Friday, 7 May 2021

Tip Repair Finished

 The tip had completely sheared off the bow due to the swirling grain going across at about 30 degrees, shooting light flight arrows probably didn't help grain. The end glued back on nicely with the break interlocking strongly, a back patch and a strip laid into the belly completed the repair.
It's not been tested yet, as I may reduce the draw weight by 5-10# (it was 80# @ 28").

The previous post shows the break and the repair in progress.

Video of how I did the repair :-

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Repair Progress & Stuff

 I seem to have multiple jobs on the go. The repair to the Character Yew ELB broken tip is coming along, I flattened the back to take a patch, cut a slip of sapwood with some natural curve to it and the steam bent it to fit (I videoed some the process and will post a video of the entire repair eventually). That glued up nicely. I've already started chiselling the groove on the belly with a tiny chisel made from a ground down needle file. It's hard slow work, but once the groove is started it gets easier.

Cutting a straight groove on a curved surface is tricky and I can really feel the area where the grain runs diagonal, it is noticeably harder.
This sort of repair is maybe a bit bonkers and probably not "cost effective" in modern fiscal terms, but that's not why I do it! I do it for the challenge, to extend my knowledge of what is possible and to keep a bow shooting. I'll probably get a bottle of wine for my trouble which suits me fine... I wouldn't be happy if I didn't have stuff to tinker with.

One of the guys brought over a couple of Yew logs, I'll be making him a bow from the Yew. They are very well seasoned and surprisingly light (compared with an unseasoned log). Unfortunately it won't quite fit under the bandsaw. Now I could make some cross cuts on the knotty side and chop away some of the timber, or I could spend a similar amount of time and less effort making a new upper blade-guide for the bandsaw, which will increase the available depth of cut (height available) by about 2". The blade guides will be Lignum vitae, with a ball race behind the blade to take the load.

Talking of Yew, I think I did some sanding without my mask on and it's induced a nasty cough, or maybe it's the pollen. It's getting rather irritating and I was up at 6 o'clock this morning as it was niggling me. It's fine once I get working and distracted. No point lying in bed trying not to cough! On the plus side at least I don't have toothache ;-)
It does make me a tad anxious about working with yew, as, even with a mask and dust extractor, the garage is a rather dusty environment, and too cluttered to be easy to keep dust free.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

More Repair Jobs

 The Elm bow I repaired the other week, has stood up to a day's roving. But I've got another couple of jobs, one is a boo backed Yew by a Canadian Bowyer (Jamie from Ravenbeak), so it's not practical to send it to him for repair. It's a crack on the belly, I'll let in a patch. It's a nice looking bow, so it will be good to keep it is shooting order.
The next repair was Another bow, from a slightly dodgy character Yew stave that I made some time back for my mate JD (not to be confused with JT!)... iI was a sort of bonus Austrian Yew stave, an off-cut from the side of a stave that was thrown in with some others as barely useable. It's fairly heavy 80#@ 28" and he was testing it as a flight bow at a 24" draw (the light arrows can be a bit harsh on a bow). The tip snapped off, where there a bog swirl/undulation on the grain. I recon I'll be able to glue it back together and than overlay a patch of sapwood on the back, and chisel out a substantial groove in the belly for a slat of timber (maybe Boo?)
It's interesting to see what is salvageable and it enhances my skills, I recon a lot of bows get discarded because people just don't know what can or can't be repaired.
The break is very instructive as it shows that although I've tried to follow the flow of the grain as it curves up and down back to belly, I haven't managed to follow the sideways flow.
I've got the two parts glued and strapped, I'll see how it looks tomorrow when the glue has cured. The two pieces pushed together nicely.

Monday, 26 April 2021

Advice for Beginners

There is a Primitive Bowmaking Group on Facebook and the same questions keep getting asked,

1. What's the best wood?
2. What tools do I need?
3. Can you recommend some books?
4. Can you give me some general advice/pointers?

1. Almost any wood will make a bow, maybe only a low poundage one, but just getting any wood that is relatively straight and knot free will allow you to start. Season the wood, ideally for a year, but 30 days somewhere warm, dry and airy will do for some firsts attempts.
 The sooner you start, the sooner you will gain experience and understanding. As kids many of us make stick bows, they work at least for a while and they provide some foundation in understanding how bows work and how they fail. A more specific answer depends on where you are in the world. In the UK I recommend Hazel as it is plentiful, straight, knot free and easily worked.
Personally I don't make board bows, but for some who don't have access to staves, that is the way to go.

2. You can start with just an axe! A draw knife, spokeshave, a big rasp (farriers rasp), a tape measure/rule and some string . Some way of holding the work securely helps, a bench with a vice and a support which can be clamped to the other end of the bench is good, or a shave horse. A tillering rig is IMO vital, ideally with a spring balance/luggage scale or some weighing device and a pulley and rope so you can watch the bow as you flex it. Details and pictures of all this stuff is elsewhere on this blog...
I've included a pencil in the tools... you can't do too much damage with a pencil!
A cabinet scraper is handy too, but that is more of a finishing tool (or at least that's how it's used in the UK... they tend use 'em for heavier use in the USA)
Note:- New tools generally need to be sharpened and/or adjusted (cheap tools can be good if you do that)

3. There is almost too much choice. The Traditional Bowyers Bible vol 1 is very good (the others are probably for later). There is plenty on Youtube too, some better than others. My channel (it has no adverts on it) is Del Cat, (note once on that channel you can search for topics that a general youtube search would miss). There are build-along play lists for a variety of bows.

