Monday, 29 April 2013

Hazel and Maintenance

Walking up to the town through the woods the bluebells were coming into flower. I spotted some Hazel which had been cut some time back where the volunteers had been doing some coppicing along the pathways. This bit was on top of a stack so was off the ground, I was hopeful that rot hadn't set in so I went back later to collect it.

Working outside for about the first time this year, made a pleasant change.
The bark came off easily and one side had some blue/grey areas which looked like the start of rot. the other side looked ok, so I sealed the ends and put it up on my shelves. The iffy bit was lobbed onto the habitat pile under our Hawthorn tree, the pile is half rotted and nicely settled, I expect it's a good sanctuary for mice, toads and countless insects away from the neighbourhood cats.

I've only got one twisted bit of seasoned Hazel, so it's worth picking up another piece. It's good stuff to experiment with, do demo's with or give away/swap for stuff.
Whilst messing in the garage I thought I'd check that my shave horse could be adjusted to suit kids as I'm doing a demo next Monday. Bit of a shock, there were a couple of cracks where it has started to fall to bits. Not surprising really as it was built on the fly. I repaired the cracked front leg and one of the sockets for the rear legs. I also tidied up the seat which sits on the skew so that long staves can pass left of my body. This included squaring up the back edge so that it will stand upright in the garage when not in use without falling over at the slightest touch. It's had plenty of use so a bit of maintenance was in order.
While I was at it I did some repair work to my foam backstop/target, I sawed a square out of the middle and pushed in a new piece. It's got some life in it still. The plastic foam was rescued from the council rubbish tip a few years ago and has lasted well. That stuff is stupidly expensive to buy.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Belly Patch Bow Full Draw

The wobbly bow ( Dogleg ) with the belly patch has now hit full draw. It was drawing about 65# at 28" on the tiller but has had a fair bit of scraping and cleaning up since and may well be down from that. The horn nocks are not polished up yet.
The glue line on the belly patch is visible in places but it seems sound enough and I may well take the bow back to 32" as it's my longest bow and I wouldn't want to take the others back that far.
Over all I'm very pleased that it's looking much more even. The back is lovely and clean, I'm slowly taking off the last remnants of cambium with gently use of a curved scraper. The pics show it unstrung, braced and at full draw.

I was down South at the weekend and I met up with my brother who gave me a wooden spokeshave he picked up at a place that sells old tools. It's had very little use and still has the manufacturer's label which proclaims "MADE IN SHEFFIELD" That's good enough for me.
I tapped out the blade and honed it lightly on my oilstone. The blade has a thick rib along the back edge so it sits nicely on the oil stone at the right angle for sharpening.
I put the blade back in and tapped it lightly with a hammer to get the right height of cut. Testing it on an off cut of Yew showed it cut superbly.
It cost a mere £4 and has two parts a beech wood handle and a Sheffield steel blade. A modern one has eight parts by comparison, and we call that progress!

On the May bank holiday Monday (may 6th) I will be at the Beltane Festival at Celtic Harmony Camp in Hertfordshire.
I'll be taking my shave horse and some staves to demonstrate a bit of bow making and chat to people, I will help out with the have a go archery too. If any of you are near there, it's a good day out.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Chat, Rant and Stealth Planting

We went down South to see family for a couple of day. Had a nice walk, and of course I ended up Yew hunting in the woods, I'd remembered a potential stave in a Yew tree from about 15-20 years ago. It all looked different and where I thought the bridleway was next to a field and the Yew was in the field, it had now become scrubby woodland carpeted in wood anemones.
Very picturesque, I was rather irritated by big signs nailed to an Oak say PRIVATE NO TRESPASS and some message about 'This wood is watched' phone 101 if you see anyone acting suspiciously.
Fortunately I wasn't wearing a black and white horizontaly striped T shirt and a mask, nor did I have a bag with swag written on it full of saw, axe and wedges.
What a load of b*ll*cks!
AFIK if I don't do any damage (and I was careful where I walked) then it's not trespass. It would have been vastly more helpful to have some contact number for the landowner, of at least some land registry information so that if I did find some Yew I could enquire about acquiring it legally.
Any how I didn't spot any suitable staves, but there were some V big straight Yews which would prob' do as commercial timber. I daresay I could trace the land owner if needed. I was also struck by the fact that the new fence was at least a couple of foot further into the bridleway than the old one.

