Monday, 29 December 2014

I'm Messing with Yew

Just started tinkering with stuff again. It's damn cold in the garage, but a few minutes here and there will get some projects finished or up and running.
I have two Yew billets splice together which just aren't right, one billet needs rotating relative to the other else it will end up with a load of twist or sapwood being much too thick along one edge. Fortunately I left the billets nice and long, so I've just sawn across the splice and I'm trimming one of 'em carefully on the band saw to  re-align it and provide a flat belly face that I can use to rest on the bandsaw table when re-cutting the splice.
It sometime feels like a big waste of time re-doing something, but in reality it's far better to recognise when it's not right and do it again. Or at least put it to one side for some further thought rather than pressing on with a job doomed to failure or mediocrity.

S'pose I should do my review of the year, but it's really a no contest!

The big highlight of bow making was the Tennessee Classic. It was brilliant to put faces to names and get a different perspective on bows and just about everything else! Hopefully in 2015 I'll get to use the staves I brought back with me and a pair of nice snake skins which I was given. I'm not a huge fan of snake skins, as snakes are so rare in the UK. But many of 'em in the US are from road kill, snakes are vastly more plentiful there and it was a very generous gift.

Over the year we had a joyous wedding and a sad bereavement but I don't really want to dwell too much on the personal, as we all have our highs and lows.

What is it with Christmas and teeth? I was having a lovely bowl of Turkey soup yesterday (one of my fave' things about Christmas) when one of my crowns popped off! So that's a trip to the Dentist tomorrow... what joy!

Here's to all my friends and acquaintances, some of whom I've had the pleasure of meeting, some have sent me kind messages throughout the year, and some are just fleeting visitors to these pages.
Lets hope some of this will kindle interest in another generation of bowyers.
Wishing you all the best for 2015, may your bows draw sweetly and all your arrows fly true!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Winding Down For Christmas

I'm beginning to shake off this damn cold at last, I'd also given my back a slight twinge.
A few glasses of wine and a good bop at the works 'do' last night has loosened me up and got me energised again.
The sun's shining too. Hopefully after a bit of a break I'll get back to it with a vengeance.
You know how it is with a cold... you think I'll go and sort out my staves or look at that splice etc... but then you just haven't got the energy or it's too cold in the garage.
I have an arrow plate and grip to do, but it's a mistake to work on bows because you feel you should...gotta do it when you actually want to.

I've been doing some musing instead.
I have a couple of longbows to make for people and some visitors who postponed a few weeks back. I want to make a flight bow or two, and a Hazel warbow, I've got the Hornbeam and Osage from the Tennessee Classic too. maybe the Hornbeam will make a flight bow.
For flight bows do I aim at the 35# 50# or unlimited class and what style?
It's a bit daft anyway as the only bow style that precludes man made materials is (I believe) longbow.
Now if only NFAS did a flight shoot, maybe I'll get off my fat backside and E-mail them. The NFAS 'primitive class' would give self bows a chance, but would still need a seperate category for horn sinew composites as they will vastly out range the other types.
Maybe use some Laburnum I've had for ages, I want to try a Hazel backed bow at some point too.
It would be nice to get to a flight shoot next year, but I don't actually get to that many shoots, probably 4 a year.
No shortage of things to do

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Pyramid Taper Test

Even as a kid making crossbow prods I wondered what was the optimum taper on a bow limb of even thickness, or did it matter?

Last week there was a thread on Primitive Archer (PA) which skirted around the question and some people mentioned learned papers or said they'd done the test but only hinted at the result. Only one person had the balls to say they thought it didn't matter.
I wasn't sure... after all a limb with an even straight taper down to nothing will always be half the width at half it's length regardless of how wide it starts! Will it self regulate and always give the same curve when drawn?
Or will the narrower bow bend more like a dead straight bow with most bend in the middle?
Why can you never find a straight answer to the simple question?
Well after 40 years I've done the test!

Two test bows 40" long (plus 1" for tiny slim nocks) one tapering from 3" at the centre to zero and the other from 1.5" to zero. These were sawn on the bandsaw from Polycarbonate sheet. The sawing isn't perfect so the tiller isn't exactly symmetrical.
The wider bow is of course a higher draw weight, I can't actually measure it as they are both so light.

Just for completeness I've done a parallel limbed one. The difference in curve is clear to see.

