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Crossbows - Glossary of Terms

Antler nut – The rotating nut is made from antler or ivory not metal. Commonly used as a nut material and reinforced with a steel insert for the sear.

Binding – The bow is tied on to the stock using a hemp cord. Used as an alternative to bow irons.

Bridle – Cord binding holding the bow to the stock.

Bolt – The missile shot by a crossbow is called a bolt or quarrel. Usually fletched with wood rather than feathers.

Bolt bridge – A small component used to hold the front end of the bolt and lift it above the deck. Reduces friction and often used on hunting bows.

Bolt clip – A curved springy clip used to hold the bolt into the nut and to stop it falling off the bow. From around 1500 onward.

Bow - The spring that is used to propel the missile.

Bow irons – Iron components that clamp the bow to the stock. Used if the bow is not bound with a cord.

Brace height – The distance from the bow to the string when the bow is not drawn.

Braced – The word used to describe a bow with the string fitted.

Butt cheeks – Plates inset into the stock at the butt end of the stock.

Cheeks – Hunting bows in particular and some war bows had horn plates inset either side of the nut to reinforce the stock.

Composite – A type of bow made from sinew and horn. Popular on hunting bows and some war bows.

Cranequin - A type of compound gearbox used to span heavy bows from aroud 1450.

Deck – the top surface of a crossbow.

Doubler pulley – a pulley and cord fitted onto a sturdy belt, used to help span powerful crossbows.

Draw length – The distance from the inside of the bow to the teeth of the nut.

Gaffle - Lever that hooks onto a ring on the front of the crossbow and is used to push the string back onto the nut.

Goats foot lever – Lever that locates onto two lugs either side of the stock and is used to draw the string back onto the nut.

Groove – A shallow groove extending from the nut to the front end of the stock, into which the bolt seats.

Hanging hook – A hook on the underside of the crossbow stock.

Hanging ring – A ring on the front of the bow, held in place by the binding.

Irons - Iron components that clamp the bow to the stock. Used if the bow is not bound with a cord.

Lathe – Another name for the bow itself.

Lashing – Another name for binding.

Leather braiding - A woven leather braid covering the front of the bow and lashing.

Lever – An inbuilt spanning lever, usually set into the top of the bow stock.

Lug (cranequin) – A transverse pin that sticks out from the stock, somewhat behind the trigger system, onto which the loop on the bottom of the cranewuin locates.

Lug (goats foot) - A transverse pin that sticks out from the stock, around the area of the trigger system, onto which the legs of the goats foot lever locate.

Metal nut binding - Metal bracket that holds the nut axel. It is in essence a pretend nut cord; occasionally used on hunting bows.

Nocks – The tips of the bow into which the loops of the string locate.

Nut - Cylindrical, toothed component that holds the string back when it is fully drawn back.

Nut axel/nut pin – The axel which holds the nut in place and allows it to rotate.

Nut cord – A hemp cord which is used to tie the nut into the socket.

Painted linen covering – Painted linen covering on the steel bow.

Pellet – Stone or pellet bows shot balls of material rather than bolts. The pellets were either of lead or clay.

Pillars - Stonebow strings have two strings, separated by pillars.

Pocket – On a stonebow string, the fold of leather that holds the shot is the 'pocket'.

Pom poms – 15thC European hunting bows often had wool or silk pom poms tied to the bow, stock and trugger; simply for decoration.

Powerstroke – Distance between the two positions of the string. 1. The brace height (string at rest) 2. The fully drawn back position when the string in engaged on the nut.

Prod/prodd - Another name for the bow.

Quarrel - The missile shot by a crossbow is called a bolt or quarrel.

Reinforcing plates – Iron plates on either side of the stock riveted through and used to reinforce the trigger and nut area.

Saddle – wooden block between the bow and the lashing cord.

Safety cords – Cords tied to the front of the bow to take some of force out of a breaking bow.

Sear – the part of the nut or trigger system that actually takes the load of the bow and so also takes the major part of the mechanical wear.

Serving - The central part of the string that is whipped to protect it from wear.

Shot – The lead shot used in pellet or stonebows.

Sights – Stone bows or pellet bows usually had foresights and rear sights that folded down. Crossbows usually did not have sights, but could be sighted by placing the knuckle on top of the stock and lining up between the knuckle and the head of the bolt. Some bows had indents or locators for the thumb in different positions to assist this.

Socket - the cut out on the front of the bow into which the bow fits.

Socket reinforcing pin – Pin riveted through the stock from top to bottom just behind the socket to help the wood from splitting.

Span – When a bow is string is drawn back and engaged onto the nut, the bow has been 'spanned'.

Spanning belt - Broad belt that is worn around the waist onto which a hook or hook and pulley is fitted and used to help span the bow.

Spanning hook – Hook that is attached onto a spanning belt.

Spiral winding - The widely spaced cord winding that goes round and round the string between the eyes for the full length of the string.

Stirrup – Metal loop fixed to the front of the bow stock into which the archers foot is placed to stabilise it during the spanning process.

Stock – Wooden piece onto which all the other parts are fitted.

Stonebow - Type of bow that shot either clay or lead balls. Useful for hunting small game and birds and for having fun with.

String – Bundle of linen cords connected to the bow and used to propel the missile.

Top trigger – Trigger in which the activation is made from top of the stock rather than the more usual underneath.

Tickler – Another name for the trigger.

Trigger – Lever, button or curved finger lever used to release the mechanism that releases the string.

Wedges – A set of (usually) 4 components that fit into a slot in the stock and are hammered into place to push the bow irons back and so clamp the bow into the stock.

Windlass – Mechanism consisting of pulleys, ropes and crank handles used to span very heavy crossbows.