Sunday, 31 January 2016

Give it a Rest

Not the best week, so I've not been working on bows.
I had a "funny turn", and lost my memory for about 4 hours. A very strange experience for all concerned, I was fine both physically and mentally but my memory span was down to about two minutes, so I kept asking the same questions.
Stuff from about 10 years ago was ok.
We went to the hospital and I'm now on some medication and not allowed to drive for 28 days.
That was a couple of days ago... Then last night Sophie the cat had a siezure which was very upsetting as it seemed to compound the upset. She's ok now, and the pair of us are just now't but trouble.

At one point during my memory loss I asked if I made bows, I then asked what I'd been doing in the workshop. My wife said she thought I'd been steaming or heat treating a bow... I was nonplussed and asked "Steaming, heat treating? What's that about?" She was V concerned as it's a big part of who I am.
It makes one think about the nature of memory... it's all come back now except the 4 hours of the incident.
If it hadn't come back then this diary would hopefully have helped me find my feet again.
I've had a bit of a tinker with the bow, but I'm not really back into it yet... I expect my enthusiasm for it will be back at it in a day or so.

It all rather reminds one of our frailty so look after yourselves and those you love... and your cats!

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Yew AFB Long vs Short String

 I've stuck on some temporary Yew nocks and checked out the thickness taper by eye and fingers.
It's up on the tiller for a first flex. Lower (left) limb is a tad stiff, but it basically looks ok and almost ready for bracing. I can see the limbs flexing near the fades and the outers are stiff, which is pretty much how I start the tillering process on all my bows.
I may well add a little deflex near the fades and a V gentle recurve to the outers once it's all.

I've now planed the sides and narrowed the tips a little also planed a little off the corners of the belly so the tips are pulling back far enough to brace's back far enough to brace.
See top pic the tips are back about 7" at 45#
Now I brace it to a low brace and look (lower pic), the tips are back an average of 9" at 45# .
That shows how the short string applies much more stress than the long string. It's due to the geometry, the detailed maths of it doesn't really matter as long as you understand the effect and get braced as soon as you sensibly can.

Note I've tried to position the bow centrally on the tiller and pull from the centre to show it better. Normally I pull from where the string will be pulled in real use (above centre, that's right of centre as I always have upper limb to the right)

Monday, 25 January 2016

Bit More on the AFB

I didn't feel particularly like working on bows this morning, but I pottered about tidying and sweeping the garage... next thing I know I've picked up the AFB (American Flat Bow) and started reducing it a little more.  It still needs a few weeks to finish off the seasoning indoors somewhere warm as I've removed a good deal of wood.
It certainly feels seasoned, but I don't want any nasty surprises with it moving on me.
I've cleaned up the back taking out the bandsaw marks with plane spokeshave and scraper. I've improved the thickness taper and it flexes when I lean on it. Then I marked out a centre line (using a length of string held on with masking tape) and a little tip taper and run it through the bandsaw. I've allowed the lower limb a slight waggle mid limb to follow the wood, although it's rather slight and would have been ok to lay out dead straight.
I've still got plenty of width and thickness to play with.
The centre has been  sketched out roughly where the grip and arrow shelf will be, there's a nice knot near there which will look great when it's all shaped and polished.

I couldn't resist making this silly little animated video:-

Friday, 22 January 2016

Warbow at Full Draw

At last I've got the string made and the bow taken to full draw.
It's hard to actually measure the draw weight and length accurately. From my position sitting on the floor and pulling on the rope, it looked like I was at 32" draw, but from the camera's angle it looked like 33". The draw weight was just a whisker over 120#, and the tiller looks good.
I've posted the video of it on Youtube.
It just needs some Danish Oil and a good waxing now.

Here's a link to the whole Warbow playlist on Youtube:-

Wednesday, 20 January 2016


I was hoping to get some video of the Warbow as I've pulled it to a full 32", but I woke up yesterday and the room was spinning and I felt dizzy if I moved my head.
It's an inner ear infection and very frustrating as I felt ok as long as I didn't move my head. I didn't even feel up to making a string for the bow.

I feel a bit better this morning, still a bit queasy but I can move about steadily and I can sit at the computer.
If it warms up a bit I may make the string this afternoon, I can't abide enforced idleness.

I'm sort of treading water doing this rather scruffly post, I expect I'll be back to my old self tomorrow, meanwhile here's a few pics... I can't be bothered to crop 'em.

