This is a 8 3/4" (22cms) diameter leather disk with 24 x 20mm holes for your rubber tipped arrows and more smaller holes round the edge to make it nice and easy to stitch into your arrow bag. Exactly the same design as my standard arrow bag spacer but slightly larger to accomodate rubber tipped blunt arrows.
Made from good, stiff 4 to 5mm thick natural vegetable tanned leather. Just the right stuff for the job!
A brief history of arrow bags and the use of leather arrow spacers
The use of arrow spacers in arrow bags is well documented in both text and images. Leather arrow spacers were found on the Mary Rose with arrows still in place. However, the arrow bag's origins, with or without spacer, are a little more obscure although they are an accepted part of most medieval historic re-enactments. I have not seen any documentary or pictorial proof of their existence in early medieval times; in fact some folk believe them to be a Tudor invention.
It is worth mentioning that military archers throughout the medieval period mainly used bodkins (thin pointed arrow heads) for warfare. This type of arrowhead was designed to penetrate chain mail, or 'maille' as it should more properly be called, and even puncture thin plate armour. The bodkin head would have slipped easily through the holes in a leather spacer like the ones I make, making it easy to draw out from the arrow bag and with no risk of damaging the fletchings (feathers).
Note: Some folks may want to alter the basic design of a spacer with notched holes to allow for broadheads but this is very much down to the individual.
The idea of a linen arrow bag is an obvious one. Although war arrows were often transported in bulk in barrels; archers needed a way to carry a ‘personal’ supply and the arrow bag is an obvious solution. Linen was relatively easy to obtain and a linen 'tube' was lightweight. An arrow spacer was sewn into the bag to protect the fletchings and a drawstring closed the open end of the tube. Hey, it works for me!
In battle, I believe it is reasonable to assume that bundles of ‘livery’ arrows would be provided from the supply train; but you would carry (in a personal arrow bag) a set of your own arrows cut to suit your draw length and with which you would have practiced extensively. These were effectively ‘sniper’ arrows used on specific targets rather than as part of a massed ‘arrow storm’.
Why 24 holes? 24 arrows, referred to as a sheaf, would have been the expected quantity for an archer to carry as his personal supply and would be the unit that livery arrows were issued in from the bulk supply in barrels.
This is where it all gets very slightly wooly - I understand the modern idea of an arrow bag's shape and form was taken from a drawing made in the late 18th century which may or may not show an ancient arrow bag which apparently hasn’t survived to the present day. However, the concept is simple and there are very few workable variants so the design makes sense.
Illustrations exist from the late 15th Century showing what may be arrow baskets in bags that may or may not have had leather spacers in them… There is little hard evidence to prove or disprove the many theories so feel free to make your own decision as to their validity in historic re-enactment!
On a personal level, my own arrow bag is a basic linen bag, knotted at the bottom and tied at the top with a drawstring. I have stitched a spacer to sit an inch or so below the fletchings to space out the arrows and stop the fletchings from rubbing together (I make my spacers with pre-punched stitching holes around the edge to make this easy). It is a simple and practical way to carry arrows without damage to the fletchings. It works and I like the simplicity. Accurate for medieval re-enactment - who knows?
Arrow spacers found on the Mary Rose