Monday, 29 November 2010

Shave Horse

Got the shave horse virtually finished.
Here's a couple of pics (I'm using an imaginary spokeshave... very good tool the imaginary spokeshave, never fails).

The clamp bar will have a soft wood block fitting loosely on it to stop it marking the work piece, maybe with some rubber sheet or leather on it.
The bar is a loose fit so that it can be pulled out easilly. I'll probably have it on a chain or string so that it doesn't get lost (same goes for the legs, which just pull out from underneath).

It will doubtless need some adjustments, I can see that when used out doors the pedal is a bit close to the ground and my foot is acting on the top edge so I may take some off the bottom edge.

I haven't tried it out properly yet, it's a bit cold still, but hopefully by next weekend, I'll have it fine tuned and the weather will be a bit kinder.
The foot operated lever is made up of plywood which is glued and nailed into a sort of box section for rigidity. The main pivot is 12mm steel bar and the smaller clamp bar is 8mm.
Other than two lengths of 4x2" it's just stuff that I had in the garage.
For anyone interested in the dimensions and construction, there are more pictures of the shave horse in it's finished state with a tape measuer for reference here:-

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Shave Horse

Nearly finished, the legs are detachable.
The foot operated clamp mechanism hasn't been made yet, I'm experimenting with thin plywood to get the angles and lever lengths right. It will come down either side of the horse and be good and solid, it's just quicker to experiment on a single side for now.
I hope to make the top bar which clamps the work piece quickly adjustable and detachable so the workpiece doesn't need threading awkwardly underneath it.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


It's been too cold to do much bowmaking, I work in my garage which isn't heated, although some of the heating pipes run through it and the boiler is the other side of a brick wall, so it doesn't actually freeze.
Anyhow, I'm going to be making a few longbows now my Yew (from last February) is nearly seasoned. Working on long staves is really awkward, so I've started to make a shave horse.
That's a bench you sit on with a foot operated clamp to hold the work piece, the sort of thing the old beech bodgers would set up in the woods along with a pole lathe when working green wood.
It's coming along nicely so I'll post some pics later.
I looked at various pictures and article on the internet before starting on the project, I even drew it up on the computer, but of course once you start it all loos different and the plans change...afterall, you don't really need legs made of 4x2 do you?!
I've been tinkering with one Yew stave which is a bit of a challenge, it has some twists and turns and it had a couple of small splits, but as I'm slowly working it down it's looking very promising. It's giving me a feel for that batch of wood which seem very nice. I can hardly wait to get it on the horse and press on with it, that's assuming the freeze eases off.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Hard Graft

Whew I've spent most of the morning splitting the biggest log.
It just didn't want to start at one end and was spitting around with rings rather than across. (You can just see what I mean in the pic, bottom left)
The other end eventually started to split, but you can see from the pic it took an axe, sledgehammer and an old axe head used as a starting wedge to set it off.
The original end was still problematic as there were a couple of BIG knots there, so there was a fair bit of axe work to finally separate the two halves.
One half is all big knots and is just waste, the other half will be run through the bandsaw to make two quarters, there should be at least two good staves.

I've tidied up the split face with a power planer to help it run across the bandsaw table without snagging or twisting too much.

Once I've sawn it, I'll paint the ends with PVA and store it for a year.
They say a year per inch of thickness, so the more it's reduced by sawing the quicker it seasons.

You can see the good half is realtively knot free.
Theoretically it could be cut in 3, but there are a couple of old knots in the centre so I'll saw it down the middle which is much easier, it's also better to have two pieces with some spare width to work with, than 3 staves which are too narrow to be any good.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Woo Hoo Yew!

The tree surgeon I spoke to last week turned up with some Yew logs on his lorry. Some were too big and knotty, but I sorted out some which are pretty good, mostly knotty on one side, clear on the other.
A couple are a bit big for the band saw so I'll need to get stuck in with axe and wedges tomorrow, I'll need to paint the ends with PVA too (to prevent them drying too quickly and splitting).