First one shows a little scruffy dip on the edge where a pin knot has dropped off, Since taking the pic, I've left a drop of low viscosity superglue on it for a while and then sanded it nicely with a little sanding tool made from an off cut of garden cane with some 120 grit sand paper glued on the end (see pic on right). Running that carefully over the dip with the electric drill has cleaned it to help prevent any fibres lifting, and I haven't removed any extra wood which would risk weakening it.
There's another filled pin that goes through the edge too, that my well pinch a little. I'll give that area some attention too.
In the pictures of it on the tiller there's an area that looks fat just left of the grip, viewed from the other side of the bow it looks thin, it due to the back of the bow being slightly on the twist at that point.
I was going to do a sketch but I've just run out of energy... I'll go and have a cat nap instead!

You can see the bow has been scraped and sanded, just about ready for some Danish Oil. I've branded it with my bowyer's mark too.
The nocks are rather handsome, I like the pale nocks on a warbow.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Slowly Improving the Tiller

I've heat treated the inner 2/3 of the left (lower) limb with it pulled down with rubber strapping to try to take out a little of that ugly deflex kink and to stiffen it mid limb a tad.
I didn't over do it or clamp it down hard. Here's an annotated pic of it after the heat treatment and a pic of it at 100# pull, you can see the tiller is looking a bit better and it's stiffened it up by an inch.
E.G It was 100# at 29 before, now it's 100 at 28" despite me narrowing the left outer limb a bit more!
Tillering undulating staves is tricky as the undulations visible in the unbraced stave should still be visible at full draw.
Video here:-
Since taking the video I've eased off the outer 1/3 of the lower limb taking a little off along one edge  which was a tad thicker than the other, using a fine rasp but mostly working with the scraper.
It's remained strung all this time. Then I flexed it dynamically on the tiller increasing the draw each time up to 32", it looked to be about 115#, but couldn't read it accurately as I was watching the tiller and the draw length.
I'm much happier now, and I think this whole build has really shown the problems of tillering a warbow. I'll take some more video once it's been exercised some more.
I think it also shows how you really do need to be pulling full draw weight from the start. Maybe it also shows that I'm wrong and that with a warbow you need to work to dimensions early on to get you close enough to put it on the tiller and brace it.
the real problem has been that its the first warbow I've done for a while and it's tricky to go from a 42# primitive straight onto a warbow... If I do another warbow now, it would doubtless be a simpler job.

Out of interest I've taken the thickness figures from each limb at 6" intervals and averaged them.
I've then looked at how much each reading dropped from the previous.
E.G My rough out figure is 2mm reduction every 6". How does this compare with the finished bow?
One would expect it to taper more severly near the tip and less severely near the grip.
Here are some figures starting at 32.2mm thick at the Centre Line (CL):-
6" reduces by 2.45 mm from CL
12"                 2.3mm     from the previous figure
18"                 1.3mm     from previous
24"                 2.35mm   from previous
30"                 2.65mm   from previous
36"                 3.45mm   from previous
tip                  5.25mm   from previous

This shows that the 2mm every 6" is a reasonable rough out figure, but needs treating with some caution as it will give stiff tips. Mind, that's the way I tend to tiller (from the middle outwards).
Plotting the thickness figures shows a dip down from the grip area and then a nice smoothly increasing degree of taper to the tip.
CL    32.2            
6"      29.75
12"    27.46
18"    26.15
24"    23.8
30"    21.15
36"    17.7
Tip    12.45            

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Chasing Your tail

I've shortened the Yew Warbow by taking an inch off each tip, I've used steam bending to take out some of the ugly deflex near the knot on the left and at the tip on the right.
These changes should bring up the draw weight.
I've slimmed tips significantly and put on the horn nocks, this should get the outer limbs moving better, improve the tiller but loose draw weight. The upshot is... I'm exactly where I was before!The freshly added hint of reflex has pulled out (the bow is overall dead straight now). Right limb looks good but the left is rather ugly.
The lower limb looks stiff in the outer third and maybe a bit weak at that kink... See Pic, slightly better than the previous, 2" shorter and horn nocks added.
Note:- I haven't pulled it to the full 32" as I'm not 100% happy with the tiller. Being a bit of a perfectionist does have it's down side... I'm sure plenty of people would be happy with it as it is. But one has to be true to oneself.
Anyhow given a choice between a bow with good tiller that's 10# light or one with bad tiller I know which I'd go for. Hopefully I'll manage to pull tiller and draw weight into line pics and probably video of the result tomorrow.

