Thursday, 27 April 2017

Rubbish and Rubbish

Having a bit of a tidy of the garage and taking Yew off cuts and garden rubbish to the council tip. I looked at the Yew which I'd given up on the other day and wondered if I could maybe get some heartwood strips out of it, enough for the limbs of a bamboo backed Yew. A bit of time on the bandsaw and I've got a couple of pieces that might do.

I took the rest to the tip and whilst peering into the timber skip I saw a nice length of old fine grained pine that looked like it had been stripped out of an old house, maybe from boxing in some pipework. It was just over 1/2" thick and about 8" x 5' ,I thought it might do for flight arrows, so I took it out and put it in the car.
I've just run it through the bandsaw into square section strips, it seems quite promising as I tried to snap an offcut and it was damn tough.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

All Finished

Well, nearly finished, the last coat of Danish oil needs to dry and it needs waxing, but that's just a wipe and a buff.
I'm really pleased with the patch, I've retained the slight swell where it was and it blends in nicely.
The leather grip looks smart and the heart/sap contrast is showing up a bit better, it's got a nice bit of character and the overall shape has settled down with that hint of reflex in the lower limb looking elegant.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Cloth of Gold Open Shoot

It was my first 3D shoot of the year (mostly 'cos I'm a wuss when the weather is cold or wet). The weather was glorious and the course was satisfyingly tricky. I was shooting with a great bunch from the  Aurora club (two ladies, two gents) there was a good mix of styles, One AFB shooting carbons, two take-down recurves, one sighted using carbons and one unsighted shooting woodies. One of the ladies was having her first comp' with a compound. I shot the longbow with my usual array of tired spliced old self nocked arrows.
It was great fun and each of us managed to out shoot the others on occasion, although I predictably scored worst. Mind, if there was prize for the fastest kill on a one arrow 4 yard target, I'd have won that :-)
I was really pleased with how the bow performed, I'd been getting obsessive about it and had noticed a couple of tiny marks on the belly the evening before, was it just grain, or a tiny crack/splinter? I decided to shoot it and see how it was at the end of the day. By the end the bow was less tired than I was and no sign of any trouble. Once home I cleaned it off with a wipe of white spirit and gave it a light sanding where I could see the odd tool mark. I then gave it another coat of Danish oil, I'll get the grip done today using some lovely leather from my mate Lawrance's old motorcycle jacket which he kindly gave me for the purpose. The jacket has some lovely supple good quality leather in the side panels.

As I was about to do the grip I was just cleaning up round the big feature knot on the back just above the grip when I spotted an imperfection, Is it a crack or just the grain? (See pic, just left of the red line) I sanded it and studied it, maybe it's just the end of a growth ring where it swells up to the knot. I couldn't feel it raised at all, but I was suspicious. Last year I did a Yew heartwood character bow with big knots in and it failed, the man who doesn't learn from his mistakes is a bit foolish. So... I put it on the tiller and took it to about 26" draw, pulling the rope with my left hand and feeling round the knot carefully... yes, I could feel it raised with my fingernail.
Now I'd left a big bulge for the knot, but extra wood doesn't guarantee extra strength. If I asked you to break a length of 4 x 1 over your knee you probably couldn't do it, but if the grain ran up and down or across it rather than along it you'd do it easily.
I rasped off the big bulge taking it down to level with the rest of the bow, and I could see the knot was effectively just a big patch of end grain taking up about 3/4 of the width of the back, with very little sapwood left proving the strength in tension.
I had a nice strip of sapwood which I'd sawn off another stave when roughing it out, so I've used that to do a patch. I rasped just down a little below the level of the back and shaped the sapwood to give a slight bulge reflecting the original shape. I've lost the feature knot, but the bow should be safe now.
More pics when eventually I get the wraps off and the grip done. The irony is that although this bow will go at a reduced price as it's been patched and isn't "perfect" there has actually been a lot more work in it than in a beautiful clean stave that turns itself into a bow if you say boo to it! But for me it's mostly about the wood and the learning,
Meantime while the glue is curing I though I'd try Twister, I took one arrow, 10 yards, twang thud... pro kill on my little cut out piggy. It's amazing what a day's shooting does for the form. :-)

