Aldo Leopold on making bows

Dear Herbert:

“I am sending you by express a yew bow, which I have been making for you this winter.  I have enjoyed it because it was a way to express my affection and regard for one of the few who understands what yew bows—and quail and mallards and wind and sunsets—are all about.”

“I cannot assure you that it is a good piece of wood.  Staves, like friends, have to be lived with in many woods and weathers before one knows their quality.  The fact that the stave is yew, has a specific gravity of .432, came from Roseburg, Oregon, and has been waiting for a job since 1930, is no more a test of how it will soar an arrow than the fact that a man is a naturalist, weighs 160, and has had time enough to season, is a test of the zest or nicety with which he will expend his powers in the good cause.  All I can say of this bow is that its exterior “education” embodies whatever craft and wisdom is mine to impart.  What lies inside is the everlasting question.”

“I have tried to build into this bow the main recent improvements in bow-design, but since some of them are not visible, they will bear mention.  The square cross section and waisted handle are of course visible innovations, but probably less important than the new location of the geographic centre.  In former days this was pub close under the arrow plate, but in this bow it lies as near the centre of the handle as is possible without overworking the lower limb.”

“The horns whence came these nocks were pulled off the skeleton of an old cow on the Santa Rita ranges” . . . “The slight flaws at the base of the upper nock are the measure of the seasons which bleached her bones before (she) was found.”  “I doubt not that many a black vulture perched on her skull meanwhile, and many a quail and roadrunner, coyote and jackrabbit played their little games of life and death in the hackberry bush hard by her withering hide.  Did that stodgy old cow, whilst living, know, or get any satisfaction from knowing, that within her growing horns she was converting her daily provender of desert grama and sun-dried mesquite into an enduring poem of amber light?”  “Does a yew tree glory in fashioning from mere soil and sunlight a wood whose shavings curl in ecstasy at the prospect of becoming a bow?”  “These are questions meant for an archer to ask, but for no man to answer.”

“One cannot fashion a stave without indulging in fond hopes of its future.”. . . “On many a thirsty noon I hope you lean it against a mossy back by cool springs.  In fall I hope its shafts will sing in sunny glades where turkeys dwell, and that one day some wily bucks will live just long enough to startle at the twang of its speeding string.”

“And lastly if the bow breaks, with or without provocation, pray waste no words or thoughts in vain regret.  There are more staves in the woods than have yet sped an arrow, all longing to realize their manifest destiny.  Just blow three blasts on your horn and I will make you another.”

Yours as ever,
Aldo Leopold

Found it here. About Aldo Leopold go here.

Nothing to add, just a perfect point of view.

What, if a tree has a soul or a mountain thinks?

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New bow!

Remember this bow: go here

The latest flightbow I did some month ago. I called it “The Queen”.  Flightbows are always a great possibility for to test the limits of designs and woods, flightbows are somehow a kind of Formula 1, an exercise area for bowyers.

The queen- braced. The arrow is made of thin baked strips of fine grown larch, with the tip and the nock enforced with bird#s eye maple.

“The Queen” is such an overwhelming exercise for me, so I decided to give it a try as a longer version, thought to be drawn to 28″. It measures up my expectations at all points: great design and performance.

It ended up in one of the best bows, I´ve ever done, maybe the best bow I was ever able to do.

Originally the bow was thought to be made as a one piece, but cause some of cracks arising in the handle- area, I had to change the plan. I remembered a design inspired by Marc St. Louis:go here

So I cut the stave, shaped the limbs, steam bent and heat- treated the long tips, again using the Golden Ratio: length of the limbs is 15.4″, length of the tips is 9.4″ The tips are recurved at about 30°

 

Here we are

Length:55", 50lbs/ 26", osage- orange, handle of ash, walnut, dovetailed wedges of curled maple
Length:55″, 50lbs/ 26″, osage- orange, handle of ash, walnut, dovetailed wedges of curled maple

 

Comparing "The Queen" and its brother. Pyramid shape of the queen's limbs and the much more parallel limbs of its brother ending up in different tillering shapes, as shown in the following pic.
Comparing “The Queen” and its brother. Pyramid shape of the queen’s limbs and the much more parallel limbs of its brother ending up in different tillering shapes, as shown in the following pic.
"The Queen" bending much more in the outer limbs, while its brothers limbs bending much more circular.
“The Queen” bending much more in the outer limbs, while its brothers limbs bending much more circular.
"The Brother" drawn at 16". Cause of the length and the shape of the limbs the draw is very smooth.
“The Brother” drawn at 16″. Cause of the length and the shape of the limbs the draw is very smooth.

