Saturday, 31 May 2014

Curved Profile Feather Shaper

Simple is best!
The hot wire feather trimmer only gave straight lines and I wanted a fuller parabolic shape to get the arrows to straighten up a bit quicker.
A scrap of brass plate was quickly filed to shape and heated with a blow torch, it worked well, a wooden handle would be a nice addition.
A quick try out of the arrow with its new flights and slightly more tapered tail end. It hit the  target nice and straight, excellent!
You can see the uppermost flight is a bit ragged at the edge, but a gentle brush over with a scrap of wet or dry paper cleaned that up. You can see how the very slim nock is filed into the horn reinforcement.
The arrow weighs 308 grains, it's been suggested that 200 is probably the lower limit, which is about what the arrows for the Turkish flight bows weighed.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Flight Arrows

I've been fiddling about trying to make up a couple of decent flight arrows for my refurbished 70# longbow.
It has a very fat grip due to a big knot hole there which doesn't help.
Tricky chaps flight arrows, as you want to get maximum energy into the arrow which implies stiff spine and keep it there which implies low drag fletchings. You also want it to straighten up as quick as possible which maybe implies a weak spine.
Anyhow when I made the flight arrow for the 100# Elm bow I found that my regular 35-40 spined shafts actually gave a good result, with the arrow hitting the target straight on at 10 yards. I'm experimenting with various shafts, fletchings etc to try and get decent arrow.
I was using my little lathe to turn down some old field points. I'd stuck one onto an off cut of arrow shaft to give it some internal support whilst turning it down. When I came to remove the point from the shaft I heated it with a blow lamp, it got hot, the glue melted and the hot gasses inside popped the end off like a bullet, I heard it hit the wall and rattle on the floor. Could I find it?
I ended up tidying and cleaning that end of the garage, I found it eventually in the last area I tidied. Mind it did be a favour as I've chucked out a load of scrap, also made a little wire loop under the bow support block on my tiller rig so I can hang up the scale.
Here's a pic showing how various arrows are striking the target at 10 yards (looking down on them), all shot from the same 70# bow at 28". The lower arrow is pretty much straight and has the biggest fletchings. Out of interest I was aiming at the big scrap of paper, which maybe contradicts my idea that underspined arrows don't shoot right, or maybe I have learned to aim slightly left all the time and they are actually flying true.
Anyhow the real point is, one is always learning and having to modify ones beliefs. I have no problem with that at all, I try not to be dogmatic and I try to be open to new ideas assuming they are backed up with solid experience and not just the usual "I've read that..." from an "armchair expert".
Draw your own conclusions from the pic!

Maybe that sounds a bit arsey! I would welcome any comments on flight arrows if you have any experience of 'em. There was a time when flight archers were a very secretive bunch, hopefully we are all a little freeer with information these days.

Update on Needle bow:- I heat treated the belly and it was a reasonable weight, just so narrow that it would try and bend sideways. I shortened it to gain stability and the draw weight was pretty high, it was never going to really be of any use and I'd only really glued it up as a distraction whilst waiting to fly off to Tennessee. I eventually just drew it to destruction, it split along a growth ring the whole length of the top limb which was a little weaker than the lower. I didn't shed any tears over that one!

Friday, 23 May 2014

Hot Wire Feather Cutter

For some time I've been toying with the idea of making a feather cutter so I can trim low profile fletchings on flight arrows. Back in December 2013 I bought some Nichrome wire from Spiratronics (part number WD3-014) and it's been languishing in the draw ever since. It is ludicrously cheap, 5m was just under £1, the postage cost more!
I'd got some gluing done this morning, and while that's curing I thought I'd have a play with the Nichrome.

I did some very basic arithmetic to make sure I wasn't going to do anything too daft and and then connected up a loop of about 18" of it to the output of an old power supply which I'd rescued from a skip and restored many years ago. The great thing about the supply is it has an output that can be switched up from about 1volt up to 24v in nice small steps, it can give out AC or DC too which can be handy.

