Monday, 29 June 2015

Starting and Finishing

I've got a few bows on the go, often I'll work a stave down piece meal.
The Elm stave was de barked at the Fair the other day, that's to say the very outer bark was removed, the reddish brown dusty dry smelly layer underneath was left. I was just after a smooth surface I could use a pencil on.
This morning I've marked it out and run it through the bandsaw to rough dimensions, but that's not the next bow I'll be working on. I also have the Hazel bow which I started at the Fair (pictured on the grass), dunno if I'll finish that yet.
I have a chap wanting an 80# Yew longbow for which I have a nice stave, maybe I'll get that marked out and roughed out on the bandsaw.

The sapwood and heartwood of the Elm is very much the same in terms of its properties, it does give the bow a nice look tho'. One pic shows how the heart sap boundary doesn't follow the growth rings near the end of the stave.

Finishing is another kettle of fish, I'm beginning to accumulate finished and semi finished bows.
I'm reluctant to finish a bow unless it's to suit an individual.
I made a lovely Bamboo backed Yew 40# target bow, but the guy simply stopped communicating. I'm sure I'll find someone who wants it, but that one is all finished as a right handed bow.
There's a Hickory backed Yew which will draw to a full 32", it has leather built up on the back of the grip for comfort but I haven't finished it further... do I finish it with a leather grip and arrow plate for a right hander or do I keep it as my only 32" draw bow, or do I offer it "as is"?
Similarly the one I've just done from spliced billets, a lovely bow. I wanted to see how far it would shoot a heavy arrow at the fair yesterday, but the guy with a suitable draw length declined to try it for distance during the medieval archery demo... dunno why. I'll have to set up the chrono' set up and see how fast it is as a target/field bow.
Update :- Yew Billet bow 167 fps with a 29" 380gn arrow
I have been kindly invited to bring bows for sale along to the ILAA shoots. Maybe I'll get 'em finished off and take 'em along to one of the shoots that isn't too far away.

I'd rather see a bow being used than languishing in my garage, but sometimes people aren't very good at communicating and I get a good number of "no show"s.
One thing is for sure, I'll never put 'em on E-bay, some of the stuff there is awful and gives bowyers  a bad reputation.

I've roughed out the Yew stave, it's not as cleanly defined heart/sap as I'd have liked and I'll need to reduce the sapwood before I really mark out the bow. Still it's more like a stave than half a log now. Pics once it's moved on a tad.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Busy Day

My mate Matt a bowyer from Cambridge way dropped in on his way down to a wood yard, he gave me some lovely Hickory laminations/backing strips and a big piece that had heart/sapwood colouration in it which could make a couple of pretty bows. We had a bit of a chat and swapped tales of injured fingers. He showed me some pictures of his work, some stunning laminated tips and grips and cool walking ticks. He didn't stay too long as we both had places to be.

I'd already got the car loaded with my shave horse tiller tree and bowyers tools to go the the Walkern Magna Carta Fair.
The weather was glorious and I was set up under a big tent along with "the medievals" who had a fine display of arms, bows etc.  (See pic of my mate JT) There was falconry, armed combat, the archers and a trebuchet. I didn't really get a chance to walk round and have a look to see what else was there as there was a steady stream of people asking about making bows and trying the feel of a spokeshave on Yew heart and sap wood, it's great when they can actually feel it and lots of kids seemed enthralled with making curly shavings.
There was a French contingent dressed in medieval costume, it's odd but they don't recognise the name "Yew" and "Taxus" didn't help much either.
Rather than trying to explain the difference in heart and sap, I got the French lady to have a go, I accentuated that it was about the senses, feeling, and being sympathetic to the wood. I flirted and teased with our national stereotypes a little and said that people think us English men aren't passionate and sensual, but working with wood is is all about that. I added that the sap and heart woods are a perfect marriage. The French lady joined in the joke and translated to her colleagues with a broad grin.
I roughed down a stave of Hazel and got it flexing on the tiller which was a good demonstration. Mind, I left it up on the tiller and someone managed to knock it off which jarred the big scales and made it read 20 pounds over weight. It's a minor irritation to strip it down and re position the cogs.
I shot a few arrows, Monkey bow shot the whistling arrows and I had a few through the 70# Yew bow. One of my lighter arrows flew out with a bang, whacked my left forearm and sailed wide of the boss. It must have had a crack in the shaft as I later found half of it beyond the target boss. lucky it didn't rip into my arm, as I hadn't bothered with the bracer.

