Friday, 31 December 2010

Looking for Timber

I went for a walk in the woods looking out for suitable wood.
Hornbeam is on my list of woods to try, I found a piece which wasn't growing very well and was in danger of coming down, it was a bit spindly and damaged at ground level, covered in small masses of tiny shoots. I cut it close to the ground so that it can regrow.
I'm pretty hopefull it's Hornbeam but I can go and look at the rest of the tree when it's in leaf later in the year. I've run it through the bandsaw and it might make a couple of interesting flat primitive bows with bags of character, it will be a bit of a challenge, but it will be nice to try a different wood.
I figured that by cutting today Dec 31st 2010, come this time tomorrow it will have had a years seasoning already!

I s'pose I should sumarise the highs and lows of 2010.
Getting the bandsaw was a good move, that log I got today probably wouldn't have split with axe and wedges.
A low was when the Ash flat bow suddenly changed it's tiller, but learning about heat treating to re-work the bow became a high.
The Hawthorn bow (which is in the corner of shame) was a big dissapointment, but I may be able to re-work it for someone who has just started shooting.
I think my favourite bow was possibly the last one I made (see October's entries)... but maybe we all think our last was our best?
The other contender was the primitive Yew bow (see June).

The effort I've put into this blog and my website has been well worth it, as over the year I've made contact with loads of interesting people and met a few of them too, which has been great.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Back to it!

I'm back to the tinkering, Ive been reducing the sapwood on a Yew stave and reading the Traditional Bowyers Bible vol IV which my Son got me for Christmas.
There's been a lot of traffic on the archery websites chatting about meets, swapping staves and suchlike.
Dunno if it's just me but there seems an upsurge in interest in bowmaking, or maybe there's just easier communication about it these days. The internet has certaily made life easier, I've been planning a nice big order for arrow shafts, fletchings, points and string making material I may try and get it in before vat goes up.
Hmmm, don't s'pose I'd care if I was a millionaire like most of the cabinet... (a little bit of politics there as Ben Elton used to say) I pledge I won't make anymore political comments.
I think it's going to be a busy year in 2011!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Seasons Greeting

Blimey, this cold snap makes it too cold to work in the garage, so I'm about done for the year.
I hope you all have a great break and don't get stuck due to the weather.
If you're out walking off your Christmas diner keep an eye out for good bow timber!
Hope 2011 is kind to you all, see you then.
Derek (Del the Cat)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Yew Longbow & Staves

The nice fine grained Yew is still putting up a fight, I finally got it back to 40 pounds at 27".
It shoots nicely but is trying it's damnedest to twist, so the back of the bow is almost rotated 45 degrees. I'm persevering and I've steamed it once more to get the limbs in line and I'm going to try heat treating it, hoping this will add a few pounds and also stabilise the bow it it's correct alignment.
I did have high hopes for this bow, but although it will be handsome there are a couple of longitudinal cracks still showing from the seasoning which I was hoping would have dissapeared as I worked it down, these aren't a problem but they don't look nice.
The cracks have been treated with a secret old bowyers preparation, which I'll tell you about as long as you keep it under your hat....
Ok, shhh don't tell... high quality, low viscosity superglue. Yeah, ok, it's not very traditional, but it's very effective, it gets drawn into the crack by capillary action and prevents any water ingress, it also helps show up the extent of the crack as it forms a blackish line, not pretty, but it's better to know the extent rather than to plough on in blind optimism.
It's very handy for sealing and stabilising fine pin knots too.
Now I realise that this may sound really horrible trick, but rest assured it's sensible to use the best and most appropriate tools and materials, the right glue for the right job, and I still use old fashioned hide glue for some things.
Of course superglue won't fix a broken bow or mend a chrysal or a transverse crack, but a longitudinal split due to the natural drying of the wood and the tension within it is a different kettle of fish and can be quite harmless.
I shall post some pics when the bow is fully tillered and we'll see how it turns out, (probably post some at the weekend anyway). I can hardly wait to get it done and on the chono' to see how fast it is. I'm trying hard not to press on too fast and spoil it as I am a tad impatient, the Christmas break will hopefully occupy me and slow me down, I need to buy some more string too before I can make a final working string.

I shall make up it's better behaved sister stave and see which is nicest before adding horn nocks and the like.
I'm making the bow for a lady, who might now end up with a choice of two.
I quite fancy one of them for myself to replace my 75 pounder for regular shooting as I struggle with it for more than occaisional use these days. A shortish, lower draw weight, fast longbow would be just the job and a welcomed alternative to my primitive flatbows.

Working the worst stave first is one of my foibles, it allows me to try out the wood without too much pressure, if it works, great, if not, then I'm better prepared for the next piece. I knew this stave wouldn't make a big bow, and the 40 pounder seemed to fit the bill. The other advantage is the sister stave can be made in pretty short order now I've got to grip with the peculiarities of the wood.

Having fought with this stave over the months I can sometimes see the attraction of a nice laminated stave of evenly machined exotic woods.
Ah, but when you feel a lithe, light piece of Yew in your hand, knowing every curve, bump and knot. Knowing you could go back to the very tree it came from, feeling the speed and power which grew into it over the years, its very special, in fact it's unique.
To be fair, I s'pose every bow is unique, but there are some you'd be hard pressed to tell apart.
Oh dear I'm waxing a bit too lyrical here.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Yew Staves

I've been working on last years Yew. The pic shows the various stages of work, de-barking has revealed the sap wood has still got a bit of seasoning to do, so it's good to work the staves down slowly. There are two other staves I haven't started on yet, one is wide and flat which will make a nice flatbow (Meare Heath style) and the other has a rather challenging knot in the centre about 1/4 of the way along, so worst case it may have to be a shorter primitiver rather than a longbow.
Numbering the staves from the left 1 & 3 are sister staves of nice tight grained dark wood, the limb was growing up in the middle of a big old Yew tree in the dark depths of the woods.
#1 has been straightened with steam, whereas #3 still show it's natural deflex, and slight sideways curve. Number one has been rather testing, and if it decides it doesn't want to be a bow I shall put it in the corner of shame and make #3 up in it's place as it is more even but not quite so interesting but still nice and dark tight wood.
The other staves were from the same woodland, but a more open site and faster growing, somewhat coarser grained and paler, they are much straighter. It will be interesting to see how the two timbers perform.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Yew Stave on the Shave Horse.

I'm working on the Yew cut last February, one piece with particularly fine grain is taking a lot of time so I thought I'd give that stave a rest and try my shave horse and rough out onother piece.
I took the quartered stave and chopped the corners off it with an axe and put it on the shave horse.
I wish I hadn't bothered with the axe as the combination of shave horse and drawknife works like a dream.
The stave was held rigid and I could really pull on the drawknife, both slicing and splitting great swathes of wood off, I could really feel the flow of the grain too as the splitting action was following it.
I worked up a good heat too and even removed my woolly hat. It will really speed up those early stages of roughing out, have to watch I don't go too mad and end up with a matchstick instead of a bow.
The drawknife gives a much cleaner finish than the axe too, and because the stave is held firm the accuracy of cut is better too allowing fast but confident work.
This Yew is much coarser grained but still a reasonable colour, it will be interesting to see how they compare performance wise.
I've got a few Yew longbows to make so I need to get a feel for these logs so that I can rough out the bows to somewhere near the right dimensions.

I've prettied up the horse too, adding a clamp block which can pivot loosely on the clamp bar to avoid damaging the workpiece. I've put a wooden knob on one end of the clamp bar and drilled the other end to take a split ring to reatain it.
Actually the split ring is a pain and I've left it off as it's handy to be able to pull the bar in and out to turn the stave.