The wire is about 19 ohms per metre, so I though a length of about a foot would give about 6 ohms. If I connected that to 6volts I'd be drawing an amp and dissipating 6watts which seemed like a good safe start point. I thought probably 10watts would be needed to get things hot.
To be extra safe I started at 3v and rubbed the feather on the wire... nothing.
Slowly I increased it up
12v and sure enough it started melting through the feather!
The next step was to have the wire stretched between two nails hammered into an off-cut of wood, the excess wire is connected to the power supply by some leads with croc' clips on the ends. I have this sort of stuff lying around as my day job is designing electronics. The advantage of the croc' clips is they can be moved along the wire to adjust the resistance and hence current flow and power, useful for those using say a 12v battery, or a supply that isn't adjustable.

NOTE:- The wire can glow red hot and expand rapidly, so be prepared to switch off or adjust the croc' clip position. A variable power supply is a great help.

Next I did a quick try out mounting the wooden block on the tool post of my little lathe, so that an arrow could be rotated cutting the feathers perfectly evenly.
Before anyone mentions it... yes I know I've used blue and brown wires and these are used for Live and Neutral main wiring. It was the only suitable gauge wire I had to hand, and I have found over the years that electrons can't actually read the colour of insulation.

Just made a mkII wire holder. One end sits in a V filed onto the end of the nail, the other end is tensioned using a bit of band saw blade as a spring. I've tried it out and it works a treat, I even gave it a burst of higher voltage to get it glowing and help stretch out any minor kinks in the wire. I'll be able to make up some nice flight arrows with low profile feathers now, using some thin Greylag Goose feathers that someone gave me ages ago. Regular fletchings are surprisingly thick.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Back to Front Bow

I spliced two thin Ash off cuts before I went to Tennessee, I've just picked the stave up and am messing about.
It will have the bark side of the tree as the belly, which will be wide, the back is ring followed and any tillering will be on with or from the belly.
It is so narrow I will leave the tips stiff like the levers on a Mollegabet bow. The glued stave has some deflex and it's hells own job remembering which is back and which is belly. I'll add some recurve just before the tip get thicker for the levers. Not sure what it will be classed as, maybe an entirely new bow type an English Long Mollegabet maybe? I'll just call it the needle bow for now as it's so skinny.
My mind is in "bow-verload" as I have too many bows either on the go or floating round in my head. The problem with this situation is I may well rush and mess them up. Even though they are experimental they need to be done properly. A sloppily done experiment merely yields worthless results.
I've got an Elder reflex deflex I've steam bent, a Yew primitive I've roughed out and the needle bow. I also have an idea for a bow geometry with forward canted limbs.
The pic shows the Needle bow to right lying on it's belly so you can see the wide belly narrow back trapezoid cross-section.
The Yew is on the left, belly up, the Elder in the middle belly to the right, the Elder will need some steam bending to align the limbs and remove twist once it is roughed out and starting to flex.

The needle bow is 79" long. I put it up on the tiller rand the shape isn't too bad, mind it's only 20# at 28" draw! I shall take about 3" off each end and reflex the tips. It can then be tillered to a decent shape and might get up to about 35# which will do for a kids/ladies bow. It is just experimental after all. It will be interesting to see what I can get from this starting point.
In the pic you can see the farriers rasp I got from E-bay, (compare it to the cabinet rasp on the edge of the table) it was only £9.50 including postage, it's not as good quality as some of the ones I saw at the Tennessee Classic, but it certainly OK for the money and really takes of material. the main criticism is the smoother side isn't such a good cut as it could be.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Yew From Last June

The Yew from last June has yielded a good few pairs of billets , staves for a couple of primitives and one, maybe two very challenging longbow staves.
Most of the billets are just random pieces selected to roughly match dimension and shape. I've tried to cut one half log to give matched billets, but once sawn, the tension in the wood made it spring open at the middle forming a half inch gap... this shows why you need to rough wood down to size in stages, it can shift as you remove material.
I've not done matched billets before so it is a good opportunity, however, I think I'll probably only manage to get a lightish weight bow.
You can see I've sketched in the cross section of the limbs on the end, not much spare wood to play with, and I wish I hadn't trimmed it so tight first pass through the saw as I may have removed valuable sapwood. Again another reason for roughing out on the cautious side.
No point moaning tho', got to work with the wood you have. Its like the oft' asked question.
What's the best wood for making bows?... The bit you have!

