Friday, 30 September 2016

Exploding Bows

The 115# Warbow had a few tricky knots on the upper limb, I had it braced and the tiller looking pretty even, it was pulling back about 24" or so, but the knotty right limb seemed a bit stiff despite being thinner than the other limb (always a worrying sign).
It went BANG at 115# made me jump, but fortunately I was pulling the rope a yard away from the bow.Inspecting the wreckage, it looks like the back gave way in the region of the knots. It looks like the grain runs diagonally across the back (same as on the previous, 150# Warbow. tree/limb growing with some twist?) Maybe the stiffness of the knots was just too much for the back. I don't think I did anything "wrong", I just think that the knotty limb wasn't good enough for 115#, maybe it would have made an 80#, who knows.
Some you win some you loose.
Top pic shows either side of the limb at the knotty undulating area, you can see it is problematic.

Last pic shows the juxtaposition of the filled belly knot to the other knots and the break... all in all a pretty dodgy limb.
I might be having a bit of a break from the bows for a week or two while we make a summer house in the garden, hoping to make something a bit different with a curved roof which sloped right down on one side, sort of quadrant at each end. So posting may be a bit sparse, might have to sort out the garage to get the raw materials in, but that may give me a chance to pick out staves for the next bows.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Reworked Laminate and a Warbow Stave

I've got the nocks finished on the laminate and narrowed the outer limbs a good deal. It's tillered to 32", but I've just taken it to 30" to have a look at the tiller, it looks fine and is pulling a bit over 75#, I'll make a new string, apply some finish (slightly tricky as I don't know what the original finish is) and it's done.

Meanwhile I've made a start on the other Pacific Yew Warbow stave, there were some tricky knots to fill on belly and a big undulation near one tip. I was worried that, in trying to rough it out to avoid the knots I'd left it too narrow at the tips and also take too muck off the belly. Would it ever make the target weight of 115# ?
Only one way to see, glue on some temporary nock overlays and pull it to 115#.
Whew... it looks like I have plenty of wood still! Obviously the tiller is awful, the left limb is flexing and the right is only flexing in the area I was worried about near the end, but it's not too weak.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Bit of Work on a Laminate Bow

A guy from the club came over with some bows, one needed the nocks replaced and a little off the length. One nock had split and a hasty repair done which wasn't satisfactory.
It's a nice fast bow used for clout, Bamboo back Ipe? core and an Osage belly, it has taken a little set mostly mid and inner limbs. I could see the outer limbs could be tapered into the nock more and the nocks could be much smaller.
It's slightly unusual insofar as the arrow pass is at the geometric centre.
Anyhow, I jumped in quick and got the top nock done just to see what the wood combination was like to
work... short answer, all the woods are rather hard. The bamboo is rather flat so to help it blend into the round nock I glued on a tiny sliver of yew. I also rasped a good bit off the width and rounded the corners of the bamboo down, right back as afar as the first node, which was also reduced a tad (they can actually be taken completely flat, but I never go that far myself).
I remembered to take a "before" picture". Oddly the limb tip almost looks fatter now because the nock is so much slimmer!

Sunday, 25 September 2016

150# Warbow Completed

It's finished now and up to full brace which seems to have made no difference to anything. The right limb seems to be bending just a hint more and can be seen to be bent more at brace, e.g. distance from string to mid limb is greater on the upper limb than the lower, that's fine because the lower limb has a hint of reflex and conventionally that distance should be a little more to allow for the asymmetry of drawing the bow (commonly called positive tiller).
I'll post a video of the bow later and add a link to it (don't expect to see me drawing it, I can only draw it about 20" !
Mean while here are the pics.
The bottom nock could do with more polishing where I'd adjusted it a bit to get the string sitting better. You may notice the serving on the string is opening up due to the huge tension on a warbow string, this can have a little extra serving whipped on later if necessary when the string and bow have settled.
 One pic shows a dip in the back of the lower limb, you'll notice, I've let the belly swell just a hint to compensate. The view of the waggly tip shows the other side of the limb to the braced pic and you can see how the two sides of the same tip differ, it was quite a challenge. I'm not saying I've dealt with it perfectly, but I do see bows where areas like this are left carrying ridiculous amounts of extra wood, creating a series of stiff areas where there are "problems" IMO, this just creates a series of weak points between those areas where the bow will probably fail. Similarly you will see bows where the back undulates nicely, yet the belly follows a straight line! Belly and back should follow in sympathy, tapering towards the running the limb twixt finger and thumb will locate any thick spots.

