Monday, 30 January 2012

Roughing out Next Yew Stave

The next stave is a lot shorter than the last, it's only about 70" long, it's from the same batch of Yew and I've discovered another on of those horrid blind knots.
I've been carefully laying out the bow and reducing the dimensions using the bandsaw with a relatively fine blade.
I've got to the point where I think the knot will effectively fall off the side of the bow as I work it down, leaving a nice ghostly swirl of grain on the side of the bow.
the sap wood is pretty thick so will need reducing. The pic shows how you can't always just simply follow a growth ring as the boundary between heart and sap doesn't always follow a ring. hopefully you can see how the heart wood swells up into the sap wood on the right side of the pic, cutting across the rings.
I expect this will produce a bow of 50# or so.
I'm expecting to make about 6 Yew longbows this year if I can get them out of timber I have.
In theory, the next one I should be making is for a guy with a 30" draw! I don't think I'll try to get that one out of this short stave. To get back to 30" reliably at a decent draw weight I think I'll be looking for at leat 73", maybe I'll get several staves roughed out to this stage and see what I can make of 'em. No point trying to get the wrong bow from the wrong stave.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Split or Saw?

I helped out on a local 'Green team' task yesterday coppicing hazel to open up a main ride through a wood to allow more sunlight to reach the ground and allow certain species of plant to grow to benefit the Silver-Washed Fritillary butterfly.
I came away exhausted but with 4 fine Hazel logs all about 6' long ranging from 2 1/2" to 4 1/2" diameter.
Using an axe and wedges I've split these, one split straight, two split with about 45 degrees of twist and the biggest and what I hoped to be the best split had almost 90 degrees of twist along it's length.
The twist is probably manageable on all of them, and at least I can see it and try to lay out the bow to minimise it.
So the advantage of splitting is you can see any twist, however there is the risk of the split running off to one side and wasting wood so it's a matter of risk management. With easily attainable Hazel I'll split it, but with hard to acquire Yew I'll saw it in the knowledge that I'll discover any twist when I start using hand tools and the Yew (especially a longbow cross section, I think) is more tolerant of twist.
For those of you looking to acquire wood your local conservation group is probably a good source. In the UK you can probably find local groups via your council website or the BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers).
There are several groups run in my area and they have a program of tasks for the year, so you can pick out the coppicing tasks.
You can see in the pic some of the staves are quite thin and skinny, these will do for experimental 'bend through the handle' American Indian style bows or for tillering demonstrations or kids bows. It's just good to have the staves, I've sealed the end (other brands of PVA are also available !) Once the pva is dry I'll write the date and 'Hazel' on them and get them stacked on my shelves,

Monday, 23 January 2012

Arrow plate and final tiller

I took a few scrapes off the lower limb and did an arrow rest.
If you zoom in you can just about read the scale, 90# at 28".
The arrow plate is of the same pale Waterbuffalo horn.
I wasn't sure if I should add the plate, but then, I then remembered I hadn't started out trying to make a Mary Rose copy so I feel its appropriate.
It's a nice compromise having the plate but no leather grip. The bow is clean and simple and the pale horn is a subtle colour. Black would be nice but too strong a contrast, I think it all looks 'of a piece' .
It just needs a few more coats of Danish oil and then a final wipe with beeswax polish.
I don't expect I'll shoot it much more, maybe a few final shots up on the old airfield.
The knuckles of my right hand are slightly swollen and sore and I feel like there is an axe embedded somewhere under my right shoulder blade!
The bow was made for a guy who had a 60# Yew longbow from me last year, and I'm sure he'll be able to give it plenty of exercise.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Much better draw.