The other pic shows a very challenging stave, the curve is such that I can't just cut it into two straight halves and then splice them together straight. It's one of the few full length pieces so I'll rough it down and see if I can steam straighten it.
It illustrates the problem of finding a decent Yew stave.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Yew Bows 130# vs 70#

It was a lovely day for shooting and my mate JT warmed up slowly through a variety of bows starting at about 110#, he's just getting to grips with 130# Yew warbow.
Viewing the video at 1/8th speed I can see he hits full draw in the first part of the draw while he's got it horizontal, but looses a tad when he gets up to 45 degrees. He only took a couple of shots, but he knows he can master it now. It only shot a comparable distance to his slightly lower poundage bows, but that last inch of draw and crisper loose should add some distance.

I shot my refurbished 70# Yew bow which managed about 210 yards with my standard arrows and the 11/32" shafted ones. A bamboo arrow with a light tip and 2.5" fletchings (rather than 3") managed 230yards and a heavy war arrow only went about 160.
The two videos show the contrast between shooting a 28" draw at a comfortable weight and getting into a heavy warbow. In terms of flight shooting the difference in time held at full draw is significant.
Note the difference in technique due to the forces involved and the longer draw of the Warbow. You just can't draw a warbow the way you draw a target bow. I've added full draw stills to show the tiller, the 70# bow is much shorter and is bending on a tighter curve, it is of course a good bit thinner. You can see the physical effort JT is putting in, but he is throwing those heavy arrows an extra 60 yards.
video video

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Charity Shoot and Nock Section

This Charity shoot the Gathering 2014 June 21st organised by Sherwood forresters looks well worth a visit if you are in that neck of the woods.
I've been looking over my staves and billets that were cut last June, whilst rummaging about I came across the tip from a broken bow. I sliced it through on the bandsaw to make an interesting demo/show piece.

Catching Up

I've put some horn nocks on my refurbished bow, some of the prettiest horn I've had. The tips of the bow are considerably slimmer now and I'm hoping it will throw an arrow a decent distance. I'll try it on Saturday, when I'm hoping my mate JT will finally get the 130# Yew back to full draw unless his shoulder or the bow explodes!
I've just checked the "contact me" page of my Website, I hadn't looked for about a month, so sorry to anyone who has been waiting for a reply.
I've also been checking back for pics of when my Osage stave from the Tennessee Classic was cut (2011 so it's nicely seasoned).
here is the thread on Primitive Archer and here are a couple of pics, it was a monster tree that had fallen, vastly bigger than the sort of skinny little limbs I cut. These guys had some serious equipment to deal with it and put in hours and hours of work which shows how expensive "free" wood is.
Finished fletching a dozen arrows with lurid flights too. (Excuse the rather 60's fireplace, still at least it's real stone) We'd prefer something a bit more minimalist, but it would be a lot of work and cost to replace it, it would also leave a gap in the wooden floor.
Anyway, you can have too much minimalism ;-)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Coming Down to Earth

Shot round some 3Ds yesterday at the club, I had a nasty ache under one shoulder blade, I'd been digging out some compost and planting out courgettes the day before. Maybe that, and bracing bows had twinged it. Anyhow I enjoyed the shooting and the company, but just went round the once.
I need to make up another dozen arrows as I'm down to my last few. I've had a look at the re-furbished bow and done a few scrapes on the belly. I'm not really back into the swing of things.

I've written up a draft of an article about the Tennessee Classic , it's over 4000 words, so will need some editing and sharpening up. Still, better to condense it than to be trying to stretch thin material into an article.

The weather is damp and dismal, I'd like to be out in the garden really. I'll cut some self nocks on a dozen shafts and start fletching, a little and often will soon replenish my quiver.