Update:- I speeded up the cure of the glue by putting the bow on a warm radiator. This has enabled me to clean it up, blend it in and get a coat of Danish oil on it so I can do the grip tomorrow.
I'm pleased with the patch, and I've left a slight swelling to echo the original shape. I won't string the bow or flex it until tomorrow, to give the glue a full curing time.
Note the difference in colour between artificial light and daylight!

Friday, 21 April 2017

Bit of Tweaking.

I've had it back on the tiller again after 40 arrows through it and it's looking much better. (Note the subtle change compared with the pic' in the previous post).
Note:- it now has the proper string, is being drawn from the correct finger position and supported wher it will be held.
I've got the draw weight where I want it too.
Now it's just down to cleaning it up, doing the arrow plate and a leather grip.
It shoots hard and fast, feels very much like twister my regular field bow.
I'm off to Cloth of Gold's open shoot on Sunday, I may even shoot this bow to give it a good work out, mind I've put myself down as shooting primitive and I don't want to mess 'em about.
Video of it flexing on the tiller here:-

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

In Danger of Overthink!

I've been fiddling and fettling this bow to a point where I've told myself to step away from the bow, make a string and get the bow shot in before I fiddle anymore!
The tiller was looking good but it was a tad underweight (42# at 28")... but then why am I aiming for 50# @ 30" ?
I've just pulled that figure out of thin air. Maybe the lady will get back to 28" or 29" will she really get back to 30" (prob' not). So 45# at 28" is prob a better figure.
Anyhow, I heat treated/recurved the outer limbs a tad and it's got the weight up a bit (almost 50# at 28" which give me room for some minor tweaking).
However the recurve on the lower limb is a bit harsher and makes it look a bit stiff tipped Even though you can see it is flexing, having almost pulled straight at full draw. There also looks to be a bit of a weak point/hinge... but if you look at the unbraced bow you will see it's natural bend... so should I mess with the tiller?
.. I found myself taking a scrape here and there until I gave myself a good slap and stopped.
I'll get that string made and shoot 50 arrows through it! Then I can fiddle, fettle and fine tune it.
Got the string made and done a little bit of heating to ease out/stiffen up that deflex bend a whisker. What I've done may be very subtle, I didn't want to go mad and try and straighten it right out as it's on a knot. I just gave it some heat from the hot air gun for about 10 mins (with the back and sides covered with copious masking tape and clamped it to a straight edge with a slip of hard board under where I wanted the bend. So we're talking probably just maybe pulling down an inch, most of which will spring back, but the heat will also stiffen it.
Sometimes it's hard to know when to quit, but it's the fiddling around that can get you from a bow, to a good bow.
Oh, yes and by the way, I had a test shot before messing with the heat and it seemed pretty smooth and clean, not blisteringly fast, but then I prob only drew it 27" so it would be just over 40#

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Starting Another

I was lacking inspiration, I have a few primitive Yew bows to make, but the suitable staves aren't seasoned. A couple of people are after Bamboo backed Yew bows too, but I don't have suitable Yew heartwood.
Just as I'm wondering what to pick up, and I sweeping the garage after sawing Yew logs, I get a nudge from my mate JT who tipped me the wink that Ruth who goes to the ILAA shoots was hoping to get on my Yew longbow list. Well it just so happens that when I was sorting out staves for the last one I did , there was one that might do, it was a tad skinny for a 60# but it might do for this one (50# @ 30") This is a bit of a guess as Ruth normally uses a target style draw, but wants to get beyond 200 yards which is bit of a stretch for 40# at 27". so if we up the poundage and go for a more rustic/medieval draw maybe we'll get her there. The other thing is, it's easy to reduce the weight if it's too much but it's tricky to bring it up. I'd estimate 50# @ 30" equates to about 45# @27" which seems pretty reasonable.
I joked to JT that I'd make it 95# and simply write 40# on it ;-)

