Sunday, 27 March 2016

Starting a Yew Longbow

A guy came to visit last week, he'd not done much shooting and wanted to try some bows to see what he was comfortable with. I generally prefer to make bows for experienced archers so they don't go for something too light, of conversely get over bowed and need 10# taking off later. But this chap was willing to drive up to visit, and seemed to settle into the bows very quickly, shooting better at 10 yards than many other people, he settled on 60# at 28" as being a good weight, although his draw is a bit less (although it was expanding as he got used to the bows).
I've got a couple of bows on the book but they are higher weights and having just made a 50# I felt the 60 would be a comfortable step up for me. The 80# and the warbows can be made in succession allowing me to get a feel for the heavy stuff.
Anyhow we sorted through some staves and I had a tall skinny one which looked about right. Once a stave has been chosen it sort of gathers momentum on it's own so I've roughed it out and got it bending a bit. there's a dodgy shake at one point, but hopefully it doesn't go too deep and will disappear as the bow is worked down. You'll see I'm pulling it to the full 60# from the start.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Yew Heartwood Primitive

It's had 50 arrows through it now at a good full 28" draw, I've been shooting my 11/32" shafts, the bit of extra weight gives a smoother loose. I'll have to see if the guy I'm making it for wants a leather grip, it would cover the patch in the side of the grip and also bulk up the rather skinny grip a tad.
Here are some pics showing a few of the features, you'll have to trust me that it actually looks better in the flesh. I'll shoot it in some more, make a new string (I'm using one borrowed from another bow at the moment) put some more Danish Oil on it and do a grip if required.
I've enjoyed this one and it's a great example of a character bow without being so extreme that it compromises the shooting.
It's taken very little set, the lower limb has a hint of deflex just out of the fade where the patch is which makes it look a hint weak, but it's not. Once it's completely shot in and finished I'll get another full draw shot to see the poundage, (probably pretty much 50# @ 28" still)
Enough chat, here are the pics.
You probably need to click on them to bring them up big to appreciate them.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Shooting in the Yew Heartwood Bow

I've shot 35 arrows through it (mostly right handed) and it feels pretty good.
Here's a short video.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Yew Heartwood Primitive Nocks

I've narrowed the tips substantially and added horn overlays, there are nice grey streaks in the horn. I found a string that fits and tried a test shot, it was only from inside the garage, and shot right handed, but it felt pretty good.
Some sanding and finishing to do, here's a few pics to be getting on with.

It's been a bad week here, our pet cat Sophie died, she was a rescue cat, only 5 1/2 years old and she'd been having fits (we tried various medication to no avail). She had good life with us... As you look at old posts on the blog, you'll maybe see her in some of the photos.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Heartwood Yew Progress

It's getting there ,but still needs work. I've got the string line good and got it up to brace height. Some heat shaping on the limbs has got them more symmetrical, but the lower limb is too stiff in the outer 2/3. The right limb looks pretty good.
The good news is I've got some draw weight to play with and it hasn't exploded! I had to do a small patch on the side of the grip where the sideways bend had caused a slight tension crack on one side. It didn't really effect the strength and could have been covered buy a leather grip or binding, however, that's not style, so I've let in a patch. It may end up with a grip covering it, anyway, but I didn't want the handle moving and effecting the string line.
The belly of the bow looks particularly good. As I ease off the left limb the excess reflex at the tip will probably pull out a bit, if not I can add a little extra curve to the right tip to match it to the left.

Note:- the two bottom pics are not the same way round (the bow won't rest on it's side one way round). So braced pic is lower limb to the left. Unbraced pic is lower limb right, you can see it has a little more reflex.

Update:- I've taken a hint of reflex out of the lower mid limb and eased it off too, the tiller looks good now and I've had it back to 50# at 28".
It's down to cleaning up, narrowing the tips fiddling fettling and and finishing now. Not sure if I'll do horn tip overlays. I'll mull it over, it's certainly got some character but feels rather heavy, I don't know how it will shoot.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Chit Chat

Had a great day out at the Aurora field shoot yesterday, glorious weather. I didn't shoot very well and seemed to be sniffing and sneezing a lot of the time but it was just great to be out in the woods all day in good company. I came last in our group of 4 scoring 402 over 36 targets, mind I've not shot since about early November. I was shooting Twister and found it a bit heavy by the end of the day.
I woke this morning feeling physically and mentally much brighter than I have for ages... maybe spring really is getting here.

There were 4 of my bows being shot and the Yew Molle' I made last year was there with its owner and it drawing plenty of comment from other archers.
The course was challenging with some long shots and one target was a real arrow breaker with a hard old dead tree horizontal just above the target, guaranteed to snap the points off if you glanced off the underside. Any grumpiness over broken arrows was soon dispelled with copious tea a sausage egg and bacon bap and some delicious apple cake.
Thanks to all at Aurora for their hospitality... sorry no pics, but plenty on their site.

