Monday, 29 September 2014

Yew Sapwood Backing Strips

Last night I glued on a thin riser section to the belly of the spliced bow. It was shaped to fit the curve, but also made thin so it would flex a bit and mate up nicely with no gaps. This morning I looked at my Yew off cuts from the 100# bow and found a couple of clean lengths to give sapwood backing strips. the bandsaw made short work of roughing them out and the spokeshave was just the job for removing any heartwood and getting them to a fairly even thickness. I left the bark on to help protect what will eventually be the back of the bow, pristine untouched sapwood. One backing strip had a bit of an undulation which a steamed and the clamped up to flatten it out, otherwise it would have been a very thick spot, or, if I just shaped it to
even thickness, I'd have had trouble glueing it as it wouldn't have been flat.

Bit of a rant:-
There was a bit of troll trouble on one of the forums today, it's a bit sad that some people insist on peddling misinformation and being argumentative. The guy said there are only two real makers of warbows... well he's entitled to his opinion, but why try to wind people up by saying it? I try not to criticise other bowyers by name and I try not to criticise unless asked my opinion. Ok I'll illustrate some 'poor practice' (like horrid 'pencil sharpener' type tips where horn nocks are fitted). 
Basically I try to show what I do in an unbiased and well documented manner. I don't profess to to be an expert (in fact I don't like the term). I'm willing to learn from anyone and to acknowledge their input too.
I don't know for certain who the troll was, but it's sad that the warbow community if rife with infighting. That's one reason why I tend to shun societies and plough my own furrow.
I was amused to be told that I don't make warbows, that I'm a mug and this guy had actually had Mary Rose bows drying out in his basement!
Of course this could just possibly be true as some were lifted well before the Mary Rose was brought up and there may well be a small number in private hands. However if that were the case he should know better than to be making such unsupported statements about the bowyers around the world.

I'm constantly being amazed and humbled by the quality of workmanship displayed on Primitive Archer. There are doubtless people around the globe doing their own thing making bows of all types which we will never see.
Maybe this guy had something worthwhile to contribute, but I suspect it's the chap (or one of his cohorts) who has made it his life's work to peddle the idea of the superior properties of 'Italian Yew' to the world. Personally I have never said Italian Yew isn't superior... what I say is, I have no evidence of it, whereas I do have plenty of evidence that English Yew will make a fine bow. To suggest it won't is doing a huge disservice to amateur bowyers and may well contribute to his perceived lack of decent warbow makers!
Just for the record I have in the past asked if I could purchase a stave of his Italian Yew, the answer was no.
He also issued this challenge, to illustrate Italian Yew's superiority.
Cut the bowstring at full draw and see if the bow survives!
Errr yes, what bowyer is going to take up that challenge?
No me for sure, I have more constructive experiments to undertake.

I'll finish with a couple of questions:-
In medieval times an Italian wine merchant filling a ship with his wine bound for England would be obliged to supply Yew staves as an import duty/tax on his cargo. Would he simply find the easiest quickest source of Yew? Or would hardly go to inordinate lengths to select the finest (and how would he know what was a good stave? He's a wine merchant not a bowyer!)
Why was Italian Yew grown at high altitude? Maybe because all the decent lowland was used for farming?
I don't profess to know the answers, but I'm not dogmatic in my opinions.

If it's the guy I'm thinking of, he has suffered some horrible ill health. I wish him well with his health and hope he could be more encouraging to other bowyers.
I find it's nice to be nice you always seem to reap what you sow. It's all to easy to get sucked into negativity, paranoia and bitterness. We all have some bad stuff happen as we go through life, best to focus on the good stuff.
Sorry if that was necessary and inappropriate, but hey, better than me fretting about it!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Yew Backed Yew Bow

Having seen the bamboo backed longbow, a guy at the club asked if I could make him something similar but maybe backed in wood 40-50# conforming to the NFAS definition of Longbow, which includes a D shape or oval cross section, it also allows the limbs to curve in one direction from the riser (e.g reflex).
It's an interesting project, and that's just what I like.
I'm using the first pair of billets I cut for the previous bow, shown here:-
I've steamed and heated the billets into a slight reflex and rasped/sanded them to a reasonably matched thickness taper. They've now been Z spliced and glued.
They will have a substantial riser section glued to the belly which will remove the appearance of deflex, especially after it's been pulled into reflex when the backing is glued on.
Tricky to explain what I mean but it will hopefully be obvious when it's finished.