The curve is near as dammit identical within the limits of my sawing.(Especially considering the huge difference in width at the centre)
One helpful soul on PA said, "Doesn't this just prove what we already knew?"
There is a huge difference between being directed to learned papers and having people allude to the fact that they've done it and actually seeing the test.
On a bow limb of constant thickness tapering to a point, does the width of the limb at the wide end change the curve of the limb?
No not with the constraints of a realistic bow limb and a realistic deflection ( according to this test... terms and conditions apply etc!)

Does it effect the draw weight? Yes.
Now we didn't need any differential calculus for that now did we?

Friday, 12 December 2014

The One Arrow Test

I made a new string for the reworked bow, taking the bracing height up from a rather low 5 1/2" to 5 3/4". The bow was marked up as 6" max but it also had 30" max draw, so even going to 6" brace at a normal 28" draw would be no problem.
I shot 6 arrows through it to let the string settle and get a feel of the bow. I then tied on a nocking point and went back with just one arrow for my "one arrow test"... no messing about aiming, just bring it up and loose.
I think it passes!

The bow looks a lot less tired now, I'll buff up the nocks, re-write the poundage and give it a good waxing.

I hadn't shot it before I worked on it as I didn't trust the string, but after this work it certainly feels like a good bow at a nice weight, I don't suppose it's lost much speed, and it it now gets drawn to a full 28" rather than the previous short snatched loose, I expect the owner will find the cast better and more consistent.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Reworking a Bow

Always interesting working other bows even though I'm not that keen on it. Hard exotic hardwoods are tougher to work than Yew.
Anyhow this bow has a few oddities the guy I'm doing it for had put a strange rubber boot over the lower nock to protect it... hmmm well, all it's done is retain the dirt and disguise the fact that one ply of the 3ply string had worn right through!

The wear is IMO primarily due to poor nock shaping, this is one of my pet hates. As a bow is drawn the angle of string and bow tip changes from about 15 degrees to near 90 so a simple straight edged groove can't fit the string at both brace and full draw!
The bow tiller seemed to be a bit stiff tipped and somehow looked a bit off, the more I looked the more I thought the grip looked too low down the bow, and to get it to sit on the tiller I had to support it just below the arrow pass ,even then it tilted a huge amount down on the upper limb.
So, I measure the arrow pass...
It was in the middle!
N'owt "wrong" with that as such, but it's more conventional to have it about 1" above centre.
Allowing for a 4" grip and 1" arrow pass you get a compromise. It's always a compromise of some sort as the hand and arrow pass can't be in the same place.

Just to illustrate:- Take a 72" bow (nock to nock measurement) with a 4" grip.
With the arrow pass dead centre:-
The upper limb is 36" long and the lower  32" long (36-4) that's a 4" difference.
Now with the arrow pass 1" above centre:-
The upper limb is 35" (36-1) long and the lower 33" (36-3) that's a 2" difference.
So just moving the arrow pass 1" makes a visible 2" difference... that's why we usually make that compromise. Not essential, it just looks more even, after all there are plenty of asymmetric bows just look at the Japanese Yumi bow.

Here are the before and after pics of the bow at 50# and 44# (lower pic) you can decide for yourself which you think has the nice tiller if indeed you can spot the difference.
Actually it's hard to see much difference as the lighting is different and the bow id supported on the tiller tree in a slightly different position. I took the weight off along the whole limb but mostly the outer 1/3 especially on the upper (right) limb.
By the way, I've tidied up the nocks... you can see from the line I've added to the pic' how at full draw the string would chaffe over that sharp edge.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Tired Out

A long days shooting yesterday at Windsor with the ILAA, a little drizzle in the morning ,but it brightened up. However many of us took off the wet weather gear for the afternoon and were hit by an icy squally shower. Still it didn't dampen our enthusiasm too much.
Some fine shooting in fine company. The pre-shoot registration was at Combermere barracks in their regimental museum which was excellent.
I wasn't at my best so I've not taken any pics and this is just a brief post.
I took along three bamboo backed Yew bows, my old 60#, the deflex/reflex 35# and the 40# replacement for the 35pounder.
They all performed well and I gave the 40# plenty of exercise (not quite as fast as the 35#) I moved up to the 60# for the afternoon to give me more range on the long shots and a longer flight shot.
The 35# reflex deflex found a new home with a lady who enjoyed it's cast. I let her use two of my flight arrows and she was about 12yards short of the 200 yard mark which is pretty good for 35#.
It was only about 15 paces short of the 60# bow which I was drawing to about 30" shooting flight arrows which I'd made for a 100# Elm Warbow.
I also came back with a bow from one of the club guys who wants a few pounds taking off the draw weight. Not my fave' job, but it's easy to get a little overbowed as none of us are getting any younger and a bow we thought we could manage a year or so ago get a bit tough in Winters icy grasp. It's something I'll do for fellow club members or people who take the trouble to visit (bearing bottles of wine!)
For the record I just measured it at 49# at 28" (5 1/2" brace) it's signed by the bowyer as 51# @ 29" so that looks fine. I'm only tillering it at 28" as it's damn cold in the garage and it's been short drawn up to now (short drawn because it's a tad too heavy for the user).