There was one skinny little bent branch which I was going to ignore, but it had a very thin layer of sap wood so it might make a character bow of some sort. A mutually acceptable remuneration was agreed and I now have some potential staves for 2012.

I shall have a good look at them tomorrow, hopefully there should be 1 or 2 staves in each log.
Some of the logs are a scant 6' long where 7 would have been better, but it's certainly a good haul.

Fortune favours the lucky!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Obligatory Full Draw Shot

Full draw in the garden, and the second shot shooting at the camera (on the self timer). Interesting to see the arrow is pointing smack on the lens, yet my eye isn't above the arrow, despite pushing my head over slightly.
Mind, it's difficult being a posed shot, my usual style is probably more hunched over.
There is much discussion on some sites about bows shooting left, aiming points, string picture and suchlike.
With a primitive style anchor to the side of the jaw, I suspect some of the perceived anomalies may be more about eye alignment than some of the other factors.
I'm not much of a shot, but I'd like to think I make some reasonably sensible observations.
The shot also shows the finished binding, the upper one was held lightly in place with a smear of epoxy as it was being whipped on, I didn't then soak it in epoxy as I didn't want it to effect the tiller. A wipe of Danish oil finishes it of nicely.
Being natural linnen thread the binding isn't too obvious or incongruous.
I've put it back on the tiller and it's still 36lb @ 28".

Monday, 15 November 2010

Bit of a bind

I'm not happy with the chrysals on the belly of the Hazel bow.

The performance is fine, it's shooting hard and fast and hasn't taken any more set or reduced in draw weight (36lb @ 28") .

As a precaution I've added a binding of fine linen thread soaked in epoxy over the effected area, this should strengthen and support that area and prevent any further chrysals.

This technique is extremely strong and I've used it before on an Asiatic style recurve which I made a couple of years ago to use up some old Fibreglass and Maple laminations left over from crossbow prod making many years ago.
The binding reinforces the spliced join between the Ash Siyahs (levers) and the bow limbs.

I shall shoot the bow in some more and see how it performs.
It doesn't look too bad and this sort of 'save' is fairly common on primitive bows along with things like rawhide patches and other tricks.
Assuming all is well I may add a matching binding to the upper limb which will look like the sort of thing found on genuine primitive bows.
The Meare Heath bow had criss cross bindings of leather thongs, we don't know if they were purely decorative or had some other significance.

This is the beauty of this blog, you see it warts and all. The bottom line is the bow performance and its longevity. I shall shoot it at the weekend in the open shoot at Celtic Harmony Camp (30 3D targets including a lifesize rubber Tiger!) If it stays shooting as it is at the moment I'll be delighted.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Hazel bow pics

You can see how short the grip is, the heel of my hand wraps over the fade into the lower limb, but it's very comfortable and helps to keep the overall bow length down.

I've added a horn arrow plate and been working on the finish and fiddling with the detail.

I shall be re-checking the tiller and making any tiny adjustments.

A couple of coats of Danish oil have been applied, but these generally get partly removed and they are just to show up the blemishes in the finish and to start sealing the wood.

I'm not being incredibly fussy over the finish as it's a primitive and the grain and underbark surface are an integral part of it.

Once it's had it's final tweaking I'll post the obligatory full draw shot.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Shooting in the Hazel bow.

I've added the horn nocks and got a proper string on it and shot about 100 arrows from the Hazel bow.
It shoots fast and sweet, there are three barely visible chrysals on the belly but I've taken a bit off further down the limb to de-stress that area and even out the curve.

The bow is rather short for it's width and is working very hard, ideally it would have been an inch or two longer and half an inch wider.
But of course it would be no fun to build another bow just like the one on the left, effectively the optimum design for a Hazel flat bow of 35-40 pound draw weight lies somewhere between the two.
You can see from the pic that it hasn't taken much set compared with the slightly wider and longer un-heat treated bow.