You'll also see some islands of growth rings at the grip showing the slight swelling there.
Can you ever be 100% happy with the tiller of a bow? I'd say probably no, you need that obsessive eye for detail, but also enough pragmatism to know when to quit. Above all resist improving it to the point of ruining it!
There's an expression in the electronics industry MBR (Mended Beyond Repair)

Someone has ticked explain more, so I've done a sketch showing how I thin undulations/ knots etc should be dealt with. Knots aren't too much of a problem except where they come through the back, in which case a little extra width will give more sapwood to maintain the strength of the back. They are only a problem on the belly if any loose crumbly material isn't picked out and filled.
The dotted line is how think the belly should be shaped, a little extra material can be left if it is felt necessary but still somewhere between the solid and dotted lines.
All just my opinion of course.
Video here:-

Friday, 23 September 2016

150# Warbow Virtually Finished

Its got its string now, it's had a few scrapes off the right limb since this picture, but it's been scraped, sanded and had a quick wipe of Danish Oil just to show off the nice character near the upper limb tip.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

150# Warbow Nearly Done

I've got the horn nocks on, but not polished and the tips narrowed. The bow is now back to 30" at 150#, by the time I've been over it with the scraper and sanded it down it should be back to 32".
Someone asked for pictures of the horn nock before shaping. This is the bottom one which is rather a large chunk of horn, as the tip of the horn has been sawn off and used for the top nock.
Note, in the top pic, there is a bit of the Elm temporary nock showing still. Gluing an extra bit on the tip can be a good way of adjusting the tip angle or alignment which will end up being reinforced and concealed by the horn nock. The top nock is much darker than the lower despite being from the same horn.

I'm taking a hint off the upper limb as I'm tidying it up, rounding the corners/edges and scraping quite hard as it's still a tad stiff.

The undulation at the tip of the upper limb is looking really characterful, I'll get a pic of it tomorrow when the nock is polished up..

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

150# Warbow Back to 28"

Here's the video:-
This is a still grabbed from the video.
To get it back the last 4" won't take much, bear in mind the tips of a bow only comd back about 1/3 as far as the string! So the tips are only going to come back just over another inch, which doesn't give me much room for tiller improvement.
I think the right limb is a tad stiff, (try holding a CD up to the pic and you'll see what I mean) but just cleaning it up, rounding the edges, scraping out the tool marks and narrowing the tips will bring it back a bit. I s'pose it's not at full brace height so that will bring the tips back a bit more too.
I've already glued on the top nock, but haven't shaped it. Hopefully I'll have it pretty much done tommorrow, but then there is the finishing, nock shaping etc. I may add an horn arrow plate as war arrows with binding on the fletchings can rip into the side of a bow eventually.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Low Brace 150# Warbow

I've teased it back to 150# on a low brace, I need to get the outers moving, but she's looking promising.
One problem is the sapwood is much thicker on the lower limb so I'm having to reduce that over the last 10" of the limb, that's involved sawing off the temporary nock, reducing the sapwood and re-gluing the temporary nock.
Here's the video:-

I've now put a coarse belt onto my belt sander and run the sides of the bow on it to true 'em up and loose a hint of width, I'm aiming to make this bow relatively narrow especially at the tips. I want this to be fast as well as brute poundage.
It's back on the tiller and is now back to 26" at 150#, just out of interest that interpolates to about 184# at 32" ... that should be enough for JT ;-)

Monday, 19 September 2016

Starting on a 150# Warbow

I have a couple of Pacific Yew staves to work into bows, one is a tad skinny and the other has a big knot hole in the belly which fortunately doesn't go through to the back.
I'm having a go at the skinny one first and I was unsure if there was enough wood, but having roughed it out, I think it will be fine.
The last 120# bow I did was about 32mm deep at the grip so I roughed this one out starting at about 38mm and dropping 2mm every 6" to the tips. The tips are much too thick but it's a start point.
I got it on the tiller to see how even it was. One limb seems much stiffer and has some natural reflex, I'm calling this the lower limb (nominally, in may change!) I took wood off the belly and gradually evened it up pulling 150# on a string that I could just get onto the nocks. The tiller is pretty even now and it's coming back about enough to brace it... but there's the rub, it's damn near impossible to brace, so I'll have to put on some decent temporary nocks.
Here's a video of it on the tiller being pulled to 150# with some chat.
You can see in the pic, the right limb looks much thicker yet is bending about the same.
I did manage to use my winch on a bracing string to get a string onto it at about 2" brace, but I could barely get the damn thing off again! I supported the tips on two big blocks of wood and stood all my body weight on the grip, by bouncing slightly I could just get enough slack to slip the string off.
At least I had a look at it at low brace at about 100# draw weight to confirm where wood needed removing and I also had a look at the string line.
I've managed to get it to a low brace using my winch and pulled it to about 100# at 16" draw. I need to video it before drawing further so I can get a real look at the tiller.