The next question is, have I got suitable Yew sapwood offcuts to become the back of the bow? I think so, but my fall back position will be to cut some strips of Hazel from a long log I have seasoning. Hazel backed Yew could be very interesting, would look great too. Another Q, do I heat treat this Yew? Probably not, for fear of spoiling the shape of the billets.

The shot with the arrows across the limbs is to show if they are parallel.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

100# Warbow Collected

The guy came over today to collect the 100# Warbow and the 60# Hickory backed Yew, he was very pleased with them but unfortunately was in a hurry, so we didn't get out to shoot them. I'd been hoping to get some pics of him at full draw and to see his face when he loosed a flight arrow.
I took a few pics of the bow before he arrived and also took some measurements to see how it compared with the Mary Rose bow I'd taken the initial measurements from.
Measurements are distance from centre line then width and thickness in mm.
                       Mary Rose         my bow
centre Line  34.5  32.7           38.5  33.4
200mm        32.8  29.7           36.3  28.5
400mm        30.1  26.9           32.3  25.4
800mm        20.0  18.9           20.8  18.4

You can see I've gone a little wider, and generally thinner. I'm a tad thicker at the centre line but there is a bit of an odd dip/twist there. From the figures, I'd think the MR bow was higher draw weight, but of course we don't know what the draw length was (it is one of the shorter bows).
Out of interest I'll play with some figures.
Stiffness is proportional to cube of thickness, so if we take the thickness of the MR bow cubed (at say 400 mm) and divide that by the the thickness of my bow cubed (at 400mm) we should a figure to multiply the draw weight by.

We get 1.19 (to 2 decimal places).
If I multiply the 100# draw weight by this we get 119#
Ah but The MR bow is slightly narrower by a factor of  0.93 which would take the draw weight back down to about 111#
Of course this is just a bit of fun and proves nothing, other than showing the bow is somewhere in the right area as an approximation.

The lower pics show a small filled knot which has a nice blush around it and has almost been rasped off the edge of the bow, on the right edge of that pic you can see the last remnants of that nasty knot revealed when I first sawed the log. The right pic shows the little area where the central pith is still exposed, You can also see the centre of the log as a dot just right of centre...
How come? The log was much bigger than that?
Ah! The centre isn't always in the middle! I can only assume that the knotty side of the log grew faster and had wider rings, leaving the central pith closer to the clean side of the log.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Teasing it Back

The bow is back to 100# at 28" now, having rasped off an even amount along the belly and taken out the rasp marks with a scraper.
I'm aiming for 100# at 32" but want to allow for the bow setting down so I'm not taking much more off.
The next 4" of draw would give about 16-20# extra draw weight so it's nearly there. It's ready for horn nocks and slimming the tips right down, that will bring the draw length back a bit more. I'll probably stop removing wood when I get to 100# at 30" and just pull the last 2" allowing it to be slightly over weight.

The bow has that nice medieval shape, much stouter than a Victorian longbow, tapering at the tip more like the wing of a Spitfire than a skinny straight taper.
The back is pristine over most of it's length with the under bark layer showing as dark streaks. Only at the tips have I reduced the sapwood a bit. There is some twist and undulations in the stave  which make the grip appear slightly angled, but over all it pulls straight and true. It has a little natural deflex, which is quite handy as it makes bracing a little easier. I need a stringer to brace it, but I can get the string off ok (well, I have to tense my belly pretty hard and heave.)

Here it is with the horn nocks done and the tips slimmed, it's still 100# at 28". You can see it's bending pretty hard. To me the left (lower limb) looks to have a slightly nicer full bellied curve. I'll take little off all over and a bit extra mid limb on the right (upper limb) It shouldn't need much. A light rasping and then scraping out the tool marks should do it. At this stage I like to have the back really clean and keep checking over the bow with my fingers feeling for any thick or thin spots or irregularities, slowly getting it closer and closer to the final finish.
I've just done a little more and filmed it in slo-mo as I briefly pulled it to 30".
The slo-mo was used in case it exploded! (Well you can't accuse me of being over confident!)
I've just noticed the pale area on the belly half way along the left limb... it's a bit of masking tape I'd stuck on there to act as a dam while I put some low viscosity super glue on a tiny filled knot. It makes it look a bit weird as it draws the eye to that area and makes it look weak.

