Friday, 30 December 2011

Back to the Longbow

I couldn't resist getting back to work on the longbow.
The feel of seasoned Yew under the drawknife is lovely, the crisp heartwood and the waxy firm sapwood.
I couldn't help musing what one of the bowyers of the Mary Rose bows would have made of my efforts. I imagined I could feel the hand of history resting on my shoulder.
I'd like to think he'd have smiled at my efforts, motioned me to one side and sat at the shave horse with a nice clean stave of Spanish Yew and shown me how it should be done.
I expect they had to churn 'em out pretty quick to earn a living, mind I think the electric lighting and the bandsaw would have made him a tad suspicious!
Enough reverie, here's some pics of how its progressing.

The bow is roughly square in section at the moment, and in the first two pics you can see dark knots which show on the corner of the stave, these will probably disappear as the stave is worked down a little more. The last pic shows a raised mound left round a pin knot, this will doubtless get worked down a bit.
The sapwood is about down to thickness and some of the knots have disappeared, you can see some of the problem areas and features, maybe my imaginary medieval bowyer would have scoffed at the quality of the stave and handed me something better to work on.

Thursday, 29 December 2011


My Birthday is over the holiday period.
We were down near Portsmouth where my parents live. My daughter organised a surprise visit to the Mary Rose collection, my brother drove me there, and it was only when we arrived at the dockyard gates that I dared to think I was going to get to see the bows.
The family had all chipped in and made me a 'Patron of the Mary Rose' which allows access to the private collection, but the people there had gone above and beyond the call of duty and opened up specially on a holiday.
Andy who showed us round was brilliant, he was enthusiastic, knowledgeable and funny. I couldn't stop grinning as he showed us round the artefacts culminating with the bows.
It was great to see them close up and even hold a couple (wearing latex cloves of course).
I was particularly interested in seeing the bows with knots and ripples in, as the more perfect ones are those usually exhibited.
The bows just looked and felt 'right', they were a fair bit longer and fatter than those I usually make with a more graceful taper than the rather straight tapered laminated bow we tend to see today.
My head was reeling, and Andy urged me to take as many pics as I wanted which was great, as I can now pore over them at my leisure.

The book of the collection 'Weapons of Warre' is superb and I've been avidly studying that too, and, not just the bow section.
The whole day flew by and there was a surprise family pub lunch after the trip... I was pretty much stunned and grinning for the next 48 hours.
The trip has given me a better feel for how I want to make the 90# bow I'm working on and it's bolstered both my confidence and enthusiasm.

All in all the best birthday ever!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Last of the Year

I've been busy over the last week refubishing the back door to my garage as it had been flapping about in the high wind. There was a lot of rot along the bottom and it turned into a major job.
It still needs a drip edge adding to the bottom and another coat of paint, but at least I can shut and lock it now and it keep it a bit warmer in there.

A chap called Robin came over today to discus his longbow and have a look at my stuff. He was worried that his Yew longbow was warped a bit.
We'd made contact via the Archery Interchange website where he'd posted a question about his bow.
It was a nice enough bow which he'd bought second hand, however he'd been missinformed about the wood! It was laminated Hickory and another wood (Lemonwood?). Once he'd seen my Yew bows he could see the difference.
We popped the bow up on the tiller and took it back to a nice safe 26" (He draws about 29) There was the slightest hint of a sideways bend in one limb over the last third of the limb, but barely perceptible and certainly in acceptable limits. The string was sitting slightly to one side where the bowyers knot was and it sat slightly skewed on the other nock.
I said it was fine and that if I'd been making it, I'd maybe spend a minute with a needle file on the nock, but that was all.
We shot a variety of my bows and I shot a few arrows from his, which performed fine.
After much talk of bow woods and such like we went over to the local wood to see some wood in it's raw state, as luck would have it there was a 'camp' made by the kids which had a nice straight bit of Hazel built into it.
It was too good to pass over so we took it home and hacked the back off to help it season a bit quicker. I gave Robin a few bits of Waterbuffalo horn to make an arrow plate for his bow and some Dacron which unfortunately got left on the bench!
Robin gave me two bottles of wine for which was a most welcomed and very generous.
He can pick up the Dacron some other time when the Hazel has had time to season and he's back from Uni' again.

So that's about it for this year.
Seasons greetings to one and all, see you in the new year.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Bandsaw Woes

Hmmm, I havn't made a very good job of ripping down my Yew, the log isn't that big so there's not much margin for error. I worked out where I wanted the cut to give me a good half and a bad half. As I was sawing I wandered over a bit towards the good side at exactly the point where I'll need most wood e.g. the middle of the stave where a bow will be fattest.
I expect it will be ok, worst case would be if it's too skinny then I can cut it in half reverse the two bits, and splice it back together so the thin bit is now the tips of the bow. Or maybe it will be ok for 40# bows rather than heavier ones.
Anyhow, it'll be seasoning for a year and may not look quite so bad when I come to view it again and the bark and excess wood has been removed.
It's always tricky knowing how much wood you dare rough off or how how many staves you can try and squeeze out of a stave.
When you start one is often too cautious and it takes forever to get down to the right dimensions, however impatience and cockiness can lead to removing too much too quickly. I find the right amount is usually enough to make me wince and think 'have I over done it?' Usually I've got it about right... let's hope that's what I've done here.
To add insult to injury I could hear this cracking noise and smell this hot oily electrical smell as I was finishing the cutting.
The capacitor on the electric motor has dark grey goo bubbling out of it. Still that's much cheaper to replace than a burnt out motor. (You can see the capacitor on the pic in the previous post, it's the light grey cylinder, mounted just right of the black connection box on top of the motor)
Maybe I should have stayed in bed all weekend, as I also contrived to drain the transmission fluid of my car instead of the engine oil... mind it was pretty dirty, so probably needed changing. Automatic Transmission Fluid is rather expensive though.
Just to confess all my sins, I also managed to snag the bandsaw blade and jam/kink it. I wrestled it free and after a bit of fettling in the vice and some judicious tap tap taps with a small hammer it's running ok again.
Hey Ho, mustn't grumble, the sun is shining and I've seasoned staves to play with!

I've been reducing the stave for the 90# bow, it's still pretty huge and has a row of knots up the belly, oddly some are quite big (about the size of a pencil) but they don't appear on the back of the bow or the sides... dunno what happens to 'em inside the stave, I shall lay out the bow keeping them dead centre and if I'm unsure I can always carefull drill into them to investigate their extent. Knots on the belly aren't too much of a problem as they are generally harder than the surrounding wood and are in compression. The sapwood on the back of the bow looks good and clean. I can only just get my hand round the middle of the stave and if I lean it against the wall and put my whole body weight into it I can just about feel a hint of give.
Having taken about 10" off the length it's now about 74" long and has a hint of deflex in one limb. I'm still undecided about any straightening or heat treatment as I don't want to risk disturbing the knots. I shall keep working it down slow and steady before I make that decision, the policy is "when in doubt, don't". If only I'd applied that to sawing the Yew log...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Wheely good idea

I've fixed some wheels onto the base of my bandsaw which will make it easier to manoeuvre. Hopefully it will still be stable.
The steel legs were cut down to keep the overall height the same as it was originally. I shall try it out ripping down that Yew log I harvested last week.
The tray arrangement underneath will be handy for mounting a dust extraction system which I'm hoping Santa might bring me!
In the pic the heavy cast iron table part of the bandsaw hasn't been refitted yet.
Once I've ripped the Yew I shall start on the 90# longbow, deciding whether I should heat straighten/temper it.