We saw a Nuthatch going into a hole high up in a dead tree which was rather cheering.
Whilst chatting to my Mum she reminded me of the quote that the working class treat the police as their enemy, the middle class treat them as their equals and the upper class treat them as their servant.
Yes we don't want scruffy serfs trampling around in our woodland now do we?
In contrast the big estate, and the forestry commission down in that area were both very helpful when I approached them for Yew. They both also have very good public access.
I s'pose I should add there was no sign that the woodland was being managed in any way and certainly not for rearing game birds.

Got home early this afternoon and did some pottering in the garden. My wife was tidying the borders and asked if I wanted some tiny Yew saplings that were growing there.
I said yes and promptly took three over to the woods (public space maintained by the council and volunteer groups) and planted them in a hopefully suitable spot. Theoretically I should apply to the council to plant them, but I'm probably as well informed as them about the Yew trees in this area.
Shhhhhh, you ain't seen me roight?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Belly Patch Bow Tillering

The bow with the belly patch is an ugly beast with dips and twists, not to mention the belly patch.
So why am I persevering with it?
The sapwood layer is lovely, thin and even. I haven't had to work it down at all and there are no knots. It's also a challenge and a good illustration of some of the problems.
It's difficult to show the twists and dips in a stave without a decent photographic studio and plenty of time on your hands. If you look back at some of the previous posts of this bow you'll see how awfull it looks.
It draws back ok, but the prob's are how to get a vaguely even tiller and how to get a good string line. As well as twist, the bow is trying to go slightly sideways.
One limb has a severe reflex then deflex dip which looks like it's stiff at one point and very weak at the dip. This shows worse on one side of the bow, so I've put the bow on the tiller the other way round and drawn a straight pencil line down the limb.
This helps to see the overall bend and to ignore the dips. Viewed from the other side I couldn't actually draw a straight line along the limb, it was just too wobbly.
As for the twist and sideways bend, the other pics show the advantage of leaving the tips wide and having temporary nocks. The string can be forced to one side to see if this improves the situation. If it looks better then it's a simple job to remove the excess from one side to create a new centre at the tip, if your tips are slimmed down then you are stuck with trying to do slight heat bends or weakening one edge to get the bow to come back across. Easing off the edges is tricky and it's easy to get in a muddle and weaken the wrong side. I won't event try to explain which side to ease off on a bend... if you can't work it out yourself, it's probably better to step away from the bow and have a cuppa.

Now I daresay this bow will end up still looking ugly, but if itn look balanced and shoot well, that's fine by me.

One last word about the horrible dip, it's deceptive, it looks like it bends too much, but in fact it will represent a slight weakness.
Consider a straight length of wire, say a piece of wire coat hanger.
If you try and push the two ends toward each other it's fairly rigid.
If you now bend a large but fairly gentle U bend in the middle (taking care not to work harden the wire) so that the ends still run in line but it has the U bend in the middle and repeat the test of pushing the ends towards each other it will now flex at the U bend.
So that bend has changed the geometry of how the forces act along the limb, similarly when the limb is bent. Obviously small dips and waggles don't make much difference but it's just something to be aware of... if it looks weaker... maybe it really is? Maybe it's just the dip? That's part of the joy, you could probably throw a vast amount of analysis and computer time at it and be no closer to the real answer, it's about feel, experience and of course some luck. Become your own expert and beware of those who pontificate from their armchair having never made a bow themselves.

Talking of which:-
I had the big bow brought over to look at, as the back had developed some unsightly streaks. Was it due to being shot in the rain? Were they potential cracks as suggested by an armchair expert? I was slightly concerned until the bow came out of it's bag. John had correctly thought it was probably just the remnants of the cambium and indeed he was right.
The colour and texture change was however quite pronounced, where there had been the faintest pinkish brown streaks a couple of weeks ago, they seemed to have swollen to look much more solid, almost like blotting paper! I don't know if that was due to moisture, or drying, UV light or the phase of the moon. It doesn't matter, it was obviously just the cambium and the back of the bow looked a good as ever. I suggested, it could be removed by going over gently with some wire wool and re finishing if he wanted, but he was happy for it to show the origins of the wood.
Quite right too.