4. General advice.
The sooner you start, the sooner you will gain experience.
Two of the hardest skills are "getting your eye in" to be able to see the curve of the bow, and learning how much wood to remove to achieve a desired result.
If you want to rush at it, do it early! It's easy to loose patience later in the process at exactly the point you should be slowing down!
You should spend as much time looking and thinking as you do removing wood. It is not a race.... slow down... enjoy the process.
Beginners usually want to make too high a poundage from a stave that is too short.
Leave you bow at least 2" longer than you want... you can always cut it shorter later on. Start with at least 62" or 74" for an English longbow.
Have a target draw weight and draw length... a cheap luggage scale will weigh up to 50# and accurately.
We often see pictures of bows flexing very slightly at either an unknown poundage or say 30# and asking for a critique, when there isn't enough bend to see, and no information about draw weight.
If you want a 40# bow (a good weight to aim for)... you must pull it to 40# (unless you see a problem, like an uneven bend).
Each stroke with a tool should have a purpose, so you need to look and see if it has achieved that... it's easy to watch one edge of a stave as you are shaving it down and forget the other side... only to find that side is now too thin because the stave wasn't even thickness right across.
A final word:-
Keep it simple. Please don't try fancy recurves until you have made a good few decent bows. 

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Elm Bow Repair

 One of the guys at the club noticed a splinter lifting on the back of his Elm bow once he'd braced it
... now this bow was originally about 100# but that was back in August 2015 so it's had a pretty good innings and has been through a few different hands.
I brought it back, and unstrung the splinter is barely visible, Elm has "interlocking grain" as shown by the fact that it's a pig to split with axe and wedges, so hopefully the crack won't propagate too far if glued and bound up. You can actually see the run of the grain seems to be diagonally across the back, which would have caused some woods to have failed in the tillering.

Anyhow, I won't know how it holds up until he tries it out... I'm not going to put it on the tiller (or maybe I will..).
It's taken a fair bit of set over the years and is now probably at about 80# . It just needs a wipe of Danish oil and some beeswax polish to finish the repair.

Monday, 19 April 2021

Lever Bow Test... lessons learned

 Working on the lighter weight lever bow showed up some really useful points.
Best to watch this Youtube video first to understand what I'm going on about!

1. Before the string lifts off the levers the bow acts as a short bow with no levers... thus:-
2. The bow, without the levers, needs to be able to be braced and drawn up to the point when you want the string to lift off the levers, This has several benefits.
a) Temporary nock grooves will also come in handy when trying to string the finished bow.
b) The bow is much easier to handle, work on and tiller without the levers.
c) It can be tillered to the desired draw weight and length required at the point string is required to lift off the string bridges.

3. The levers need to have sufficient width to allow string line tracking/adjustment and will probably need guides/bridges to ensure the string is guided correctly onto the levers as the bow is loosed or let down. They also need to be constructed so that they can be shimmed out or rasped to adjust the angle/draw length at which the string lifts.
Note:- they don't need to be very bulky in their finished state, not really any bigger than the tips of a 100# Warbow. The levers on many commercial "horsebows" are ludicrously bulky, mainly because they are made from straight grained timber for reasons of cost!
4. The ratio of lever length to limb length will probably determine the ratio of draw weight per inch once the string has lifted vs when it hasn't.
5. Before proceeding with the heavy bow, I need to have a target draw weight/length for both before and after the string lifts.
You can see in the force draw curve, the string maybe lifts off a bit late? This test bow is too light but if I interpolate the graph to continue without the string lifting off it would probably be 54# @ 28" rather than the 43# @28" which it actually is... Now if we just double those figure, that would give 108# without levers, which I couldn't manage, vs 86# @ 28" with levers which I could ! If the levers lifted a tad earlier, that could come down to a nice manageable 80# @28".
Anyhow, I hope that makes some sort of sense and gives an idea how and why it's a good idea to experiment rather than just diving in and hoping!

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Boo, Hickory, Boo

 One of the guys at the club, Don, wanted me to have a look at a bow he'd been making, he's new to bow making and had got a bit lost, not knowing how to proceed.
He'd done a good job of the glue up and had sensibly made it very long 79". I think he'd rounded the belly too much and put some horn nocks on it, not sure if he'd actually had it on the tiller much, but it had taken a little set, so presumably he had.

The taper in the outer 1/3 wasn't really there which contributed to the weak points where the set was.
Anyway, I videoed it on the tiller, and the lower limb was weak, however sawing 4" off that and marking a new centre restored some balance. It was just a matter of tapering the outers and easing off the rather stiff inner limbs. Removing material from the belly almost took me down to the Hickory core, anyhow, it turned out Ok and made just shy of 50# @28".
Videos here:-