Thursday, 20 July 2017

Good Improvement

I've taken 1" off each tip of the MkI prod and made a new string, I can feel some increase in draw weight, but I'm not keen to try and fiddle about weighing it on the tiller.
It is certainly faster:-
212 fps using the 230 grain 14.5" bolt  (100gn point).
244fps using the lighter 156 grain bow pistol bolt which is only 12" long with a 50gn point (NFAS rules state 14" minimum).

It would be nice to get upto 250 fps, I don't expect to reach the maximum allowed 300fps
I'm pleased with the 244 for now but will experiment further.
Hoping to try it out on some 3Ds at the weekend, I have some 70gn field points, so I'll make up some 14" bolts with those and some low profile fletchings that should arrive today. Got to make a trigger guard too so that it is NFAS compliant. (Update:- done it!)
It will be interesting to see how far I can push the boo/Yew, I may take a tad more off the mkII or try heat treating the belly.
The bow is still comfortable to cock simply putting the butt against my belly and heaving, no need for a stirrup, which I've often thought a recipe for a pulled back. I think the optimum would be a stirrup of a suitable length so you can use your legs rather than bending your back. Too easy to twinge your back.
It's still slightly nerve wracking have such a highly stressed bow up at face level, but I think the failure mode would be relatively a benign collapse or de-lamination rather than the explosion you get with self Yew.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

New Prod, Old Prod...

Would you Adam and Eve it?
The MkII prod is actually a whisker slower than the MKI ! Am I despondent? Well just a little.
First problem is the draw weight is lower than I wanted, that's because once I got it braced (which was a nightmare) I could see one limb was stiffer, so I had to ease it off which lost some weight of course.
The good thing is that I now have two similar prods that I can experiment with.
I'm shortening the old one by an inch off each end, which will take it to the original intended length of 36" I'll see if that gains poundage and/or speed. I think I'm maybe near the limit of the materials as the prods have taken a little set (but that's to be expected). I can still heat treat the belly of the MkII if I am careful to keep the heat off the glue line.
I shot the MkI again to provide a reference and it's down to about 195fps, shooting one of my lighter bow pistol bolts takes it up to about 215fps, so that's another area for experimentation.
I'm hoping to maybe test it at a field shoot on Sunday, but we'll see how it progresses, hopefully I'll manage to avoid destroying two prods.
I glued the two 1" off cuts together as a joke and posted it on facebook as an infinite draw weight, zero draw length prod :-)

Meanwhile I bought a quick change toolpost for the lathe. It's only made of Aluminium Alloy and designed for those cheap 7"x 10" Chinese lathes. It's a tad big for my little lathe and looke oout of proportion so I jigged it up and turned 5mm off the top of it, this necessitated making a wooden plug as a steady and also filing the cam on the centre section to suit. The tool holder for a boring bar was also too high, but inverting it and drilling/tapping the holes solved that. It's got a lot of slop in it, but once locked up seems to locate the tools at a reproducible height which is the point of the whole thing.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Forgotten Crossbow

By Brother Ian who lives down on the South coast was up this way to buy a banjo (a Gibson Earl Scruggs signature model). He dropped in to visit to look at the crossbow I'm building and have a good talk about trigger mechanisms and stuff. He brought with him a crossbow that I'd made him as a Christmas present over 45 years ago, he wanted to give it back to me as he didn't really have room to store it nicely and he no longer used it. He was a bit worried that I'd be somehow insulted, but felt it would have a better home in my "collection".
To be honest I'd forgotten how good it was and I'd conflated that bow with some of my less successful early attempts. It was joy to see this one again as it has oodles of style with a sort of retro Art Nouveau target crossbow look.
It's only a small bow, basically a scaled up bow pistol with a stock.

My Brother filled me in with the story of its use... at that time he was working for the Natural History Museum in workshops out in Cricklewood. In the heat of summer they'd open the windows high up in workshop but feral pigeons would get in making a mess everywhere and with the very high ceilings there was no easy way to get them out, unless of course you had a light weight accurate crossbow! He says he must have shot more than a dozen easily, but the bolts didn't last long rattling around indoors, so he made blunt ones out of aluminium tube weighted at the and with round head nails (flat end outermost).