The skinny stave had a real rough area of damaged bark at the grip, and as I cleaned it up I could see it went deep with several areas of manky stuff into some of the rings beneath the bark. My guess is that a crossing branch had been rubbing against it periodically and caused damage wich had grown over and then the same had happened repeatedly. I rasped out down to sound wood so that I could patch it. Just in case this doesn't turn out well, I had another hunt through my staves and billets and found a pair of book matched billets that are pretty good, but not meaty enough for a warbow. So I've sawn the splices into those and got them ready to glue. that way I can get both lots of gluing done at once with less waste and mess.
Just need to be patient now and wait overnight for it to cure.

The bow has been back and forth on the tiller and is coming along nicely, here's some video:-
Since taking the video I've eased off the left (lower limb) and taken about an inch of each tip, these have been narrowed and worked down a tad.
The bow has a bit of set, but once it's nearly tillered I'll do a little light heat treating and straighten or recurve the tips a little.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Some You Win Some You Lose

Having reduced the log yesterday, I set about one I got earlier in the year, a marked contrast.
I was pushing the capacity of both me and the bandsaw pushing this half log through. The wood is awful, one half is just scrap and the other may just about squeeze out a stave or maybe a billet. Nope, roughed it down further and it's just scrap... To be fair, this was the "bad" side of the log, so I may get a stave or two out of the other half. Not today though, I'm knackered.
It just goes to show, how much do you pay for a log? the one yesterday was now't, favours for favours and friends of friends etc. Today's log cost a decent "drink" . Comme si comme ca and all that.
Must have a cuppa and a sit down... oh, I am sitting down!

I tidied up the sawn face of the other haf to help it go through the bandsaw better and it looks promising. Prob get it done tomorrow.

Monday, 10 April 2017

A Good Couple of Hours Work

My mate Mick the blacksmith came round with a Yew log about 8' long and 8 or 9" diameter, a nice size for splitting and running through the band saw. There were a few big knots at one end on one side, so I thought I'd get 2 staves out of the clean side and the side with the big knots should give 2 matched billets. I ran the circular saw down it to help keep a line through a smallish knot and the split it with my new wedges which I bought of E-Bay a while back. It split nice and clean, the wood looks fairly good but it has a bit of discolouration at the ends in the sapwood, but with plenty of length I think it should be fine. It had been cut a fair while back, but is still very wet inside and has green shoots, so I've just pencilled todays date on it.
There is more where that came from so we'll have to organise a trip to get it, my problem is lack of room to store it, but I know that if I don't get it I'll only regret it in a couple of years time. I don't like to see Yew go to waste and once trimmed up and seasoned it's not so bulky.
I've got it all cleaned up, just needs the ends painting with PVA and storing up on my shelves.

Friday, 7 April 2017

More Flight Arrows

I've finished off a couple of flight arrows for my mate JT ready for a shoot on Sunday, he can compare them with a couple of his others which perform well.
I found an old one which I'd made for him which was a good performer so I used that as a reference, I've got the weight about the same, but got the spine a tad stiffer, up to about 60* from 55, the shafts are slightly thicker (cedar) but more barrelled. Brass being denser than steel allows a smaller diameter point with the same weight. Overall weight is 400gn and 480gn for the two new ones, the old one was 456gn.