I went up the club and had another go with the big bow, the first few shots still had me struggling, but a second try later was more successfull. I'm definitely getting it to 28" now, and even hitting the target! Thanks to Dave at the club for taking the video.
You can see on the video, I get the draw back to about where it was on the previous video, and then there's almost a pause and I work my back and shoulders to bring the right elbow back and down to get that last 2". Much more controlled, but still very hard work!
I've put the bow on the tiller and taken it to 28", it pulls 92 pounds which gives me a whisker to play with. I may take a few scrapes off the lower limb inner third as it does look a whisker stiff.
To get a more accurate weight I actually weighed the scale which hangs on the bowsting. The scale itself weighs 2 1/4 pounds, which accounts for the slight over weight. While I was at it I also re weighed my old Yew longbow, it now pulls 68# which isn't bad considering it's age and the overdraw I've subjected it to.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

90# Bow Drawn to 29" on Tiller

The video pretty much does what it says, unfortunately you can't quite see the poundage at full draw due to my head.
I start off with the bow apparently skewed on the tiller, the bow is supported where it will be held by (approx centre) the string is being pulled sightly above that, where the arrow will be nocked. This effect doesn't matter too much on a longbow and you'll see it straightens up as it gets drawn back. It can be problematic on a shorter bow and if a bow is actually clamped on the tiller and pulled from dead centre it can give a false impression of how the limbs will bend in use.

Just found the off cut from the end of the stave, I've polished it up so you can see the end grain, I've made 2 marks 1" apart to give an idea of scale. You can see the grain is tight on the left side, then it becomes wider just under the sapwood, then the actual sapwood has tight grain (but it doesn't really show as it's so white).

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Finishing, fettling and dent removal

Over the weekend I'll be doing more finishing on the 90# bow, taking out the final few tool marks adding an arrow plate and applying several coats of Danish oil.
Being so long the bow had picked up a shallow but sharp edged dent in the sapwood where it had hit the top of a door frame.
I've often read that the applying the back of a hot spoon will lift out a dent, but I don't think I've tried it.
I poured a mug of boiling water and put a tea spoon in it for a few seconds, pressed the back of the spoon firmly onto the dent, hey presto no more dent!
So that certainly works on Yew.
I managed a couple of shots with the 90# bow into the garage, it was much more controlled and nearer a good clean draw. I'd tried the big arrows with my 75# longbow and found that my natural draw length was a bit shorter than those arrows anyway so I had to really work at keeping the left arm well out, opening my chest and getting the right elbow right back. I found I could get to my natural draw and then pull the last inch or so... well at least I managed it for two arrows and hit about where I was aiming. There's not much room just outside the garage door, so I feel happy that I'll be able to manage it much better by Sunday.
The pic shows the penetration.
It's been dull and raining most of the day, once we get some brighter weather I'll take some nicer pics and hopefull get the elusive full draw shot showing the whole bow.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Yew Logs & some more shots

The Yew which was brought round by one of the guys from the club is a bit disappointing, the sap wood is rather thick which doesn't leave much heart wood. There should be one bow there..
It's freezing out in the garage as I need the door open to rip down a big log so I'll pop out and seal the ends when I've done this and had a warming cuppa.
You can see from the end on shot how the sap wood is just beginning to turn into heart wood but hasn't quite made it yet. I don't think anyone really knows how the process happens, maybe a few more years would have done it, or a cold winter or a dry summer, maybe high winds, or perhaps tying garlic round the tree! I think it's pot luck, but general consensus is that slower growing trees/limbs have thinner sapwood. I have cut side branches which have had a lot of top growth removed and have thus grown rather slowly which have been nice and dark with relatively thin sapwood, but it's a brave man who'd draw dogmatic conclusions.

This afternoon I drove out to some big open fields near an old WWII airfield which still flies microlights. I had a go at flight shooting with the 90 pounder, I felt a bit more confident and I'd taken the trouble to wear my bracer and strap my left elbow.
I was trying to concentrate on opening my chest and getting that right elbow back. On the first shot my left arm folded like a stick of rhubarb and the arrow sailed 90 yards. I straightened the left arm a bit more (almost locking it) and really worked on inflating my chest, it was much better after that and I shot another 5 arrows all round about 220 good paces, which is ok. Another inch of draw would add a few more yards, but these were the heavy 3/8" arrow I was shooting.
Overall I was pleased, I felt a bit more in control and give it another week and maybe I'll be able to actually aim the thing!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Shooting the 90# Longbow

Blimey it's a struggle, I can't quite get back to a full draw, but I'm not far off now.
Unfortunately I couldn't shoot for distance as the field was full of sheep.