For the next step I've used dry heat to take out that kink on the lower limb and heat treated the inner 2/3 of that lower limb. The outer 1/3 has been reduced a tad to get it moving.
Hopefully this will get me a few pounds extra draw weight and a better tiller. I'll leave it overnight to cool down and re-acclimatize.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Warbow Ups and Downs

This post really illustrates the trickiness of Warbow tillering.
I've slimmed the tips, straightened up the sides of the bow and rounded the corners some more.
Time has been spent checking for thick or thin spots by nipping up the calipers on the limb and checking that they will slide towards the tip but not back towards the grip. This ensures a continuous gradual taper.
I find I can now just string it using my foot on the long string, taking care to use my legs to pull and not my back. It's hard work as one is bent over at an awkward angle.
I've taken the winch off the tiller so I can flex the bow dynamically to look at the bend and its 90# @ 24" which interpolates to 120# at 32" so it's virtually finished and time to put on the horn nocks.

90/24= 3.75 pounds/inch
32 x 3.75 = 120 pounds
It can be calculated using only the power stroke rather than the whole draw length, but it's arguable which works best.
Now this raises the whole thorny subject of draw weight.
You can't actually measure it to any great degree of accuracy as it depends on so many thing, like:-
For how long has the bow been strung.
Temperature and humidity.
For how long it's held at full draw.
Has it been shot in.
An error of plus or minus 5 pounds is actually pretty good. I try for spot on or a couple of pounds over knowing that a bow will settle, but there are no guarantees.

Just to illustrate the problems I've been back and pulled it again after it's sat braced for half an hour and the draw weight has dropped significantly to about 90 at 26" !
I've exercised it and pulled it further and it's showing 100 at 29" This really shows that I should follow my own mantra of pulling to full target weight from as early as possible.
So what's going to happen? Is it going to be underweight?
Probably... BUT but I have a few tricks, I'll take an inch off each end, but I don't want to take off too much, and I don't want to heat treat it.
I'm taking out the little ugly deflex at the right tip and the deflex bend by the knot on the left limb (about a foot out from the centre). Just straightening out a couple of kinks can push the tips back an inch or so which will gain some weight. Mind whatever I gain in weight will probably be lost in tiller improvements to the outer limbs.
I'm rather beating myself up for being light, but that's probably rather unfair it's just that I'm my own harshest critic.
Probably do another post tomorrow.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Yew Warbow Braced

After a dull drear week we have blue sky, sun and a bit of frost, very uplifting.
I've done a lot of work reducing the thickness of the warbow mostly with rasps.
A second groove has been added to the temporary nocks to allow a stringer to be used (see video).

I've got it braced and part drawn so that I can see how it's bending.
The video shows how I braced it and explains some of the problems of tillering a warbow.
The bow is about 32mm thick at the grip evenly tapered by about 2mm every 6" .

Meanwhile I've roughed out the AFB. I've done a fine job of it.
The half log I cut it from was lovely and straight with a nice clean flat sawn face so I laid some 45mm wide steel channel along it and marked along that. I then ran it through the bandsaw giving clean faces to mark out the side view of the bow. The tricky part was judging how much of the sapwood to saw off, I got it just right.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Reducing a Warbow Stave

I've done some more work on the Warbow and taken some video last night.
The odd thing is it actually makes me think about exactly how I do it.

I've taken a fair bit of wood off but it's still much too stiff.
So this morning I marked up along the bow at 100, 200,400,600,800,900 mm  as per dimensions in Weapons of Warre  (Note:- these are not even steps which is very confusing and can easilly lead to mistakes).
I took measurements of thickness, looked at them and started fiddling them to be 2mm reduction in thickness for each step...???
What am I doing??? That's not how I work!

I thought "Get a grip, work my own way".. so I rasped off the marks and re-marked every 6", (nice even steps) and played with some target figures for thickness working on about 2mm every 6" .
Looking at the figure for mid limb thickness it appeared that I should take off about 4mm... No, that's way too much! How do I know that? Gut feel, experience, caution, so I added a couple of mm to all my figures.
Ah! That looks better, a compromise of simple arithmetic, experience and feel. If I apply that taper it will go from about 34mm at the centreline down to 20mm at 36" which is near the tip.
Now that's still too thick at the tip, but the tip gets reduced and slimmed over it's last 8-10" near the end of the process to give that Spitfire's wing look.
I find the process can be daunting even with experience and I still apply the mantra of when in doubt, just remove half of what you think.

