Making a longbow

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Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:04 pm

It struck me the other day that I have a load of knapped flint arrowheads but no bow! So I set about trying to find some suitable wood.
I found some coppiced hazel cut about three years ago and one seemed to just thick enough (2" thick) so in the car it went.[img][/img]
Here it is on the horse being shaved down to size.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:14 pm

[img][/img]
Getting there! following the grain and shaving down to the heartwood on the belly of the bow.
It's a bit "snakey" but I'm thinking about steaming it or heat treating it to take some of the kinks out, has anyone done this? and any tips or advice would be appreciated..
The bow is 66" long and about 1.25" thick in the middle.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by the barnacle on Sat Jun 01, 2013 3:21 pm

I steamed a walking stick many yrs ago in a length of tube - good idea as you might be able to also curve the wood to suit the shape of the bow but you would need a jig with some wooden dowels in to hold it.
I used a wallpaper stripper and some plastic pipe with a towel tied on the end - it took about 2 hrs to work if I remember right but the plastic tube went real soft lol. and don't forget the keep topping up the water as I did.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Sat Jun 01, 2013 5:02 pm

Good idea, I was thing of something along those lines. There was a wood steamer I saw in a workshop years ago which was a drain pipe where you put in the lengths of wood, connected to a flexable hosepipe connected to a kettle with the switch taped down!

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Sat Jun 01, 2013 9:03 pm

I just thought, this topic should really be in the weapons and tools section given the new format, any chance this topic could move Mr. Grendel?
By the way I'm liking the new look...

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Fri Jun 07, 2013 11:55 pm

My mother has a carpet steam cleaner, the box bit looks very similar to the wallpaper stripper heat box thingy. I'll see what I can do!
I'm wishing I had made it from green wood so that it could be bent into shape whilst it dried with a small fire like straightning the arrows.
It would have been easier to shave down with the wood wet too.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:34 pm

hey, you could just straighten it over a fire even when seasoned - i have done this with very stout and well seasoned sticks of hardwoods such as hawthorn, ash and sweet chestnut (for use as cudgels and staffs).... i heat them over a fire (or a gas hob) slowly to embed the heat, concentrating on the inside of the curve though still making sure the heat is wide spread - for a small curve i'll often heat an area of 5 or 6 inches either side of the curve. Then i bend them slowly using my own weight (often resting on end on the floor and applying weight with my knee) to stretch the fibres a little and then repeat the process untill the wood becomes more elastic. I also often apply water between heatings and then quench afterwards to help set the new shape as the heat stays in thicker staves for quite a long time.
For more wavy sticks it's normally a case of following the process a few times for each part of the curve.
For a more modern kitchen method, you could just have a pan of water on a burner, place the bend over the pan (resting on it) and cover with foil to trap the steam.. i've know folk bend roof pole for gurs and yurts this way, even just over an open kettle, it just takes ages over a kettle if you dont trap the heat/steam.
The Bodgers/Pole-Lathe Turners site has a good thread on it iirc.
Is this your first bow? It's high on my own to do list and have a couple of good straight Ash branches i intended to work green but life intervened and now they are well seasoned.. i reckon i need to make a shave horse first too or it would be a major PITA


Last edited by skalla on Sat Jun 08, 2013 9:36 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : typos)

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Mon Jun 10, 2013 12:35 am

been doing some late night bow-porn surfing and came across some hazel build alongs that may be of interest:
PA Hazel build along Sadly this one is old and the pics are missing but plenty useful info still present.
PP Hazel build along
All that bow-grimble has got itching to take a walk with my saw... i reckon i could possibly work the hazel w/o a shave horse as it aint so tough compared to something like ash.. i've planned making a bow for far too long and probs neeed to just get the heck on with it and break my duck.
on the subject, dunno if you have ever seen the backyard bowyer, but he makes from pvc tube bent with a heat gun and the results are surprisingly good - and quick too. good for a fun bow or a first kids bow.
Backyardbowyer
Backyardbowyer's new blog

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:29 am

Wow! I'll have to spend some time with that lot! Thanks as always. Again wow!