Here are a few more pics from the classic including Pappy drawing up the longbow I gave him hunting style, the creek with its bridge and a shot taken after the crowds had gone...

Getting back to the airport was a shock with the clamour of 24 hour news and noise.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Tennessee Classic Trade Bow

When I arrived at the Classic I was presented with a Native American (NA) Eastern Woodlands bow and arrows made by Rich (Half Eye on the PA forum) which he'd sent down from Michigan.
I'd admired his short NA bows for some time so he made me one.
In return I left my 50# English Yew sidenocked bow as a trade. He also gave me a stone blade made by Dan Hamblin (Ogden Utah), this was hafted onto an antler from a large Illinois White-Tail Deer.

The bow is of Shagbark Hickory its 52" long with a draw of 25-26" 33mm wide at the grip and 18mm at the tip. I haven't measured the draw weight as it would be a tad scary at full draw up on the tiller, when I'm used to longer bows.
The fur is Mink and the bow has traditional decoration and a lightly scalloped and notched edge.

I have no doubt it would bring down a deer with ease. Of course had customs enquired when I landed back in the UK I'd have told them it was merely a decorative tourist piece (oooh what a fibber!)
The big stone stone arrow head alongside the knife is of Burlington Chert made by Scott (Stringman)

At the classic it was interesting to see others shooting, there was a good deal of shorter drawing and anchoring up near the eye which makes sense for hunting.
On the Sunday evening when it was quieter (many had left by then) Pappy tried the bow I'd given him as a thank you. It was bamboo backed Oregon Yew longbow I'd originally made it for my mate Mick the blacksmith it is about 52# at 26" . I'd shot it at a full 28" and it was quick. I watched nervously as Pappy selected some of his arrows and shot. A big grin spread over his face and he made a noise and gesture like an arrow leaving the bow 'wheeew' and said "That goes like a dart". He got me to stand behind him to watch as he loosed some more... he was right, not a sign of waggle they went true and fast. He gave me the high five and promised to take a deer with it to blood it for me.
The rain eased off this morning and during the brief sunny spell I got some video of me shooting it.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Tennessee Classic 2

The jet lag is easing off and it's raining, time to write up some more of my trip. I've included a couple of pics taken by someone else showing one of the 3D targets and the group of guys that shot it all using self bows (Osage by the look of 'em). Hopefully it shows what I mean about real hunting, no lucky leg shots there! Oh and by the way, one arrow only...
One guy was telling how he used to shoot compound and he came across a bedded deer 3 rows of corn away, that's less than ten yards. All his fancy sight marks were no use so he just went back to how it's been done for millennia, drew to somewhere near his nose and loosed. Watching these guys shoot confirmed my suspicions about Olympic style target archery. Now this is just my opinion and millions of people enjoy it so look away now if that's your thing.
I think it has evolved so far that it has nothing to do with archery, which is surely about hunting and warfare. The thought that the Olympics may include compound one day is appalling to me, far better if it reverted to self bows, or at least barebow.
As I said, just my opinion and we are all entitled to shoot what we want, however, in presenting "Archery" to the public gaze at the Olympics I feel something more natural and rooted in the history of mankind would serve better and be more entertaining, probably not so lucrative to the manufacturers of equipment though (hmmmm).

The other two pics show another Derik (it took a while to realise were were actually both 'Derek') and Matt who was there with his family, showing one of his horn and sinew bows backed with snake skin. He was helping out the new guys to get bows tillered and he let me use his spokeshave. I hadn't brought any tools over due to baggage limits, but all I had to do was call out "Anyone got a (insert tool of choice here)" and I'd be offered one. The farriers rasps were a revelation, huge coarse jobs that could really take off some wood, now I know what they look like I'll be trawling the web for one.
Derek was making a bow out of a skinny little piece of Ocean Spray it looked like it would make a plaything for an 8 year old kid, but that stuff was tough as old boots and at the size you see in the pic was still too tough to brace! It would easily have taken 60# or more to draw it to even 20". It had a fair bit of reflex and some nasty S shaped sideways bend. It was trying to flip sideways all the time, my experience with narrow English Longbows allowed me to give him some guidance (he was fairly new to bowmaking) and it was braced and on it way to being finished at the end of the weekend.