I got a picture of "Second Chance" the 50# Yew longbow in use. I was impressed that it's lady owner (in medieval garb) was getting a really good full draw on it. The lower limb looks a bit whip tillered , but I checked back to pictures of the unbraced stave and there it has a bit of a deflex near the end which makes it look like that.

The day was surprisingly tiring, but I s'pose I was up and down on the shave horse all day, bending down shifting staves and drawing bows. Just heaving my kit to and from the car which was 100 yards away was a chore by the end of the day.

I got home and made a big saucepan of chilli, had a good cat nap then stayed up to watch our Women in the World cup (they beat Canada 2-1) mostly due to Canada's inability to stick the ball in the back of the net and a defensive mistake. Still it was slightly less nerve wracking than watching our men.

Friday, 26 June 2015

The Camera Never Lies?

I wanted to get a full draw pic of the spliced billet bow so I set up the video camera . The resulting picture grabbed from the video made the bow look odd, the lower limb looked short and like it was bending too hard. What was wrong?
Ah, I tend to cant the bow which brings the top limb closer to the camera, it's also important to get the camera height about the same height as the bow hand. We take our modern cameras for granted but they all have limitations. Take a picture of something with verticals at either edge of the frame and the limitations soon become apparent.
So I took the video again, taking care to have the bow upright. I didn't get quite such a full draw this time, but you can see the difference.

Looking at it closely, I think I possibly have the camera too high still as my bow hand is fairly low. Just for the heck of it I'll take another one with an extreme camera position to see what that looks like.

Ah it looks like the canting of the bow is the real culprit. Flipping between the pics, the last two look pretty similar, it's the first one where I have the bow canted that looks odd.

Enough of this, time for a little rant about banks.
Look away now if you work in that business.

I received a cheque for $150 for a magazine article I'd written.
I went to the Nationwide building society where I bank to pay it in and was told "We stopped accepting foreign currency cheques a few months ago".
I find this sort of thing really irritating.
They couldn't or wouldn't explain whether this was by choice or they were actually physically unable to process them now. The high street banks were all totally unhelpful, one said if I opened an account they'd pay pay it in for a £10 fee?! What a bunch of shysters, they have staff sitting there all day... how does actually having to make a few key keystrokes on a computer cost them any more?

Anyhow the way to complain these days is on Facebook (a fairly loathsome piece of software which doesn't let you put carriage returns in your comments.... it thinks that's the end of the comment) . I pretty soon got a response, it was a trite reiteration of the fact that they no longer accept foreign currency cheques.... (D'uh? That's what I'd just said) and an apology.
Not good enough so I told 'em I didn't accept the apology but wanted reasons or action, suggesting maybe I should take all my money to Santander who would at least accept the cheque.
That got a prompt response suggesting I could get the payment made using the SWIFT system.
All well and good but what is it and what's required?
Eventually they spelled out all the various codes and numbers which are needed to make the transaction.
Now why couldn't that information have been told to me when I walked into the branch?
I do realise that technology moves on and systems change, but banks seem singularly oblivious to the needs of their customers.
The news often refers to the "Financial Services Industry" IMO it is neither an industry nor much of a service.
It's not an industry because it doesn't actually produce anything, it just sponges of the efforts of others whilst stuffing it's own pockets.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Full Draw Plus