I've done a little more and taken some more pics to illustrate a point about twist.
This shows why I leave the bow a fairly square cross section until quite late in the process if twisting is an issue.
You can effectively shape the cross section to suit how the bow has turned out.
In one pic you can see how I'm resting the rasp on the side of the bow as it was originally rouhed out and the handle of the rasp is high and not at all in line with the string. The next pic shows how I can just re shape that side face to line up with the string so the arrow will have a smooth passage round the side of the bow minimising the paradox.
the other pic shows how the string line is begining to look respectable.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Osage Shortie & Patch Finished

I've had a busy weekend, enjoyable field shooting yesterday, doing the patch and last night doing a small repair patch on the side of 'Bonkers'.
Mick the blacksmith had noticed a splinter trying to lift on one edge of 'Bonkers' by the big hole, so he brought it back for some maintenance.
Classic case of a stitch in time saving a broken bow.

For a while I've been toying with making a native American short bow of Osage.
While I was looking through my off cuts for some Yew to patch Bonkers, I came across a 39" length of Osage which had been cut off the side of a billet from which I made my one and only Osage bow.
I set to turning it into a little bow just to give me a feel for the style and the wood. It's also my first time using wood edge grain running back to belly rather than across the bow.
Rich ('Half eye'), one of the guys from Primitive Archer gave me a few pointers an assured me that edge grain was how he did it.
It's not much to look at, almost looks like a wooden school rule !
It's come out like most beginners bows, a bit under weight, but my excuse is there wasn't much wood there in the first place and there was a thin patch in the upper (right) limb.
The top limb shows up as a bit weaker than the left in the video, but considering it was just the work of an afternoon I'm happy enough.

I'll make up some short arrows, and try it through the chrono'.
I've had it briefly back to 20" which is fairly extreme for a 39" bow, but it's only 25# draw weight.

The brace height may need to come up a tad, and I'll probably improve the tiller on the left limb.
Still an interesting afternoons work.
These bows are meant to bend in the handle and can look rather scary. I've improved the tiller since that vid, and narrowed the tips a bit too.

Here's a pic of the finished patch roughly cleaned up too.

Meanwhile over the weekend the 'Big Bow' which I finished the other week for John had an outing at a clout shoot. Here's an extract from the report he E-mailed me.

"Rained all the way there.
Assembly and First arrows at 12.15, didn’t happen until 13.00…in the rain naturally.
Just over sixty of us creep under two small pop-up awnings, both of which are leaking copiously, to drink Amontillado sherry.
Much sideways glancing at my 30” 11/32 barred fletch, modkin headed arrows.
Much glimpsing and muttering at my yew bow, but nothing said directly to me.
As I look round I realise I’m the only guy present without a laminate bow with gaily coloured ribbons slotted through the top nock and a quiver full of wooden knitting needles that have coloured stubble where the fletchings should be.
I feel like Fred Flintstone at an IT convention. 
It’s a two way shoot, 180yds end to end and we shoot in two “details”.
 As I step forward, the guy in front of me steps back from the line, looks at my gear, grins and says, “Good luck with that mate”.
I feel my blood rise a bit, over-egg the draw somewhat  and shoot my first three arrows out beyond 200yds (which surprises me, but stuns the guy and his mates behind me). The line is good, but way beyond any scoring zone. Roy told me afterwards that there were a few quiet “fuckin’ells” from where he was standing.
A sudden change of opinion from the other archers, now they be friendly!
One at a time on the walk up through the mud to collect our arrows, they’re all over to me for details of the arrows, bow and bowyer... "

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Belly Patching in Pictures

The crack on the belly of the bow almost goes halfway through the bow!
I rasped down until there was no sign of the crack. There's no point doing it by half measures and leaving any vestiges of the crack using a half round rasp. This made a horrible deep groove which I then opened out into a smooth flat faced shallow D shaped curve.

(The pictures are a bit random and higgledey piggledy, sorry it just the blog editor is a bit pants)

I found the offcut of Yew which had come from the belly of the stave and cut a piece from approximately the same place in the stave to hopefully give a matching piece of wood. I cleaned up the edges fairly square to help me rough it out on the bandsaw.
Then it was down to repeated rasping and checking to get a good fit. There's no substitute to careful work, but a coarse rasp means it's not too slow.

