Saturday, 5 September 2015

Near-lithic Hazel Bow

The "Near-lithic" is just my little joke, as it's not really supposed to be based on any particular artefact. The way we interpret the evidence from a few bows found in bogs is slightly dubious anyway, there is plenty of argument and discussion about each bow. Otzi the Iceman's bow is a classic example, is it a stave? Is it a bow? ? Which was going to be the back which the belly?
Bottom line is we don't know and if we did... would it matter? It's just one bow made by one man at one moment in time. That's why the Mary Rose bows are so valuable, they are a statistically significant number of bows.

The other day one of my visitors asked how I thought the Mollegabet style bow came about.
Well... first thing I always say is I don't know. It's also V hard to get decent information from the museums that hold the artefacts unless they are in the UK. I think our museums are wonderful and under appreciated (for pities sake don't let the Government privatise them... little bit of politics there)
Anyhow, back to the question. Maybe what I'm doing with this bow illustrates how a bow style might evolve.
We have a good bow, we make a copy. There are minor changes and hoped for improvements, maybe we narrow the tips or make it a tad wider or longer.
If the new bow is better, we hang onto those design ideas, if it is worse, we reject them. Just like classic evolution. Of course there is the variability of materials etc.

On this example, the 'Bark On' bow I'm copying seems exceptional, which is why I still have it! It's been overdrawn, is light, fast and hasn't taken any set. I usually refer to it as the Ruth Goodman Bow, as she shot it to great effect on TV.
One day I noticed the lower limb is actually a bit longer than the upper, which is rather unusual. The bow was made 'on the fly' and I just made it that way. On the new bow, I have changed that slightly, but not right back to the conventional design where the lower limb is a tad shorter.
I'll see how it performs.

Conventional design is:- The grip extends 1" above the true centre and 3" below it, thus the lower limb is 2" shorter than the upper.
Bark On bow upper limb 27", lower 30"
Near-Lithic    upper limb 29", lower 30"
So you see, I'm keeping the unconventional longer lower limb, but toning it down a bit.
Now if this turns out to be a superb innovation in primitive bow design promise you'll keep it under your hat! (To use an archery expression)

Back to the Mollegabet, I think our modern ones look more radical than the artefacts that have been found, maybe the more extreme look is better, or maybe it's our clumsy interpretation...
Most likely is that there is no such "specific design" and that bows of the period are a variety of styles that blend seamlessly into each other.
I'm not saying any of this is fact, it's all just my guess and theorising and experience of how I make bows.
Pics show the two bows side by side, the string alignment, low brace and at 40# 24".
Target is just below 40# at 28"
The points of interest are the the left limb kicks up slightly, visible near the grip in both braced and drawn pics. In the pic with the bows on the floor, the limb tip nearest the camera is actually off the floor. There is some S shape side to side too and some twist in the limbs (mostly the lower relative to the upper). The waggle near the top tip needs carefule management to stop that limb bending sideways. EG. In the string alignment pic. The far tip tries to bend to the right, so I have to leave the right edge of the limb a bit stiff and keep shifting the nock left until it draws back in a straight line. Small adjustments checked often. An 1/8" sideways shift in the nock can make a fair bit of difference.

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