Great day shooting yesterday at Cloth of Gold, it was a memorial shoot for one of the blokes who died unexpectedly a while back. He was remembered fondly whenever I stuck an arrow in tree which was all to frequent. It was a friendly contest between the two clubs to which he belonged. 20 3D targets shot from 2 different sets of pegs, giving 40 targets in all. I shot poorly in the morning scoring 178 but stormed back with 244 in the afternoon giving a respectable score. There were some very long shots and I finished with 45 yard first arrow kill at an Alligator down hill over a pond.
One of the chaps I shot with was using a Yew backed Yew bow I'd made him (shooting well in the morning and poorly in the afternooon... between us we had a whole good day). He waned me to take some draw weight off the bow, as he was trouble holding anchored at full draw.
I spent some time this morning rasping and scraping at the outer 1/2 - 1/3 of the limbs, making the tips both thinner and narrower. I took off 5# and hopefully the performance won't have suffered. He'll hopefully get a better full draw.

Anyhow, I'm a tad jaded today, maybe I got dehydrated or over tired, maybe I ate too much Indian takeaway that we had for Father's day... or was it the Hoppy Copper Bitter.Who knows?
So I grasped the nettle and put the new bow on the tiller and heaved it just past 29".
You can see from the pic it a much nicer shape now and a tad over 55#.

Maybe it's gone a whisker from left limb stiff to right limb stiff... I won't fiddle with it until I've shot some arrows through it and seen how it looks in the hand.
Update:- I've made a string and shot 15 arrows through it drawing them right to the very tip which is about 292 and feels positively medieval, it bangs 'em out impressively.
Shot 3 of my 3/8" pretend medieval arrows too... they went real smooooooth and true. The regular arrows whipped out of there like snakes on a plane.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Nearly Finished

The cut on my finger isn't as bad as I'd feared, the finger nail took some of the force and stopped it going too deep, so I've managed to press on today.

The horn nocks are done but not finished and polished. 
The tips are slimmed a bit and blended in.
I've included a pic of before and after blending in the last 5-6" of tip, hopefully you can see the improvement.
There's a pic of the dreaded pegged knot that led to the cut finger.

It's ready to do final tillering. There is a temptation to reflex the upper limb tip to match the lower, but I want to leave it completely natural.

These are semi matched billets from the same tree, they are not from the same log like "sister" or "book matched " billets, but were chosen for their similar shape.
The Yew was cut in 2015:-

Here are some pics, lower one shows the view along the lower limb, you can see the splice and the odd sap wood heart wood sap wood stripe. 

The pic of the splice on the belly shows how I re-cut it.
I'd done the splice but not glued it... I wasn't happy with how one limb was slightly on the twist relative to the other, and there was too much reflex/back set. So... I glued back in the Vs of wood I'd cut out and re-cut one of the splices... it looks a bit of a patch work on the belly, but it's an honest job.
The splice on the back was left true. It's the back that's the important bit, as compression will hold the belly together.  The splice is shown from the back too.

The bow has been scraped and sanded a bit, once it has some Danish Oil on it, I think the colour will show more and it will be a very handsome bow. The recurved lower tip will be an interesting talking point too as it will torment those people who think they know the rules and regulations about the various definitions of "English Longbow". The reflex is entirely natural and as such is (to the best of my knowledge) permissible in all definitions.

I'll probably put a veg' tan leather grip on it, so the splice won't be visible. The bloke I'm making it for says he wanted a bow from a single stave... that's his choice. I'm sure I'll have no shortage of people interested in this bow.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Spliced Yew Bending Nicely

I spent a good deal of time yesterday going of the limbs evening up the thickness taper adjusting the line of the lower tip to try and stop the tendency to waggle and cleaning up the back.
There is one bit on the back where I go through several rings of the sapwood, the back has a sort of ripple in it a bit like the twist on a big rope. (see pic) And I've had to reduce the sapwood in places to ensure there is some heartwood on the belly and to try and keep the cross section of the bow relatively even/symmetrical. These things are all a compromise.

I'd been flexing it in my hand and was a bit anxious that if the splice did give out it could rip into my hand where I have a cut healing, so, as a safety measure I put a few layers of PVC tape over there just to contain any splinters if it did go.

I'm much more confident now it's coming back to about 27" at 60# That gives me some room to get the tips moving some more and to tweak the tiller.