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Wed Jun 12, 2013 12:42 am

Skalla, thank you for the advice. The longbow is shaped a bit more than the photos are showing now, tillering is tricky given the kinks so I'll use some of your techniques to get it good! I didn't know that you could use heat when seasoned. I thought you would just get fire! Kinda makes sense when green, but I'll try a combination and see what works. This is the first bow in over 10 years and the others where really stick bows although the second was in yew.
Grendel, Thanks for the backyard bowyer link, I'm getting some P.V.C pipe when I can. That is recycling at it's most ingenious! Effective too...

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Wed Jul 03, 2013 12:13 am

" />
This is the bow getting it's very first (slight) streach on the tiller. The string is rubbish and rubbery, time to get something better.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Wed Jul 03, 2013 7:37 pm

I've never seen a tiller laid horizontally before.  You realise that you have made a ballista??  Very Happy

There is nothing that a man and a workbench can't achieve!

BTW, did you use any heat to work out the kinks? It looks like you have anyway - i was heat bending an old hazel pole over the hob a couple of nights ago and really should have documented it so i could post it.  It was well seasoned a wavy, and is now on the way to being a spear shaft at some point.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:11 pm

Yay! a ballista! It is rather! I'm going to lay siege to the house now!
 This was the first slight pull, it was taken a few days ago now. I have gone through four of these stupid strings and last night I set it up under tension again and got the kettle and poured boiling water over the offending kinks, letting it dry out overnight. It's made some progress.
Maybe the stove is next...

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:38 pm

Well this hazel stick is about 3 yrs old and probs an inch and a half wide... it was purdy kinky and now it's just another session from being pool cue straight.

The key is to build up the heat slowly - i was heating for each bend for 5-10 mins over about 6 inch area and had to build up heat and flex slowly. When too hot to touch i started bending it, twisting a 1/8 turn, bending again then twisting again etc to really stretch the fibres. Then when it's flexible enough, bend just a little over how far you want it to set at, and hold for a few mins. 

Then let it cool down and attack the next little dog leg.

I was doing this pole for about 2 hours on and off but it worked a treat.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:33 pm

I've been doing a lot of reading on PP's bow forums and on Primitive Archer recently to gen up for my own attempts and came across this old book, it relates to the US re woods etc but is still very interesting.

How to use and make Bows and Arrows

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:18 pm

Ok. Skalla: here are the Neolithic bows on display at my local museum" />
This is one from some peat in Methwold. Slightly distorted now but a standard longbow with a D section, about 6 foot long.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:21 pm

" />
And this is a more fragmentory flat bow, location not specified! But more in the style of the Mare Heath bow.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:23 pm

" />
And the side view. Quite a thick bow for a flattie!

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Sat Aug 24, 2013 9:11 am

Cool! That second one is quite a beast - i've seen debates talking about the over engineering of the Meare Heath (Sp?) bow and it seems that it is not unique.  I'm assuming that they are Elm?

I started my own bow a few days ago using the thinner of my 2 recently cut bits and have one limb bending enough for a gentle tiller but the other still needs some more filing and shaving though it is bending.  Even without bench and vice, shavehorse or drawknife it's been fairly quick just hacking away at the belly with a billhook and smoothing out with a spokeshave and i'm optimistic about the project.

Now i need to look into nocks, make a tiller jig and get some more bowstrings for initial stretching etc, my only one being from my existing carbon fibre bow and it's just not suitable.  Then i need to do more research on bowstring making ....   funnily enough i think working the wood for the bow will be the easiest part and i reckon making a functional bowstring could be the biggest challenge.

Whether the bow eventually works or not it's been a great learning process and i can see myself making more at some point - it's really awesome to see it taking shape.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Sat Aug 24, 2013 11:46 am

They are fun, and I'm sure I'll make more too. Linnen works for bowstrings, you can buy ready made ones for Medieval re-enactors to use.
As for the wood used, the labels in the museum are next to useless as usual, and the file in the HER here doesn't say, so the usual suspects: Yew, Ash, Elm etc.
The nocks on the thinner bow are just carved nipples, just like the ones on the Meare Heath bow.