As always it was good to chat with old friends and put a few faces to names. I had a good chat with Nick Toy who is a fellow bowyer who's name has been cropping up on the various archer forums lately.
Thanks to Brian, his charming wife and all involved in the organisation.
I must admit A long hot shower and a Sunday roast was much needed  by the time I got home.
That'll do I think I need a cuppa and a catnap.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Chrono' Test Boo backed Yew and Hedby

There's an ILAA shoot in Windsor great part tomorrow, a good chance to try a few bows. I thought I'd shoot the Hedeby through the chrono' to see how it performed. I was waiting to hear from the lady who commissioned it, I hadn't heard for a while and thought if she dropped out, I could cut off the long handles, fit horn nocks and see what difference it made to the speed.
I got an E-mail from her this morning so I won't be sawing the ends off!

While the chrono was set up I shot the new Bamboo backed Yew through it too. Prior to this I'd narrowed the tips, reduced the nocks and got the draw weight down to the required 40#.
Here are the results.

Hedeby bow approx 47# @28" average speed 145 fps (best 149.8)

Bamboo backed Yew 40# @28" average speed 154fps (best 156.1)

The difference between the two is there for several reasons.
The Hedeby is built to look heavy but be a manageable draw weight and thus has some deflex and also the long handles adding to tip mass.
The Bamboo backed Yew is built for maximum performance consistent with the BLBS Longbow definition. As such it has no deflex or set, the belly is heat treated yew and the bamboo back is thin and narrow.
To summarize it's "show vs go" mind the Hedby is still a sweet shooter and withing the general draw weight plus one hundred fps approximation.

Tomorrow I'll take the 35# boo backed Yew Reflex Deflex bow, the latest 40# straight version (built to replace it) and maybe my Hickory backed Yew which takes a 32" draw. Not sure which I'll shoot as I'm not 100% (bunged up sinuses) still a day out in fresh air may help shake it off.

Just found One of my best flight arrows is missing it's point.... too knackered to make a new on tonight.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Target Bow Nearly Finished

I've got the nocks done, and carefully shaped them so the string sits well away from the limbs to satisfy any BLBS pedants. It's a whisker over 40# (42.6#) but that can be lost with a little fettling.
No problems of reflex or deflex this time...Here's full draw and the nocks taken with the bow braced (they are not fully polished yet).
It needs a string, arrow plate and grip.
Update:- Got the string made and tried some test shots, pretty smooth, but it will benefit from a grip, the boo backing is a tad hard and square in the hand. I tried some shots from the 35# Deflex Reflex bow which this is to replace. The DR is faster I think, but not much in it. I may get the tips on this bow working a bit more and that will loose the extra couple of pound excess draw weight.

There has been a lot of discussion of tillering on one of the forums. Maybe this picture of an ellipse drawn to match one limb may help.
The ellipse is centred on the edge of the grip/fade area. It's a fairly rounded ellipse rather than my usual arc of a circle. Quite a good fit.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Tiller Progress Videos

Having always said you can't make a bow by numbers, the 'boo backed yew was pretty good first try on the tiller! I can see the inner limbs flexing and need to get the outers moving more.
I checked the string line and centre line and tapered the limbs to narrower tips, I also rounded the belly and you can see it's coming back a lot further in the second video.
Note in both videos I'm pulling it to about 40#, in the first video it's on a long string. In the second video its at a low brace (about 4")

Here's a couple of stills too. for comparison. Each pic is at about 40#, top pic is long string before narrowing the outer limbs. The horn nocks will be done now and the outer limbs narrowed some more.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Bamboo Backing Build-Along

Here is some stuff about doing a bamboo backing, bear in mind I've only done a handful and the guys on Primitive Archer helped me out with the first.
Five main points about the Bamboo.
1. Bamboo is razor sharp and the splinters are nasty.