The tiller shape has to reflect the unbraced shape of the bow, and in the full draw shot it makes like the tiller is a bit "square".
This bow is a perfect illustration of that, I'll explain:-
The tips (especially the left) will always look a bit stiff where it has a nice reflex curve unbraced.
It also looks stiff either side of the grip (especially the right), but there is a reflex or back set section just there (e.g the limb sweeps upwards a tad)
The deflex dip in the middle of each limb also contributes to the square look.

The right limb does need to move more in the outer 1/3 but that will happen as I narrow the limb a bit especially towards the tip when I fit the nocks.

I've just popped out and taken a pic of it unstrung so you can see what I'm talking about.
It's still got some reflex... which is nice.
All in all I'm very pleased. more work on it today and an update tomorrow.

In answer to the question asked below, here's a pic showing how I've marked the tip ready to shape it to add the horn nock. You can see the centreline has shifted from the original position (where the notch is cut in the end... that's where I guided a string to act as a line).
It's a small shift, but it all helps maintain alignment.

Oh F.F.S !....Just contrived to chop into the index finger of my left hand. Trying to get the axe to start a split along the grain on a tiny off cut to make a peg for a small hole near the nock on the lower limb. I was only tapping it and it slipped. At least it didn't take it off... must stay away from any sharp tools for a while. Not amused, F'ing and blinding..,.full of adrenalin...bugger.
And it smarts...
Never mind, let's have a nice cup of tea.
On the plus side, at least I've got the Steri-strips !

A couple of hours later, the cut has closed nicely. It looks as though the edge of the fingernail stopped it going too deep so it's more of a slice. Hopefully it will mend pretty quick, the last one has healed nicely.
I was really annoyed with myself, a mixture of impatience stupidity and complacency.
On the plus side, I'm being let off cooking duty tonight.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Spliced Yew Braced

It's a bit of a pig to brace and I needed to file extra nock grooves for a stringer. There is no chance of having a low brace as it flips round and the string pops over onto the back of the bow.
Even at this brace height, I had to force the string across to help remove some lateral waggle on the lower (most reflexed limb).
It's looking pretty good, but I'm a bit nervy about it.
Not sure how the splice will hold up, hence the grip is left fairly deep.
How good is the heart wood? What's going on with the colour variation in the sapwood?
It needed bracing to get a real feel of the poundage and to check the tiller. With reflexed bows it's easy to end up under weight as there is more poundage required to brace it, and this is deceptive if you are pulling it on a long string.

It feels good in the hand, plenty of early draw weight when pulling it a few inches. Of course it's not been tillered or drawn yet and so a lot of that will probably disappear.

I've not pulled it on the tiller at brace yet, it's just standing in the corner strung to let it settle.
This is a "Where I am at the start" post, dunno what it will look like by the end of the weekend.

Some bows feel you with confidence and you feel you could pull 'em back to the ear, others leave one feeling twitchy... but there's no real correlation between the reality and the expectation. Some that I felt really solid about have exploded and other bows that felt worrying have turned out great.
The secret is to make sure no one is standing behind you ready to clap or break a stick when you are tillering or at full draw with a new bow.

Note:- in each pick, the limb at the top is the lower limb of the bow and the one with most reflex and the bit of waggle.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Spliced Yew

This is a bit of an odd bow, the billets were spliced up about a year ago, but there is a fair bit of reflex and the sap wood is slightly odd, with streaks of heartwood running amongst it.
I have a chap who has been after a bow for ages but he's out in Australia a good deal of the time which doesn't lend itself to good communication so it's rather been on the back burner.
I'm happiest making bows for people I can meet and where I can follow the behaviour of the bow and fix or fine tune the bow. Anyhow I thought I'd try to make this one suit the requirement 50-70# at 29"
I'm not sure if it will make it as it's easy to come out under weight with reflexed bows, but we'll see.
I'm expecting most of the reflex to pull out by the time it's tillered, but the waggles make it difficult to see the tiller too.
I'm slightly ambivalent about splices too, they are much strong on a grip that has greater thickness like an American style longbow. I'm slightly tempted to do a thin sapwood back patch over the splice for extra strength. I'd just rasp off a shallow curved scallop about 1/8"-3/16" deep and overlay a sapwood patch. This gives a vastly increased glue area over the part which is in tension.
Dunno... it somehow smacks of cheating... no idea why I feel like that, as it makes good engineering sense!
Here are some pics.
You can see I'm pulling it to 60# and it's about far enough back to be put on a low brace, there's already a good deal of tip deflection... somewhere near 10"

