Saturday, 31 October 2015

"TakeDown" Explodes!

I'm going to a shoot tomorrow at Avalon (weather permitting) and I'd made half a dozen new arrows.
I thought I'd test shoot them through TakeDown which is the bow I was going to take tomorrow. It's 40# which is a bit lighter than Twister.
First shot I hear a slight cracking/creaking, was it the string in nocks? I felt over the bow, nothing untoward. Second shot, there it was again... still couldn't see anything. Third shot BANG and I got a nice whack across my left tit from the upper limb.
The point where it broke is fairly predictable. It looks like the bamboo back gave way where it's thinned to go into the socket. Easy to be wise after the event (Any fool could see it would break there!) and it didn't help that the bow had an arrow pass inlaid on either side.
I'll know next time to leave the backing going right down into the socket next time and to barely (if at all) cut into it. It could have done with more thick grip section above the join*, but it was never originally built to be a takedown. All good learning experience. The fibres in the 'boo show up nicely in the lower pic'

The upside is that the lower limb is fine and I can made a delightfully mismatched upper limb to investigate the phenomenon of limb timing with odd limb lengths, weights, materials etc. It will make a novelty bow... If I take it to a shoot I can say it's half longbow half primitive!
Dunno what I'm going to shoot tomorrow now, but fortunately I have a few to choose from, although I might have to change bow category.
Shame as it was a V fast smooth bow to shoot and I don't have a takedown to show.

The distance from nock to the break is 31", and from the break to the top of the socket 3".
If we consider the limb as a lever and the point where the limb thickens into the grip (the fade) as the fulcrum. Then near enough 10:1 leverage, so with 40 pounds on the end, it was exerting 400 pounds! (Or about 1/5 of a ton if you think in those terms).
Looking closer, it's maybe nearer 32": 2" which is 16:1 and gives 640 pounds, so in reality it's prob' somewhere between.
No wonder it tore the bamboo where it is stepped down.
I'm sure this analysis isn't probably technically correct in it's detail, but the whole point of physics and maths is to make stuff understandable. In the context of natural materials I think it's probably reasonable. If anyone feels like drawing it up into into a CAD system, I'd be V interested to see one of those pictures that shows the stress in different colours.

I was looking for a bow to shoot tomorrow, and picked up a scruffy character Yew stick bow (here:- )
I thought I'd check out my arrows with it... first arrow, thwack, dead centre in the scrap of paper pinned to my target boss! I immediately decide that the runty little stick bow had booked it's place on the shoot.
I checked it on the tiller, just about 40# at 28" I tidied it up a bit round the nocks and arrow pass and gave it a good wipe of bees wax polish.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Knotty Yew Heat Treated

The bow is slowly getting there, The heat treating pulled it back to shape a bit taking the ugly deflex from the tips but leaving it in the centre.
The irritating thing was it shifted a bit sideways by about half an inch which needed some heavy duty heat straightening.
I got it up on the tiller (see pic) and took some video, here's a still, showing how it's a nicer shape and it's stiffened up, now being 50# at about 21" (it was about 23" before heat treatment).
More work has been done rasping away at the belly (which has removed the scorching) the wood is palpably crisper and harder now.
I've also been improving the sides, narrowing the tips and generally tidying it up. Now it's back to about 24", with a nicer full bellied bend starting to show. It's a bit scary with the big knot, but hopefully the pristine back will hold it together.
Dunno if I'll ever have the balls to pull it the full 32", we'll see.

I may add another pic later, mind I'm busy mending the electric shower... the solenoid failed in the open position causing a panic phone call to me asking where the stop cock was, whilst I was at work! A watery disaster was averted.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Knotty Yew Progress

It's now at 50# at 23". I've done a video where I talk about it and show the problems.
I intend to get it somewhere near 50# at 25" and then heat treat the belly whilst removing some of the deflex and set. After that I can narrow it and hopefully proceed to 28" and beyond...

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Visit from a Bowyer

Jamie from Ravenbeak in Canada is over in UK for a month doing a couple of bow making workshops at The Longbow Shop, taking in the Mary Rose museum at Portsmouth, the Tower of London and a couple of roving marks shoots with the ILAA.
He wanted it meet up, and as we're well positioned for getting into London on his travels we put him up overnight on Thursday.