2. Be prepared to remove a lot of Boo before you get it down to size.

3. A good sharp plane takes it down nicely in decent sized shavings. Adjust the plane to a finer cut to trim any thick points as you near the final dimensions. Watch each edge of the slat to make sure you are taking it down evenly.

4. Because it's curved on the back, when you think you've made it too thin, there is still plenty of thickness in the middle, (You'll see that when you saw it down to fit the bow).
Use a belt sander only for final flattening, don't use it for bulk material removal... it will take for ever.

5. Boo is V strong in tension and can overpower some belly woods, so I'd say err on the side of thin rather than too thick.

On the glue up, I apply glue to both surfaces despite the instructions on the glue saying only apply to one. Gluing is a one off operation, get it wrong and you have to plane off the boo, (yes I've done it). It's easy to apply glue to one surface and then look back at it and see patches that look dry.
My usual advice for working on bows is "When in doubt, don't"
When gluing, I advise the opposite, if you have any doubt about the amount of glue or that the surface has wetted correctly, go over it.
As kids we all slap on too much glue and then expect it to stick instantly, we get bad results. Then as adults we get too clever and think a very light application of glue is right.
You need to have enough so that you can see it squeezing out... of course the caveat is, you need to strap it tight enough to apply good even pressure and have flat surfaces.
My belt sander doesn't get a huge amount of use, but preparing glue surfaces is a major use and it has earned it's keep. It's only a cheapo belt sander, but with a 40 grit belt it does actually remove wood.

You can see in the pics I've got the bow strapped up with about an inch and a half reflex. Once it's been unwrapped and cleaned up it has less than an inch. that's fine for this bow as it's for target use as a longbow and we don't want some 'rules merchant' objecting that it's a recurve. By the time it's fully tillered it will probably be ramrod straight.

By the way the back of the boo' has been protected with masking tape to keep the glue off it. Poundland masking tape is a 'must have' in the workshop.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Splice and Riser Block Glued

I've got the heat treated Yew billets spliced and glued and the riser block glued on. I'll be planing down a slat of bamboo and hopefully  get that glued on over the week.
A couple of guys are coming over at the weekend with some Yew staves with a view to having one made into a bow, so if this boo backed Yew progresses well, I'll be able to jump onto that bow. They sent pictures of the staves and it looks like V clean N American Yew. I like it when people turn up with their own Yew as it doesn't deplete my supply.
Here's a couple of pics.

The riser block is cut from a Yew offcut, I like to keep it all one wood. If I was doing a fancy laminated recurve I might add laminations of contrasting woods to look good, but the essence of a longbow is simplicity. The Boo' backing, leather grip and mother of pearl arrow plate will be fancy enough.
The purpleheart lam' I got from my friend Matt will be saved for that fancy laminated recurve...
You can see the darkening of the heat treating on the belly.
It wasn't really necessary, but I want this bow to be a little special performance wise.
Someone on one of the forums was asking about belly woods for laminated bows (not that I know much about laminates) and asked what my top choice would be. I said heat treated Yew. Ipe is a common choice, but is heavy, this allows for a narrow bow. I like the lightness workability and springiness of Yew.
I find people are impressed with the performance of a self Yew bow even when they are used to laminates.

I wash out the salsa & houmous tubs for use as glue pots, I have a plentiful supply that way. The glue is my usual Resintite.
Made a start planing the 'Boo. Happiness is a sharp plane!

Note:- you can see in the picture of the splice, I've used the knotty gnarly end of the billets as the centre where the splice is, They are thicker here and will also be reinforced/supported by the riser block. Being in compression the belly can be less perfect than the back, but putting the scruffier wood at the splice leaves the cleaner wood for the working limbs and maximises wood usage. Always better to have a bow a little too long than too short, it gives some room for adjustment.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Getting Back to it

Been away for a few days, family matters.
Found a phone message from someone with a yew stave that wants making into a bow and that the cat had peed on the carpet.
While I was away I spotted a nice side trunk of Yew which had been topped out at about 18' it was nice and straight. I chatted to the guy who runs the site and maybe it will come my way for a suitable fee.
It's certainly turned colder, the garage needs tidying, some wine need racking and that carpet needs replacing with hard flooring. I've been skilfully putting that off for the last couple of years but there's only so much cat pee you can put up with!
She's a bit of a runty rescue cat and she sometimes gets bullied by the neighbourhood cats and doesn't want to go out. To be fair, she sits with her nose against the double patio doors and probably thinks it counts as "outside".
Still, plenty of worse things in life than a damp patch on a carpet.... easy to loose your sense of proportion in a modern consumer society.
A funeral, tends to re-set ones priorities.