The weekend was a bit drear, I went up the club but the field was so wet we ended up chatting in the car park. A new club member Nick came back to mine to show me a bow that he wanted repairing. It was Sycamore and as I don't have any Sycamore I couldn't really patch the splinter which ran along one edge of the back near the grip.
I tried a quick fix, gluing the splinter down (having cleaned off the epoxy and varnish first). I bound it with rubber strapping while the low viscosity superglue cured.
The strapping was glued down too and whilst trying to cut it free the Stanley knife jerked as it cut through and slashed the edge of my little finger... bugger. At least it wasn't down to the bone and it serves as a timely warning to take care... better careless with a knife than the bandsaw.
The bow was then bound with fine linen thread over the area with the split and low viscosity superglue soaked into the thread. I don't know if it will hold, but the effort in taking 3/16" off the back and re-backing it wasn't really cost effective.
I stuck some plasters over the cut to stem the flow of blood and later got some Steri-strips which closed the wound nicely whilst allow the air to get to it. It had been looking wet and open under the sticking plaster... I think Steri-strips are a good thing to have in the bathroom cabinet.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Second Chance Signed Off

I've been doing a fair bit in the garden and sort of taking it easy before starting on another bow.

I've got all the detail done now and she's ready to be handed over.

I'll take her up the club tomorrow (weather permitting), see how far she lobs an arrow and maybe shoot a few 3D targets. that will get the number of arrows up beyond 100 (it's at 90 at the moment).

I'll take another bow along too as there's a new guy who's interested in a Warbow. I don't have one to hand, but I have a Hickory backed Yew which will shoot at 32" draw, it's not in a finished state... that's to say, I've got some leather on the back to help round the Hickory backing, as backed bows can be rather square on the back and not so comfortable as a stave bow. But it doesn't have an actual grip or arrow plate.

Here are some pics of the finished "Second Chance"... I may get a pic of it being actually shot tomorrow, as opposed to drawn on the tiller.

I added a hole to the top nock to allow for a string retaining thread if required, not something I usually do. The hole was polished by running some hep twine loaded with polishing compound back and forth through it. A few minutes well spent to get the detail right.

In the top pic, by my thumb you can see a kink in the bow, there was a big loose knot. I filled it with a plug of Yew, it's mostly disappeared now where the tip has been narrowed and blended in towards the nock.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

MOP Arrow Plate

Interesting day today, I walked up to the town about midday to the Gibberd Gallery where Andrew James was doing a demonstration of portrait paining in oils. I've never used oils and my colour vision isn't very good (like 40% of males I have slight red/green deficiency) It was very interesting and inspiring to watch him work. In about an hour and three quarters he'd done a 'sketch' which showed the technique and was V impressive. He was a great bloke to talk to... it must have been nerve wracking to paint in front of an audience.
I did a bit of a pencil sketch while the model (an oldish bloke with glasses and some character to his face) was sat there. It served to accentuate the contrast between painting and using a pencil. One using line, the other applying colour direct... I'd be lost with the colour.
In the afternoon (after a wee catnap) I got back to the bows.

I got a particularly nice piece of Mother of Pearl (MOP) for Second Chance's arrow plate.
Hard to take a pic that shows the figure...
A nice bit of bling and of course in medieval times there would have been MOP about, after all they enjoyed their oysters and I dare say people would use the shells for all sorts of decorative uses.