We also had a 'hunters trail' shoot at the club where we set off at 5minute intervals along a marked trail shooting at an unknown number of unmarked targets, 3Ds and animals painted on foam blocks, (I used my little Hazel 40# bow for that). The shooting was rather disturbed by some horrible shrieking as a walker, with his dog, on the adjacent land had scared a Muntjac deer which had then got tangled in barbed wire. Eventually one of our blokes got over there with some wire cutters and freed it.
The arrows I'm shooting in the video are 28 3/8" to the base of the point, so I'm only pulling to about 27"
I've extracted a still from the original higher deffinition video, so you can see. The posted video is at lower resolution else it take for ever to download.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Fletching Jig (explain more)

Ha, the dreaded 'Explain More' box has been tricked!
A comment saying which bit needs explaining would be helpful, but in the absence of that, I'll assume that more details of the fletching jig are required.
The pics are pretty self explanatory.
The clever bit of the feather holding clip is the two short screws which protrude through the lower plate. The screw tips are pointed and locate in two small holes in the upper plate. This performs three functions.
It locates the upper plate in line with the lower, it allows the upper plate to hinge open and closed by a small amount to grip the flight and it also creates a small gap between the two plates about the thickness of the flight so that as the two plates shut it grip the flight along it's edge near the vane. The two plates are sprung together using the spring portion from a Bulldog clip, the sort of clip used to hold papers together available from any stationers.
If you want to make a similar jig, hardboard would probably be OK in place of the aluminium.

There are two rectangular holes in the lower plate, but these are pointless, originally I bent down two tabs from the holes to hook on a rubber band which held the clip onto the rest of the jig, but it was more trouble than it was worth.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Fat Arrows and some Yew

Good day today, I've been making up the 3/8" arrows for the big bow. The shafts are poplar (...well the bloke says he sells a lot of 'em ;) )
I had that usual dilemma when you are making several things the same, do you make a jig to aid production or do you do each one by hand?
Well it's an ill wind that blows no one some good, and having broken my spokeshave the other day, it meant I had a spare blade.
Now the points for the 3/8 shafts are about 11/32 internal diameter so I had to reduce the ends of the shafts to take the points. I made a sort of pencil sharpener type thingy using a block of Oak and the spokeshave blade which does the job nicely, mind it took a fair time to get it right.

The other problem was fletching them as my fletching jig won't take such fat shafts.
It didn't take long to make a new base from some MDF, on which I could use my existing feather holding clip which I made many many years ago out of sheet Ali'.
The new fat arrows weigh 620grains compared with 491grains for the ones I shoot from my 75# bow.

In the morning one of the guys from the club came over with two lengths of Yew, he does landscape gardening and suchlike and had recently trimmed an old Yew tree.
He's after a longbow from it for next year and liked the idea that he knew the tree the bow came from rather than having an anonymous laminate bow.
One piece was excellent, good and straight with one clear face for easily 7'. The other face was knotty, so I'll only aim to get the one bow. The second was a bit scrappy, but maybe there's a primitive, or a crossbow prod in there. Anyhow it was nice to feel that I'll be making him a bow with his own wood.
I'll run the Yew through the bandsaw tomorrow, seal the ends, write his name and the date on it and stash it away on my shelves.

Meanwhile I've been working up towards shooting the 90# bow, I still can't quite get back to full draw, but I'm a tad inhibited shooting into my garage, there's not much room to wave around such a big bow. I recon once I'm out in the fresh air on Sunday with a big open field in front of me I'll be able to open my chest heave it back and let fly.
I've shot the new fat arrow into my backstop and to pull it out took both hands on it with my knee against the backstop!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Nocks Done & Test Shot!