Feeling it in my hand again was a joy as the grip had been sculpted perfectly to fit my hand, the Aluminium Alloy prod is about 22" long and the whole bow only 24" long, draw weight is about 45-50# but it's perfect for close range target (or pigeon) work.
The biggest surprise was the trigger mechanism, I'd forgotten that I'd made one of that type and the advantage of it was soon apparent. The string slips down into a groove when cocked, but the groove is slightly angled such that the sting would just slip back out again if not held down by the catch closing above it. The advantage of this is that the upward force on the string as it tries to slip out is only a tiny fraction of the draw weight, so the trigger mechanism isn't subject to the great force that it would normally be and can thus be a more subtle and delicate affair with a nice light pull.
In case that has confused anyone, imagine the slot is sloped at 45 degrees and the pull on the string is 100#, that 45 degrees slope would direct equal amounts of force into the stock and upwards trying to slip the string up and out. If the slot is completely vertical, all the force in into the slot and the string won't pop out on it's own. So you see the angle of the slot controls how much force is on the mechanism. There is always a downside though, and in this case it is that the string isn't constantly touching the bolt like with the more conventional trigger mechanism.
The next day I made a new string and my Son and I had some fun shooting into the garage, although the aperture in the rear sight was a little small for shooting into the relative darkness of the garage. I opened it up by about 0.2mm and this helped, along with the additon of some extra illumination of the target. This opens up a whole area of investigation as there are many types of sights, V U, aperture etc all with pros and cons.
I've also shot it through the chrono and it gave a respectable 165 fps, a lighter bolt would gain some speed if needed, but it's only really meant for short range target work.




Monday, 10 July 2017

MkII Prod

It's a bit scary trying to pull this prod, it feels like a bit of steel girder, but I have to take my own advice and if I want a 100# prod, I'd better pull it to 100#
So I got a string on it, just long enough to slip over the nocks and heaved, I took it back to 100# and it seemed ok, I took some video and gave

it plenty of exercise. I'm working on the principal that if I can get it drawing 100# initially that will allow it to settle down to a usable 95# or so.
I think the left limb looks a tad stiffer but it's hard to say as the lighting isn't square on and even.

Meanwhile I've spliced two of JT's broken flight arrows, one had split at the nock and the other had it's point snap off. A splice near the tip shouldn't be subject to much bending force, so it's a good way of salvaging a flight arrow which would take a lot of work to replace from scratch.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Crossbow Sights

I've made some quick adustable sights for the crossbow and got it sighted in a 10 yards, made another couple of bolts too for some shooting this morning.
Very strange thing, the two new bolts kick high and left by about 20" at 20 yards whereas the two original ones go straight true and right next to each other. the odd two are made form the same batch of shafts, have the same points and fletchings from the same source although not from the same actual packet. My guess is that the fletchings are interfering with the bow mount, I might try an unfletched bolt.

So, I just used the 2 good bolts and managed to get some idea of trajectory out to 40 yards, and some long shots at 120yds.
My mate JT had a go with the crossbow too and he put 2 bolts withing about 1/4" of each other.
The trajectory was rather disappointing and I think the prod has lost weight. I've since re-weighed the prod on the tiller, it's down to 70# , I s'pose this isn't too surprising as it been exercised now and has had time to settle, the damage to one limb probably hasn't helped either.

I've got the bow mounted on the bench so I can try and work out what's happening with the rogue bolts. First step see if I can repeat the result...
Test 1:-  Shoot one good, one bad bolt. The "bad" bolt is 18" left and high compared with the good one!!!
Test 2:- Trim the fletchings of bad bolt to a low profile. It still flies high and left by about 18".
Test 3:- Remove fletchings of bad bolt. It flies true, striking the target just below the good bolt with a slight nose down attitude.
Conclusion:- it's the fletchings wot dun it guv' and no mistake.

I can't be certain exactly what is happening but my guess is the quill part of the fletching is catching on the 'shoot through' part of the bow mounting, which I shall adjust and then try the second bad bolt.
Update:-
See results (left) the bad bolts had orange cock feathers, the good bolts had white.
I cleaned up the shoot through aperture, one trick being to reverse the front part and bolt the two together, that showed up any asymmetry and by filing the two together and reversing them back and forth I've enlarged and evened the aperture in the two plates The bow was them bolted back inbetween the plates and the wood rasped to match.

