Saturday, 25 June 2011

Shooting the Character Bow

I helped to set up the club's end of month 3D shoot. Twenty eight targets including a big Tiger and my fave' big Crocodile.
The bow shoots smooth and well, being almost centreshot the arrow flight is nice and straight even at close range. One of the guys at the club had a go with it and described it as "Fast and flat, for a knobly bow" he also agreed that it had a bit more hand shock than you'd expect.
I was shooting pretty well and managed to get some nice first arrow kills and wounds on the long shots. On a long shot wolf I thought, "that's about point on" and as I loosed I though it was going way over, but it just seemed to run out of steam and dropped nicely into the kill.

There has been some discussion of the tiller, it being suggested that the lower limb is weak (someone online and the guy at the club both suggested it). I was slightly worried myself, but I cropped the full draw shot, rotated it to give a horizontal arrow and drew an elipse in 'paint', it shows it's pretty good, although there is a slightly tighter bend at about half way down the lower limb.
Generally the lower limb, being shorter, will have to bend through a tighter radius to draw back the same distance as the upper. The tip of the upper limb is slightly stiff due to the two big knots, this makes it look worse.
Anyhow, I reversed the string and tried shooting it upside down to test the theory. It shot like a pig, the arrows seemed to twitch and nosedive, so I'm happy that the tiller and nocking point are set up about right as they are.
If I was concerned, I'd possibly heat temper the lower limb in the middle to stiffen it a tad, or ease off the last third of the top limb, however I'm certainly not going to risk it on this bow.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Character Yew Bow Pics

The bow is 67.5" nock to nock 40lb at 28". It shoots very steadilly as it's almost a centre shot. It's not very fast and there's a bit of elbow jarring, about the same as a 50 or 60 pound bow, probably due to the extra limb mass with those big knots. It nees some more coats of Danish oil and I may add an arrowplate and leather grip, although it would be a shame to cover that gorgeous wood. On the shot of the heart shaped knot, you can see how it's been cleaned out and I've even attempted to polish the inside, I bought some curved needle files (Riffler flies from Toolstation only £3.74 for a set of 10!) which helped considerably. I even tried creating my own special abrasive tools by dipping a sawn off 6" nail into epoxy and then into fine sand, it wasn't a great success.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Character Bow

I've been working on the Character bow, a little and often, it's painstaking work but fun. Its been up on the tiller and I've got it back to 40 lb at 26" on a low brace height. The bow is so S shaped I had to modify the tiller rig to bring the bow support block an inch or so from the wall else one limb was hitting the wall. There's a lovely little bit of recurve (flip tip) on the top limb, but there was some nasty white and black rot round a small knot there, I rasped away the rot and chiseled out a thin groove where the remainder was. I didn't want to lose the flip tip so I filled the groove with Yew dust and epoxy, mixed up fairy dry, sellotape was wrapped around and then it was tightly bound with twine to help compact the mix into the groove. You can see the before and after in the pics.

The back and belly are being cleaned up too, it's very laborious taking out the rasp marks from the belly with a file, scraper and sandpaper. With the back its a matter of scraping away the remaining bits of brownish cambium to expose the white sapwood, this is tricky where there are knots and little dips in the wood, I ground down a needle file to make a tiny chisel for cleaning out dips and knots. There are odd areas which have been nicked by the drawknife during de-barking, careless you may think, but the wood is very undulating and it's almost impossible to do it perfectly. I couldn't be certain the log would be any good so some of the initial de-barking was a tad rough and ready to allow me to see if it had any potential.
Anyway, where there are nicks or I've gone through a growth ring these are carefully blended in. Its a slow process working down the whole bow, and once its been done a close examination reveals the next layer of minor flaws.
As a kid I couldn't really understand when my brother explained about putting on varnish then sanding it off and repeating the process umpteen times. Why put it on and then sand it off again?? The whole point of course is that first coat or two helps seal the wood and shows up the imperfections which you'd missed. No point pressing on regardless unless you are happy with tool marks showing (and that's fine on the right bow, as long as you are happy with it). This bow will be a working bow, but I want to show off the character to it's best. It's the first real 'character' bow I've done, there is 'Mr Wobbly' on my website, but that was done just to see how hard you could push a bit of Yew.
Here's an update, this is the big feature knot on the lower limb, about 1/3 of the way down from the grip. The back has been cleaned up and the knot has had all the soft stuff cleaned out, leaving good solid heartwood.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Yew Character Primitive