I heat treated the insert for about 10 minutes. Of course this changed the shape of it.
I didn't mid this as it gave a good fit at the ends and a slight gap in the middle which when bound up tight with strapping will flex both the bow and patch slightly to give a hint of reflex or more belly compression.
 (See 2nd pic with light)
I think this is better than having gaps at the end and trying to pull the thin tips down tight. Anyhow the point is the patch and the bow are slightly flexible and hopefully it will fit snugly when bound up.
I worked the insert down a bit to reduce the gap to an acceptable size and then glued it using Resintite glue. I follow the manufacturers instructions, except I glue both surfaces to ensure the wood is fully wetted and there won't be any air pockets. 

Plenty of masking tape was used to cover the sapwood as it's a lovely thin layer and I didn't want glue on it.
The insert was taped in place and the bound with two layers of rubber strip working out from the centre.

I'll get it unwrapped tomorrow and post some pics on Monday (out shooting tomorrow :) )

Experimenting With a Cracked Bow +Video

Now you'd think a cracked bow would be no good, but there are cracks and there are cracks!
This crack is square across the belly and about 1/4" deep (the limb is about 1" thick). The belly of a bow is in compression so does the crack actually matter?
Over night I'd been thinking about this, and fortunately I'd left the bow all clamped up.
This morning I flooded the crack with low viscosity superglue, unclamped it, put the tillering string on and tensioned it with a block of wood between belly and string. This closed up the crack and forced the glue into the crack.

You could make a bow with a bamboo back and a belly made of individual blocks stuck on as the belly but not stuck to each other, as the bow was drawn the blocks would all butt up tight against each other and it would work fine. In fact I think I've seen something like this on 'Scrapheap Challenge' or some program like that where they were building giant contraptions like balistas. I'm not saying its actually a good idea!

I've just tried the bow on the tiller and it looks remarkably good(ish). Now the question arises, should I just carry on with it or should I cut out the crack and let in a long curved patch? Which is stronger?
Anyhow, this crack gives me scope to experiment and learn a bit more.

The sun is out so I'll probably be pottering about in the garden. Off to a field shoot at Avalon Archers tomorrow.
The longbows are now done for the year so experimentation is just the thing, I'm also hankering to make a little native American short bow from Osage.
I've had it back to over 70# at 28" !!!
Blimey, it's total madness. When I take the string off the crack opens up!
I shall cut out a long curved piece and let in a piece of already heat treated heartwood.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Wobbly stave and Ugly Tiller... Damn!

I've stuck some slivers of Yew onto the back of the bow tips, filed in temporary nocks and got the bow up on the tiller.
It's rather ugly and still seems a bit lacking in draw weight.
The right limb looks to be bending horribly near the centre of the bow, but it's mostly because it doesn't have the reflex kink of the left limb, I could carry on and tiller it like this but it would look awful and I'd have to weaken the left limb a lot to match them up.
Instead I will try to put a matching reflex bend in the right limb, this will also hopefully bring the draw weight up.
I have some doubts if it will produce a fast 70-75# bow, but it's easy to get discouraged. Maybe this wood is just a bit soft.. who knows? Worst Case is I'll end up with a nice 50# bow which will doubtless find a home somewhere.

The real problem is it's so hard to see what's really happening as it's so asymmetrical.
With bot pictures on my desktop and flicking between them I can get some idea of what's moving, but if I can get it a bit more symmetrical it will be much easier.

Damn, just spent ages with it jigged up working down the limb with the hot air gun pulling it into a nice matching reflex.
I thought, I'll work my way back up the limb, and as I went to adjust the heat gun I noticed a crack right across the belly.
I had an uneasy feeling about this stave... such is life, that's my last Yew for this year.
I've got some interesting wood to play with (Osage, Laburnum...)
though, so you haven't heard the last of me!

Musings on why itcracked.
The most likely answer is the reason that most bows break... Impatience.
I tried to put too much bend onto a thick section with dry heat. Maybe slathering it with sunflower oil would have helped the heat penetrate better. Maybe steam would have been better for that thick section.
Having done plenty on it already I was keen to press on, and that's always a mistake.
Maybe I was just fighting the wood too much.