Started heat treating the tapered Yew heartwood billets, got one done. I'll get the other done this afternoon and then saw the splice on the bandsaw when I've fitted a nice sharp new blade.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Visit from a Fellow Bowyer

My friend Matt from Cambridge popped down to collect his share of a batch of bamboo slats I'd bought. It saves shipping costs when we buy a £50 batch. His lad Will came down too, he was very bright, observant an enthusiastic. It was great, I mentioned to Matt that I'd stuck the billets onto my tapering sled with double sided tape and Will piped up...
"You can get double sided tape?" He asked with obvious excitement. This was a revelation to him and I found it great that he could obviously envision 101 applications for the stuff!
I demonstrated the tape and told him it was from Poundland. He's obviously got engineering and bow making coursing through his veins, a great kid.
Matt had brought me a nice length of Lemonwood and a slat of Purpleheart and one of Hickory too, great. I gave him a bottle of my home brew cider. He was stopping off on his way South to buy timber so couldn't stop long. Always great to have interesting and/or interested visitors.

We've been pruning back some of the trees in the garden too, Hazel and Buddleia (often called the butterfly bush as it attract plenty of 'em with its long flower heads). The Hazel is all very small stuff some of which will do for garden stick, but I got one decent length of Buddleia about 5' long and 2.5" diameter, I painted the end and stored it in the garage. I think I read that it's a decent bow wood, but some of the smaller branches seemed very brittle, mind Elder is a bit like that, actually they are pretty similar with a large central core of pith.

Talking of Butterflies I get 'em over-wintering in the garage, Red Admirals, Peacocks too I think. When we first moved into the house I found a load in the garage up in the corner of wall and ceiling, looking for all the world like a load of dead leaves. The problem is, when I'm working the fluorescent lights sometimes wake them up, the other thing is I tend to shut the door more these days and so they can't necessarily get out. They are dormant rather than actually hibernated. I'll have to put some open slats above the door so that they can come and go, the draught will be good for my seasoning wood too.
More strange behaviour from creatures. Walking back from the town I saw a crow pecking at something on the ground about 30 yards away, the thing on the ground flapped a bit! What's it got? I though, maybe the crows had mobbed a Magpie one was finishing it off? I approached at a slow steady walk. When I got about 10 yards away the crow hopped off and the thing on the ground sprang up and hopped away, it was a crow that had been flat on it's back! Never seen anything like it in my life... dunno what they were doing, fighting, playing, doing some weird grooming thing or maybe a little S&M?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Billet Tapered on the Thicknesser

I'm having another go at a Bamboo backed Yew target bow to meet BLBS and GNAS definitions of longbow, this time with the merest hint of reflex and no deflex.
I've found a couple of nicely matched billets with poor sapwood and roughed 'em down on the bandsaw.
I made an adjustable taper sled so that I could try out my DIY thicknesser.
It took some fiddling as I couldn't do a cut more than about 3 or 4mm at a time but the end result is pretty good.
The top pic shows the billet on the sled, which is made from a length of 2x2 sawn down the middle and joined back together with 2 screws. There is a spacer at the right end 42" from the left end. 42" is is 7 x 6". So, to get a 2mm every 6" taper, I put in a spacer 12mm thick at the open end.
You can see the bottom edge of the sled and the top edge of the billet (which is held down on the sled with double sided tape) are parallel and the taper of the sled ends up transferred to the billet.
Second pic shows the tapered billet alongside a second billet, not yet tapered.
the finish is much better than my first try outs as everything has been tightened up a bit and improved, the long sled slides nicely and the extra weight helps it run through smoothly. It needs good preparation with the bandsaw first, but gives a quicker better more accurate result than doing it by hand.
I've just measured the taper and it's 1.7mm every 6" which is fine. I usually reckon on between 1.5 and 2mm every 6" for a longbow.
Now I know it works well, I might rebuild it from better timber, I have a length of Ash off-cut from the big slab that forms the computer desk. The pine sled flexes a bit so the Ash would be better. I'll prob' experiment further with a better raise/lower mechanism for the table first tho'.