Ruth who is a regular at the ILAA shoots asked if I could make her some arrows to help her get to 200 yards with her 40# bow. Making arrows isn't my fave' but I'm old school and don't like to refuse a lady, so I said I'd make a one off to see if she could get the 200 yards.
One of my flight arrows from last week had broken it's point off on impact, I also had the front end from another very light flight arrow (slightly smaller diameter). It didn't take too long to splice the two together and run the sesulting arrow in my arrow tapering jig to give an arrow with a very slim front end. The pic shows the splice which is near the point so won't be subject to much flexing. I've spliced many arrows this way and never had a failure. It still has the centre of balance a reasonable distance in front of the geometric centre so it should fly ok. I also filed down and tapered the nock end a bit more to help in that respect.
I tested the stability of the arrow by throwing it in the back garden like a javelin, it flew well and even when I threw it nock first, it righted itself and landed point first!
I've finished them with the bright yellow paint which certainly aids finding them.
Anyhow, I can't make the Sunday shoot, but I'll give all the arrows to JT later today and he can pass the one test arrow on to Ruth... hopefully she'll get to 200 or close.
The pic also shows I've found a good use for off-cuts of decking!

* Note:- These arrows are to be shot from a warbow of about 120#, but one needs to realise that poundage doesn't really correlate to the speed of the arrow or the acceleration if is subject to at loose.
So a 120# bow isn't going to accelerate an arrow 3 times more than a 40# bow.
A 60# flight bow can often kick the arrow harder than a 100# bow. The weight of the point is also a big factor, a light point present far less resistance to the acceleration than would a heavy field point or huge warbow head. The lower resistance creates less bending force and that's why a 60# spine flight arrow is fine from a warbow.
There is a similar problem with the gpp (grains per pound) rules of thumb applied to arrows to avoid a "dry loose", one has to remember the g force on the arrow is huge ( I think it is something daft like 300g) so even a very light arrow presents substantial inertia compared with a dry loose.
many of these guidelines, rules of thumb etc, are ok for average mid weight bows but the performance of a bow isn't linearly related to poundage.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Popinjay Shoot and a Repair Job

On Sunday I went to the ILAA Popinjay shoot hosted by Braintree Bowmen, wasn't really sure what to expect or how it would work.
It was great fun, we shot in order, one arrow each. Blunt arrows were provided, I was lent an arrow by one of the chaps Trevor who'd made some specially. With 24 competitors it was a while between shots. It too some getting used to leaning right back with foot on the plate at the foot of the mast. After a few shots I was getting my eye in and felt it might be easier from a kneeling stance.. I heard my name being called (I'd been busy chatting instead of watching out for my turn).  the stance felt good and clonk the popinjay was lifted bodily off the mast and left dangling on it's string!
I was the first to knock it down, and after that it wasn't long before someone else did it. The eventual winner knocked it off 4 times, I couldn't repeat my shot.
It was surprisingly tiring and although I only had about 8 shots I was tired and sore by the end of the day! One reason was I was shooting a 60# bow, the old bow I'd refurbished specially for the shoot was showing signs of the belly buckling when I braced it ready to shoot. I wasn't going to risk the ignominy of breaking another bow, to break one is unfortunate, to break two would be careless as dear Oscar said!
It was a very sociable event and one guy approached me with a bow that needed the top nock mending. I brought the bow home and got it done this morning.

The pictures of the nock speak for themselves, and show the difference between a quickly made commercial job and a more
considered crafted one.
The tip of the bow is shaped to a curved point which is much stronger than the simple conical end done commercially, the horn has more material where it matters and less excess length to act as a lever and split the horn. Mind to be fair, it's only a 40 bow, so the tip probably got a bump some how rather than actually failing in use. The job doesn't take too long to actually do, but there's a fair bit of experience behind the repair.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Completer Finisher

I've been finishing off several odds and ends. The 60# Yew has had the arrow plate done and a couple of coats of Danish Oil on the bow. I find it a tad heavy and I rather overstretched myself trying to shoot it in at a good full draw without warming up, felt like I had a knife stuck between my shoulderblades, it eased off the next day when I went on a screen printing course (great fun) and was bending over and using my shoulders a fair bit.
I've booked into the ILAA popinjay shoot for next Sunday, I don't really have a suitable bow, so I'm reworking an old churchyard Yew stick bow that was full of character, but was a bit iffy at its high draw weight. I'll take it down to 40#...ish  and make it more whip ended, that should do the job and turn it from a show bow into a working bow again.
I also got round to making a string for the frankenbow, which shoots surprisingly well.
The pics show some of the interesting features of the 60# character Yew English longbow, there are a couple of nice blushes of red where knots were.