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned shipping bows, excess baggage and the like.
Someone asked for details, here is what I found. Note, the flights were with Virgin and Delta who are partners in transatlantic flight (other airlines will have different allocations and measurements)
Going out I took one carry on bag and my drainpipe with 3 bows in it to be checked in at no extra cost.
The free allowance was one carry on bag:- 10kg max.  dimensions 9x14x22" max
and one check in bag 23kg max. dimensions 81 linear inches (e.g length + width + depth)
That's enough for longbows but not warbows.

The big problem was that they say extra bags may be charged on each leg of a flight and you can get charged for it being over weight and over length as well. This could end up being horrendously expensive.
The may is irritating as it is not defined, maybe if you have 2 flights on the same airline they might not charge all legs but who knows.
Much of the information available is ambiguous or contradictory. If you are taking longbows just completely ignore their free sporting goods allowance as anything other than a modern take down or compound doesn't fit their allowance.
They know zip about bows. When I checked in the drainpipe of bows they asked if there were arrows in there too, I said yes. They said are they pointed (which I took to mean broadhead) so I said no. Of course a 50# longbow with a field arrow couldn't hurt a fly could it? They are just kids toys....
I had a great result for the return trip.
Due to it being a busy time of year and my booking the flights fairly late, I had to book a minor upgrade on both the return flights from Economy to Premium Economy.
When my E-Ticket arrived it showed I was allowed a second check in bag free! I also had more leg room etc. Because I was bringing back more stuff this probably saved me money and made me more comfortable. So if you are taking a lot of stuff it's well worth checking out the baggage allowance in the various grades of seat.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Tennessee Classic

Wow! Back from the USA. I'm still so jet lagged that whilst feeding the cat I put my breakfast cereal in her bowl!
Anyhow, I've just got to post a few pics to give you a flavour.
Firstly, for those who don't know the Tennessee Classic at Twin Oaks is surely the best traditional archery meet anywhere on earth. There are already some pics of the event on there.
There are really three three stories to tell. How I came to get there, the place itself and the bows. But above all that is the real story which is the people. I can't tell it all in one hit, so I'll just ramble!

I got there on the Thursday evening and was being shown around, there were two brothers (Steve & Eric), big guys and fairly quiet, I made some lame joke about using band saws and held up my hand with a finger folded down so it looked like it was cut off.
One of the guys Eric (left in the first pic) leaned in towards me and held up his hand with two finger tips missing and the silence was deafening... He let it hang for just a second and then gave a big grin.
I knew right then I was going to fit in just fine! A couple of days later they gave me the pick of some staves from their truck and I picked out a great piece Hop Hornbeam. It's not the same as what we call Hornbeam, which is more like what they call Blue Beech or Muscle wood. All this naming of wood is hugely confusing.
Enough chat, here are some pics... this post will get spread over the week and I'll hopefully be writing up the whole story for Primitive Archer magazine.
My host Pappy is the guy in the bib overalls, a great bloke non stop on the go and he put me up in his cabin which is an Aladins cave of stuff, bows, arrows flint knives, arrow heads , trophies, furs all sorts of stuff picked up, or left as momentos etc. You could sit in there and spend a week looking at each bit as he told the story associated with it.
One of the big things that struck me was the difference in target set up over there... There were more deer sized targets and they were closer. Heck this is easy I thought but No! They are real bow hunters and are looking for the clean kill. A 'lucky leg' is fine over here shooting NFAS for points,but those guys are shooting to get meat to feed themselves and family. An entirely different outlook on hunting which is at one with the environment. It's far removed from the excesses of country house pheasant shoots or the stories of inept 'townies' blasting away at things with firearms. Most of the people hunt with both rifle and bow and they knew what they were doing and talking about... It was a pleasure and privilege to sit quiet and listen to the hunting stories..

The pictures are random mix to try and give a feel for how it was.