It was great, I don't often get to talk at length to a fellow bowyer and he doesn't often see another bowyers workshop. We had a play with all the weird bows and the Chinese Repeater of course. He pulled up all his stuff on the internet and I was green with envy at the quality and quantity of the Yew he has over there... the stuff I get to work with wouldn't even warrant a second glance if he saw it growing. Mind that's not to say we haven't got decent Yew, it's just the availability of it. Running him back to the station on Friday I took a detour and showed him a fine stand of local ancient Yew in a nearby church, I'd forgotten how big the trees were... they are huge. I also showed him a nice row of big coppiced Hazel along one of the cycle tracks which looks like an explosion of bow staves.

My mate JT dropped while Jamie was here to show him some of his Warbows including the biggest I've made (130# Yew) and one of my Elm ones. We were sitting in the sun lounge on the two little sofas Me Jamie JT and Sophie the cat taking the fourth seat looking on with interest as great long warbows were being examined with the prospect of a nock getting pushed through a window at any moment!

We kept him fed and plied him with my home made cider and had a taste of the Plum wine from August, it's still a bit young, but very fruity with a hint of fizz and quite sweet as it's still slowly fermenting. We gave him apple pie and custard as an English pudding... "what's custard?" he asked.
Ah the delights of proper custard!

He was telling us how on the West coast of Canada the climate and vegetation is very similar to here and how our back garden looked just the same as over there... the big difference is the mountains, the Yew, the animal life... it made me want to get off my backside and move! Plentiful Yew and Black bears! What's not to like? he said they don't even suffer from too many nasty poisonous critters like some parts of the world and it's cold enough to season the Yew with the bark on.

The pic' shows us with my two latest bows the Yew molle' and the Yew ELB.

We looked at the badly seasoned stave I'm working on and put it up on the tiller, I'd done a bit of work on it to get if flexing better so he could see what I was working on. We discussed how it was starting to move and he could see my problem of not being able to step back far enough to view it due to the garage being so narrow. I showed him the camera mount on the wall and he could see why it was so useful for me to take video and then review it indoors.
That bow is now at a bout 5" brace and is drawing 50# at 20", some set has returned and I may well heat treat it and pull it straight once it's coming back a bit further. There are still some impressive gracks running through to the pith, but it's generally looking more like a bow. Dunno if I'll ever have the cojones to pull it to the full 32" but we'll see how it progresses. Maybe I'll leave the bit of set/deflex and just straighten the tips, both of which have a little ugly deflex bend.
Video here:-

Monday, 19 October 2015

Steam Straightened Stave

The stave that was warping and cracking is now back to being straight. I've got a busy week so it will have a few days to settle down, I'm going to leave it strapped to the 2x2 on the warm radiator and then probably give it 24 hours back in the garage before starting work on it again.
Mean while here are some pics. The steam has draw out some purplish colour from the wood, and some of the cracks have opened up from the central pith to the belly. The cracks look alarming, but they are very shallow, much better having them coming out to the belly than running deep into the bow. Dunno how the stave would have been if I'd used the side with the wider rings and didn't have the pith to contend with, however that side had the natural deflex. Who knows, but the received wisdom is that the tighter rings are some how "better", not that I have any real evidence for this. My decision for cutting was based on the the clean state of that face of the log, the look of the sapwood and the reflex. The other side which was cut off, doesn't have enough thickness left in the centre for a big bow so I can't make two bows and compare. We have to work with the wood we have in front of us and live with the decisions we make (no charge for the homespun philosophy!).

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Yew Longbow 70@28"

The longbow is now finished apart from a few coats of Danish Oil and some buffing up of the nocks.

This is the bow that was partly finished here:-
Here's a few pics with it's nice new string at a good full 28" draw.
You can just about make out the arrow plate, it's very subtle but has a nice bit of figure in it. The bow is fairly pale over all but will darken up a bit with time.

Fashion notes:-Those baggy sleeves aren't very good for shooting.