This follows my WAQAP philosophy of  development (Wrong As Quick As Possible!).
It's a light hearted piss-take of the "Right First Time" quality system, but there is an element of truth in it.
All the planning in the world takes time and you'll still meet unforseen problems. Sometimes it's better to get stuck in and get a feel for how something works and that will uncover the problems.
"If only we could foresee the unforeseen problems" as someone once said to me in a project meeting!

Update:- Explain more?
If you look at the post where I make the thicknesser, it's easy to think that the adjustable table will somehow produce a taper... it won't. If you push a piece of wood through a thicknesser (or sanding machine) it will come out an even thickness. The way to get a taper is to stick your bit of wood to a piece that already has a taper (the sled in my case) and push the two of them together through the thicknesser. If you look closely at the top pic you can see that the billet and sled cave come out with top and bottom face parallel. EG The pair have been pushed through and come out flat, but when the billet is taken off the sled it has the exact same taper as the sled, the thick end of the billet and the thin end of the sled when measured together is the same thickness as the thin end of the billet and the thick end of the sled..
The principal is that two identical tapers put top to tail end up being dead flat.
Dunno if that was what was needed?

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Hedeby Bow Detail & Full Draw

The bow has been tweaked and fettled, it's smoother and about 47# now. I've cut about 1/4" off the upper handle to improve the proportions. You can see the bit I removed in the top nock pic which also shows how the string sits on the knot/peg when the bow is unstrung.

Here are some pics:-
The first shows the small filled knot on the side which corresponds to the arrow pass, I may fill it with a round dot of black water-buffalo horn.
Top right shows the waggle in the upper limb and the handle bent towards the belly, shows off the heart/sap wood nicely too.
The picture of the top nock has somehow loaded rotated 90 degrees!
The lower left pic shows the deflex/set in the bow but it's somewhat exaggerated due to the foreshortening.
Bottom right pic shows the sapwood back with a nice feature knot.
It really has the look of a stick bow from a small diameter limb just like the real thing.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Hedeby Bow Performance

I've been away for a week due to family matters.
I shot the Hedeby bow at Avalon Archers field shoot last Sunday, it performed well. There were 5 of us in the group, a couple of horse bows, an American Flatbow, an English Longbow and the Hedeby which I shot as a Primitive (I couldn't decide if it was a Longbow or Primitive, but nobody was too worried). I shot pretty well and came 3rd in the group, I was let down by a couple of blanked targets where I just couldn't judge the range and grouped all 3 arrows an inch or so above the target.
I was expecting it to be sluggish and shocky  due to the extended handles, none of it!
It shot very much like any of my other Yew bows, smooth and fast. The draw weight felt a tad heavy by the end of the day and the handles give the full draw tiller a rather alarming appearance!
I shall reduce the draw weigh a little and try to even the tiller a little more. The stave was deflexed originally and it has taken a little set, I'm very impressed with how it shoots and have for some time believed that set isn't the evil some people would have us believe. All wooden bows will take a little set, even those that have say an inch of reflex... they probably started with 2" !
Anyhow, here's a couple of pics showing brace and full draw (showing 50# at 28")
Interestingly, I'd measured it moments before and had read 53# at 28", it's surprisingly difficult to accurately measure draw length and weight simultaneously. There is a fair bit of parallax depending on where you stand/film when reading the draw length.
I couldn't find any compelling reason for the handles, and to be honest I'd rather have had the bow the extra 7" longer nock to nock! It did keep the lower nock and string out of the mud I s'pose. The side nocks worked very well, but the string creaked alarmingly in them as it approached full draw!
I got a bit of news which cheered me up after a tough week. The bow I gave to "Pappy" my host in Tennessee has been blooded, an English longbow taking a deer! Excellent, Of course we can't hunt with bow and arrow in the UK, but it's nice to know the humble bow can still do the job its been doing for millennia.
Pic of Pappy trying the bow for the first time here:-

Friday, 31 October 2014

Bit of a Mistake

My biggest fault with bow making is impatience, now some of you may think that's odd considering the painstaking work I put in, but trust me.
I decided to put the bends in to deflex the handles... now this was always an accident waiting to happen, but I chose to ignore the warning voice in my head and plough on regardless.
Why was it an accident waiting to happen?
1. On this scaled down bow, to make the bend look noticeable it would need to be slightly exaggerated and a fairly tight bend.
2. The notches for the nocks are already cut, providing a perfect weak point for a break.

