Friday, 28 May 2010

Roughing Out Yew Stave

The stave was cut from the Gibberd garden late last October (I made them a wooden donations box in exchange for it). It was split in two and some of the side wood chopped off.
The dark pithy centre of the stave shows a nice wiggle, which will be retained in the final bow.

Normally I'd rough it out further using an axe. I've had pretty bad tennis elbow recently and I've bought a bandsaw off E-bay, so I've used that to take the stave down a bit further for the next 4 months of seasoning.
It takes a bit of care to use a bandsaw without taking off too much, while trying to follow the curves of the wood. The pic with my longbow gives an idea of how much timber is still left and also the natural reflex of the stave. The log was originally straight, the reflex is just the tension in the wood, this usually happens when a log is split and most of this will probably come out as the bow is tillered. The bow on the left was roughly straight as a log, and has taken a little set through use.

The heartwood/sapwood boundary isn't very well defined, but it will probably become clearer as the wood ages and is finished.
The next step is to remove the bark, there is a nice line of small pin knots on one limb, these could become a very pretty feature along with the wiggle.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

What Next?

I'm pondering what to build next, I have some Hazel and Ash which is seasoned. My Yew staves need some more time, but there's one which was cut Oct 26th last year, I could start roughing that out a bit to speed up the final stages of seasoning and allow me to plan the bow.
Maybe a flat Ash bow with recurved tips, The Ash is a slice from just under the bark, the growth rings seem rather close and I'm not certain how the wood will be, that's why it was sliced off when making the kids bows for the club. It would be a quick fun project and I'd find out what the close grained Ash was like.
I'll make do with some armchair bowyery meanwhile until the weekend.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


I was having a bad day anyway. I rear ended a car on the way to archery. The bow shot well, but I thought, I'd improve the arrow pass, ease off the tip of the upper limb and lose a pound or two to give it a bit of safety factor.
Now 25" seemed like a reasonable safety factor on a 24" draw bow, until it went BANG!

I'm philosophical about it as it was experimental and I've learned a lot.
As my Mum would say, the man who never made a mistake never made anything.

The possible cause of failure is an area of the glue line where there doesn't seem to have been contact between back and belly. (Outlined in red). Elsewhere you can see the wood has failed and remained attached to the glue.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Pics at last

The bow is 55 pound draw weight at 24". It's fast, I shot through my chronometer which measured the arrow speed as 165 feet per second (112.5 mph) almost as fast as my Longbow.
I shall shoot in in earnest at the club on Sunday.
The picture of the belly shows the myriad of knots and how I've allowed some slight swelling in the width of the bow where the larger knots are (this avoids weak spots and also adds some character).
The Ash backing is sawn roughly following a ring (as opposed to quarter sawn acrossthe rings) this gives some nice, but slightly unconvention grain on the back. Effectively it is more like a stave cut naturally from a tree, rather than a bow laminated from quarter sawn planks. I'll add some more pics in a later post.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


The bow is nearly done, I took the bull by the horns and went for it.
Fully braced at about 5 3/4" I drew it to 24" very briefy, I glanced at the spring balance on the tillering rig, it read 56 pounds...
Whew, that gives me a bit of poundage to play with for final tillering. Anything over 50 pounds at 24" is a great result.
I've been smoothing the limbs with a cabinet scraper, a great tool for removing the last file and rasp marks, vastly better and quicker than sandpaper. My scraper was pretty blunt but I checked out some videos on You Tube which show sharpening methods, some are a bit fussy but some are V good.
I just went across one edge with a file and burnished over the edge using the shaft of a big screwdriver, it gave a nice sharp burred edge which takes off very fine shavings, a very worth while couple of minutes work.
A cabinet scraper is highly recommended if you havn't tried one, they are cheap and very effective.
Pics to follow over the weekend...
Update! :- made a proper string and cut down an arrow which had a broken tip down to 24" (to avoid any chance of overdrawing) Shot a couple of times in the garage, it needed a bit of adjustment to smooth and shape the arrow pass (the bit of the grip where the arrow rubs the side of the bow as it leaves the bow). It seems pretty fast, but I must admit I put a 50 grain pile on the arrow which is as light as they come. Once it's finished I'll shoot some through the chronometer to measure how fast it really is.
(They always look fast on those first few shots especially indoors!)

