Thursday, 21 February 2013

Pushed it Too Far

Damn, I should have known when to quit, 50# at 29" was plenty for a relatively short longbow.
But no... I'd shot a few at 30" and taken it back to 55# @ 30" on the tiller.

I'd taken some nice pics and was going for the full draw picture when it exploded on me.
I was a bit shaken, but rather annoyed with myself for getting cocky and pushing it too hard.
Still, better to explode on me than some one else.

Examining the break (lower limb), there is no obvious defect, the sapwood seems to have given way a few inches below the grip. There is a knot through the heartwood further up the break, but that doesn't look to be where it started.

It's a shame as it was looking rather handsome and seemed very fast, presumably because it was working so close to the limit.
As one of the guys on Primitive Archer says.
" If you ain't breakin em, you ain't makin em".
That upper limb (the Oregon one) is still Ok but having been messed about twice I think I'll give up on it. I might mount up the tips with their nocks as an illustration of horn nocks, I don't think I'll be able to take 'em off and re use them. maybe I could wear 'em as ear rings (joke).
Hmmm, not a happy bowyer, but onwards and upwards. I'd called it as an experimental bow, just a shame the guy at the club didn't get to try it, although he's avoided the whack on the head!

More Cheery Update:-
I've started on another stave which has had a year seasoning it was from Shaun at the club and hopefully there's a longbow in it.
See this post
I've run it through the bandsaw and it looks promising , it's a bit skinny but I've sawn off the excess sapwood, cut down the sides to approximate dimensions and cleaned up the belly to show the black centre pith of the log for a fair bit of the stave.
It's 84" long with a few knots, but with all that length I should probably be able to position the bow with the worst knots at the grip.
The stave has about 2" of deflex, I may add a little reflex over the last 1/3 of the limbs later, but we'll see how it comes along. I prefer to avoid the hastle of heat bending if possible.
The pic isn't very good but it gives an idea of the size of the roughed out stave.


  1. HI

    I know that feeling my first go at a bow is lying in 3 pieces ,just as i was doing the final tiller
    It was 78" White Ash with the grain turned 90 degrees, around 80lbs at 29" .Made the tillerboard with marked out grid so as not to get any hinges or stiff points ,no deffects ,just exploded only thing i can see is the wood inside looks fairly dry

  2. Shame, that's a big ask for a first bow! I reckon you did well to get it that far, mind 78" is a decent length.
    You did well to get 80#, most first bows end up nearer 20# !
    I'm not a great fan of Ash and I know a guy who broke a few before getting that first elusive 'shooter'.
    He did the edge on grain thing too and found it more predictable.
    Good luck with number 2.

    1. Yes well i thought if i am going to give it a go at making a bow i would go big or go home as they say . I am having to make do with timber merchants for wood and finding ash with a straight enough grain to chase a single ring for the back is difficult and i read on a bow making guide about using the edge grain for the belly and back of the bow
      Would the moisture content be to low from Timber merchants

  3. Dunno, I've never used wood from a timber merchant. Paying for stuff that grows out of the ground goes against the grain (see what I did there?). I'd guess any wood allowed to aclimatise in our climate should settle to a fairly good moisture content quite quickly. Often it's impossible to tell why a bow broke, also getting your eye in on the tillering can take a good while. First real longbow I made was 60# Elm and that chrysalled after a while. I'd say 50# - 60# is a good weight, nice compromise between being overstressing the wood and being too light to tiller easilly. Good shooting weight too (Inormally shoot about 45-50# when field shooting)

    Google The Backstreet Bowyer the guy there has a good site with info on Ash longbows. Also a guy on Archery Interchange (AI) bow building forum trod the path you are now on, goes by the username of Egstonvonbrick, tell him Del sent you, I'me sure he'll be glad to chew over Ash longbows with you. AI tends to be nearly all target archery, but I hang out to help/encourage anyone interested in making bows. It took him a good few goes, but suddenly found the knack.