Meanwhile the stave that was warping and cracking has been steamed straightened in 3 sections over the course of the day, I'll give it a day or so to recover and start work on it again.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Warping vs Set

My suspicions have been confirmed.
The stave that was showing signs of not being fully seasoned was left with one limb strapped up to a length of 2x2 on my long warm radiator.
I could hardly believe my eyes this morning, the strapped limb hasn't moved any further, but overall the bow has taken on a lot of bend. With the tips placed on the floor there is a 3" gap between floor and the belly measured at the centre. The good news is the bend is pretty much in line with the desired direction of bend of the bow (E.G In line rather than sideways) I could claim that's due to my skill in selecting where to cut the log, but it's probably more luck than judgement!
Note:- There is a pic of the stave on the shave horse in this post, you can see how it was straight:-

Now, had this just been made into a bow it would have been seen as a poor bow with a load of  "set". It just goes to show how tricky wood is.
I believe the stave has been cut for several years but has been in an old garage partially open to the elements.
I've had this sort of problem before where wood has been just left in a pile with a tarpaulin over it.

To season wood properly it must be off the ground, protected from rain and with plenty of air circulation around it. Ideally it should be split or sawn into halves or quarters as appropriate, and the end sealed. In the UK I leave the bark on but in some countries it may be best removed and the wood treated to prevent insects laying eggs in it and the grubs feeding on it.

Hopefully the longbow stave has dried considerably now. I'll strap it up and heat bend/heat treat the belly. This should get it back to a sensible shape ensure it's dried through and toughen up the belly a bit. The bark has all popped off now, so hopefully in a few days it will be ready to start tillering again.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Yew Longbow

This stave seems a bit odd, the wood doesn't have the usual crisp feel and it's taken a good bit of set already. I tried to snap one of the long thin off cuts from one of the edges and it bent double without breaking. It feels like it's not properly seasoned. the pith is cracking out to the belly too.
I'm keeping it somewhere warm and dry to try and ensure it's thoroughly dry, I'm going to have to do some heat treating/bending to even it out. Maybe it's just tension in the wood that's being relieved... Dunno really, but you have to work with what you have, also have to look for the plus rather than the minus, a little set will ensure it gets out to 32" draw, I can always get it part tillered and then correct it.

Meanwhile I've started putting putting horn nocks on a partly finished Yew longbow, it's about 70# at 27". I'll be finishing it to 28" draw length once the nocks are on.
I've got the nocks on and rough finished, the wood by the bottom nock is interesting.
The heartwood swells up to the surface of the stave at that point, not following the rings, it gives a discontinuity in the sapwood, but that shouldn't be a problem so near the tip where there is very little bending force.

I'll give that nock a quick polish up so you can see the contrast. There are some nice pale streaks in the nock, but they don't really show up in the pic, As is often the case the pics don't really do it justice, but I don't want to spend the time and effort building a photographic studio... well maybe I would if I had the room, money & time.

I've shot a few arrows from it and adjusted the arrow pass/grip area a bit to improve how the arrow lies against the bow. I'm using an old string that, with a good deal of extra twist, fits ok. Blimey it's hard work to draw and my fingers really feel the stretch, I'm obviously a bit out of practice...
Conversely I shot 8 arrows left handed from the Molle' and they were pretty good, even got two touching and within an inch of my scrap of paper that I was aiming at. The string line is spot on now and the bow feel pretty solid and secure, although that's all in the mind, sometimes a bow will worry me no end until it's finished and it will be fine, other times, I'll be happy as Larry and one will blow up.

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Devil's in the Detail

I've been finishing off the Molle' adjusting the arrow pass and marking it with a burnt in dot. I haven't done an inlaid arrow pass as I wanted to keep it relatively primitive, but it's easy to get the bow upside down or hold it right handed as the grip has a waggle to it. So I thought a mark for the arrow pass was a good compromise.

I've made a decent string for it and I mark where the string loops sit on the belly side of the nock with a pencil and then shape the tip of the bow to suit, it's details like this that make the difference in the look of a bow.

