Monday, 31 January 2011

Odds n Ends

I said good bye to the Yew Lady's bow, she collected it on Saturday with a friend from her club who has a Yew longbow on order with me.
I had a fine time showing off some of my bows and my staves, and the sister stave to the lady's bow was selected to become the longbow which is on order.
They had a go with the Chinese Repeating Crossbow, which is always fun.
I've since heard the bow is performing well and she's very pleased with it.

I've been messing about with the thin Ash longbow I was making for someone at the club, it's a right pain. It ended up thin as there was a split in the stave. I'm heat treating it to bring up the draw weight... I'm only after about 36 pounds at 26" so it should be easy to do, but as we know,
'Easy to do' is easy to say. As I've been heating it a thin split has opened up along one side at a couple of places following the grain along a winter growth ring. This is probably pretty fatal, however it's about halfway through the limb and thus theoretically on the 'neutral axis' where there isn't so much stress... yeah right.
Anyhow, I shall continue with it and fill the crack with epoxy, heated with a hot air gun to help it flow in and then clamp it up, or I may use superglue.
This is going to end up rather experimental so it might end up as firewood or a freebie. I'm not sure I'll want to put my name to it, but if it gives someone a 'learning bow' then that's a good cause.
This isn't enhancing my opinion of Ash, maybe the stave was 'iffy', it's the other half of the piece I used to may the Ash Meare Heath bow which suddenly went out of tiller. It was a great looking stave, but maybe it was flawed.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Radio Chat

I did a bit on BBC Essex Radio chatting to Steve Scruton on his Afternoon Show (Friday 21st Jan). It went pretty well and he made me feel at ease (it was my first time on air).

I'd taken along three bows to talk about, my big Yew longbow which draws 90 pounds at a full medieval style 31.5", the Lady's Yew longbow I've just finished and my Hazel vaguley Neolithic/American Native style flatbow.
Of course when I listen back there is tons I should have said and one tiny gaff about having made arrows from Willow (should have said Hazel) which no one would probably notice.

The time seemed to fly by and there was a young woman in the studio too who was answering questions about mobile phones. She had a go drawing my 40 pound Hazel flat bow and looked like a natural once I'd got her started, it would have been great to let her loose a few arrows.
The club where I shoot was mentioned, but I neglected to mention the name Celtic Harmony Longbow Archery Club , it's associated with Celtic Harmony camp which has all sorts of activities and a couple of Iron Age round houses.

The radio show was available on i-player for 7 days, but has now expired.

Monday, 17 January 2011


The top nock is set with two silver rivets, I'm always droning on that I don't much like horn nocks, so I thought I could show that it's not because I can't make 'em!
The last pic shows the checks (splits) They haven't moved at all and there is also a slight pinch on a knot which goes through the limb at an angle by the checks. I've left a slight swelling in the limb there to compensate, but I'm happy that these thing are 'character' rather than 'flaws'.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sewing the Grip

The Yew bow is finished, hopefully if we get some decent light tomorrow I'll be able to take some pics.
I shot it at the club yesterday and it performed well. I shot it through the chrono too 147 fps average (150max) which is pretty good, they say 100+ the draw weight is a good rule of thumb.
It's now shot about 170 arrows.
Before I made the grip it felt slightly uncomfortable as the back of the bow is very flay (almost concave in places).
I built up the back slightly with some hard leather (part of an old welders apron...but don't tell the old welder) and filed it to give a more comfortable rounded profile. The leather grip has a smooth folded edge and criss cross stitching done using two needles. (You can see the arrow plate which sits nicely on the heart/sap wood boundary.
I've shot it some more and the grip is definitely an improvement, I also tried shooting some of my heavier arrows with 11/32 shafts and 100gn piles and it felt smoother. Maybe the 70gn piles I use as standard are a tad light.
Whilst in the post office on Friday I weighed 5 of my standard arrows and doing the arithmetic they worked out at 9.1 grains per pound of draw weight from a 40 pound bow. Generally 10 grains per pound is accepted as as a good figure, the implication is that my arrows may gain a a little speed, possibly at the expense of smoothness.
Anyhow selecting the right arrows for a bow is a matter of experience, experiment and personal preference and a fair range of weight and spine is easily accommodated by a longbow.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Shooting In

Feeling brighter today, shaking off this cold. A nice parcel from D G Quicks turned up this afternoon with some more string making material.
I've just finished making the string for the Yew bow, and shot 40 arrows with it (my grouping was getting better by the last 5). I also over drew it about an inch with one of my longer arrows as a safety check, I'll do it again on the tiller to 29" at some point just to prove the point, but being Yew it would probably take 30... I'm just not going to push my luck that far!
The danger of overdrawing is one reason I make continuous loop strings rather than the traditional longbow string with a knot at one end which can be adjusted to give too high a bracing height. I also caution people to only use the right length arrow and to only let other people try the bow with the correct arrow. You see some people shooting full length 32" shafts and to draw full length with one of those could be fatal to a bow (especially one of by little Hazel flat bows), I like to let people shoot my bows, but only with appropriate arrows.
After the 40 shots I put it straight up on the tiller to check the draw weight, it was spot on the 40pound target weight. Whew there's a relief as it's easy to end up 5 pound under, I'd slimmed down the tips slightly to fit the horn nocks and it's nice to see that it didn't drop any draw weight.
It's basically all done now apart from fine finishing detail and some more shooting in, it certainly does look handsome.
I haven't shot it through the chronometer yet but it feels pretty quick and I shall do that at some point.
I'll wait until its completely finished before posting more pics, which will probably be in a week.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Nock Shaping & Full Draw Pic