    1. I havent any where to season wood thats my main choice for lumber yards
      Thanks for the links

  4. Mr Anonymous,

    Del mentioned you were making some bows from Ash and i'll put my two pennies worth in and slap a few links to my efforts (apologies Del).

    First of all commiserations, keep plugging on!

    If you can find an Ash log you will find this more satisfying that timber yard stock.

    I have mainly used Ash and now have the hang of it, but am always prepared to be let down! :)

    I really think it prefers to be wide and thin, but as we are longbow obsessed we try and coerce it into this shape and it never seems overly happy. As Del says check out the Backstreet bowyer for a brilliant guide.

    I've found that i can make an Ash 50# longbow that lasts well enough but beyond this they get quite chunky and will still crysal on you.

    If you want to be bored to tears below are some links to me efforts in Ash (i have since been seduced by all things Mesolithic and have been concentrating on these bows - these are even more 'stressed' than longbows but i'm getting somewhere... my last attempts was a mixture between a longbow and a neolithic, will not conform to ELB spec but as its long, wide for two thirds and tapering the rest seems to have resulted in a low-stress design).

    Happy to talk more if you have any other questions... oh and as Del will say... be prepared for failure, learn to go where the wood takes you, always stop before you did and if in doubt leave well alone, drink tea, leave some more and don't ever be tempted for 'one more pass of the spokeshave'! ;)

    Some links:
    A tale of my first attempt - littered with newboy errors but a read may save you soem time in the wilderness.

    64# ELB

    First Neolithic bow..

    Second Neolithic bow..

    For some good learning try some 15 to 20# kids bows from Ash offcuts (i've made ~10 from old Ash door surrounds), these are a right P in the A but are great for learning on (more posts on these on AIUK under my nomme-d-guerre 'egstonvonbrick'.

    Good luck!


    1. Hello
      Thanks for the tips and advice
      my first attempt was using backstreet bowyers guide
      I tried the one with the edge rings for the belly and back like the stellmoor bows
      It was basically done and just needed sanding i put it on the tiller to give it a stretch
      so i could get a picture i was gradually stretching it down to its draw length
      and it exploded .On the backstreet bowyers guide he got his Ash bows upto some heavy Draw weights .Its hard spotting the hinges and stiff points even with a grid marked on the tiller board unless there very obvious
      There was some Ash bows for sale on ebay at pretty high draw weights i noticed they were made in the D shape i thought you had to keep the bellys on Ash bows fairly square

  5. Apologies for long rambling post! :)

    Oh, after working on other woods i can now appreciated how tough and elbow jarring Ash is - the Hazel is a joy to work with.

    I really must get out of my rut and crack on!


  6. I've tried the D-section with Ash and it seems to be pushing my skills to avoid trouble, Alan when he was makign bows was doing very well and its his advice and experience i followed - and found to be sound.

    Hinges and stuff... always take the cup of tea option before wading in and removing wood... and make sure you exercise the bow well before undertakign any shaving!
    (and get from a long to short string as soon as you can anf never exceed your final draw weight throughout the process)

    Hinges - Use all methods!
    I like to holdup a dinner plate and squint at the curve, take photos and draw some arcs is a simple grpahics program on your PC and i tend to use a collection of scrapers and rules of varying lenghts that i slide along with my pinky 'sensing' the gap, seems surprisingly well.

    I also ask the wife who annoyingly just points straight to a problem area that my brain had obviously just ignored as it thought it would be to much gip to resolve!

    Oh and post pics on here, AIUK or Primitive Archer.

    Good luck

    p.s. Find a log of ash/hazel and stick it under a bed or soemwhere to season, more satisfying that lumber yard woo, which i am finding harder to find a decent and reliable source.

  7. Yeah... wot he said.
    Getting your eye in to seeing the curve of a bow can take a while. As well as tillering, try pulling it in front of a mirror (or big patio door etc)