Meanwhile back at the bow making I've been having a nightmare trying get the limb alignment right on the heartwood Yew primitive. I under corrected it, over corrected it, over corrected the over correction and now I'm back about where I started.... like I say, easy to make a bow... hard to make a good one! I was looking at trying to control the heat a bit better and spotted Wickes have a temperature adjustable hot air gun for £9.99 ! I checked the stock at the local branch and went and got one this morning. It's only analogue controlled with no temperature indication, but I should be able to find a cheap cooking thermometer. I used to have a fancy digital one but it got melted when I left it lying on its side after switching it off, those are about £35, so I think £9.99 is a bargain.
On the plus side the tiller of the bow is looking better and I've got it at a low brace. I may take an inch off each end.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Knot? What Knot?

I got the patch glued in last last night so it's been unwrapped this morning and blended in (not fully finished yet). It looks pretty good, I don't know if it will hold up, but it will be interesting.

The pics are a before (rasped out) and after with the patch blended in. They are taken from different sides to try to show the detail better, although it would be easier to compare if I'd taken them from identical positions... can't win 'em all.

I'll probably get it flexing on the tiller this afternoon, it will be interesting to see if it has stiffened that area. ...
I've done that now and it does seem stiffer, showing that the knot was indeed a weak point.

Note the curvy scraper in the bottom pic, very good for scraping those slightly concave areas. That reminds me I could do to sharpen the scrapers, by grinding the edge square and rubbing a new burr on to them. There are plenty of videos about scraper sharpening on Youtube, but don't waste money buying a fancy burnishing tool, the round shaft of a big screwdriver will do the job just fine.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Heartwood Yew Improving Tiller

I've narrowed the tips a bit and taken wood off the belly of the obviously stiff areas. I've also been along the back trying to get it close to a single growth ring or to at least have the rings running along the limb. A quick try on the tiller and a little more work has got me to this point.
What I may do is to take snatches from each video and edit them together when it's finished to show how the tiller progresses. Mind I've just noticed that this video was a little on the skew, so I may have to re-build my camera mount to make it more solid and yet more easily adjustable.
The tiller isn't right yet, but you can see how it is improving. I'm aiming for 45#-50# at 28" It's probably at about 44# in the pic, but it's not braced yet. I'm in danger of running out of draw weight, but I have plenty of length to play with, so I can easily take an inch off each end, I can also heat treat the belly if necessary.
I'm really letting the wood dictate the bow with this one as it is a bit of a character stave. No good trying to force the issue. better to have a beautiful character 40 pounder than a load of firewood to sweep up when it explodes!

While I'm chatting, it's easy to say or refer to something without making it clear. I often talk of leaving the tips wide to allow the string line to be adjusted, the pic on the right shows what I mean. You can see I've forced the string over to the left, I can then shape the tip to fit that string position if I want. I won't rush into it as the bow is still finding where it wants to go and I may use more heat later.... and yes, as I rasp the handle it smells like a fish and chip shop! damn that's made me hungry.

I have a bit of a dilemma the big knot on the lower limb is looking like it may fail, I may resort to rasping it down and overlaying a matching patch of Yew heartwood. It looks like an accident waiting to happen, and if I take down those rings that look like they may lift it will just make it weaker. Some may say I should have left the knot sticking up more proud, but it's not always obvious when you are running it through the bandsaw... Anyhow there is always going to be a discontinuity in the rings at that point as they simply don't flow in a straight line across the knot. That's why a patch will hopefully work, I can rasp down so the knot is only on the compression side (belly) and have patch with good continuous grain flowing along the back. I could do it with sapwood, but that would just look silly.
Experiments like this is how we learn, mind I'm not willing to take it to destruction to learn... maybe I'll try that on an off-cut... too much time invested in this now.
I may flex it on the tiller and feel if the grain is lifting... risky....
Just checked, it's the lower limb and where most of that flex is occurring. I've taken the plunge and rasped it out. It will be interesting to see how a Yew heartwood patch stands up on the back of a bow!

Meanwhile it's a lovely sunny day and over the last 3 days the pond has become nicely filled with writhing frogs and frog spawn. I've just been outside to check on an unseemly row being made by some corvids. I looked over the fence to see a bundle of Magpies on next doors lawn indulging in some rough and tumble. They saw me an flew off cackling with a guilty look.
My son said they more like Shagpies than Magpies!
Spring is getting here.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

First flexing of the Yew Heartwood Primitive.

I've had it up on the tiller for a quick shufti.