I was originally going to go for black Waterbuffalo horn nocks , but I had some 'white' Waterbuffalo horn left and I though this would look much more like the traditional cow horn.
(It's hard to get good cow horn as it can be prone to peeling apart in layers).
I spent most of Monday doing the nocks, and I couldn't resist getting them finished off today.
The pale horn looked a bit dull and uninspiring until I got it up to the buffing wheel.
Great decision, it looks a treat, I couldn't resist cleaning up the top limb and getting a coat of Danish oil on it. It's a bit dark now to get a decent photo, but this gives some idea.
I think it's a nice match for the fairly pale Yew, I've gone for a fairly small slim understated nock.
It's such a big bow I don't think it will take a leather grip without feeling too bulky, having no grip will also look more traditional, I'll do an arrow plate of matching horn. Hopefully the look of it wouldn't offend a medieval bowyer.

I've been doing some exercises and thought I'd shoot my 75#bow to help build me up. It felt very hard to draw at first but once I put on my glove and tab and nocked an arrow it felt comfortable. After a few shots I was deliberately getting a nice smooth slow draw and holding for a second before loosing. It made me realise that if I'm to pull the 90 pounder I will need to warm up sensibly first. I used to think warming up was just tosh and for old men... hmm I s'pose I qualify as the latter now. I expect we're all still 18 in our heads, as someone on one of the websites commented the other day 'The older I get, the better I was'.
I've been over the limbs with a scraper and fine wet & dry paper, my heart leaped a bit when I felt a slight 'pinch' on one of the big knots on the belly, it can be felt as a very fine ridge a bit like a chrysal, on the edge of the knot. I think it will be fine and it'd just the discontinuity between the parent wood and the knot compressing.
I put a load of superglue on it and rubbed it down smooth. I took a few scrapes off the belly either side of the knot just to help spread the load and a whisker off one of the tips.
The only way to see if it is a problem is to get the bow back on the tiller, so that's what I did.
I winched it back to 90# at 28" and I then took it very briefly to 29" glanced at the scale, about 100# a quick sigh of relief and let it down quick.
(Note:- it probably didn't gain 10 pounds in the last inch, I was doing it very quickly and was trying to look at the draw and poundage, I think it was over 90 at 28" and hit 100 at 29".
this gives me some poundage to play with for fine tillering tweaks and the bow will doubtless loose a tad as it settles it. I wasn't allowing for the weight of the scale either, which gives me another pound or so).
The tiny pinch had returned, which is fine, it's just one of those things I've seen before around pin knots on the edge of a bow. It's just something to be aware of and to keep an eye on while the bow is being shot in for a hundred arrows or so.
Flushed with success I donned my glove and tab, yes I got it back to a reasonable draw! Not quite sure if it was a full 28" but I took a couple of test shots. It thumped the arrow pretty hard into my backstop.
I've ordered half a dozen 3/8" Poplar shafts and some heavier heads (150 grain) so I can make up some suitable arrows.
I think I should be shooting it with a bit more conviction by the weekend.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Cautious Progress

I'm writing this almost as I'm doing it, mainly in order to slow myself down and take a breather.
I've taken it back to 80# @23.5".
Some of the natural undulations in the top limb are very off putting and look like weak areas when its drawn back. It's hard to ignore these and just look at athe overall curve of the bow.
It seems to be coming adding about 10 pounds draw weight every 4" despite my removing a little wood as I'm cleaning up of the bow, so I'm pretty much there.
There are a couple of tiny pins knots on the belly (2-3mm) which are black and move if I pick at them. I don't want to risk them being the start of a pinch or chrysal so I'll fill them with epoxy/Yew dust mix to be safe.
I'm rounding the back a bit more and cleaning up the finish.
Hopefully later in the day I'll be posting that full draw shot.
Out of interest, I've noticed the string digging into the Yew a fair bit on the edges of the temporary nocks I've cut into the Yew, this is changing my opinion on horn nocks a bit. I still think they are unecessary on modern target weight bows, but I can see how the heavy bows would have really needed them.
Wish me luck.
Whew! 90# @26"
I can pull it back a bit, but not to full draw, a bit of fine tuning and cleaning up and I'll be ready to put some horn nocks on it. I daren't try a shot with the temporary nocks for fear of the string popping off.
I took a video of it coming back to 90# in case it blew up on me, I though I'd at least have it on film. Here's a pic of the knotty side of the bow.