Details

The handle
The handle: ash, walnut, curled maple
Arrow-rest of bone
Arrow-rest of bone
Tip, backview, string made of dyed linen
Tip, backview, string made of dyed linen, nocks
Backview, I left a little bit of the sapwood for to give the back a flaming look: this bow is burning.
Backview, I left a little bit of the sapwood for to give the back a flaming look: this bow is burning.

 

Sorry, I didn’ t have the time to do the chronos seriously, cause the bow was sold as soon as tillering was finished.

A guy who dropped into my workshop, saw the bow drawn in the tiller- board and wanted to buy it at once.

Chronos with a 290grs. arrow, 5/16″ and 26″ in length  tell a 187f/s speed.

I’ m such crazy about this bow, I should resist every other design.

I’ ll do the same bow very soon and post a making of.

 

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The Vorderheubronn Flightarrow- Massacre

Last Saturday was the day, to chrono some flightbows and flightarrows I did all over 2013.

 The setup is like follows:

Chrono setup: the chronograph is placed on a rack, all  the lights(LED) in my workshop are turned on, plus the indoor shooting lights of the chrony.
Chrono setup: the chronograph is placed on a rack, all the lights(LED) in my workshop are turned on, plus the indoor shooting lights of the chrony. There is a backstop in the background.

I found as much light as possible gives exact and serious results when doing chronos inside.

Indoor shooting lights for the chrony, installed just above the photo- sensors.
Indoor shooting lights for the chrony, installed just above the photo- sensors.
Inside the chrony with the 9V alkaline battery attached.
Inside the chrony with the 9V alkaline battery attached.
The display told me the chrony is ready.
The display told me the chrony is ready.
Best speed of the 42lbs elm sinew backed bow, shot with a 260grs. arrow made of larch.
Best speed of the 42lbs elm sinew backed bow, shot with a 260grs. arrow made of larch.
Sinew backed elm bow with inuit- style tips, bow is 44" in length, 42lbs at 23".
Sinew backed elm bow with inuit- style tips, bow is 44″ in length, 42lbs at 23″.
elmuit backed 5 72013
Sinew backed elm bow drawn at 9″
The short wild rose sinew- backed bow is 43" in length, 40lbs at 23".
The short wild rose sinew- backed bow is 43″ in length, 40lbs at 23″.
3 new flights sideview 3 2013
It shots an 180grs. hollow cedar hex- shaft arrow at 204,6f/s.

The queen of this session:

Osage bow, inuit styled tips, 46lbs at 23"
Osage bow, inuit styled tips, 46lbs at 23″
iu#nuit side 12 2013
Sideview of the queen
The queen- braced. The arrow is made of thin baked strips of fine grown larch, with the tip and the nock enforced with bird#s eye maple.
The queen- braced. The arrow is made of thin baked strips of fine grown larch, with the tip and the nock enforced with bird’ s eye maple.
That' s it! Best speed of this session.
That’ s it!
Best speed of this session.

Success so far. But I was longing for more: 300f/s!!!!

I ignored my falling concentration and accuracy and ended up with 4 broken flightarrows, the 279,0f/s arrow is lost somewhere in the disorder of my workshop. I even hitted the wire rod of the chrony and failed the backstop, my hands and fingers began to suffer. Remember zen: don’ t overdo it, underdo it.

 The fletchings remained
These arrows are all composites. I guess I should choose the wood for the arrows much more serious and take much more care on the glueing.
The fletchings have survived for the next massacre.
The fletchings have survived for the next massacre.

Hysteresis? Hysteresis! in wooden bows.

I´ve had a very busy time the last months, now it´s time for to relax and to study this highly interesting topic: Hysteresis in wooden bows.
A great work of Dick Baugh of “Primitiveways”. I always thought hysteresis to be the final key in making great performing wooden bows.
So go for: Internal friction in bow limbs and: Bow and arrow efficiency.