Update:- I've had some test shots.
I can't draw it 32" but I weighed it on the tiller at 28" and it's about 84# which I should be able to pull.
I warmed up on my faithful old 70# Yew longbow and then had some shots at 28", Bit of a struggle but it bangs 'em out. I then went to my mock Tudor arrows (32" long) as they are a bit heavier and better suited, not sure how far I drew, but at least it gave it some exercise. It sit's slightly oddly in the hand as there is dip in the sapwood and some localised twist there. If you just looked at that point you'd think the bow was twisted, but when you look down the entire length, it makes sense.
I didn't shoot too many as I could feel it on my shoulders, I also didn't try to go mad and get the full 32" draw.

Out of interest, I did the arithmetic and 84# at 28" does tie in nicely with 100# at 32"

Friday, 19 September 2014

100# Yew Bow Progress

It's looking like a bow now. I've rasped the corners off the belly, slimmed the tips and eased off the outer half of each limb. The pics show the central pith, the remains of the nasty knot and a small pin knot that I filled.
Where the central pith disappears into the thicker section near the grip there is a very thin layer of wood over the pith, this may well crack or buckle, but hopefully it will be worked down beyond the pith by the time it's finished. Any cracks will be largely cosmetic anyway, to help avoid this I've flooded the pith with low viscosity superglue.

The main pic shows the tiller 100# at almost 24" at a low brace.
Since then it's been eased off more and the brace height increased, it's now 100# at 26" at near full brace.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Two Bows

The Hickory Backed Yew is finished, 60# at 28" Water Buffalo horn nocks fitted, no arrow plate or grip was required, but I've marked the arrow pass with a small burned in dot. The tiller is slightly stiff in the middle, but it that's due to the thicker section where the splice is. To ease off the inner limbs more would drop draw weight.

It shoots nicely, my regular arrows whip rather as they leave the bow as they are a bit light and underspined (about 400grain). I tried some of my 'mock tudor' arrows of 3/8" maple with 5" fletchings and 'modkin' points the flew really nicely, a bit slower, but they slammed home impressively as they are twice the weight at about 800gn. The bow feels fairly stiff, but you have to remember I'd been shooting that light smooth 35# target bow previously!

I realised why I'd left the 100# bow for a bit, the sap wood was rather thick at one tip and steeply angled at the other tip.
Viewing it fresh after a week away from it, I quickly decide to reduce the sapwood a little over the last 6" or so.
I fitted temporary nocks fitted and put it up on the tiller.
The curve looked good so I took it back to 100#, a bit nerve wracking but it's got to get back there at some point, no point pussy footing around pulling it to 50 or 60# if I'm aiming for 100#.
Middle part of the bow is flexing nicely, and I'll now remove wood from the outer half of each limb to get it coming round a bit more. The tip deflection is just about enough to brace it, but bracing a heavy bow is easier said than done, so I'll probably wait until the tips are back a tad more. It will also mean I have to file in a second string groove in the nocks to make room for a stringer.
It's dawned on me I've never actually shown a pic of using a stringer... I expect there are plenty on the web, but maybe I'll correct that oversight.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Hickory backed Yew

When Steve my visitor came over he also brought a stave made by a friend of his for me to finish. I think ill health is stopping the original maker finishing it. He's hoping for 60#. I don't really like working staves made by someone else but it would have been churlish to decline, after all, someone had put in some good quality work on the stave. I explained that there was no guarantee and that it could simply explode.
It's a slight conundrum, the maker was a cabinet maker or some such and, as such I can see it's well made, the glue line was invisible. Yet it had never had a string on it (the ends were cut off square with no nocks)! It looks like a bow that has been made by numbers, by someone skilled but a novice in terms of bow making.
The Hickory backing was rather thick, but had the corners nicely rounded, the belly had been made very rounded and the Z splice in the yew was tidy.
While Steve was here I filed in some nocks slipped on a long string and put it on the tiller. After some repeated flexing back and forth I got it back to 50# at about 20".
I felt it would be good for him to see it flexing, and if it exploded early at least he'd see that it had started out like that.
It looked rather stiff over the whole centre section, and the left (lower limb) was stiffer.
I've worked down the left limb a good bit and it's looking better and now back to 60# at 25" from a low brace. The picture shows how the right limb is still stiff on the inner third.
It will need some more work, but should make 60# at 28" with a bit of luck. It gives me something to tinker with while I'm having a break from the 100# bow.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Can't Resist a Yew Log!