I've also got a few minor issues with the trigger mechanism, so I've ordered two 600 grit diamond needle files off the interweb. They do sets in Toolstation but I have it on good authority that they are 'crap' (prob too coarse for what I need).

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Crossbow Shoots Cleanly

I've got it shooting cleanly now, I twisted up the string to increase the brace height by about 1/4", but I think the stiffer prod mount is also a factor, it was probably moving a fair bit on each shot, that's to say if it put in 2 or 3mm of permanent bend, it must have been moving at least twice that dynamically and that may have been what was throwing off the string. My guess is that I could probably take off the inner string catchers.
I'll probably do more experimentation and development before finishing the MkII prod, after all I want to try to get all the mistakes out of the way on this one.
Now I can take more than one shot I've paid more attention to the feel of the bow and trigger pull, getting lined up for the shot and almost shutting my eyes to concentrate on the feel, the trigger pull is quite hard, but some of that is just feeling the raw edges of the steel, it's also not quite at the right angle to the finger. The bow feel to kick slightly, but again its all nasty corners and an unfinished grip.
It's a good time to strip down the trigger mechanism and examine it. I've been working on it this afternoon as it was rather stiff and is a long pull, I'm ok with the long pull, but some adjustment of the bent (that's the step on the tumbler that the sear engages in) was needed. I jigged it up in the vice so I could use a fine slip stone to just ease it a tad. Trigger mechanisms will wear, some can be adjusted but they will all need some maintenance at some point. A trigger mechanism than can slip could be lethal. A little while back I saw one on a crossbow which had the tumbler made of Aluminium alloy with no steel insert, as I rotated it I could see considerable wear, I mentioned it but was told it was fine and had been round a couple of NFAS courses (I was pretty horrified). We really do need to understand the equipment we use. There was a thread on one of the archery forums about release aids for compound bows. To be frank it was scary and IMO just wrong... here's a quote:-

The problem I had was drawing and getting early misfires. The arrows fly high and long!!!! very scary. Some archers have sorted their draws to the point where they do not expect misfires. I gave up as I could not take the risk... when was the next one going to happen??

To give the guy his due he gave up on that type of release aid and decided not to risk any more misfires, but I find it worrying that there may be others out there who are using triggers and not fully aware of the risks they may be taking. Risks that could be greatly reduced with a better understanding of the need to maintain the equipment and the risks of not doing so.
Over the afternoon I've done more testing and even clamped the crossbow on the bench and measured the trigger pull, it is indeed too heavy at 12 lb !!!! I'll rework it a bit more.


I had a visit last night from a guy with big Yew stave from Salzburg which he'd got from Gunther one of the Austrian contingent at the ILAA Mary Rose shoot the other week. It was a very scruffy bit of wood with some serious damage at one end, one ring that seemed to have turned to black dust for a good few feet and numerous checks and cracks. On the plus side it was big! After much thought, mumbling and head scratching we ran it through the bandsaw to produce a couple of staves. Not quite sure what poundage of bow I'll get from them but hopefully in the 75-110# range. The staves are a "think about it" sort of project, I'll take 'em down further by degrees as the whim takes me.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Prod Mount Development

I'm using the MKI damaged prod to experiment and improve the mounting to allow more of a shoot through, with the prod mounted a little higher.
I don't want to risk making a mount that is fine at 80# but explodes when it's tried at 100# especially with the cut out extended down to allow for fletchings.
While making this mount I used the aluminium angle (4x2") up the other way with the 4" as the vertical, this meant the bottom, horizontal leg was too short... I thought I'd try some of that aluminium brazing rod which melts at 300 C (ordered on Ebay)
I could have bought larger angle, or I could have asked my mate Mick the blacksmith to weld it for me, but it's much more fun to try new stuff and where possible do it myself. After all I could buy a whole crossbow for a hundred quid!
. It has worked pretty well, no flux no messing, just a propane torch. the initial try out wasn't all that strong as I'd prepared the joint as you would for a weld. I then read the instructions which said for a butt weld, tin both surfaces and then sweat the parts together, like soldering rather than welding. That worked well, although with hind sight I'd have gone for the slightly harder 400C rods. We'll see how it hold up in use.
Please note :- Any resemblance to an early radio set is purely coincidental !

