Monday, 29 September 2014

Yew Sapwood Backing Strips

Last night I glued on a thin riser section to the belly of the spliced bow. It was shaped to fit the curve, but also made thin so it would flex a bit and mate up nicely with no gaps. This morning I looked at my Yew off cuts from the 100# bow and found a couple of clean lengths to give sapwood backing strips. the bandsaw made short work of roughing them out and the spokeshave was just the job for removing any heartwood and getting them to a fairly even thickness. I left the bark on to help protect what will eventually be the back of the bow, pristine untouched sapwood. One backing strip had a bit of an undulation which a steamed and the clamped up to flatten it out, otherwise it would have been a very thick spot, or, if I just shaped it to
even thickness, I'd have had trouble glueing it as it wouldn't have been flat.

Bit of a rant:-
There was a bit of troll trouble on one of the forums today, it's a bit sad that some people insist on peddling misinformation and being argumentative. The guy said there are only two real makers of warbows... well he's entitled to his opinion, but why try to wind people up by saying it? I try not to criticise other bowyers by name and I try not to criticise unless asked my opinion. Ok I'll illustrate some 'poor practice' (like horrid 'pencil sharpener' type tips where horn nocks are fitted). 
Basically I try to show what I do in an unbiased and well documented manner. I don't profess to to be an expert (in fact I don't like the term). I'm willing to learn from anyone and to acknowledge their input too.
I don't know for certain who the troll was, but it's sad that the warbow community if rife with infighting. That's one reason why I tend to shun societies and plough my own furrow.
I was amused to be told that I don't make warbows, that I'm a mug and this guy had actually had Mary Rose bows drying out in his basement!
Of course this could just possibly be true as some were lifted well before the Mary Rose was brought up and there may well be a small number in private hands. However if that were the case he should know better than to be making such unsupported statements about the bowyers around the world.

I'm constantly being amazed and humbled by the quality of workmanship displayed on Primitive Archer. There are doubtless people around the globe doing their own thing making bows of all types which we will never see.
Maybe this guy had something worthwhile to contribute, but I suspect it's the chap (or one of his cohorts) who has made it his life's work to peddle the idea of the superior properties of 'Italian Yew' to the world. Personally I have never said Italian Yew isn't superior... what I say is, I have no evidence of it, whereas I do have plenty of evidence that English Yew will make a fine bow. To suggest it won't is doing a huge disservice to amateur bowyers and may well contribute to his perceived lack of decent warbow makers!
Just for the record I have in the past asked if I could purchase a stave of his Italian Yew, the answer was no.
He also issued this challenge, to illustrate Italian Yew's superiority.
Cut the bowstring at full draw and see if the bow survives!
Errr yes, what bowyer is going to take up that challenge?
No me for sure, I have more constructive experiments to undertake.

I'll finish with a couple of questions:-
In medieval times an Italian wine merchant filling a ship with his wine bound for England would be obliged to supply Yew staves as an import duty/tax on his cargo. Would he simply find the easiest quickest source of Yew? Or would hardly go to inordinate lengths to select the finest (and how would he know what was a good stave? He's a wine merchant not a bowyer!)
Why was Italian Yew grown at high altitude? Maybe because all the decent lowland was used for farming?
I don't profess to know the answers, but I'm not dogmatic in my opinions.

If it's the guy I'm thinking of, he has suffered some horrible ill health. I wish him well with his health and hope he could be more encouraging to other bowyers.
I find it's nice to be nice you always seem to reap what you sow. It's all to easy to get sucked into negativity, paranoia and bitterness. We all have some bad stuff happen as we go through life, best to focus on the good stuff.
Sorry if that was necessary and inappropriate, but hey, better than me fretting about it!


  1. Hello Dell, I write to you as I would do do to a friend, even if we don´t know each other, because silent till now, I usually read your posts here and at PA. You´ve become someone in a maner I "know" and I apreciate much. Sorry you found a troll, they are everywhere,.... I think this is a good day to recognize you our admiration for you, to thank you for your kindness and your generosity sharing your knowledge and your experience with no censure (including fails, what contributes more to understanding and avoiding them). You may dislike the word "expert", but you are, as most of the knowledge, comes from experience, and you treasure tones of it. Anyway and further, you are a bowyer who´s won the respect an affection of lots of us from your helpful comments and courtesy. Thank you "The Cat" (I love them too). Take it easy! A hug from Spain. Sorry if my english is not the best,... Aitor

  2. Hey Derek
    Couldn't agree with you more. What is it with some people? I'll never understand it!
    Kind regards

  3. Not only the workmanship on PA but the quality and generosity of advice given is truly wonderful.

  4. How do you join the backing strips in this case so that it doesn't pop off at the joint?

  5. Probably a long V splice. Maybe a but joint, feather it out to a flat section and overlay another sliver of sapwood. Haven't really decided yet. Maybe even do both V splice and overlay! The grip shouldn't actually flex or be under much strain. Once I've finished cleaning up the strips I'll have to decide.