It's easy to do stuff by rote without thinking, or conversely get sucked into overthink.
I generally like to understand what I'm doing and why.

This still doesn't answer why am I floundering for the right thickness.
Simple really, I don't have a Warbow in my collection of bows to use as a reference and I've neglected to note down the finished dimensions of the warbows I've made. record keeping isn't my strong point and, indeed, that's why I do this blog.
Hopefully, this time I'll measure up the finished bow to give me a start point for the next one.

Ah, the postman has just delivered some pencils I ordered off E-Bay, vastly cheaper than buying from a stationers. I like a nice soft pencil for marking out bows, but what grade...
2B or not 2B that is the question!

Got is somewhere near down to my figures (mostly mid limb) and tried it on the tiller again. It's moving more and I think if I get it down to those figures at an even taper she might come back far enough to brace. I'm pulling to about 100#, I don't want to go beyond that until it's moving enough to see that I have an even bend. Getting close now.
You can see I got it to a low brace... it took 110# to get the tips back far enough to get the string on, and then it stretched it from about 6" brace down to about 4".
Doesn't look too bad tho'
Meanwhile I may rough out the AFB I'm going to do so that it can finish seasoning, I may even bring it indoors. (It was cut last February)

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A little more on the Warbow and some News

I've had the warbow up on the tiller to see if it flexes... it does just a little !
The video has just been edited and downloaded onto Youtube.
 I've done a bit more reducing the belly and cleaning the back so I can mark it out to an appropriate width.
I received a great E-mail this morning:-
It lifted my spirits as it's always great to hear how my bows are getting on.

Hi Derek
Remember me, Paul from Nottingham? I came down to see you and you made me the yew primitive, well I'd just like to tell you that I'm still getting compliments on how good the bow looks and shoots. 
Last September I went to the NFAS national championships in the Lake District and came away the national champion primitive class.  
There is also a picture of me and your bow in the latest issue of bow international page 47.
I can't thank you enough for making me such a wonderful bow.

Best regards

What a glowing endorsement!
Excellent :)
Here's a pic (Courtesy of Danny Williams) and a link to a post showing that bow nearly finished:-

Monday, 11 January 2016

Starting on Two Bows

I'm going to be doing two bows for some friends of mine, one is an American Flatbow (AFB) style self yew bow for Mick the Blacksmith from some wood he got for me last year, the other is a warbow of about 125# for my mate JT (as shown shooting warbows on my Youtube channel)
A couple of very interesting and different builds.

For the AFB I'll be roughly basing the dimensions on a modern Andy Soars bow (laminated with fibreglass or carbon fibre) obviously the limbs will be substantially thicker being a self bow and I'll be maximising the working limb length. I'll take some pics and some measurements from the bow first, then I'll rough out a stave.

Meanwhile I've been roughing out the Yew stave for the Warbow. The stave is a good looking one with fine grain and a clan sapwood layer which has been bought on line from the USA and it's 80" long with a little natural reflex.
With a warbow they are so heavy and difficult to get bending I try to get the roughing out fairly close so that I can get some sort of movement on the tiller when I first put it up.
But where do I start? I cheat!
I use the Mary Rose book "Weapons of Warre" as a start point by finding a bow of the same length and taking the published depth/width dimensions as a guide. I'm aiming for 125-130# and the Mary Rose bow would probably be heavier than that. I also make sure I round up the dimensions, allow extra width and saw well outside the pencil line which I draw on the bow, so I should be ok weight wise.
It's a fine balance between being too cautious and having vast quantities of wood to remove and being too cocky and being under weight before it's even braced!
I'll be doing some video which will get posted up in the next few days.

I had hoped to take some video of me shooting the Yew primitive, but it's raining and I've packed it up to be shipped off to Cumbria. I don't usually ship bows, I like to make 'em for people who can visit or are local so they can try 'em out first.
Sorry no pictures today, but there should be some interesting stuff over the next few weeks.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Arrow Plate

I used the trick that I did on the last bow and got the streaky centre of the horn for the arrow pass. It ties in with the bottom nock.
I couldn't resist buffing it up on the wheel to show the effect next to the fade on the belly at the grip.