Update:- It performs better but there are still teething troubles. With the vertical section longer, there is more leverage and the mount has bent forwards slightly, it hasn't helped that I've narrowed the horizontal bit that runs underneath, it looks better but is weaker.
There are plenty of solutions, I could go up to 3/8" thick material or I might add side pieces which can be made from some of the scraps I have.
I did phone Mick the Blacksmith to see
if he could weld in a couple of bracing fillets, but he doesn't have the kit to weld Ali' , no matter, I'm not stuck yet!
Further update:-
See additional brackets in pics:-

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Good Results



I've taken the repaired MkI crossbow prod to full draw and got a Force/Draw curve for it. I've shot it again with the string catchers and a temporary string buffer (see pic) the shot was clean and fast but the string still went over the prod some how, but without damaging the prod! Close inspection of the tips show how the string has ridden up. Presumably the slightly heavier bolt (14" long with 100gn point), the string catchers and buffer all absorbed a good deal of the energy and saved the prod from breakage.
I can now experiment with  string catchers nearer the nocks and moving the string buffer slightly closer to the brace position.
Not much string groove in the belly on that left tip, so maybe that would help.

Meanwhile I've got the Mk II prod glued up and sanded to an even thickness taper ready for nocks.
All in all a very productive time. I'll also be able to try a shot through the chrono'.
Note the MkI has lost a llittle weight due to reshaping the lower edge of the tips and rounding corners. The Mk II is over 1 mm thicker and I'm aiming for about 90-100#

Update:-
Just shot it through the chrono' 202.6fps, not bad from a 76# bow !
I'd moved the string buffer forward a tad but the string still jumped over the left tip. More development needed, before I get the MkII going.


Friday, 30 June 2017

Prod Development

I've been tinkering with the design and experimenting with the MkI prod whilst building the MkII.
I was pleasantly surprised when the MkI survived being strung and even more surprised when I got it to within a couple of inches of full draw. I thought I'd add some binding over the cracked area to maybe stop it buckling and splitting open. I also added some little horn string bridges or string catchers to hopefully help stop the string popping over the top edge of the bow.
Maybe I'll have the courage to try cocking the bow, if that holds I'll try it through the chrono'

I've also adjusted the stock to get the prod mounting about 3mm higher. In the final design I may go even higher, but the problem with that is it needs more cut away to allow the bolt (arrow) to travel effectively through the prod. I've checked online where I bought that aluminium angle and they have it thicker and with longer sides to the angle, so I could have a much taller vertical section where the bow is mounted and extend it up above the bow to form an arch under which the bolt travels, this would serve several purposes. It would add strength and provide a sight bridge on which I could mount the fore sight. Going up to 3/8" thick section would maintain the rigidity.
None of these changes may be necessary, but one needs to have a game plan for when failure kicks you up the backside... with engineering the time to worry is when you've run out of back up plans and ideas!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

MkII Prod etc

I've been through some of my Yew and found that a load from last year was all but worthless, but I did manage to get two short clean lengths for the crossbow limbs from 4 staves. I'd paid good money for the Yew while it was in the tree, but some you win, some you loose, I've had other stuff for free, so I can't complain.
I'd also gone through my billets too trimming them down and eventually I ended up with 7 potential limbs, from which I chose the best two.
Doing all that has cleared some of my wood storage shelves, so that's a result, I can get some Yew off the garage floor and onto the shelves now.
The new Yew limbs are clear of any knots this time, although it took a bit of careful laying out to achieve that. I've done the Z splice, which is slightly tricky. As the limbs are angled back in deflex they have to be supported at that angle when the splice is cut, I did this by making up a block of plywood and sticking the limb onto it with double sided tape to support it at the right angle as I sawed the splice
Meanwhile I'd glued and clamped the cracked limb and I've actually braced it and pulled it almost to full draw! I may pluck up courage and pull it all the way, but it will just be for curiosity and test purposes, I'll never really trust it.
Hopefully the pics will show what I mean.

