Thursday, 31 December 2015

A bit More Work on the Yew Primitive

I'm taking it easy as I've still got a bit of a cold but a little work goes a long way and it's back to 40# at 24" from a decent brace.
I took a bit of video :-
It's New Year's Eve...
I'm not a great one for New Year, always seems an anticlimax... but hey, I'll stay up, see it in with a drink and a sing song.

I've just tried some of this year's cider with the evening meal, very nice, clean and refreshing by the snecod glash it wush even cleanerer and more reshfreshig.
Happy new Christmash and a Merry New  Year every body!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas and Year's Review

I got some vital bowyers supplies for Christmas... some check shirts, string, a new pair of camo' colour placky crock shoes :-) and a handy LED torch/light which will be good for when I'm doing videos as it can swivel on its magnetic base or its hanging hook, I'll be able to spot light specific details.

I have a niggly cold and cough, so I've not been shooting over the break, except for a few desultory arrows into the garage.

Looking back over the year I've done a few things that were on my to do list.
I made a take-down bow, which later broke, but I'd get it right next time!:-

The Hazel warbow :-
I'd been wanting to make a Mollegabet and finally made two, having some great fun with the Mollegabet flight bow:-
I've got some flight bow ideas for 2016 and it would be nice to get out nearer the 350 yard mark.

I got to work a couple of "Italian" Yew staves... I put it in quotes 'cos I can't be certain where the wood came from as I didn't cut it. I worked a good bit of English Yew too.
The more Yew I work, the more I'm convinced that you simply can't make generalisations about wood from it's origin or judge it from appearance.
OK, dark fine grained Yew with a thin layer of creamy white sapwood looks beautiful, but you can't assume that it's been properly seasoned, won't move or split, doesn't have buried knots or shakes and streaks of dead wood hidden in there. Similarly it is foolish to dismiss pale straw coloured Yew with indistinct sapwood as unfit for bows.

I met plenty of friends old and new, and it was great to spend some time with a fellow bowyer Jamie who was over from Canada teaching a longbow making course:-

The non-bow stuff was fun too.
I made an sold a sculpture, an abstract representation of the jazz piece "Take 5"

The plum harvest was good so I made a load of plum wine which is very good, but I think it will be even better given another few months. I think it's still doing a little slow fermentation so it's still rather fruity. The cider was good too.
I was pleased that we had solar panels fitted to our roof which is South facing, I think the investment will pay back better than if we stick it in a bank where it will do now't but fund banker's ill deserved pay.
Finally, the Youtube videos following a complete bow build have been well received and are much better quality than downloading straight onto the blog. They are a bit time consuming but fun to do... and no one is forcing me to do 'em! I try to show the detail that isn't available elsewhere.
I'll do other videos as appropriate.

I always try to encourage new bowyers to have a go. Being the anniversary of the battle of Agincourt I had a fleeting moment of doubt, wondering if the art of making bows would die out...?
But no, there will always be bows made in England and Wales... it's deep within the culture.
When people ask "How did you start making bows?" I reply...
It's not so much that I started... you stopped! All kids make bows, some of us just get a bit better at it over the years!
So a thanks and all the best for 2016 to my friends and all who've read and commented on the blog.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Yew Primitive Progress

This bow is to be 42# at 28", it's got an extra inch of length either end at the moment and still got a fair way to come back. The tiller is beginning to get reasonably even.

The string line is looking better now, it's biased towards the arrow pass but is within the grip area. Overall the bow has a slight S curve to it but is pulling nice and true. As I slim the tips and even up the limbs it should start to look elegant and interesting.
That's probably it until after Christmas now.
Here's the video:-

It's the winter solstice tomorrow so enjoy whatever midwinter festivity suits you. I'll be back with a round up of 2015 and maybe some timber hunting in the local wood. I fancy some Elder and Hazel to stash away.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

A bit of Bending

I've done some work on the primitive and I thought I'd do a demo' video showing how the wood starts to move once it gets hot.
It's surprisingly quick for it to relax, become pliable and start to move under some weight (a brick tied to the end!), but a word of warning, if you want to bend it and for the bend to stay fixed in, it needs heating for longer.

After filming the demo, I re-jigged it and gave it another 10 minutes of heat to take out the deflex tip.
I'll see how it is on the tiller later on. It may need some lateral bend at the grip as the string alignment is marginal at the moment.

Saturday, 12 December 2015


A guy from the club came over for "a bit of a tutorial" as he put it.
It was specially interesting for me in a couple of ways, he had a big piece of American White Ash, (AWA) it had lovely straight grain and was just over 2" square. I've never used AWA and never made a board bow... so what do I know?
(I've just edited this... I'd put AW Oak... I think it was AW Ash)

He had a set of plans, you know the sort of thing from an old magazine, which are pretty much a standard layout. We used those as a rough guide and tried to work out the best way to cut the board to give one solid bow and a couple of bits which could be spliced up to make a second.
I suggested rough out dimensions which would give plenty of room for error and he marked it out and ran it through the band saw. It cut quite sweetly and ran fairly true. (the cut being 90 degrees to the table, which you can't always take for granted, especially with wood as the rings can pull the blade)
It was cut with the growth rings running from belly to back to avoid the whole "following a growth ring ion the back" thing.
It was flexed floor tiller style, but was obviously too stiff so we decided to take it down with another run through the bandsaw. Normally I wouldn't have done that, but with limited time we were aiming to get it on the tiller. Of course trying to do it quick is pretty much a guarantee of causing problems.
The first saw cut was a tad off giving a slight thin point about mid limb, the the other limb was more even and a tad fatter, so we called that one the lower limb. We were glad we hadn't cut out the grip at this point as it gave us some wriggle room. We'd have had even more wriggle room if the stave had been left with an extra inch either end, as is my usual practice... but more of that later.