Yesterday afternoon I chalked out a wide straight stave down the clean face using my spiffing new straight edge. It's a length of thin galvanised steel channel that I rescued from my neighbours skip, It's the stuff they use for fixing stud work to walls or some such, anyhow it's very handy being 89" long and dead straight. It's in the pic, leaning from the top left down to the offcuts of Yew.
I sawed off the bad side of the log and the two edges to provide clean faces to measure from and to rest on the bed of the band saw. I ran it through several times more, gradually reducing to reasonable dimensions. There was a huge worrisome knot which was buried with side of the log, but this has just about disappeared as I've worked it down to a stave.
That's the advantage of reducing wood slowly, if there is a nasty knot, split etc it gives you the chance to shift the location of the bow a little to one side or another. In the same way it's good to have an extra foot of length to allow some movement.
Last night I looked at my "Weapons of Warre" the book of the Mary Rose and found some dimensions for one of the bows which is the same length as this stave (Bow number 81A1603). I thought the Mary Rose dimensions would give a good start point for the stave as it was doubtless over the 100#.
This morning I marked it out in width to those dimensions and found I was pretty close anyway having done it by feel/guesswork/experience.
There's stuff to do around the garden, but I'll keep tinkering away at the bow, a little and often, slow and steady is how I like to work with as much thinking as removing of wood.

The offcuts may provide a sapwood backing strip, or two bits that can be spliced together as backing for an experimental bow.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

An Interesting Visitor

I had a visit from Steve a guy even older than me, in his 70s. He's a solid chap (ex Rugby player) with a good firm handshake, who wanted to see if I could make him a 100# bow from a Yew stave he'd been seasoning.
He'd not done a lot of shooting and wanted to see what draw weight he could manage.
I haven't got any 100 pounders at the mo' but we worked up starting with 47# at 28" and then on to my only 32" draw bow, about 80# at 32".
He was ok at 28" with the bows but was spraying the arrows arrows rather high. This is due to shooting at close range (10 yards into the garage). I showed him the medieval style of drawing high on the eye line and then bringing the elbow down to a full 32"draw. He took to it like a duck to water, getting a full draw. I could hardly believe it when I looked at the target! To group like that when anchoring down by your right shoulder, first time of trying is astounding.
He felt he could manage 100# with some practise, so i said I'd see what I could do with his stave. We had a go with a couple of crossbows too and looked at the draw weight of a Yew bow he's made some time a go, 30# at 28" which is pretty respectable for what was pretty much a first try with a bough bow.
I might run the Yew log through the bandsaw later to get a better look at it, One face looks very clean, though the sapwood may be a little thick and need reducing.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Virtually Finished

What a glorious weekend, lovely sunny late Summer feel, I went the the Brickenden village fete yesterday and took 3 bows. A few people tried the target bow and were universally impressed with the smoothness and speed, in fact one of the guys from the club asked if I could make him something similar with a little more poundage and maybe a back that wasn't Bamboo, to keep it more traditional. I've pencilled it in and will keep an eye out for suitable wood.
I've got the arrow plate done yesterday (Mother of Pearl) and was up bright and early today to get the leather grip done, it's had a couple of wipes of Danish Oil, mind the first one gets pretty much removed as the final tool marks are taken out.
I popped down to the council tip with a load of garden rubbish and went round the back of a carpet warehouse on the way back to get a cardboard tube for shipping the bow. A few more coats of Danish Oil  (2 per day) and it will be ready to ship out on Wednesday with any luck.
It's tricky to photograph bows. One thing to remember is to kneel down, to get a shot level with the grip. If you take a shot from standing it foreshortens the bow and the perspective makes the lower limb look much shorter.

This bow rather begs the question. Do you think it's an English Longbow. I think it's odd that by old 70# self Yew bow (before I refurbished it) wouldn't meet the longbow regulations of some societies because it didn't have horn nocks, yet this deflexed reflex bamboo backed bow does! Maybe that's why I'm not a great fan of rules and regulations.
Anyway with this bow I marked every 3" along the limbs and measured width and thickness an it complies with the 5/8 thickness/width ratio.

I must admit, it looks a lot more like a longbow now with it's lovely slim tips. Showing them with a pencil for scale seems to be common practise on the Primitive Archer forum. It's a good way of showing how slim the tips can be.
As a check I measured the width of my 60# Bamboo backed Yew longbow every inch over the last 8" and used that as a reference. The horn nocks were drilled using the smallest of my 3 boring tools, they are filed so small you can see the wood showing through at one point on the bottom nock. I've tried to go small but traditional in shape.