I've since checked over the bow and been smoothing and finishing it some more. By locking the verniers to the thickness of the limb and then running them along the limb and watching the gap open up as the limb gets slimmer I noticed a thick section, a bit of work with the rasp blended it back into the rest of the limb. The bow was then put back on the tiller and hit 90# at 28".
Now I can slim down the tips and fit horn nocks, a bit of exercise will be needed to if I'm going to shoot it next week.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Getting Nervy

I've measured up both limbs, not so much for some esoteric mathematic analysis but more to compare the two and look for any inconsistencies. There are sudden changes where the limb looks thin, but really it's that there's a knot either side of that point which has been left proud.
I can't afford to leave vast amounts of extra wood around the worst knot and overstrain the timber either side of it so I've taken the rasp to the big knot and it is begining to expose a little of the plugs, especially where I'm rounding the belly more now.
The tips have been slimmed and the string line looks good, which isn't too hard on a bow that long!
I've tightened the string a tad so it is taut, and winched it back to 70#, it's begining to show a promising curve and looks like it could be braced.
It's going to be a bit of a job to get a short string on it at that weight. Time for a cuppa. Maybe I'll have a break and work on tidying up the sapwood on the back.
At this draw weight with a knotty stave it requires plenty of thinking and a 'little at a time' approach. Once I hit that brace height it all starts to happen pretty quick and I'm keen to avoid getting a face full of snapped bow limb.
I've been dreaming about the darned thing which rather shows the amount of thought involved.
Midday, and I've made a string and got it braced, blimey it was tough. I took a few pics and got it on the tiller, my heart was in my mouth as I winched it back 60#, I stepped back and had a look, it was pretty good... Then I took it back to 70# @ 20".
Interpolating out to 28" would give about 110# at a guess, so it's time to stop and carefully clean up the back and smooth it all off before plucking up courage and taking it to 90#.
Blimey, I'm pumped up with adrenalin, there's a lot of tension in that wood.
I tried to draw it a bit, but it was like trying to pull a brick wall, there is so much early tension I couldn't get it back enough to bring my shoulders/chest into play. I can pull 90# but couldn't make much impression on this bow.
My big old 75# has a fair bit of set and the weight comes in slower so you can get the limbs moving.
I think it's back to the 10 fast push ups night and morning to build my shoulders up a tad.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Begining to Bend

I've done a fair bit of work today, including filling two knots one of which was then taken out as I removed more wood.
The squarish cross section has had its corners taken off on the belly to help it flex a bit more and now I've had it back to 60# on the tiller and the tips are almost back to a brace height.

The pic shows the big filled knot which will be the main 'feature' of the bow, there is a nice flush of colour, and you can just see the hairline crack from the centre of the knot on the belly, running down to the 4 plugs. I filed and sanded it to show it up clearly. I wish I had made the plugs out of some darker Yew, but I didn't have anything suitable.
It's a matter of going slow and steady removing wood cautiously to maintain a smooth bend to the bow. I need to open the garage door to get decent daylight onto the tiller for a good picture, I'll do that tomorrow by which time it should be coming back enough to see the curve.
I've just added the pic of the bow at 60# (taken first thing Saturday morning before I've done any more work)