Monday, 8 April 2013


I don't usually worry too much about arrows, but I've recently been discussing distance, not actual flight shooting but reaching the 180 yard clout mark.
One problem is that archers are a bit like fishermen in so far as they will have an optimistic view of how far their bow shoot or how big their fish is. Of course measuring distances is trickier than weighing a fish.
This line of though came about for a couple of reasons that happened to coincide.
Firstly a chap I made a bow (60# 175fps Yew longbow) for a year two ago said he had difficulty making the clout distance and was generally 10 -15 yards short. The other thing was shooting the big bow the other week where there was 30 yards discrepancy between some shots.
I Emailed my thoughts to one of my web friends Mike Roberts of Robertsbows he makes some blisteringly fast bows and recently posted a self bow which achieved over 200fps. He's also made Asiatic style bows with horn and sinew so he knows his stuff.
Anyway he agreed that 175fps should get to 180 yards with no problem shooting the right arrows.

I've set about making an experimental arrow to test in one of my bows which shoots my 'standard' arrow at about 175fps.
My guess is the factors leading to short distance are .
1. Arrow too long.
2. Fletchings too big (Thread binding on fletchings is a bad thing for drag).
3. Drawing short. Most people I've seen tend to overestimate their draw length, often by an inch and sometimes by nearer 3 !
4. Holding at full draw/poor loose.

I didn't want to get into actual 'flight arrows' as such, but I wanted to try some sensible tweaks.
I have some bamboo shafts which are spined 45-50 which is 5lb stiffer than my standard, they are about 5/16" at the fat end but considerably slimmer at the other. I didn't want to go silly with weight reduction but I've gone smaller on the fletchings.
Unfortunately it will be a while before I can test the arrow as I'll be at a field shoot next week and I need to get up the club to have some room to try it.
I have made a similar arrow before to try from my Asiatic style bow (Fibreglass/Maple, it's on the website I think) ... Of course I lost it, there's not much room at the club and it sailed off into the woods.

The ideal arrow shape is barrelled for minimum aerodynamic drag, minimum weight whilst keeping sufficient stiffness. I couldn't be bothered to barrel an arrow, but the bamboo with fat end to the point seemed like a good compromise. One of the guys at the club opined that bamboo doesn't make good clout arrows, but we'll see.

My standard arrow weights 389 grains, the bamboo one was going to be about 50 grains lighter so I added a 1.5" length of coat hanger glued down the hole at the front end, this also helps to bring the centre of gravity forward a tad as it was a bit near the geometric centre. It then weighed at 373 grains.
I used my little model makers lathe to turn a point out of antler. the lathe struggles with steel, but the antler machined beautifully.
You can see the point end is similar thickness to the standard but is hopefully more aerodynamic. The flights are much lower profile and shorter (2.5" as against 3") and the nock had been faired in to a smoother profile.

Just to clarify a bit. I can measure arrow speed in my garage shooting through my chronometer, however actual distance requires somewhere safe to shoot and is dependent on many factors other than simply speed.
As an example consider a golf ball and a ping pong ball, they are similar in size but vastly different weight.
Our experience of the real world tells us that if both are launched at 100mph the golf ball will go further than the ping pong ball. Our experience also tells us that we would rather get hit by the ping pong ball. This shows that reducing the projectile weight isn't necessarily a good thing. It's about matching the arrow to the bow to maximise the performance.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Heat Bend

I spent ages thinking about how or if I was going to straighten the Yew stave.
Like many things I opted for a compromise. I couldn't work out how to simply remove the huge reflex dip and the deflex tip at the same time, so I decided to correct the deflex tip giving a symmetrical but quirky stave.
It was about 10:30 in the evening when I suddenly though I'd give it a go. I knew that I'd be dreaming about it otherwise!

You can see how I clamped it up and how the belly has been darkened by the heating. It took nearly an hour to do that one limb. There was a fair bit of heating before I pulled the tip down. It was pulled down slowly using a G clamp as I was heating and I put in a bolt to hold it once it was right down (bottom right corner of the pic).
I used an offcut of wood clamped to the side of the limb while heating to try to stop the hot air getting to the back of the bow.
I still have a lateral bend to correct, but fortunately, that's on the other limb.