I've also got a long term project slowly forming, I'm going to try a composite (Horn/Sinew Turkish Bow). Ed, (one of the guys on Primitive archer) sent me some Elk tendons which are longer than the scruffy Red Deer sinew which I have. I'll be keeping my eyes open for any Maple that falls (or needs a gentle push) over in the woodland, that will be for the core of the bow. I can get the horn from Highland Horn. I maybe have enough materials to try a miniature using the scruffy sinew, just to try some of the processes first, I don't want to be making mistakes on a bow that has a 1 year construction time! Don't hold you breath waiting for any of this to happen, but I'll be sure to post anything I actually do.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Sue Meets Wonky Bow

My friend Sue dropped in to pick up the Wonky Hazel bow, she was travelling up to Norfolk from the South coast with her husband, so it was convenient to stop at ours for a break. We had a fine time, a bite to eat and a quick run through with the bow and some of my more unusual stuff. The Chinese Repeater was a big hit, and we gave the cut out foam plastic piglet a good pasting! A few hours passed in a flash and they had to travel onwards. Sue will be shooting over the weekend, so hopefully she'll get on with the bow. The notional price of the bow is being donated to a charity that Sue supports ( EDS is the condition it supports) .
She certainly liked the bow and the admired the shiny coppery bark on the back, I think she was itching to try it at some 3Ds.

It was a busy day and I barely had time for a cat nap, before Nick turned up to collect the two bows I'd worked on, he was happy with the work, but disappointing when we tested the longbow and found it was 90# not the 115# he was expecting. As a quick verification test I drew it myself, something I hadn't tried when I thought it was 115# which is beyond me.

I need to have a good clean up and tidy away the cider making kit before I get back to the bows. Mind I should have more time now, as I finally fully retired on Wednesday at 12 noon. I'd only been working two half days a week, so it's not too big a change. Best advice to anyone slowly approaching retirement is to reduce your days gradually, I went 5,4,3,2... and finally 2 half days. Even just going to a 4 day week is a good step. Anyhow, it's good to be retired, now if only I had an engrossing hoby to turn my hand too ;-)
I was given a good send off at work, with us old hands being taken out for a pub lunch (my Wife included). Over 40 years in electronics and software had seen a lot of changes, no computers or mobile phones when I started!

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Testing the Repairs

The primitive is looking vastly better on the tiller, (at low brace) and is pulling 80# at 28". I've taken a few more scrapes from the inner 1/3 of the lower (left) limb just to even it out a tad. The crack in the grip hasn't opened up, so I'll give it a wipe of Danish Oil and call it done.
The Warbow looks good on the tiller, I've not taken it to a full 32" but I'm happy with the tiller so, will just wipe it over and call it done too.
I can then get on with my second batch of cider.

Absolutely scorching hot today, my solar hot water panels are pumping out some heat! I've just had a shower, but wanted a cool one.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Repairs Done

The repair work is done but hasn't been tested or had any finish applied, I want to give the glue another 24 hours to cure. The patch will look darker once it has some Danish Oil on it, it will also age a bit darker given time.

On the primitive I've bound the cord back on the grip, I don't know if the crack will hold, but hopefully it will now the bow is better balanced.
The guy didn't want all the extra work done to straighten the limbs, but I did spend 25 minutes taking some of the set out of the upper limb buckshee, just to make it look better and put back a little of the draw weight as I'd taken at least 10# off it.
See pic for before and after. The 'before' pic is pretty indicative of the upper limb (right) being weaker as it had taken most of the set.