I've been working down the Yew stick bow and got it to a smoot 50# at 29" so I'm pretty confident with it now, it has loads of checks and craks running anong the wood and at least 3 patches on the belly, but I think it's fine, the two big character knots look really spectacular.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Nocks on and Full Brace

The bow is looking more like a bow now, the horn nocks are on, but not polished and the tips are much slimmer.
I've got it up to full brace and the tiller is coming along, the lower limb is still a tad stiff.

You can see from the unbraced pic the bow still has some reflex, it needs a stringer to get it braced and even then it's a bit of a heave!

One pic shows a nice blush of colour round a filled knot.

I've done some more work on it and it's looking good and pulling 60# at 27". By the time I've scraped and sanded out the tool marks it will be 60# at 28" It's then down to shooting it in and testing it at 30" draw.

Monday, 20 March 2017

60# Yew at Low Brace

I've had some problems with the bow trying to bend sideways, mostly on one limb that also has some twist near the tip. Some steaming shifted the limb sideways by 0.4"and removed the twist. I've now got it to a compfortable low brace without it rying to turn inside out! I've had it on the tiller and it;s begining to shape up.
Short video here:-

To really appreciate the bend one also needs to see the unstung shape, but it's pouring with rain and I can't be bothered to go out and take that pic'!

Sunday, 19 March 2017

60# Rustic Yew

I've been working a stave of spliced billets, it had rather a lot of reflex and a bit of a harsh kink in one limb. I've eased out the kink and little of the reflex with steam and got it a bit more even. It still has plenty of character. I think there is enough meat to get back to 60#, but it was roughed out fairly tight.
A bit more work to even out the limbs and I'll get it up on the tiller again. It's been up a couple of times just to find the stronger limb and to check that I'm in the right ballpark.
Here are a few pics to be getting on with!

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Bits and Pieces

I've been pondering the disappointing performance of the flight bow on Sunday so I put it back on the tiller and took force draw measurements... they were very much as before plus or minus the odd decimal of a pound.
I actually took a reading at 27" which was 71.1#
So why the disappointing performance? Presumably the arrows... they didn't seem to go away very cleanly, the fact that I could see them go implies they were slow, but why? They were longer heavier and larger diameter than the previous arrow I'd tried, all of which would slow 'em down also they were possibly weaker spine (I could only use the shafts that I had available).
All in all too many variables to draw firm conclusions other than the bow is still ok (whew!)

I had a comment on the wonky warbow on Facebook from a chap who said he'd like a bow like that, something rustic. I decided to see what staves I have available. I sometimes feel a bit guiltly because I have people sort of waiting for bows, but it's a matter of matching staves to requirement. I have a couple of people after bamboo backed Yew bows and I need heartwood for those rather than staves with good sapwood, I also have a couple of people wanting primitives, not to mention warbows. Hopefully by later in the year I'll have a good bit of seasoned timber, but at the moment I only really have a couple of staves which happen to maybe suit this rustic requirement (60# @28" but going out to 29 1/2". So we'll call that 30" then!).
These staves may or may not be suitable, but I'll get 'em roughed out and see where they go. The reflexed spliced billets, may have too much reflex to go out to 30" draw as the stave isn't particularly long. The other stave may not have enough heartwood, but roughing them down will show what's there. This shows the difference between using odd limbs and billets that have come my way and buying premium staves from Oregon or Canada.
I do like to have the history of a stave, the spliced billets with the reflex are from the same batch of Yew as Wonky Warbow harvested from Newmarket in 2013.