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Sat Aug 24, 2013 11:56 am

i was reading some articles on growing your own linen bowstrings not so long ago (great for the future but probs no use in this case) but have not decided which way to go yet - ultimately i definately want a self made string of natural fibres but will use a professionally made string for the tillering.

It's possible i'll rough-out the other stave before i get a bow string, experience shows that i'm fairly quick to start projects and not so good at finishing, especially when purchases and my scots heritage collide!

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Tue Sep 03, 2013 8:42 pm

This is where i'm at so far - roughed and then shaped, and it's bending pretty well though i'm not touching it now untill i get a string and a tiller jig made:





It's quite snakey and i did not bother with heat bending it - i think the string will line up ok anyway. ish



I'm not sure about the nocks, i feel they may not be strong enough so i may have to cut an inch off of each end and re-so them, possibly with horn which i have plenty of.  The bow is chin height to a tall dude though so i'm not worried about that Smile





I've really enjoyed making it so far and i hope i get to shoot it!  Now i need to bodge together a tiller jig, i'm already eying old shelving to butcher for the job Smile

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Wed Sep 18, 2013 1:35 pm

Well, tiller jig still not made, but i have been busy when i've had the chance - the bigger branch pictured elsewhere has been worked into a potential bow ready to tiller, and i went bush lurking up the road on Sunday and got a long, remarkably staight and untwisty Hawthorn log.



The hazel is a bit snakey but the string should still bisect the grip though i may need to adjust both handle and nocks and i think i have enough material left to play around there if need be.  I de-crowned the back of the bow so i could reduce thickness without losing width, and it gives a nice straightish run of growth rings/grain - It's bending well and goes in the "finish later" pile Razz



The bit of Hawthorn may prove a waste of time - i've hacked away at it with a bill hook to get to what i intend to be the belly, not having a bandsaw or skill with wedges/splitting on such a long piece.  Hopefully with almost half the material removed and the ends painted and bagged it wont split, but we'll see.  There is a fair bit of internal dead wood showing which is normal for Hawthorn and may mean that techniques that are too advanced for me would be needed so it may just be left for the future or turned into big spoons!  Either way, i have plenty of mulch now.


Last edited by skalla on Wed Sep 18, 2013 4:24 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : omission)

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by mr.hertzian cone on Wed Sep 18, 2013 8:50 pm

That is a (two) good looking bow(s). If you can get Hawthorn like that, then you have to make a bow from it. Sadly mine is still work in progress, and still wonky, bah!
As for snakey, if it's loosley strung does the string sit in the the centre of the handle or to the side you will be putting the arrow? If it does, it will fire straight, Your's looks much better than mine from the pics.
String it up and see how the limbs move with a gentle stretch.Smile

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Re: Making a longbow

Post by skalla on Wed Sep 18, 2013 9:43 pm

Cheers! I totally agree on the Hawthorn - it'll be a challenge thats for sure but i've seen some ways of handling the dead wood if it's still present after further reduction - be it drilling it out and putting dowels in, or having a bow with holes in the limbs, though both ideas give me the heebeegeebees but i've seen plenty of examples on various sites so it's do-able at least.  In theory.  It was a major pain in the bum to extract that log and i still have thorn tips in my fingers so i hope it pays off!

In the end i used the string from my cheap shop bought recurve on the first bow and it's bending well (the string is handily over-long) though i reckon it wont be very powerful, but i learnt a great deal from it so far.  The second one is bending really well from some (probably over heavy) floor tillering and the de-crowning worked a treat - i got the idea from this excellent blog - Bowyer's Diary, which i think i have found more helpful than forum trawling.  I think selfbows are easier to make than longbows and seem to require less care and precision - i went that route as i read a few places that Hazel works well with wide limbs due to how it reacts to compression - i'm totally cutting more soon (i'll try to snaffle some cherry too) though and will try a thinner and deeper style.  I very much have the bug!

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