Blimey I'm hooked, that wood is gorgeous, there are some rings which are black, I don't know if it was just a very dry year or a sign of disease, there are loads of tiny pin knots too. In some places it looks almost like burr Walnut! It tends to tear a bit and I've been working on the belly with my spokeshave set fine and held at an angle to give a more slicing action. I've chiselled out some of the knots with an old needle file shortened, ground to a chisel point and stuck into a wooden handle. There are some longitudinal cracks in the wood and the central pith and some rings are a bit manky, but I think it will look beautiful, I'm leaving it long and wide at the moment to give me plenty to play with as I may have to work around some weird knots and grain problems. I don't think it will be a high draw weight, I'm aiming at 40-45lb at 28" with maybe a decent overdraw to 30"?
I know I was going to let it season more but I just can't keep my hands off it!
I checked the moisture content of one of the offcuts and it's still fairly high at 16%, for comparison I tested an offcut from my previous bow which was cut in Feb 2010 and that was about 12%. I don't worry too much about these figures as they aren't very accurate (the harder you push the higher the reading), but they do give an idea. I shall work it down and feel it flexing but I won't put it up on the tiller until it's dried out a bit more. Once this current cold wet snap goes it should season quite quickly as it's so much thinner now.
The pic shows it after a quick go with a file and a rub with some sand paper, when it's properly finished the contrast would be much higher and it will look even darker.
Notice the knot running across the belly at the bottom left, There is a big swell in the back of the bow behind that. I think the correct term for this stave is "Challenging" !

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Character Yew Primitive Bow

I've put a new blade on the bandsaw and roughed out the character bow, there are some fine cracks opening up as wood has been removed and tension released from inside the wood, coupled with the accelerated drying caused by de-barking. A wide flat half a log is going to be more likely to split and warp than a narrower section (like a longbow).
The way to look at it is, the growth rings are going to try to straighten out, so a semircular ring (viewing onto the end grain of a half log) has a long way to straighten whereas in an 1/4 or 1/8th of a log the rings in the end grain appear as only slightly curved.
This will never be a high performance bow but I want a working bow, not just some odd ball curiosity to hang on a wall (I hate the concept of making a bow just for presentation or show).
It has plenty of problems to work around, but over the last year I've had plenty of practice and my skills have been sharpened.
I shall leave it to season whilst, slowly tinkering with it and working it down. It alread flexes a bit if I lean on it, but I certainly don't want to stress it.
I fancy working it as is without any heat treating, recurving or adding any grip arrow plate or horn nocks, just keep it a clean simple stave worked down from it's natural state. Of course I may find I need to clean out that knot, but it doesn't show through on the belly and there is a nice bulge of sapwood around it on the back so maybe I can leave it as long as I allow extra wood around that area.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Messing about

I've been looking at a twisted skinny runty bit of Yew which I got in November from a tree surgeon along with some decent logs. Half of it has virtually no sap wood where it's been rubbing against another branch or been otherwise damaged in some way (see the lower edge next to the tape measure), it has a gentle S shape and may make a nice character primitive flat bow. I've carefully de-barked it to see what's what and it seems to have some great potential. In cutting away the bad side I could see the heartwood grain is very fine and dark, possibly due to slow growth caused by the damage? There are also some slightly dodgy looking areas too, but hopefully as more wood is removed, I'll get to good sound wood.
I also realised my bandsaw blade needed replacing.
I contrived to order the wrong sized ones online, missreading 88" as 82", fortunately the company will accept them back and I can re-order the right ones, nice to get quick friendly efficient service these days.
I've been pottering about in the garden (keeping an eye on our new cat which we got a few weeks ago from a rescue centre) when I spotted a Hummingbird Hawk Moth, excellent!
Tricky chap to photograph, but they are very fine creatures and make me smile to see 'em zipping about.

Monday, 6 June 2011


I've been shooting a lot of arrows from the repaired 60 lb Yew longbow, 25 in each session, so I've had to spread them around a bit to avoid smashing arrows into each other.
This one just missed the foam boss, it shows the penetration of even a light arrow with a field point, that's a steel up-and-over garage door.
I've shot about 150 arrows from it now and it's fine.
Maybe I'll have to invest in some arrow netting...

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Kids Bow Finished

27 pounds at 24".
I remade the string from the Angel Majesty one I'd made for it when it was in it's first incarnation.
It feels surpringly fast for a little bow, but it will need 24" arrows made for it to avoid the risk of overdraw and I can't help wondering how far it will throw a light arrow.
It's pretty as a picture, I didn't really intend finishing to a high spec, and although I haven't lavished quite my full care and attention it's turned out really nicely. The full draw pic shows the problem with short bows, you can see how tight a curve it's having to bend through. I continue to be surprised that it's not taken any set, even though the chrysals are visible on that lower limb, it's hard to tell if they were all there from it's first incarnation, a few fine ones are more visible, but were quite likely lurking there all along.
The lower (left) limb looks slightly stiff about mid limb, judged against the chalk lines on the wall, this was where I've tried to spread the load away from that area, as that's where the chrysals are. It also looks like it could bend a bit closer to the handle too.