Hmmm, I spent some time jigging up the other limb to do the lateral bend, and I'd even started heating it. Then I thought, if I'm bending it sideways with the back of the bow cold I'll be straining the sapwood and back of the bow, probably better to steam bend the lateral bend as it will heat right through the whole bow. The heat treating of the belly will have to be done afterwards with the bow clamped to stop it springing back. So you see, plenty of thought has to go into a relatively simple process.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Deflexed & Wobbly Staves

One of my web friends was asking advice on a couple of tricky staves and I said I'd post a pic of this one which is my last of this years seasoned Yew. You can see it's certainly a tad weird, the link goes to the post showing when I cut it.

There's no right or wrong way to deal with this sort of thing, it really depends on what you want from the bow, what you want it to look like, your experience and if you feel like experimenting.
Why do we expect a bow to be straight and have a nice even tiller? We see too many mass produced laminated ones, yet 'Character bows' are highly prized for their novelty and to showcase the skill of the bowyer.

This stave is hopefully destined to become a 70# @ 28" longbow for a guy who had a 60 pounder from me back in 2011. I'll discuss the various options with him as it progresses.
There is no need to rush into trying to straighten a stave, far better to get down to rough dimensions and flexing first, it can even be tillered to brace height or a reasonable draw before bending.
The big advantage of this approach is there is less wood to bend, so it takes less time to heat it through and there is less bending stress on the wood. leaving it late can also let you get a feel for the wood and allow you to combine heat tempering (treating/hardening) of the belly if you need to gain some extra draw weight (it can also help the stability of any bends you make).
Another option for a deflexed stave is to add some gentle reflex to the outer half of each limb giving a hint of the deflex/reflex shape of a modern target bow. One need not feel that some heat bending is an anyway 'wrong' or not authentic. Many of the Mary Rose bows had some reflex, we don't know why. Was it natuarally in the staves, as stave spilt from a straight log tend to bend outward. Was it heated in? Was it a result of the years underwater, we can't be certain. We do know that heat bending of wood is an ancient and well established process.

My initial thoughts on this stave are maybe just leave it alone, but then which limb would be the upper?
Maybe I could take out some of the deflex making it effectively two straight limbs set back in the handle (E.G. A very shallow V with the limbs pointing away from the archer)

Why are we making the bow anyway? My general aim is to get the best performance I can from the available wood. Sometimes I'll do all the heat treating, bending and correcting, other times I'll enjoy going with the wood.

The big mistake is to take an asymmetric stave and try to tiller it to a symmetrical tiller. Bends and kinks in the stave need to be there at full draw too, and it can be very hard to ignore them during tillering. Sometimes squinting through partly shut eyes will mask the small undulations or drawing a straight line on the side of a wriggly stave will help give the eye something to follow. A gentler undulation takes a different approach, plenty of looking and taking pictures, measurements may help, but the mk 1 human eye and brain is often the best tool if adequately fuelled with tea and toast.

The close up shows the nice thin layer of sapwood on this stave, I won't need to reduce it at all, if only it were straight it would be a near perfect stave as it seems to be knot free.

This was the underside of a horizontal branch, which in theory according to the books isn't ideal as the upper suface is 'better' because it's grow with the sapwood in tension resisting the weight of the branch and the heartwood in compression.
Yes, all well and good in theory, but didn't they notice that Yew shoots twigs and branches invariably sprout from the upper surface of horizontal limbs?
In this case it's irrelevant as the upper surface of the branch had lost most of it's bark and sapwood.
If the performance of the wood is in doubt I can temper the belly.
Only time will tell, but I fully expect it to be very similar to the other English Yew I've worked, which is incidently very similar to the Oregon Yew I've worked too.
(Arrrooogah arrrooogah... Sarcasm alert) Maybe I can get some high altitude Italian Yew which will doubtless feel entirely different and be a complete revelation.

Update:- Ive been taking it down to my usual rough dimensions of about 30mm square at the grip tapering down to about 20mm square at the tip. There was something odd about the stave and it took awhile for the penny to drop.
No knots! Not even a single pin! Maybe because it was the underide of the limb. Once I realised, I put down the spoke shave and went for the draw knife. What a luxury being able to go down smooth as silk to a pencil line with no fear of the blade digging in or tearing out gouts of wood around knots. The norm is drawknife, spokeshave, rasp as it gets closer to size and any tearing is more risky. Maybe no character knots, but certainly some interesting shape to negotiate on this stave..

BTW The blog broke the 5000 hits in month barrier in March which is satisfying... mind, you'd think I'd get a chocolate bunny or summat wouldn't you?