Anyhow I got the first end jigged up, steamed and bent, nicely and then thought, maybe a little more bend... the wood had cooled a bit by then and CRACK!
Not too drastic just a crack on the back in the sapwood above the nock groove where there will be little force when in use, so it can be patched.
Just to prove I'm an idiot I did the second one, impatiently, (should have given it longer in the steam) CRACK!... that's funny, the first one did that!
Rest assured, you can kick me once, you may even kick me twice, there won't be a third time.
In retrospect I should probably have done it in a pot of boiling water, before the nocks were cut, and over a gentler bend.

Anyhow, being impatient, I pressed on last light cutting two sapwood patches and getting them glued so they could cure overnight...
If  When I screw up, I like to fix it quick, I should have taken pics of the cracks really, but suffice it to say they went straight across the back, in line with the nock groove and half way through the depth of the sap wood.
All looking good this morning. Well one is a nice match where the sapwood is a bit darker at one end of the bow. The other end the patch is darker than the sapwood and I may overlay a second cosmetic patch of nice white sapwood.
I'd noticed that the string was cutting into the sapwood slightly and had wondered about a horn or antler overlay, but that would be too much of a leap from the original.

The pics show a random furry mammal inspecting the bent handles. The second pic shows a close up of the better matched one. Note the nock groove hasn't been re-cut, also the small pin knots in the patch, add a certain je ne sais quoi. You can also see I've shaped the handle a tad.
Well I'll have my tea and toast now and press on with the tillering...
(Exits left mumbling "don't screw up, don't screw up")

I've made a decent sting and shot a few arrows from almost full draw length, I've done some finishing and given it a quick wipe of Danish oil to see what it will look like.
It's gorgeous!
Pic on the left shows the end of the handle, the nock groove and the signature knot which will probably take the place of the metal nail in the original.
Pic on right shows the central pith exposed near the centre of the bow.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Hedeby Progress

It's starting to look more like a bow and make some sense!
I'm not a great fan of the design as it's bonkers to have a load of extra wood beyond the nocks, but there was presumably some sort of reasoning to it (I'll call the length beyond the nocks 'handles' for now).
I've got it to a low brace, the natural deflex helps there, and also helps to keep the bow looking reasonably fat despite the low draw weight. It's about 45# at 16" now. The excess wood beyond the nocks means the working length of the bow is a lot shorter than at first glance, so it will have a good bend on it when it's finished.
The bark is popping off nicely (see last pic) revealing a pristine surface beneath, it's a bit brown at the moment, but that will be lightly sanded to show the sapwood colour.
The big feature knot below the top nock may serve in place of the iron nail in the original, but on the other hand I may put a nail in.
I may be reluctant to heat bend too much deflex into the top handle for fear of over stressing knot.
You can see see the natural waggle in the stave too. I've very much leaving it in it's natural state as per the original. One nice thing is that this stave is a from fairly small diameter vertical shoot of Yew and has some of the central pith showing, this is just like the original!

One thing has come to light, the rudimentary nock grooves on one side of the bow seem to work rather well. The handles don't seem to aid stringing, but time may tell.
I'm going to a field shoot at Avalon on Sunday, maybe I'll have it shootable by then, and a day's shooting may reveal something about the design.
Update:- Here's a shot on the tiller about 47# at 20"
my usual style of tillering, the middle is bending, the outers need to work more, left limb a tad stiff on outer third.
A chap on one of the forums has been asking loads of questions about tillering.
This sort of pic is what he needs to study!
Does he agree with my comments?
Note how I've pulled it to full target draw weight and I'm noting the draw length. As I remove wood I'll try to get the tiller shape better and the draw length will automatically increase as the wood is removed. Eventually I'll end up at 45# at 28" (If I'm lucky!)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Lunch Break Walk

It was a lovely sunny day so I strolled out of the factory after my lunch and onto the cycle path that runs through some parkland and down to a stream. Many years ago when we first moved the Harlow it was a landfill site which was landscaped when it was finished, there are patches of old woodland and paths incorporated into it.
There's a load of big old Hazel coppice both sides of the track. One pole caught my eye, straight and vertical but appearing to spring up out of the ground on it's own rather than from the coppice stool.
I stepped up onto the bank and had a look, sure enough it didn't actually go into the ground at all! It had been sawn through and was just dangling from the canopy where it was still hung up amongst the branches. The bark seems solid and no sign of rot at the bottom.
I walked back to work and borrowed a saw. I heaved the limb down out of the canopy, it came down with dead leaves still on it, but looked good and clean. I sawed a few inches off the bottom and cut a clean 7 foot length of about 3-3.5" diameter. There were a few raised eyebows as I walked it through the factory and loaded it into the car.
A most satisfactory walk!
I've painted the ends with PVA and stored it in the garage.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Hedby Bow