I think I can see why the string went up and over the limb. The tip of that limb is bent up very slightly and I think the reason for that is that the lower edge of the limb is thicker than the upper... the reason for that is the bamboo backing being thicker in the middle than the edges. The top edge of the bow corresponds to the edge of the bamboo (thin edge). The lower edge of the limb tapers upwards and as it narrows it goes from the thin edge of the bamboo slat to it's thicker center section.
So the top edge of the limb is say 5mm Yew plus 1mm Bamboo, where the lower edge is 5mmYew plus 3mm Bamboo. This difference causes the limb to twist up slightly towards the weaker top edge.
On the mk II I will try and keep the thickness more even.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

One Shot Wonder

I got the bow mount all finished and tested the clamped up bow on the tiller, it was fine and drew to 16" inches with no problem, I briefly flashed it to 18 inches and felt confident that it would be fine,
I got the mount fitted to the stock and plucked up courage for a test shot, I used a bolt which is usually shot from my bow pistol, my heavier bolts are fletched with 2 flights, are larger diameter and wouldn't fit correctly.
The good news was that the trigger held fine and the safety catch worked. The shot seemed fast, but the bow string went over center and one limb smashed. I can't actually be certain how it failed, maybe the shock (or vibration) broke the limb which then allowed the string to go over the top, or maybe the string stretched enough to go up a tad and over centre. If I'd had string bridges or grooves on the belly to catch the string, or maybe buffers like most modern crossbows and compounds have it would have been ok.
The limb failed at the patch, which is predictable as the patch is ok in compression but has no strength in tension if the bow goes past it's unstrung state and flexes the wrong way.

It would be easy to think it's a major failure, but in fact much of the work hasn't been wasted. I still have the form for the bow and the bow mounting, I also now have good dimension for the prod and confidence that it will take the draw length.
Onwards and upwards... with hindsight I'd have fitted string buffers/catchers, but one has to take that test shot at some point and maybe I was just too impatient, although if I'd used a heavy bolt, I could have got lured into a false sense of security and simply had the failure later.
The big shame is that I didn't shoot it through the chrono'.
I may try and mend that limb just so I can do more tests.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Prod Mount

I've been away over the weekend in Lincoln, which is a beautiful city with a nice medieval feel.
I'm finishing off some flight arrow for my mate JT, but while the fletchings are gluing I've been doing more to the crossbow. Last week I made a block which I glued onto the bamboo back to provide a flat surface to clamp it all together when mounted. The block is made of Ash and to match up to the bamboo back it is curved in two planes (you can see in the pic), thist took a lot of fiddling around sawing it rough on the bandsaw and then touching it up repeatedly on the nose of the belt sander, finally a curved scraper smoothed out the irregularities. I had to get a reasonable fit to allow a decent glue line and to allow it to be clamped hard in the vice while the glue cured without splitting the wood or damaging the bow. Hopefully this will give enough strength to allow me to cut away a portion in the centre where the bolt (arrow) will fly through, this will let me mount the prod fairly high to avoid the string bearing down too much on the track.
The pics show the arrangement, note I haven't cut the front plate to accurate size yet, as it is sensible to get the holes correct first, then true up the plate, rather than trying to drill two holes perfectly aligned.
I made it out of aluminium this time mainly because it's easier to work, in fact the bandsaw managed to saw through it using an appropriate blade.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Prod Glued Up

I took a lot of time drawing the prod shape onto some ply to make the former, no point getting it wrong. I didn't want too much reflex to over strain the bow, but conversely I wanted a decent draw weight. the compromise was to make the form a bit longer giving an extra inch of reflex to each tip. It's no problem sawing an inch off if I don't need it.
I was a bit worried about pulling the Yew down into the former and damaging it, so I though I'd put in a gentle heat bend and also chamfer the end a whisker to help it pull down without snagging on the rough sawn surface of the ply, (I used the other half of the former for the heat bend).
Note, I covered the former and the face of the bamboo with masking tape, this proved to be well worth while as it still took a bit of tugging to pull it off the form once cured. I clamped it up in the centre and mid limb to hold it in position whilst I strapped it up with rubber strapping, it was then put into the summer house which I'd left closed all day and was nice and hot, that should ensure a really good and quick glue cure, but I still resisted the temptation to unstrap it last night.The bow feels very stiff and looks good, I'll get it cleaned up, put some nocks on and try it on the tiller before worrying about the bow mounting... mind I've been mulling that problem over all week.
Final pic shows the rubber strapping as I've started to unwrap it.

