Saturday, 16 May 2015

Italian Yew Drawing to 20"

It's slowly progressing, here's a pic of it, it's at about 4" brace.
I've been removing wood from the belly, trying to keep an even thickness taper despite the knots and also tidying up the sapwood on the back. I've not actually measured the thickness at all as it's almost impossible with the knots, I've just been using the calipers to gauge the change in thickness like a go-no go gauge rather than actually taking measurements.
E.G I'll nip the calipers up over the thickness of the limb at a point and lock them. I can the check that they will fit over the limb at every point along the limb that is closer to the tip, but they won't fit over the limb any closer to the grip. This ensures the limb is tapered. There are always thick spots at the knots, but I try to get then relatively even and not too thick. If knots are left too thick, it just means you have weak points between them.
The right limb is a tad stiff probably due to all the knots up the belly. It's coming on, slow and steady. I can probably narrow the tips a bit now

I've had a good day today, a couple of visitors, one collecting a refurbished bow and one coming to check the weight of a bow... a mysterious case of the vanishing draw weight!

He brought in a gorgeous 140# @ 32" Warbow made of continental Yew. The clean creamy white back was pristine and there were very few knots and features on the dark belly.
I expected it to be superb, but it had taken a huge amount of set and when I felt it, I knew it couldn't be over 90# .
We put it on the tiller and I checked the weight at 28" (not wishing to over stress the bow, myself or the tiller rope!). It was only 72#, this interpolates to 87# tops at 32" draw.
I shall leave the owner to discus it with the bowyer who would doubtless be most disappointed.

These things happen which is why I don't bad mouth other bowyers (by name).
I have my share of failures and problems, and I'd expect to be given the chance to rectify them.
This is one reason I like to meet the people I make bows for and ideally keep it close to home so I can sort out this sort of thing when it happens with one of my bows. Another good reason for 'shooting in' a bow, although this isn't always possible with a heavy weight bow.

So why am I writing this...?
It's solely to try and dispel the myth that Yew from some particular county, or altitude, or of some particular colour is inherently better than any other bit. Wood is variable and the sooner we accept this the better. Some Yew will be better than other, some will perform better with heat treating, some will take a steam bend and hold it while others will need heat treating to hold that bend.
The simple truth about any piece of Yew is... wait for it...
It is what it is!

I'm sure I've mentioned the shotgun stock I helped my Brother to saw from the bole of a Walnut felled to widen a road junction. A fancy London Gun dealer insisted it was "French Walnut"... despite my Brother's protestation!
My Brother eventually shrugged and accepted the high valuation for this gun stocked with "French Walnut".

The Yew I'm working at the moment feels much like plenty of other Yew I've worked. I've felt harder, softer, lighter, darker, finer and coarser ringed, knottier and cleaner.
I gather the supplier of the stave said that the "experienced Bowyer" working the stave had probably not worked Italian Yew before and as it is so different from American or British Yew wasn't qualified to comment on it's quality!
Of course, this means, if I make a nice bow from the stave it's because of the magical properties of his "Italian" Yew.  And conversely if it explodes on the tiller it will be because I'm a poor bowyer.
Ah, yes, and if he thinks an experienced bowyer can't handle it... why is he selling it to a complete novice?
Nice trick when you can get away with it!

I s'pose it's all down to caveat emptor (buyer beware) and all I should really worry about is the quality of my own

I hope this doesn't sound too much of a rant or like I have my head up my backside.

I've a couple of visitor coming tomorrow, I'm sorting out some of my stash of Yew and giving him some of my 'not so good' billets so the guy can have a go with some Yew.
He's bringing along his dad too so we should have fun shooting some bows.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with your comments about bow wood. I have an English yew warbow that looks like firewood. It shoots excellent and still goes back into slight reflex after shooting. It has taken no set at all and not lost any draw weight despite being shot regularly.. I have another English yew bow from the same batch of yew which has taken a horrendous amount of set.
    I suspect that this anecdote will be applicable to all woods from all regions. Wood is not homogeneous.