tsurumaki should a synthetic one. The remaining two should be asa. The idea is that if you are at a taikai, you start with the top (hemp) string. If that breaks, you have a second hemp string that is ready to go (have fun sitting in kiza while they deal with that). And if that breaks, you still have an unbreakable synthetic string as a final backup.
She says that the tsurune is noticeably different with asa versus synthetics, so it’s best to use the natural materials, but if you’re having one of “those” days, the final synthetic string could save you.