Rose Cordage:- I did a breaking strain test on the cordage I made a week or so back. It's difficult to test as the cordage wasn't very even. It was a 3ply cordage about 2.2mm thick. With it as a loop (e,g the pull being on two strands) it took 50#
On a single strand it was about 20# which is fair enough. Three lengths of fine 3 ply cordage would probably twist up to make a serviceable bow string for a 20# bow especially if nocks and loops were reinforced. A 20# bow would be all that was needed as a survival bow. I'll test my nettle cordage some time and maybe try some bramble cordage, which reminds me I should pick some blackberries for Blackberry and Apple pie, especially as we have some cream left in the fridge... Ha, I've made you all hungry now!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Full Draw

I've narrowed the tips and tweaked the tiller, I've lost a few pounds as expected, but it looks pretty good 35.8# at whisker over 29" I held it there for 5 seconds to prove it could withstand being held at full draw for aiming as a target bow. It feels very smooth and would probably draw further.
I'm a tad disappointed that I didn't get the 40#, but that was specified as maximum draw weight, it's also more important to have a good tiller and slightly lower draw weight rather than having the inner limbs working too hard , the tips not flexing but a few pounds more.
I've make a proper string and had some test shots, I was a bit anxious, would it perform?
A resounding yes! Using my standard arrows 388 gn and drawing the full length with the point onto the
bow (about 28.5") I shot 3 arrows and got two arrows over 159fps (159.1 and 159.3, the first didn't register correctly)

that was good enough for me. A very respectable speed from 35#.

On the full draw pic , you can see the recuves have uncoiled to an almost straight limb, pretty much what I was after. The nocks need polishing up and the grip and arrow plate doing. The bow felt really smooth and sweet, although it's hardly surprising at 35#. I think it should do the job as a target bow very nicely, but only time will tell. It feels as if it would pull to 32" but that would be suicidal and I'm certainly not going to do it. I may plot a force draw curve for it to see if it has any curve to it or if it's still pretty linear. I'll get some shooting with it at the Brickenden fete have-a-go on Sunday

Thursday, 4 September 2014

First Flexing

I glued on some scraps of offcut Yew for temporary nocks, the bamboo isn't as long as the Yew belly, so I bevelled the end of the bamboo and matched the Yew offcut onto the bevel, that gave me maximum length of limb. Always best to maintain maximum length, after all, it can always be cut off later, but its hard to gain length later if you need it.
The horn nock will just cover the end of the bamboo when it's all finished. I put on a slack string and flexed it while looking at the reflection in the patio doors. It felt strong enough and looked reasonable. I spent some time checking limb thickness to take out any thick spots so that it slowly tapered towards the tips.
I tried to mark a centre line, but it's tricky on a curved bow, I need to reduce the width along the whole bow to stay within the 5/8 thickness/width ratio of the longbow definition.
I wish I'd had thicker belly billets so that I could have had a bit more taper, but you have to work with what you have.
The brief was 40# maximum, so I can always drop a few pounds to get the tiller right.
There was a long discussion on Primitive Archer about different tillering methods. I like to get it braced ASAP but one guy said that if your short string just slips onto the bow the draw weight/draw length figures actually line up pretty well with the finished product. If that's right then I'm about 40# at 25" which gives me some elbow room to get it right. I've already adjusted one limb to get the 5/8 ratio and a better string line, but I've done enough for today. If I'm short of draw weight I can always come back in an inch on each nock (not that it will make much difference).
My marking out just didn't look right so I didn't take off any wood, instead I tightened the string and got it to a low brace, this allowed me to look at the string line and I could immediately see I needed to push the string across a little at one end. This gives me a centre position for the tips and I can mark out and tentatively start narrowing the bow.
First I wanted to see it on the tiller. It looks ok, but most bend is on the inner limbs, the tips need tapering in width, which is what I'll do next. Slow and steady, I've done probably 80% of the physical work on the bow, but I'm still only half way there in terms of tillering.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Boo Yew Glued Up

Back to the bow making after a great weekend wedding. We had a house full of people on the Friday and my Daughter got wed on the Saturday in a lovely family friendly garden party atmosphere helped by fine weather.

The bow feels much stiffer and looks more like a recurve than a longbow, but rest assured once the riser is thinned down and blended in and the limbs narrowed and rouded it will slowly transform into a much more longbow like bow.
Work tomorrow, but on Thursday, I hope to get some sort of temporary nocks on it so I can flex it on the tiller and see how it moves. I expect some of the reflex to pull out during tillering with will also help it look more like a longbow.
I suppose I should pin my colours to the mast and say what I hope to achieve.
Lets say 40# at 28.5" with an arrow speed using my standard arrows of 155fps, more would be nice, down to 150fps, acceptable, but I'd hope to be faster. Mind I shall ask the guy who I'm making it for what arrow weight he uses.