The front profile shape was then sawn out (still leaving the handle full width) and some of the thick spots on the limbs taken down with draw knife, spoke shave and rasp. It was good to have a go with the various tools and try the shave horse. Cutting temporary nock grooves allowed us to get it on the tiller with a long string and see where we were.
The thin point (already marked with "L" for leave) was showing as weak and the lower limb was way too stiff even at a low poundage, so we didn't pull to full target weight. We measured limb thickness every 6" to see how much wood we needed to remove to get the lower limb roughly the same as the upper and marked a rough pencil line. This was a good move as we could see that tiny shavings with the spokeshave just weren't going to get there, instead the drawknife worked carefully along the edges of the belly down to the pencil line, and then taking off the remainder in the centre would get us there quicker.
Some more work taking wood off the belly on the lower limb gradually got it more even as we put it up and down on the tiller.

We eventually had it on a low brace and looking reasonable. We'd been aiming for about 45-50# but of course the perils of working fast (trying to show all the processes involved) took it's toll. We never pulled it to full weight, just to about 35# but the lower limb is still a tad stiff so we didn't go further. I can't remember what draw length that was, probably about 20-22" ish? But that's a a good illustration of the technique.
You always pull to full target weight unless there is a problem .
In this case the problem was the potential hinge at the thin point in the upper limb and the over stiff lower limb.
We discussed ways of gaining some draw weight like sawing and inch and a half off the upper limb. I'd have done it like a shot, but I recognised I was getting tired, two and a half hours of intensive tooting had left my head spinning, and as I always say. It's the wise man who knows when to quit.

We had quick try out with a 30# bow (bark on Hazel of TV fame) after we'd shot it I asked if he could see which limb was longer he couldn't really tell, but when measured it showed the lower limbs is about 3" longer than the upper and yet it shoots beautifully. The point of that was to show that plans and measurements are there for guidance they are not set in stone (or even wood) and sawing an inch or two off the upper limb wouldn't be a problem.

He's going to build himself a tiller rig and press on with the bow. I think it will just about make 40# and he's got the offcuts which will make a spliced bow.
All in all a great session I got to play with some new wood (and a few bottles of beer for my trouble) and he got to cram in a few years experience into a few hours. He's welcome back to do some more as it's always a pleasure to meet people who share this passion and actually want to get stuck in.

I woke this morning with the tillering still going round in my head, so maybe writing it down will let my poor old brain let it go!

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Shifting Wood

The primitive is coming along, but the wood is shifting like mad!

I've tried to take the new pic at about the same angle, for comparison but I don't know if it's the same way round. I haven't done any bending and one limb has moved into a slight reflex on it's own, this makes the other seem very weak by comparison.
You can see how much wood I've removed. I shall steam bend the deflexed limb to match the reflex one. It's also taken a bit of sideways bend and it may need a slight lateral correction at some point, mind the tips still have a bit of width so I may get it all to line up, albeit with a slight S shaped lateral curve adding some character. The heart and sap wood is a bit of a mix and match, being well defined on one edge and a bit vague on the other. I'll try and go with the flow and see how it turns out, it's not a stave you can simply cut out straight ignoring what it wants to do.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Visitor's Test Shots

A guy came over to collect a couple of bows I'd collect a couple of bows I'd made for him with Yew he'd provided. They were interesting bows as the wood was somewhat testing, the Molle was made from Yew that was full of shakes and split and has oodles of character.
It's hard to see it with the light behind spoiling the view of the upper limb, better pics here:-

The wood for the longbow moved rather a lot as I worked it down and had a tricky knot.He brought a couple of bows for me to look at including a Yew primitive he'd made, he'd made a decent job of it. A bit of time fiddling and fettling it would make a big difference so I made a few suggestions.
It was good to see the bows being shot especially as he's left handed and I wasn't doing them justice when I was shooting them.

Note, the longbow is being drawn with a 32" (to the base of the point) arrow.
Meanwhile I've reduced the Yew primitive I'm working on and it seems to be loosing some deflex. You can see from the pic it's straighter than before.
I'm letting it evolve slowly trying to go with the flow. It's being stored on my warm radiator to ensure the wood is well dried and finished moving.

On a festive note, one of the women at work made me a knitted snowman and I gave her a small bottle of my home made Cider. Maybe I should give him a bow and create a snowman bowman?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Yew ELB build Videos and Starting a Primitive

Whew, it's a relief to have finished the series of videos following the Yew English Longbow, but it was good to have followed an entire bow through the process.
Here's the full list of links to the videos starting with part 1.
Rough out Quarter log into stave
Further Roughing Out
First Time on the Tiller
A Little Work on One Tip
More Detail Work
Up and Down on the Tiller
Getting Close
Nearly Done
Fitting Horn Nock
Finishing & Test Shots  (Inlaying the arrow plate is shown in this one)

My trusty of bow making shirt has finally disintegrated, it will have a noble end as cloth for the garage, for cleaning and applying Danish Oil.
I got onto E-bay and have brought a suitable replacement, it's already in use as I've started roughing out a stave for a Yew Primitive.

Note I don't cut away the grip, even though it is marked out. also the natural sideways curve has been laid out to suit a right handed bow to get the arrow pass nearer the centre line. The stave has some natural deflex, I'll leave that in the centre and add some gentle reflex to bring the bow back to about zero overall deflex.

Working on the primitive is very much seat of the pants stuff as you can't really judge where the heart sap boundary is within the wood, also this stave has some dark streaky sapwood which is sort of half heart wood. With a Hazel stave this problem wouldn't exist.