I've picked up the Hedeby Bow project using a skinny Churchyard Yew stave.
I'm doing this by the seat of my pants (or experience as it's sometimes called) There is plenty of length of the stave (85") but some big knots. I though I'd run it through the bandsaw once I'd got an idea of a centre line (using string and chalk) and see how it looked.
This isn't a replica as I'm going to aim for about 45# whereas the original was probably over 100# and I'm not going to be hidebound by measurements. It's "in the style of" and will be dictated by the wood, which is, after all what making bows is about. One bow in a museum isn't an accurate representation of all the bows of that era. Just look at the variation in the Mary Rose bows.
Anyhow, I've got stuck in and run it through the bandsaw several times, homing in on what looks a sensible size and shape. I've then cleaned it up with my drawknife.
The big knot seems to sit about right for the top nock, leaving a deflexed portion above that which seems to be some sort of hand hold on the original. It's been cut down to 72" to put the knot in about the right place. (See right end of second pic). Still got plenty of length as it is to be a lady's bow.
Theories for this extra length vary from it being a lever to help stringing the bow, to it being a handle to allow the bow to be used as a ski pole. From a bowyer's perspective it doesn't make much sense (yet!) as it adds extra weight and length to that limb. I remember at one roving marks shoot being very dismissive of a bow made in that style which one of our party was shooting (me and my big mouth!)

I've left the bark on and it will pop off as it starts to flex. It's already flexing as I put one end on the floor and lean on it.
The other odd thing about the Hedeby bow is the iron (steel?) nail/rivet in the back of the bow a few inches below the top nock. Again there are theories as to what it was for.... maybe time will tell.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

DIY Bowmaking Thicknesser

I'm not into laminated and backed bows in a big way, but decent Yew is scarce so its good to make the best use of the available wood. That means using billets and backing sometimes.
The preparation in doing billets for backing by hand is fairly arduous, so I hit on the idea of using an old power plane I have to make a thicknesser.
The plane was bought years ago on special offer from one of those German supermarket chains (Aldi I think) but you can get 'em for about £25 anyway. I've only ever used it a couple of times (it's a 900watt one)

I scoured the internet taking ideas from various DIY bow lamination sanders etc. I'd been toying with how to do it for a few weeks, but it was only when I took it apart I noticed the fixing holes for the sole plate were asymmetric and there was enough room to drill 4 holes and screw a couple of 15mm plywood side cheeks onto it and then to re-fit it. That's basically the crux of the whole thing. It's then a matter of mounting it onto a base and making an adjustable platform to raise or lower the work-piece.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so here you go.
I've tried it and it works, it needs some fiddling and fettling to improve it, but as with most things its a trade of between simplicity, versatility, complexity, reliability, cost etc. I'll play with it and let it evolve. Ideally the platform should raise and lower parallel to the sole, maybe I'll look at that.
The big pain is the interlock on the power switch trigger which means you only have one free hand to manoeuvre the wood. I'll rewire that to a nice big accessible switch.
The bottom left pic shows the adjuster, it's taken from a bolt and captive nut that was holding the feet onto our old sofa. the adjustable platform was a rail from the sofa too. Gotta recycle stuff. The 15mm plywood side cheeks are actually from a post war 'Furnikit' bureau that my Dad made about 50 years ago! Recycling at its best.
Gotta make an adaptor so I can connect it to my dust extractor to suck up the chippings.

One big reason for doing all this is that I'll be able to machine tapers on billets. How it's done is you make up a tapered sled that the billet rests on and then the pair of 'em go through the thicknesser.
It's easy to make up a sled to any taper you want.
Say I want 1.5mm every 6", I get two bits of 2"x 1" 36" long with a 9mm spacer between them at one end and no spacer at the other. Glue and screw 'em together and the job is done. Could even make an adjustable sled.
Anyhow that's the principal, it needs some more work yet, but it could be a V useful low cost addition to the workshop.

I've added a switch now, which is a big help and here's a pic of a length of cherry I ran through it, a bit ripply but not bad.

Vastly improved version built here:-