I've also been tarting up the Frankenbow, putting a horn tip overlay onto the tip of the primitive limb. It just needs a new string and I'll shoot it. Can't wait to turn up to an NFAS field shoot and when asked what class I'm shooting, I'll say " Top limb Primitive, bottom limb Longbow!".

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

The Frankenbow

As Kipling would say we should face triumph and disaster and treat them both the same!

With bow making disaster is inevitable, but it provides opportunity for experiment so I determined to utilise the socket portion of the takedown bow that broke on Sunday (previous post) to produce a novelty bow with an upper limb from a primitive that broke a while back.

First a few words about the takedown, both limbs had survived, it was the male part, the plug that fits into the socket, that had failed. The bamboo on the back had given way at the glue line and broken. This joint had been re-made once before and maybe this weak point was left over from then. The original failure was due to my cutting into the bamboo back where it enters the socket.
The Yew primitive upper limb has been whittled down to form a plug to fit the socket, taking great care to leave the back continuous, this seems to be surving.
I've taken some pics and video showing the work, which are dobtless more interesting than a lengthy explanation.

 I did a video, before the final tiller was finished, I needed to do that to see how it was flexing because the boo backed Yew was a 40# bow but the primitive was a 50#

My target weight for the Frankenbow is 40# at 28 and that's pretty much where it is in the pic on the left. I may do a horn tip overlay on the right limb, and by the time I've scraped and sanded out the tool marks it will be pretty much spot on 40#
Here's the link to the video:-

Monday, 13 March 2017

ILAA Roving Marks Yattendon

Ah, well, a bit of a curate's egg of a day, but most enjoyable.
It was raining hard on the drive down, but we mostly go away with drizzle in the morning which held off in the afternoon. The shoot was over undulating parkland with a good deal of shooting over huge Oaks and Chestnuts in the afternoon.
My day went well for the first two shots, but the bow exploded on the third! I'd taken my light weight takedown bow, which had already had a chequered career, having failed at the joint previously.
Before the shoot I'd shown how it pulled apart and JT was sceptical that it could hold up... "Of course it will, solid as a rock!" I assured him... whoops. Ironically, one of the arrows was a scoring shot.
The limbs have survived, so maybe I can make it into a kids bow or use a limb from a primitive to make a "Frankenstein's Bow". (I've already started on it!)
The only injury was to my pride, which rather lasted through the shoot as I was somewhat anxious about the flight bow and it's untested arrows.
Brian Mooyaart (the organiser and driving force of the ILAA ) most generously lent me his Osage bellied Bickerstaffe bow (60# @28") which served me well through the day.
I tired a bit through the afternoon and my left elbow was giving me a bit of gyp so I sat out a few shots and saved myself for the flight shoot. Again a bit of a curate's egg, the good thing was that neither bow nor arrows exploded, although one arrow broke at the tip having found a stone.
Whilst waiting on the shoot line I was being wound up by one chap, suggesting the bow was too short to meet the criteria for a longbow. I wasn't much amused having had a bow explode on me earlier, but once we'd finished I was chatting to him about flight shooting most amicably. He'd won the flight, but I think I was second, although neither of us made 300 yards (I stand to be corrected on all this if anyone has better info). The flight bow seemed easier to pull than expected, now this could be because I'd been pulling 60# all day and was nicely warmed up, it could be the damp weather or maybe the bow was starting to give up. Only cold hard figures from the tiller will tell the full story.
The good news is that the arrows showed up really well!
So you see it was all a bit up and down, but a roast chicken dinner and a good night's kip has left me nicely loose and refreshed and full of enthusiasm.

I don't do many roving marks shoot, but what I do enjoy is that it's more sociable than field shooting, you are wanding round en masse rather than just a group of 3 or 4.
Many thanks to Brian and Catherine Mooyaart (and their marshalls) for a most enjoyable day out. I don't hold them accountable for the rain!

Here's a link to a short video clip:-