I'll get a pic of both bows on the tiller tomorrow to see if they need any re-tillering. It's always tricky to know how much work to put in, I like to leave a bow performing as good as possible but you can't make a silk purse from a Sow's ear. I'm sure the primitive will be a vastly improved bow to actually shoot, I'll save comment on the Warbow until I see it on the tiller.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Looking Over Some Other Bows

A guy brought some bows in for me to look at/repair. A pretty sorry bunch, which begs the question why do I work on other bowyers bows? Well these were from a bowyer in Europe who isn't isn't here to work on them, but my first suggestion was to let the bowyer repair them. Other than that, it's interesting and informative to see other peoples work even if it only helps me to learn from their mistakes. It's also sometimes easier to be objective about a bow when the bowyer isn't actually there.
I try to have adopt the philosophy of "If I can't say anything nice, don't say anything" unless specifically asked for a critique. I'm probably the harshest critic of my own work.
Any how, the first bow was a self Yew Warbow about 116# ? It had developed a pinch out from a small unfilled knot, no shame in that as I've recently patched a pinch on the 130# that I made ages ago. But when you felt along the limb between finger and thumb it was actually slightly thinner at that point. So you have an unfilled pin knot and a thin point at the same place mid limb... what do you expect to happen? I've rasped out a shallow scoop about 3-4mm deep and long enough to slightly thicken the thin spot, I've dug out the pin and filled it with epoxy and Yew dust prior to patching. What grieves me is that there is a similar dip on the other limb, I measure it, a 3mm dip! Approx 25mm thick where the limb further towards the tip is 28mm, there is no knot or real reason for this. Does it matter, it's only 3mm? Stiffness is proportional to the cube of the thickness, so if we look at 25 cubed divided by 28 cubed we get 15625/21952 that is 0.7 so our dip is only 0.7 the stiffness of the limb either side, that's less than 3/4. There was some set in that area, the guy said it was always like that... errr, did he see the stave before it was tillered? Look at the pic, The dip is in the middle (and mid limb), but is the tip of the limb to the left or right? (*answer at end of post)

Moving onto bow number 2, dunno if it was the same bowyer, it made of Wych Elm but the belly was very narrow and a mass of chrysals, completely beyond help.

The third (same bowyer as number one I believe), was a yew primitive of high poundage, it had taken a huge set and was splitting off part of the grip which had been glued onto the belly. We tried it on the tiller and it was 85# at 28" but most the bend (and of course the set was in the outer limbs. The lower limb was way too stiff and the innermost limbs were over thick and very slab sided.
He wanted some weight taken off and the grip glued if possible. I said I'd take the corners off the limbs which would make it look more elegant and drop a few pounds. Taking some off the belly on the inner thirds mostly on the lower limb had evened up the tiller and taken some weight off. I may do some heat work to straighten the limbs if he wants.
On the tiller the bow was trying to twist over, and I could see the limbs were pulling/twisting over, not really an issue if you allow the bow to find it's own "plane of action" (for want of a better term). It does however have the grip twisted in the hand. Compare this with the time and trouble I spent getting the wonky Hazel drawing true. You can see in the upper pic how it lies on the floor with the back showing.
It amused me a bit that the guy was constantly defending the bowyer, saying he'd given him a good deal on the several bows. Not a good deal from where I was standing!
I hope this doesn't all sound like I've got my head up my own backside, it's an honest appraisal, and the problem it gives me is, do I just do the work I'm asked for, or do I address the faults/problems?
I do realise it's a bit unfair as the bowyer isn't here to defend his work, maybe there wasn't enough thickness in the stave at that dip? Maybe the twist on the primitive wasn't there initially, and maybe it's been overdrawn or over braced.
I've been in the same position myself where one of my bows has been critiqued, and when I heard the criticism, I knew it was fair, but there were reasons.
BTW, in the last pic you can see the paler belly wood where I have rasped it down, on the edges and inner limbs.
Like I said, I'm under no obligation to do it, but it is interesting and I enjoy it!

*Oh, yes, in that top picture the tip of the limb is to the left.

Friday, 9 September 2016

Further Flight Shooting & Arrows

I've adjusted the nocking point on the Osage flight bow to remove the porpoising of the arrows. I initially thought it needed to come down, but as I slowly lowered it I found the arrows were still hitting the boss point down at 10 yards, so I went back to how it was and up a whisker, they are hitting straight now.
I wasn't taking it to full draw as I was a bit scared of smashing the comparatively delicate flight arrows (it's happened before). These all fly remarkably straight and hopefully that will help getting a good distance.
I've made 2 more, one is the 5/16" cedar shaft but with much more taper at the back. The other is 9/32" pine barrelled, I was worried it might be too fragile, but they fly nicely from this bow.
Matching spine to bow really depends on the bow as well as the arrow, if there is little flexing then you can get away with a smaller diameter (and correspondingly weaker spine) for better aerodynamics. It's really a matter of, as light and skinny as you dare!
I had one bloke on a forum calling me an idiot because I said you could go to light spine from a warbow as long as you have a light point. I left the forum as he wasn't even reading my explanations or indulging in rational argument. Some people equate bow poundage to required spine as if they are somehow linked... it's ok as a guide but you have to remember a short 75# bow with short draw can shoot faster and further than a warbow, and with the short draw the arrow is accelerating much faster.