I'll try to explain more. I think the left limb bends a fraction too much just about where the burnt out cable ran up from the switch (the bathroom is above and water must have leaked down there years ago). If it bent a bit more close to the handle , it would be a smoother more even bend which would strain the wood evenly rather than giving localised compression cracks.
I suppose the bow taking a permanent bend (set) and compression cracks are both syptoms of the same thing E.G a compression failure in the belly, it's just that the compression fractures look more localised and look worse.
A smooth even set just looks like the curve of a bow, in fact people often ask, 'how do you get that curve?' (in an unstrung bow) The answer is simply 'it just happens'. It begs the question which is actually worse? How do we define worse? The performance of the bow or it's longevity? I suspect the chrysals are 'worse' in terms of longevity, but may be better in terms of performance (arrow speed) but I can't really substantiate that statement.
The ideal presumably is some gentle heat treating which doesn't attempt to put in too much recurve (maybe just a hint at the tips), but helps to reduce the set whilst not giving rise to chrysals.
The good news is I know the temperature and process used for heat treating that bow, so on the next one I shall reduce the temperature a bit and not make the wood so dark, I shall put in less recurve too. the easy option would be to make the next much longer and wider, but too long would also tend to make it slower. Maybe I'll get it right one day!
The above comments on the curve are very subjective and the more I look the less sure I am! It is difficult because the asymetry of the bow is more accentuated on short bows. Even if you hold the bow at the centre, the arrow would be off centre and thus the point on the string where the draw is applied would be off centre, this assymetry is also accentuated on low draw weight bows. (It barely shows on a 60 pound longbow!) You'll notice how the bow is being supported on the tiller at about the pressure point on the grip, and the string is being drawn just below the nocking point where the fingers would be.
Anyhow, enough waffle, I shall go round the back of one of the carpet warehouses to find some tube to post it in.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Visit and a Reprieve for the Hazel Bow

I had a great vist from a young guy, he'd got in contact via my website and was asking about following a growth ring in Yew sapwood.
He turned up with a bow he'd been working on, a couple of Yew logs and some of his Grandfathers tools including a really nice old drawknife.
He had a great idea of the basics but was just missing a few bits of knowledge, we got a string onto his bow and put it on the tiller. It wasn't the best bit of Yew but he'd made a fine job considering. It was a shortish flat bow and it came back to bracing height ok, so we shortened the string, got it braced and pulled it back enough to see how it was working.
He was aiming for about 40 pounds and I think we took it back to about 30.
I was most impressed, as it came back nice and evenly, the centre section wasn't working much, and the handle was a bit long, but it certainly looked to be on the right track.
We covered a huge amount of stuff from and he seemed to pick up everything really quickly. We had a go with the Chinese repeater too and a couple of my bows.

I had another contact from a guy asking if I was interested in making a kid's bow, I said I don't like doing low draw weight bows, but I had the Hazel bow which he could see on this blog, which might do nicely if cut down and re tillered.
I sawed about 5.5" off each end and worked it down to about 30 lb at 24". I was aiming at 20-25 pounds at 22-24". By the time it's all finished it will be about right. It's just about finished and looking very handsome, the tiller is now much more even and I've done Waterbuffalo horn tip overlays and arrow plate.
I'll post some pics when it's completely done. It's good that the bow will find a home and I'm sure it will get a lot of use. Re-working it was interesting as I could really see how far the heat treatment had penetrated on the lower limb tip where I over did it. Re-tillering also gave me a second shot at getting the twist out.
The couple of fine chrysals are still visible, but they are nearer the tip now and far less stressed with the reduced draw weight.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Repair update.

I've drawn it to 28" on the tiller and it looks fine. It may have possibly gained a whisker in draw weight, of that might just be my imagination, it certainly hasn't lost any.
The patch has been cleaned up a bit further but taken care not to get carried away and end up taking it all off or ruining the work, it's sometimes hard to know when to quit... maybe a tad more with a needle file on that fade out? No!
Danish oil has been applied and there will be a few more coats, I've left it out in the sun to let that freshly exposed sapwood get some UV... dunno if this will help it to blend in colour wise, it just seed like a good idea at the time. The patch isn't invisible , but then it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb.
Hopefully it will shoot in ok, I'll have to put a good few arrows through it and the odd 29" draw.
Good as new? Well, it should actually be better than 'new' now.
I've learned a fair bit on this bow, which is why I do it.
Be more carefull evaluating knots being the main lesson!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Repair update

I've taken off the rubber wrapping and rasped filed and sanded down the slip of sapwood. I'm pleased with the result. I haven't applied a finish yet and I'll leave it another 24 hours before stringing it and testing it... lets hope it doesn't ping off! First pic shows it shortly after the wraps came off and I started working down the lower end. Second pic shows the growth rings being exposed as I start to blend in the upper end. Last two pics show the final cleaned up edge and face, hopefully once it has a few coats of Danish oil it will barely show.