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Getting there!

About 45 pounds at 20", slowly getting there.
the shorter left limb is deceptive as there is a bit of a natural bend about 1/3 of the way from the handle, there also doesn't appear to be any bend near the handle. It's very tricky, if I remove too much near the handle where it fades from limb to handle, it is liable to break as that's a natural weak point. It's come on a bit since that pic, in terms of smoothing the curve of that left limb.
There's still a long way to go as it's still not braced to it's correct height.
I filled a longitudinal crack/groove in the handle where the pith at the centre of the log was exposed (I let in a piece of the same Cherry wood). Longitudinal cracks aren't too much of a problem in bows.
The Ash back is being smoothed now too, using metal working files and wet & dry paper.
I'm still not entirely sure where I want it to end up, the grip is very small and there's not much of an arrow pass...maybe it will end up as a flight bow, maybe it will break, but maybe it will end end up as a punchy little field bow which anchors to the nose or cheek bone just beneath the eye for those close range shots.
I s'pose that's the great fun of making stuff, you never know quite what you'll get until it's in your hand.

I've finished my first bit of sculpture repair work for the Gibberd Gallery.
The two crows are called Fred & Aristottle, by sculptor Claire Guest.
The roof of their bird table needed replacing and much of the other structure too. The crows were originally free standing and moveable, but when the garden opened to the public they needed fixing down, unfortunately this wasn't done very well and the crow on the right had one foot missing and one the wrong way round. He was also fixed with his tail screwed down to the deck.
As I carefully dissmantled him it becam apparent how he was originally designed. I tried to restore him faithfully to the original design, this involved making one new tail feather which needed burning and rubbing with mud and algae to match it up.
The crows are of Bog Oak, and as such are almost like coal in some parts.
It was nice to see them restored as they are favourites with visitors.
I supect the crow on the left may have originally had toes fixed to the end of his legs, I may research it further and make replacements if I find it's appropriate.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Starting to Tiller the Bow

A picture is worth a thousand words. I started with a slack string and shortened it as I got the bow starting to flex.
The string is shortened by threading it through the wooden toggle (half way along the right side of the string). It's a piece of plywood with two holes drilled in it, they are carefully smoothed so that they con't cut into the string. It saves making multiple strings, it can even be used for a test shot or two!

That was just over an hours work, cutting some nocks and getting starting to flex reasonably evenly.
I know it was just over an hour, because I got a phone call from my wife saying I was supposed to have picked her up ten minutes ago... Whoops!
The left limb is a bit stiff, and it's difficult to judge how even the bend is due to the limbs not being straight to start with. hasn't exploded yet, I'm aiming for a 24" draw initially at say 50pounds. I've had it back to 35 pounds so far in that last picture.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Horn Nock Fitting Tool

Note:- I've added two posts showing full detail of how I do a horn nock.

The old question of horn nocks on longbows came up on one of the archery sites (Archery Interchange).
I happened to mention a handy tool to aid the fitting of horn nocks.
One of those flat wood boring bits is usually ground to a curved point to drill the hole into the horn. If the same tool is then used to drill into a block of Oak (or similar) it can have a slit cut into it to hold a strip of sandpaper, this can be used like a giant pencil sharpener to help shape the nock ends of the bow giving a very close fit. Of course it still requires rough shaping first and a bit of fiddling and fettling, but it is a great tool.

The cut away section lets you see what's going on while you are using it and lets the end of the sandpaper stip come out of the block so you can grip it.

Here's the drill bit and little grind wheel used to shape it...It started life as a 1" bit but has been reground to various odd sizes before this final incarnation.

The guys on the site thought it was a great tip so I've posted it here.
I havn't had time to work on the experimental bow this week as I've been busy doing some repair work on a wooden sculpture...I'll post a pic of it when it's finished. Hopefully this weekend I'll press on with the Ash/Cherry bow.