The repaired bow was collected too, I'd tidied the nocks and built up some leather under the grip for added comfort. If the back fails again I'll take it down leaving a thin Hickory core and put a bamboo back on, taking the opportunity to narrow the tips which will also take out some of the bend in the lower limb.
The pic shows the leather being glued on and the slight bend in the tip. You can also see how flat the back is. I rounded the edges somewhat and the leather, once glued, had UHU glue massaged into it and was then rasped to give a more rounded back at the grip. The devil is in the detail, hopefully the bow will be a little more comfortable to shoot now.
Three bottles of wine were a nice thank you for my efforts.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Second Chance at Full Draw

Whew, got to full draw. I'll take a scrape or two off the right limb just out from the grip as the lower (left) limb seems to be working hard, but it's pretty much there.
I've messed about drawing ellipses in MS Paint which tends to support my view, the left limb is bending on a tighter curve, but still pretty good.
Another solution would be to reverse the bow on the tiller, but I won't do that.
I'm happy for this bow to be a whisker under 50# rather than a whisker over like the last one.

I've now taken a few fine rasp strokes and some scrapes of the cabinet scraper off the inner end of the right limb. It's tricky to get perfect tiller with those knots and the kink in the left limb about 6" from the tip which makes it look weak on the tip.
I'll see if I have a string that fits so I can shoot it a bit to exercise it. I'm leaving it strung for a hour or so too to let it settle.
Ah, that little bit of work and leaving it strung has eased it to 50# at 29", mind the brace height is about an inch low. The curve looks more even. That's it now... I'll drop the tools, put my hands in the air and step away from the bow.

Update:- I found a string that's nearly right, I had to twist it up rather a lot so it's a tad stretchy, but I've had 5 test shots.
That works then!

Horn Nocks and a Back Patch

I got the horn nocks done on "Second chance" and one of the guys from the club popped in with a bow for repair. It was a 50# Hickory Backed Osage English Longbow with a nasty splinter lifting on the Hickory.
I wasn't sure if it was Osage, but lightly filing near one of the nocks returned the wood to the bright yellow which shows when it is freshly worked.
I rasped out a big section and glued in a patch, it's had overnight for the glue to cure so I can clean it up this morning.

Here are a load of assorted pics and a tiny video clip to show the waggly knot on the belly of Second Chance which I mentioned filling in an earlier post.

The pencil is in the pictures to give an idea of scale of the nocks, they are  about as small as can be done sensibly on a 50#bow. It's nice to make 'em from the same bit of horn, although to look at 'em you wouldn't know.

I won't flex the backed bow until it's had a full 24 hours to cure, but I'll spend a bit of time tarting up the nocks and cleaning it with wire wood soaked in white spirit. I'll then give it a waxing and the patch should be near on invisible.

I'll also hope to get second chance back to full draw and start the final clean up on it. The tool marks are all scraped out, but it may need a little more rasping to get back those last couple of inches. I don't want this one over weight.


Monday, 1 June 2015

A Little Progress

Spent some time today refurbishing arrows and working on "Second Chance".
I've got a nice stash of re-furb'ed arrows, 3 whistling arrows and 5 of the 'pretend medieval' arrows for 32" draw.

The lower limb is flexing more and it's come back another inch or so at 50#.
I've also drawn it in the hand to probably 27", so I'm feeling fairly confident that it will get to full draw.
I filled one knot on the belly. As I'd removed wood off the belly, the manky stuff round the knot was becoming exposed and I could wiggle it when I poked at it with a needle file.
The knot was slightly oval so I drilled out the centre and picked out round the edges down to sound wood, I packed it with epoxy and sawdust mix. When that was cured I drilled it and fitted a round peg, the finished effect is a round Yew peg with a small crescent of Yew dust epoxy mix where it was irregular.
I've been using a simple pair of calipers (see pic) to check the thickness is constantly getting less towards the tips. No actual measurement, just using 'em as a go no-go check.
Next step is probably fitting horn nocks.

As I came out of the front of the garage I noticed  a flat tyre on the car... just as well I spotted it as it's work tomorrow and I'd have been in a right flap getting it sorted before I could set off to work.
Why is it always the best tyre that gets a puncture?... Right on the shoulder... dunno if it will be repairable or if it's a new tyre... still, plenty of worse things could have happened.