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Some Progress

I've been working down the 90# bow to approximate dimensions from 'Weapons of Warre' which has dimensions of the Mary Rose Longbows.
It's just beginning to flex and I've had it on the tiller on a long string pulled back to 60#, the tips pulled back about 4" .
I worked the width to size first and the reduced the depth leaving it almost square in cross section.
Some knots I was worried about have disappeared, others have started to look worse and may need filling. Overall it is looking much more like a bow and now I'm down to using the spokeshave.
When I first tried to use my spokeshave the handle snapped in two! It's made of cast iron which is quite brittle and had probably fractured when dropped on the floor at some point.
I bought a new one, (only about £3.95 from Toolstation), they have a lifetime guarantee, which is pretty pointless as it doesn't cover post and packing which would be more than the cost of a new one!
Should have some pics tomorrow
Friday Morning:- Quick update.
I've taken another 3mm or so off the belly, that sounds a lot, but bear in mind it's about an inch thick at mid limb (25mm). And this takes me very close to the Mary Rose bow size (I'd roughed it out slightly over erring on the side of caution).
The big filled knot is making me a bit twitchy, as I work the belly down the unfilled original knot is looking smaller and more solid, it does however have a crack which runs off to the side of the bow where the filled portion is. I'm not too worried, as it will be in compression and thus the crack will close up, whereas, were it on the tension side it would just open up and snap the bow.
I've run superglue onto the crack as a temporary measure just to hopefully seal and stabilize it, as I don't want the rasp to snag it and rip it apart
A new post with pics later in the day.
The whole bow making process makes the expression 'successive approximation' spring to mind, (a mathematical term for something or other like working out square roots. I expect curiosity will make me Google it now).
I think successive approximation rather captures the essence of the job.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Filled Knot

The pics show the various stages, culminating in 4 pegs fitted into the hole and filed flush, hopefully it won't look like a pig's breakfast as the bow is reduced to its final dimensions.
The Yew dust and epoxy mix has filled the void and drills well, with a feel similar to the parent wood. The mixture needs to be on the dry side, as when rammed in tightly it somehow becomes wetter and sticks together better.
It looks ok at the moment, note I lined up the grain the same way on each peg, as the pegs were all cut from the same piece of Yew.
You can see that the sapwood on the back of the bow isn't effected and is nicely continuous. The filled area will mostly be in compression and should withstand the strain with any luck.
The pics aren't great due to the artificial lighting.
In the final pic you can see there isn't really any of the epoxy and dust filling left visible.

This and the other knots have persuaded me to just build the bow without any heat treating or steam bending. It's pretty long so should withstand the 90# at 28" ok. I'm initially modelling it roughly on the dimensions of one of the Mary Rose bows, it's getting that more curved rather than straight taper and hopefully I'll be getting it on the tiller over next weekend.
When I get to this stage on a bow, I want to press on as it rather gets stuck in my head, I expect I'll be dreaming about plugging knots!
Hey ho, back to work for a couple of days...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Mystery Knot

I discovered where one of the big knots on the belly of the bow disappears to!
There was a dark red blush of colour on the side of the stave, and as I worked down the width it started to expose the end of the knot where presumably it had been cut or broken off and had then grown over.
I dug it out back to clean sound wood but it left a deep squareish hole. How to fill it without leaving hidden cavities or air pockets in the wood? I decided it was too big and uneven to drill and plug in one shot so I've embarked on a two part fix.
First I shall fill it with epoxy and Yew dust mix, once this is dry I shall drill it cleanly for two or maybe even 4 clean round plugs of Yew. (The coulour difference between the two pics is due to daylight, vs flash)
Filling it first will fill the small uneven cavities at the bottom of the hole and enable me to drill clean holes without the drill rattling about and wandering off.
Here's a few pics, we'll see how it progresses tomorrow, hopefully a fair bit of the cavity will be removed as the bow is worked down to it's final dimensions.
My experience from last year taught me not to trust knots and to wonder about their extent.
If I hadn't exposed the rotten wood beneath the surface I daresay the bow would have been an accident waiting to happen, which could be nasty at 90 pounds draw weight.
I got a dust extractor for Christmas which fits onto my bandsaw, this proved very handy for collecting Yew dust, I simply emptied it and the sawed some offcuts of Yew to create sawdust.

Had an enjoyable New Years Day shoot at the club this morning, and my new wellies kept my feet dry, bliss.
Happy new year to you all.