I don't know if you can make out the three tiny chrysals on the second pic, the longest is about 10mm long sloping at an angle across the belly.
These are compression fractures and shouldn't cause a problem, as long as they don't grow in length or number, they indicate that the bow was working too hard in that area, the belly wood normally compresses causing some set in the bow, the crysals are a manifestation of too much compression.
Having adjusted the tiller of the bow and topped up the heat treating I shall keep a close eye on that area whilst shooting another 100 arrows or so.
The guys at the club were pretty impressed with it's speed, it seems pretty good for hitting the left over Haloween targets too, my fave was a pumpkin with a skull mask on it.

I might have struck lucky too, a neighbour was having a huge Leylandii cut down so I went and spoke to the tree surgeon who said he might have some decent Yew coming up. Fingers crossed.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Hazel Bow Full Draw

The bow is getting close to it's final weight so I'm working with fine tools and taking care of how it looks.
the back had streaks of dark cambium on it, as I've removed these some have been in deep grooves in the surface of the wood, I've carefully picked these out and revealed some nice character as the pic shows.
Hazel is very plain with virtually no grain visible, so this nice bit of character is very welcomed.

The bow's been back to about 22" and I've shot an arrow from it, there's still a fair way to go and it's only 60" long, hopefully it won't go bang on me but it's the first one I've repeatedly heat treated during tillering so fingers crossed.
Just done some more work and taken it back to 28"...mighty scary.
The string should be a tad shorter and it needs some fiddling and fettling, but it's got there.
Had wondered about a tiny bit of recurve at the tips (flip the tips) but it's taking such a huge curve I don't think I dare!

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Teasing out the Yew stave

The Yew stave I started work on (14th October) had developed a few fine cracks.
It feels to be well seasoned and I've just spent a nervous half hour teasing away with a very sharp axe to cut past the cracks to see what was left.
There is some beautiful wood there, but it's now pretty slender on one limb.
I'm aiming for a 40pound bow and it will easily accommodate that, but slim and maybe with a really steeply arched belly in the true longbow shape.
I've run a plane down the limb to smooth it out and it's looking more like bow limb so I've quit whilst ahead, there's plenty of wood at the centre and on the other limb, so I do have a little leeway.
This stave is really pretty, but a bit of a challenge. I get the feeling that it could become a very special bow, or conversely no bow at all!
It's definitely one for the softly softly softly approach, plenty of looking and thinking, and hold back on the wood removal.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Hazel Bow, more tillering and heat treatment.

The Hazel bow is progressing nicely, it's been rough tillered, heat treated, tillered some more, heat treated again. I've just finished more tillering and a third heat treatment.
This last tillering has got the string shortened to a low brace height (about 2-3") and the bow drawing back to about 22" at 32 pounds so it's getting close. The bow had taken a tiny bit of set, so I've clamped it anto a length of 2x2 with a bit of 1/4" ply under the grip whilst heat treating it this time just to encourage it to stay pretty straight.
It will be interesting to see how much set it has in the finished bow, hopefull less than my non-heat treated Hazel bow.
I just thought, I'm making the grip assymetric and right handed...I hope the guy it's for is right handed!!
There's still time to adjust it, let's hope he reads this!

The pic shows it's begining to look like a bow, I've dtrung it, but it needs another day or so before I draw it after the heat treatment.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Dead Standing Timber

There is plenty of discussion about the value of timber that is standing dead. Silver Birch will just crumble in your hand whereas Oak may be rock solid in the middle.

Along the cycle track just a bow shot from our house are loads of wild plum trees, I noticed slim trunk was dead, it was about 12-15' tall. When I sawed it down the top 6' just smashed into pieces.

I'm pretty sure it's plum but it does look a bit like Cherry. The bark had insect holes in it and some of the outer wood was rotten, however running it through the band saw has produced two nice lengths of about 2x1". The ends were worst and there is still some dodgy wood along the edges. You can see in the end the obvious difference between the sound wood in the middle and the rotten outer stuff, the insect holes tend to go in and then along and don't penetrate right into the centre.

I'll let it season (well away from my decent staves) and see how it turns out. You can see how attractive the wood is, and even if there isn't a bow there it will have decorative uses elsewhere, maybe laminated with other woods for built up handles or carving. It would have been hard work to clean up without a power saw, but it shows what you can find lurking in the hedgerows.