Having said this, I popped the string back on the Molle' and admired my handiwork... errr, one of the levers wasn't in line with the string Whaaa?
Well I exaggerate a bit, the string line was still running along the lever, but no longer central.
Not good enough! The levers have been reduced and are rather slim, any lateral misalignment could gradually become worse, and maybe stringing the bow carelessly could suddenly force the lever over sideways. Or am I being fussy?
I mulled it over a bit and jigged the bow up for a tiny heat correction and tempering of the belly face of the lever. The aim was to restore alignment and also stiffen the lever slightly. I had to be careful not let the heat get anywhere near the glue line. It took a couple of tries to get it right as I was only after about 3mm of movement... Maybe I'm a bit OCD about these things, but as the title says, the Devil is in the Detail.
It is possible to force a lever over a bit to correct it, a bit like putting some set into into a bow limb, and I did give it a gentle try, but it seemed a bit risky, I didn't want to risk breaking or weakening it.

Why had the lever moved? After some thought one possible scenario dawned on me.
I'd steamed the lever into line, but then I'd later sawed off the cracked belly edge of it, at this point it had maybe sprung back a bit. Then when I glued on the new belly strip it was a whisker off line. Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Anyhow, it's done and cleaned up and yet more Danish oil put on it.
Meanwhile I've started on a Yew longbow for the same guy, he brought the Yew bought to me a while back and if I get both bows done I can deliver them together.
The Yew is pretty good, but having been seasoned in the round, it is shifting a bit now it's roughed out, I'm making the bow from the side of the log that has the central pith closest to the bark. Dunno if that makes sense? The centre of the log isn't in the middle, it's nearer to one side, which is also the side with a nice even thinnish layer of sapwood and the side that will give the bow a gentle reflex curve. All these factors get taken into consideration when making that saw cut down the log.
Enough chat, I'll let the pic's tell the story.
BTW:- The "R" mark penciled onto the stave by the knot tells me to use a rasp there as edged tools are digging into the grain. The knot will get dug out and filled taking care to leave the covering of sapwood intact.

I've also been busy racking off my cider into plastic bottles and I've picked the last of the rhubarb from the garden which I'm making up into rhubarb and sultana wine. I did some last year and it was better than some of the white wine you buy in the shops... damn sight cheaper too.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

More Molle' Pics

I couldn't resist giving it the first wipe of Danish oil, there is some great character in the wood...
It's a fine line between "split to hell" and "character", but I think we've managed to stay just the right side!

Maybe calling it a "starburst" at the grip is a tad fanciful, but it's a bit of a conversation piece.

The first coat of Danish oil has shown up some of the tool marks so it's been sanded and scraped a bit more and been given the second coat.

The pic on the right shows it drying, you can see the unstrung shape is much better than it was in previous posts, it's pretty straight now.
I'll get on with making a string now.

The remains of the knot visible in the bottom pic is the knot which became exposed where I cut away some of the grip to extend the limb, shown in the bottom pic in this post :-
You can see how much that part of the limb was rasped down to end up how it is now.

Update:- I've added another couple of pic's . The black horn of the lower nock blends in nicely with the black streaks in the wood. The "Eye" feature on the back near one lever also shows some of the natural concave shape along the back. This sort of shape is what can make tillering tricky, you just can't measure the limb thickness as it's cross section is so irregular.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Yew Molle Full Draw +

Now both levers have sound wood on the belly I'm a bit more confident and I'll press on with horn nock overlays.

I finally plucked up courage and took it to full draw and even took it briefly to 29", mind the overdraw just allows for the brace height to come up a whisker.
I think it's going to be a spectacular bow when it's finished, and although it's only just a whisker over 40# I think it will punch it's weight ok.

I'm just getting over a stinking cold, so I've only been doing the odd 10 minutes work here and there, with plenty of cat naps.