I'll check how the arrow rubs on the pass tomorrow, then it's all down to some sanding, applying Danish Oil and then waxing.
The picture is worth 1000 words...

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Bracer Refurb and Musings

I hate trying to tie my bracer it's a right pain to get on and off so I got some boot hook eyelet thingies of E-bay and remade it. Here's the link:-
Speed Lace Hooks
I used an old lanyard from my glasses for the string as it has a small rubber loop on the end which is good for looping onto the last hook.
Pleased with the result, it's handy to be able to get it on and off quick when I want to shoot just a few arrows when shooting in a bow.
I shot another 10 through the primitive. Each time I pick it up I can feel how it sits in the hand, I noticed my grip was getting a tad high and my lower fingers weren't quite comfortable, so I rasped a little here and there. My grouping is getter better, of course some is down to the tweaking and fettling and some is down to getting used to the bow.
If you shoot a bow all the time you get used to it, it quite tricky to actually feel how it sits as it's easy to let the hand accommodate to the bow, but a tiny bit of work can make a big difference. I avoid any extreme shaping like a pistol grip on some recurves as it does need room to fit a different hand, but some gentle shaping helps a consistent position.
I once had a bloke say "oooh, but it's got a shaped grip" when looking at one of my bows which I was shooting as a "Primitive". I suppose he thought primitive man didn't have the time or inclination to whittle at a grip or create artwork or ornaments and had no concept of what felt right as he sat by the fire in the evening...
Ages ago there was an exhibition of Ice Age art at the British Museum, we went to see it and the work was stunning, you just wanted to pick up some of the pieces (but we couldn't touch them) as they looked so wonderfully tactile.

Yes, you've guessed the bloke was an opinionated arse.

Monday, 4 January 2016

First Shots

I've made a decent string and shot 35 arrows through it, the first few felt slightly clattery, but I think it was how the bow sat in the hand. A few tweaks of the grip and arrow pass, and some work to narrow the tips further and she started shooting sweet and true. I gave the top nock a quick sanding and buff up to take some pics.
The great thing is how the bow has taken no set. I'd been slightly worried that the odd heart/sap in this wood may mean it was slightly rubbery, as I've found this before. It just shows how you can't jump to conclusions. If you look back at the build you'll see the wood originally had a big deflex! I've only made one slight heat adjustment and that was just to get the two limb at a similar angle to the grip.

Enough chat, here are some pics... it's not sanded or Danish Oiled and waxed yet so it looks a bit dull.

Once it's fully shot in I'll do the arrow plate.

Done some more adjusting of the grip and now got 50 arrows through it. Polished up the bottom nock too, it has some lovely streaks of grey running through it, bit of class.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Yew Primitive getting Close to Full Draw

I'd been fighting the string alignment and tried to video some of the problems with trying to see how the string lies. Once a bow is braced it will draw to form a plane of string and bow in an alignment dictated by the bow itself (assuming it is only lightly supported at the grip and allowed to move as it wishes).
Anyhow... I still had an ace up my sleeve.
The guy for whom I'm making the bow had specified he wanted it 66" long... people don't often specify a length, but I was more than happy as 66" is a very good length.
So... guess. How long did I made the bow?
Yup 69" ! Those extra 3" give me some very useful leeway. Cutting some of a limb tip creates a new tip which is a little wider (due to the taper) this gives the chance to remove wood from one side or the other to adjust the string line a bit more. The other good thing is it gave me the chance to play with limb lengths, traditionally the lower limb is shorter than the upper, but I'm not really a great fan of this and I've made some with the lower limb equal or longer than the upper.
On this one I've made them pretty similar. It's actually quite difficult to measure the limb length due to the gentle fade into the grip, especially on this bow where the grip isn't that thick and it's verging on being a bend through the handle design.
Maximising the working limb is something I approve of, I don't much like bows with 6" of unbending grip and another few inches of fade. Of course there are arguments for that sort of design, but it's not very primitive. I like a short grip with the lower bulge of the hand sort of overlapping onto the fade.
Anyhow the bow is beginning to look more elegant, the tips are much slimmer, the string line better, and I've tried to get the pale sapwood showing through where possible.
Despite shortening it by 3" the draw weight is much the same, as I've substantially narrowed the tips and also narrowed the upper limb a tad to match it better to the lower.
The pics show the bow at 26" draw and how the beauty of the wood is beginning to show now I've started using a scraper to take out the rasp marks.
Here's a video talk through showing the progress.