The nocks are both glued on and I'm shaping them to blend in with the bow, it's important that the bowstring can slip along the limb and onto the nock smoothly.
I've worked the nock down substantially, it's much easier to work with it glued on as there is something to get hold of, a couple of layers of masking tape help to protect the wood while I file the nock. A bit of diablo* sanding helps round every off nicely.
It's not actually polished up yet, but you can see how I've tried to make it in proportion to the bow tip.
The heart wood sap wood shows up nicely too. When it's all finished I may add some secret experimental decorative touches, but that's a way off yet, let's get the nocks finished, a proper string and a couple of hundred arrows shot through it first.
Ive made a dip in the nock which can be used to accept a second long string to be used as a stringer if necessary (using a stringer is probably the easiest/safest way to string a bow, although the stringer is something else to loose of course).

*Diablo sanding or polishing is where you have a long strip of sandpaper or emery cloth and you hold one end in each hand allowing you to work it back and forth like working a diablo... the big yoyo thingy which you work with a string atached to two sticks, great fun.

The full draw pic shows a lovely arc of a circle, it's slightly shifted to the left as I had it slightly off centre on the tiller, the final grip and arrow pass position is selected after some shooting to find what feels and performs best, some people talk of finding the 'sweet spot' but to be honest I tend to choose the arrow pass position for the most even tiller and then adjust the arrow nocking point to suit. I've finished polishing the top nock 280 then 400 grade wet & dry paper, I've given it a quick wipe of Danish oil and it looks pretty sweet, too dark for a decent photo today. I've got a bit of a sore throat and I'm a bit tired, if it wasn't for that, I'd make a string tonight and shoot it at the club tomorrow.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Nock Nock

I've spent all morning doing the top nock for the Yew bow, it's very slim at the tip so I had to grind a new drilling tool. It's just an old wood boring bit ground down to the right shape.
The new drill is then used to drill a hole into a scrap of Oak which is used with some sandpaper in the slot to sand the tip of the bow to a nice fit, (a bit like a pencil sharpener) having first roughed it to shape with a rasp.
The nock is still dull and rough, it will be shiny black once polished. I've shaped it to echo the natural shape of the tip of the horn (the scrap just left of the nock). Some people make their nocks rather large and elaborate, reminiscent of a chess piece or some such, I prefer a smaller, more organic, practical shape. (Although to be fair there are some very elegant ones).
Horn nocks can be bought ready shaped, but that assumes a one size fits all approach which can end up just looking wrong. The second nock will be much quicker as the bottom nock is smaller and I've already made the tools.

The top nock is bigger to allow for a hole for a thin thong which can be tied to the string to retain it when unstrung.
Hopefully I'll get the bottom nock done soon and I'll post a pic of it at full draw on the tiller.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Recalcitrant Yew

Christmas did be a big favour by stopping me messing with the Yew bow, I'd heat treated it and left it clamped up for over a week.
It's looking really pretty now and is pulling straight and true, I'm only using a scraper and fine sandpaper on it now.
The grain and character is looking very handsome, the colour is that of an old mature bow. It feels fast too.

Ah, but the bad news, the cracks are still visble, I think they are harmless but may render it unacceptable.
Anyhow I shall finish it and shoot a couple of hundred arrows through it, if it performs really well I may offer it to the Lady it was intended for.
Here's a couple of pics showing it's best and worst, bear in mind the wood hasn't been polished, a few coats of Danish oil will make it even darker and smoother looking.
Any comments or opinions on the character and the cracks would be most welcomed, I feel the wood is begining to like the idea of becoming a bow, I know that sound fanciful, but sue me!

Monday, 3 January 2011

First Bow of the Year

I spotted this nice sapling on a walk in Epping Forrest, saw some deer too>
It would make a nice character 'stick bow'.
The twist where a vine of some sort (old Man's beard?) would make a natural grip. I didn't have a saw with me, but I couldn't help looking out for bow staves.

I've started on an Ash ladies longbow (35pound draw weight), the Ash is well seasoned and it the other half of the log I made the Meare Heath flat bow from.
I thought there was plentty of wood but I found there was a small split in it from when the log was split with axe and wedges (another good reason for using a bandsaw).
I narrowed the stave and managed to work around the cracks, there were a few tricky knots too.
The draw weight is lower than I like making, but I wasn't going to use the stave for anything else (I didn't fancy making another Ash flatbow, as I think Ash is a tad sluggish).
The longbow is turning out really narrow and was trying to bend sideways as I was getting the string on to brace it, a lttle work near the tips persuaded it to behave.
Initially the stave had a little reflex, its common when a straight log is split for each half to reflex slightl, this has pulled out during tillering and the draw weight is a bit lower than I wanted.
I can recover the draw weight by shortening the bow an inch or two, but first I'm heat treating it to remove the little bit of set and bring back the draw weight. what I might also try is heat treating the sides of the tips to help reduce the tendency for them to try and flex sideways.
The bow has a narrow deep profile and the thin stiffish tips might make it fast for it's draw weight.
Here's a pic of it roughed out on the bandsaw. More pics later in the week.