Azekeil (azekeil) wrote,

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Bowmaking, part 2

We went back today to finish off our bows. (See yesterday's post)

Our bows had been sanded with 180 grit paper. When we got back in we touched up on the sanding. Then we filed the temporary nocks on the ends of the bow into points to accept the horn nocks. This process was a bit of trial and error despite the horn nocks having a simple hollow cone to accept the point from the bow. If I plan to do this on a regular basis, an oversized pencil sharpener will be a must.

Once the nocks fitted, we araldited them on and started work on the arrow plates. I decided on a piece of ebony shaped into a pentagon, which required me to do some maths and work out how to translate the shape into a pattern to cut the ebony by. Gavin the tutor then cut this out on the bandsaw and I filed it down (it was a little large) before it was fixed to the bow in the correct location with a dot of superglue. The outline was cut out using a scalpel, then the wood of the bow chiseled away with a small wood chisel to accept the ebony which would eventually form the inlay. I araldited the arrow plate in place and we went for lunch while we waited for everything to dry.

After lunch I filed down the horn nocks - unnecessary weight on the ends of the bow is bad as it makes it less efficient as the bow has to accelerate the tips of the bow the fastest. I then sanded down the ebony arrow plate to be flush with the bow.

We then wet the bows to make the grain stand up, waited for it to dry and then sanded it with very fine 240 grit paper. Wetting the bows pre-empts the oiling process that is done at the end. Dampness causes the grain to rise up and become rough again.

In the mean time, we fashioned grips out of old leather and padded it with a layer of felt. These were laced up with leather thong.

Then it was a process of getting the string to the right length by altering the knot for coarse length adjustments, and twisting further or untwisting slightly the string for finer adjustments. The right length can be measured by the distance from the tip of your extended thumb to the base of your fist (imagine you're making a thumbs up signal) between the bow string and the handle.

Now I had a correct-length string I took the opportunity to re-test the bow's strength with the pull-meter. It came up around 55-57lbs with repeated readings, which I can't really pull properly. Apparently it'll come down about 5lbs or so with use, which'll probably make most of the difference. Obviously I'm hoping practise will enhance my muscles too :)

Next was putting the serving (the red string on the bow string) and the arrow nock point on top of that. The nock point is half a centimetre above the arrow plate. This apparently causes the arrow to lift as it's released, causing a cleaner flight and less slicing of the hand holding the bow. The serving and arrow nock point were secured and protected with nail varnish.

Finally, we oiled up the bows with boiled linseed oil. The first coat was 50/50 mixed with turpentine to aid the wood's initial take-up of the oil. I applied a further two coats, wiping the oil off after 5 minutes or so - apparently many coats can be applied, leaving a day between each one. Around twenty coats apparently makes the wood really nice :)

Here are some photos of the final piece:

The finished article :)

Macro shot of the arrow plate and handle

Detail of the top of the bow

Although it was very gratifying to get such a nice longbow out of the course, I didn't enjoy the day quite as much as the first day as I had to cut into the wood I'd spent all the previous day working on - I now had personal investment I realised I could lose. But patience is your friend. A hint for people working on bows, especially those alone - if you're thinking of rushing your job to get it done - don't. Take a break. Rushing is the time you'll screw up all your hard work.

Now I just need to get some arrows and the leather bracer, tab or 3-fingered glove and hand protector to shoot it :) We've been asked to bring them tomorrow to archery and Roger will bring some arrows; it'll be the first opportunity I get to try to shoot mine :)
Tags: archery, update

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