Wednesday, 11 August 2010

A half day Bowmaking.

I spent an enjoyable afternoon giving Paul (who is a violin maker) an introduction into bowmaking.
It was at a breakneck pace as we went from stave spotting in the woods, splitting a log, through roughing out a skinny piece of seasoned Hazel and on to the technique of tillering.
The aim was to cover all the processes involved and if possible end up with a working bow of some sort (a rather optomistic aim).
The piece of Hazel we used was rather thin and had a huge natural recurve (see pic left), it was a bit I'd been saving as 'it might have a bow in it'.

The big advantage was, being skinny, was we could rough it out quite quickly with an axe and move onto drawknife, plane, spokeshave and rasps...but of course there was that 'might' .

As a violin maker Paul's skills were well honed, but those required for bowmaking were a tad more agricultural, I don't think there is much call for axe work when making a violin!

We had a fine time and he'd bought along a couple of his beautiful violins, which my daughter tried and was awestruck by them! I'm not musical, but I loved the way they resonated as you spoke anywhere near them!
We pretty much finished the bow, having used a multitude of tools and techniques, rules of thumb and good old guesswork.
Unfortunately it was getting late and in a rush to get back to a useable draw length there was that dreaded 'TICK' as it fractured at 24" draw, 30 pounds weight.
I'd optomistically set a target of 26" @ 30 pounds which was pushing it for a stave only 58" long with a lot of natural recurve. I felt that setting a target was a vital part of showing the tillering.
I was bending down watching the draw weight and length, but not looking at the curve of the bow as I pulled it back to see how far we'd got. There's a good lesson there somewhere!
Paul had done a good deal of the work at every stage and had seen the highs and lows of tillering, marking the weak spots and where to remove the wood, and watching it slowly come back from recurved to braced and starting to draw. If we'd had more time we'd have ended up with a working bow.

I was a bit down having fractured it, but retrospectively it was still a very good afternoon and Paul took the bow back with him as it provides a good reference point.
Other than the haste, the failure was due to the bow being rather short for it's draw especially considering the couple of inches of recurve on the stave.
It took us a fair amount of work to even get it back to braced, and interestingly it still had some recurve on it after it fractured, which is probably a testament to the virtues of Hazel.

It was interesting to do a one to one session, we crammed a lot into about six hours! It made me realise what would be involved in actually doing a 'course'... lots of hard work!
I'd think two people max would be the limit, and a big workshop or a sunny day would be a must!
All in all a most enjoyable day and a few bottles of red wine were a very welcomed gift from Paul for my efforts.

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