Update:-
I've got nocks on it and with a string that's just taut, taken it back to just over 80#
It's damn scary!


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Can't Keep a Good Man Down

Started on a 'Boo backed Yew prod, I was going to heat treat the Yew but there were a couple of nasty knots that I had to chisel out and fill. I chiselled right through and put in simple rectangular patches, the boo backing will help hold it together and they should be fine with simple square ends as they are in compression. I've spliced the two limbs together with a very short Z splice at a deflexed angle, I'll add the reflex at the glue up stage, I built up the splice area with some Ash before cutting the splices to beef up that area.
I've got the bamboo planed up, might get it glued up tomorrow, but maybe not as it Father's day and we'll be picnicking.
The two limbs were cut from the same billet and one has a bit of sapwood showing, but it will have mostly gone by the time it's ready for the boo back.


:-)

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Crossbow Progress

Hopefully I'll have it ready for some testing later today.
I struggled to get the prod strung to even a low brace last night, but managed to draw it a good way. The bow mounting seems secure, the string sat a few mm above the track, but I'll be able to adjust the bow mount to suit.
I've been working on mounting the trigger mechanism. A big gap is sawn into the stock and the side plates fitted to form a pocket for the mechanism. The stock is slightly wider than the mechanism, but I've milled the side plates to protrude into the hole and take up the slack... the pics show what I mean.
Bear in mind this is only a semi rough try out, it was going to be a really quick dirty try out of plywood, but I found the Ash plank, so it's okish standard. The side cheeks would be of something better than ply in a final version.
Note the method of milling the ply is ... VERY dangerous unless you take small cuts, have a strong grip and a lot of confidence/stupidity. Every man is his own safety officer. You have to make sure that when (not "if") it snatches, it will push your fingers away from the mill and not pull then into it. Not something to do if you are tired or hungry. It would be easy enough to construct a holding tool to do it safely if one was doing more than just a quick try out or milling harder wood (I knew the ply would cut off easily... I would be reluctant to try that with Ash!)

I've found the old bastard string clamps wich are needed to string my repro' medieval light sporting crossbow, I'll use them for stringing this one.

These pics are all with it just dry assembled and roughed out.

Update:- Afternoon, I got it braced using the bastard string and clamps, mighty scary, I feel I may have to take some draw weight off the prod.
The good news is that the trigger mechanism held the strain, mind that's not full draw power yet. I'll make up a suitable string (I'd used one off a very short bow which I'd wound through my string adjuster to give me the right length)
Further Update:-
Got it braced, not sure I've got the strength of bottle to cock it!

BUGGER! It smashed when I tried to cock it, but at least I have a try out stock and trigger mechanism for developing a Boo/Yew prod.
Prob didn't help that it was over 40 years old!
Hopefully it will allow me to design a better bow mounting as I can see where the delamination has propagated from the mounting hole.






Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Trigger Mechanism

Blimey what a lot of fiddling and fettling! I've been at it off and on for about a week.
I forged a small spring to hold the tumbler down after it has been shot to stop it bouncing back. It took a couple of tries and snapped once, all good fun though.
There are 3 springs in total, one to operate the safety catch peg which also acts as a trigger return spring, one small leaf spring (from a bit of clock spring) to operate the little detent pin which gives a nice click to the safety catch and the forged spring to stop the tumbler bouncing back. I've kept the mechanism compact by having the 3 springs sort of overlapping each other. The safety catch is in the centre with the ident spring one side of it and the non return spring running along the other side.
It was built with very little actual measurement, basically it all starts with the nut and trigger made of plywood first.
I'll let the pics speak for themselves.

The pic of the spring shows the one that broke, however I softened it and re-shaped it. This time I heated it red hot and let it cool slowly, it was springy enough, but could be bent, so I didn't bother hardening and tempering a slightly soft spring is going to be more reliable than one which might snap. It was made from a length of silver steel.