I'm only pulling to just over 40 to see how it's moving. Pretty awful, but some movement in the inner limbs, I'll take wood off the mid and outers. the left limb inner is obviously moving most and I'll leave that alone.
In the video I say it's pulling 45# - 50# but I'm not actually pulling that much... it's not always easy to see when you are watching the bow move. It will be interesting to see how I get the tiller even as it progresses.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Heat Bend at the Handle

I've done a bit more of a heat bend at the grip to try and get the string line right before I try it on the tiller. After giving it about 12 minutes with the heat gun on high and a good slather of Sunflower oil I wrapped some paper and old carpet round the grip to hold the heat in. I'll leave it a few hours before unclamping it. It looks like I've made ahuge bend, but there will be a fair degree of spring back, and if I have bent it too much, a little gentle heat will let it relax back a bit.

The other pic shows how I've used two wedges which are off-cuts from when splicing billets. By using 2 wedges point to point as a spacer you can adjust the thickness of the spacer whilst keeping the faces of the spacer parallel.

I've unclamped it now and the string line is better, It's just inside the grip now where it was on the edge of it before, mind, that's not to say it won't get more attention at some point. If a jobs worth doing, it's worth doing right, even if it takes 4 attempts! here's a pic of the natural reflex too.
I've also been shooting a few bows to see which I fancy taking to the Aurora shoot on Sunday... it looks like Twister has claimed his place!


Monday, 7 March 2016

All Heartwood Yew Character Primitive

I've had someone interested in an experimental primitive which is great as it gives me free reign to play around with some of my less promising staves and see what happens.
This stave is pretty S shaped and way out of alignment. I narrowed the grip so that it would bend under steam, mind I had two goes and ended up loosing track of which way I was trying to bend it! In my defence I'll say I've been rather distracted with cat health issues.
Anyhow, I used the hot air gun in the end (for about 10 minutes) and brushed the grip liberally with sunflower oil. The workshop smelled like a chippie!
You can see the improvement in the pics, I may have to do more work as the bow progresses.
There is a fair bit of reflex in each limb which is relatively symmetrical.

I'm aiming at a left handed bow about 45-50# It will look very handsome if it doesn't explode and hopefully being all heartwood it will be quite fast.
The bow is cut out from the log on a bit of an angle so I can't make the back a continuous single ring, but I can have the rings running along the length of the limb.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Full Draw For The Yew Shorty

First time I tried the bow on the tiller with it's heart wood belly the tiller was awful, with the right limb being much stiffer than the left. A little work with a rasp and scraper has improved it, I may take a little more off, but it's pretty good now and is at 40#.
I may do a little more to ease off the right limb and help even out the stress on the bow as it is working so hard.
Video here:-

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

A Stitch in Time

A guy E-mailed me with a pic of his bow which I'd made for him a while back, (Bamboo backed Yew) it had developed a bit of a pinch by a filled knot on the belly.
He brought it over so I could have a look, it needed a repair, better safe than sorry.
Looking at it, I could see some buckling in the parent wood on the corner and a hairline crack across the filled knot.
The Yew belly had been heat treated and the knot filled before the bamboo backing was done and I was a little surprised to see the crack in the filled knot.

Rather than do an inadequate half arsed repair I thought I may as well get the patch to completely cover the knot and to extend over a good part of the belly and about 4mm down the side as a curved scallop. I make sure I rasp down until all signs of the pinch have disappeared.

The pics are pretty much self explanatory. I took the finish off the bow first with wire wool soaked in white spirit and protected the surface of the bow with plenty of masking tape. The masking tape is good as it provides a guide when rasping the patch down to the shape of the limb. You can feel and see when it's getting very close. What you don't want to do is to end up rasping in to the limb and creating a weak point, in fact I tried to leave the patch just a whisker thick so I can check the tiller and adjust if necessary.
It just needs a bit of shooting, a tiller check and Danish Oil re-applying. The finished patch will look better than the original filled knot. I've had a quick look on the tiller and that limb looks maybe a hint stiff at the patch, but I'll shoot it in a bit before easing it off at all as it may settle down.

I should mention, when doing a patch, I try to get the run of the grain and growth rings in the patch to match the wood of the limb, and in this case I gave the patch a good 10 minutes or so under the heat gun to get it close to the properties of the rest of the belly.

This really illustrates the value of checking over your bow. I've had people ask if I offer a guarantee with a bow, I always tell them that my pride in my workmanship is the guarantee, and it they keep a close eye on the bow I'll keep in in good condition for them. There's not actually a lot of hours involved in doing work like this, there is a fair bit of experience though and it helps a lot to have a bandsaw, belt sander and a good supply of nice Yew offcuts!