I've got the horn glued on each end and the top nock done... unfortunately I've just got a message saying the guy would prefer pale horn or antler... D'oh. Anyhow, it can be re-done, beut here are some pics to show how it looks with black horn.
It sort of matches in with the dark streaks in the Yew...
No prob' to change it if needed, I'll hang fire on the second nock until I get word.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Stitch in Time

I've replaced the belly wood on one lever of the Molle' where it was full of splits and in danger of falling apart. The other lever has a couple of splits which I'd flooded with superglue, but it just doesn't soak in as one would hope, I could get my finger nail in and lift the splinter, so I've sawn off some of the belly and glued on a strip of Yew from the same piece that I used on the other lever.
With the reinforced levers holding the ends of the limbs together maybe I should add a chuck of clean Yew to the grip as it's full of splits and shakes. There is plenty of wood at the grip so it's probably fine and it gives it some character. I think this bow will need a lot of shooting in before I'm happy to consider it sound, I'll check on the actual draw length it will get used at, most people just say 28" as a default draw length, but many are a bit short of that in reality.
Once the bow is shot in I'll put on black water buffalo horn nocks.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Bits and Bobs

I've picked up a cold so I'm just doing little bits here and there, tidying up the levers on the Molle' and sorting out my arrows.

I was down to my last arrows, but I'd ordered more shafts and fletchings. I ordered 18 rather than the usual dozen. The worst ones have been sorted out and two used up as bolts for the Chinese Repeating crossbow (which was down to the last 4 bolts). I can get have been 3 bolts from a shaft so it's very cost effective.
Two more have been used to splice new ends onto broken arrows which has re-furbished four of 'em, so the arrow supply is looking a bit better now. They are standing up somewhere warm for the glue to dry in the top pic ready to be cut to length and have the points put on later.

I'm toying with the idea of some careful heat straightening of the Molle' limbs. If I can get the heat gun positioned so the temperature stays just over 100C and doesn't get too hot it may be worth doing, but I have to ask myself would I rather a bit of set and a nice character bow or a bag of kindling?
I think maybe I should find something else to fiddle around with, perhaps I should bottle up some more of my plum wine, maybe a medicinal glass would help the cold!

The Molle' is looking pretty good now, I've been over the back with wire wools and white spirit to clean it up. The grip has been shaped a bit, I'm trying to get it comfortable for a left hand but not over sculptured like a modern recurve, after all it's supposed to be primitive, it's a fine line to tread.

The bow is nicely quirky with the levers lying dead in line with the string, but the limbs angle slightly biased to suit the left hand... hang on I'll take a pic.
The pic shows it suspended from the string supported just below the nocking point, it is viewed as if being held.
I'm slowly getting better at shooting left handed now, it's actually better for my stiff neck although I dunno how my vision will cope. My left eye is well out of line having had some nasty infections in both orbit and ethmoid sinus both of which needed minor surgery...  My right eye is my master eye but they both get used of course especially for distance estimation. Anyhow, that's just my excuse for being a mediocre shot (I've a million other excuses of course....)

I had another think about straightening the limbs and opted for using steam on the middle section of the upper limb. The great advantage of steam is that it doesn't get too hot. It looks to have been a great success and I'll repeat the exercise on the other limb. Of course the set may reappear, but my theory is that the set was introduced early in the build before the tiller was right, hopefully now the tiller is much improved the stress on the limbs is better distributed and the set may not be quite so bad. I'll tease it back towards full draw keeping an eye on the tiller and adjusting where necessary.
I took some video of the process which I'll edit into an epic tale of sword and sorcery and post on Youtube here:-

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Yew Molle' Progressing

The bow is looking much better, it's now round the right way with the natural sideways bend favouring a left hander. I've shaped the grip just a bit for the fun of it and I'm working at getting each limb working smoothly so I can tease it back to 28" draw, it's at a low brace maybe 4" or so.
I'm now hoping for 40# or maybe a little over, but I'm not going to sacrifice tiller for poundage as the wood is so marginal in places.
Right limb needs to flex a little more where it fades into the grip, the left maybe does too.
I'm not certain of the solidity of the right lever, but that can always have a piece laminated onto the belly side.
You can see it's about 43# at 27" so I don't have much to play with.
I've shot a dozen arrows through it at about 27" draw, it feels weird as I'm shooting it left handed, but it seems pretty quick and I'm slowly zoning in and beginning to group.
As it settles down I'll fine tune the tiller and get some weight off the levers.
It's taken a fair bit of set, but considering the state of the wood, that's fair enough. I can't risk heat treating it as it may dry it too much and open up the splits. I think it's going to be a decent bow for field shooting,