I'm just back from shooting. 4 arrows shot then measured, repeated this 3 times.
I got a new PB with one arrow, but only by 2 yards (309yards, I was hoping for 310 at least) mind there was more cross wind than tail wind and the weather is dull and heavy.
I'll give the results below, they are pretty random, so I've done weight, max distance and average distance for each arrow.
In weight order, lightest first.
231gn  294 yards, 280yd average
262gn  289 yards, 287yd average
291gn  309 yards, 275yd average
326gn  281 yards, 276yd average

It shows how hard it is to draw conclusions, generally the lighter arrows went further, but the actual longest shot was with the 291gn arrow.
Now it would have been interesting to have shot say 10 times with each, but it would have been a lot of walking! It just needs that elusive really clean loose to add 20 yards to a shot.
Certainly the heaviest arrow was a poor performer, so I may re-work that one.
Some of the arrow flight was nice and clean, but there was a waggle on some. The arrow pass is showing some wear marks near the belly of the bow, I might remove the leather and relieve the arrow pass a tad to put the wear point a bit nearer the centre or back. Or does that just show I'm getting the arrow point well back at loose? I'll have to take a close look at how the arrow sits on it at brace, I don't want to rush at it and spoil it. Here's a pic of the arrow on there at brace, tends to confirm it needs a little adjustment.

Not sure if I'll get much more flight shooting this year, the grass is getting a tad longer again.
One thing I noticed was that I couldn't see the arrows in the ground at all until I was past them and looked back or across at them, then they showed up pretty well.

Update:- Arrow 4 has been substantially reduced at the nock end and is now 303 grains (from 326). The other arrows have had the nocks slimmed and adjusted as some were a bit tight on the string. They've all been sanded and waxed. It will be nice to give 'em another go if we get a good day for it. The arrow pass has been adjusted a tad, the leather peeled back nicely as it was only stuck with UHU glue. I tested one arrow at near full draw and it stuck in the boss good and straight from 10 yards.

One could possibly argue that the results merely prove that it's random, luck or whatever and there's no point trying to fiddle and fettle the bow or arrows. I'd argue that tuning it all up is an attmpt to maximise the chance of that elusive clean shot.

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Wonky Bow in the Woods

I went to the Aurora Field Archery Club shoot. It was excellent as always with tasty catering and a testing course.
I shot round with Roy and Colin who are both excellent shots. I was rather floundering with judging the distance/elevation, but was scoring steadily. The first 18 targets scored me 180 which is just about ok, with a new bow. The timber wolf was a tease, with a sapling growing up in front of it... first shot low, second smashed on the the sapling and the third bounced straight back off the sapling. When we got to the target I found I'd scored a second arrow wound, as the fore end of my second arrow was firmly embedded in the back of the wolf!
Second half I managed to stop thinking and trying to aim for the right distance as my eye/brain/body was beginning to adapt and the number of  "FFS" exclamations slowly diminished.

The turning point was a Javelina which was a lovely shot but I put all 3 arrows just over its back, at that point I just gave up and relaxed... "Don't think, don't aim, just shoot" I told myself. After that I got some nice first arrow hits on long shots and finally managed a couple of 20s and a 24.
Second half I scored 214 which is a big improvement on 180.

I really need to get out more and go to more shoots, but for me it's about making them and enjoying the occasional shoot.
The Wonky Hazel got some admiring glances and comments and performed fine, it was just the archer! The arrows do flirt a little if the loose isn't crisp and I may tweak the brace height, Interestingly my mate Mick was shooting a Yew self AFB that I made him and he scored about the same as me, he was disappointed as he's a better shot than me, but maybe the course didn't suit a self bow. I have endless excuses I can use, but I was happy enough with 394 over 36 targets with a bow I'd only shot at 10 yards.
The pic was taken to show the contrast between belly and back and the undulating line of the bark as it ripples over the knots. An elegant bow reclining in the woods.

Thanks to all at Aurora for a great day. They were collecting for a powered wheelchair to allow a disabled archer to shoot field, an excellent cause which was being generously supported. Hopefully the collection bucket was nice and heavy at the end of the day.
The results are up on their website and there were only 3 primitives shooting. My score actually compared well with theirs, but I was only shooting Sunday, not both days so it doesn't count. Makes me feel better though :-)