I´ll do these tests and discuss the results soon.

Making a foreshaft- arrow with a bone- tip for a West coast- style bow

About 20 years ago I´ve harvested a short sapling of juniper at the coast of Southern Toscana near the wonderful Elba Island. I’ ve made my first West Coast style juniper shortie of it.

I love these bows, even it is hard to find a fitting stave of juniper or yew, even they are delicious to tiller. Some of these trials broke, the others turned out to be long lasting and great shooters. Due to the shortness of these bows, they are not that effective in penetration, but shot with matching arrows and a drawlength of about 23″ usually at 40-50lbs they are fast and a highly mobile weapon. Juniper or yew backed with sinew( usually one layer is enough) is a killer- lam.

I prefer to shoot these bows with the traditional fore shaft arrows and bone- tips. The West Coast arrows were made of a main shaft of reed and bone- or stone- tips. The needed thick- walled reed doesn’ t grow in Europe, so I go for small bamboo. Cause of my great experiences with well- grown larch, I use larch as a fore- shaft.

Usually I cut the main- shaft as long as the bow’s drawlength.

The West Coast bow is definitely the bow of Ishi, whom nowadays bowyers are owing a lot. Go here and there for further Information.

V- splicing of the foreshaft into the bamboo- shaft
V- splicing of the foreshaft into the bamboo- shaft
Wrapping the joint for to get some pressure and a close fit
Wrapping the joint for to get some pressure and a close fit when glueing.
The hideglue is dry, the joint is wrapped with sinew- fibres and sanded.
The hideglue is dry, the joint is finally wrapped with sinew- fibres and sanded.
You need a bulls thighbone for the bone- tips, it is heavy- walled enough. I prefer to make bone- tips with hand tools only, I love the challenge and and the real slow progress and the smell. Thus it is a real work to be done outside. I use a handsaw, different kinds of rasps and sanding paper. It is great to look how the tip becomes more and more shining when doing the final sanding.
You need a bulls thighbone for the bone- tips, it is heavy- walled enough. I prefer to make bone- tips with hand tools only, I love the challenge, the real slow progress and the smell. Thus it is a real work to be done outside. I use a handsaw, different kinds of rasps and sanding paper. It is great to see the tips becoming more and more shining when doing the final sanding.
Bone tips are ready and sharpened with a file
Bone tips are ready and sharpened with a file
wc1993 inserting tips92013
Inserting the tips
Turkey- fletching is done with sinew- fibres and hideglue, bone- tips are glued and wrapped.
All you Need for to make a real traditional paint: earth- pigments, hot water hideglue.  Mix up the pigments with a little water( just brushable), add some drops of hideglue, keep it warm in a waterbath as long as you need it, otherwise it will dry soon.
All you Need for to make a real traditional paint: earth- pigments, hot water, hideglue.
Mix up the pigments with a little water( just brushable), add some drops of hideglue, keep it warm in a waterbath as long as you need it, otherwise it will dry soon.
The waterbath with the ready paint, it is water soluble. It has to be protected by applying some oil.
The waterbath with the ready paint, it is water soluble. It has to be protected by applying some oil.
The arrows and the handle of the bow- wrapped with red dyed linen and deer- hide tanned with fat.  The bow is 37" in length, it draws 18" at 40lbs. This set is a quite fast shooter.
The arrows and the handle of the bow- wrapped with red dyed linen and deer- hide tanned with fat.
The bow is 37″ in length, it draws 18″ at 40lbs. This set is a quite fast shooter.

The set is for sale, go to my German speaking blog: holzbogenxplosion

Bowmaking tools

I’ ve never posted my favourite tools for bowmaking. But the truth is that I’ m using them daily and they deserve to be  honoured. Especially right now, since some weeks I’ m very proud of having purchased a SIGMA DP2– camera. This camera is a dream for people, who like to care for details and to take pics by their own, not automatically. SIGMA- cameras are working with a FOVEON– sensor, all other cameras are using a BAYER- sensor, the FOVEON  is another capablity making SIGMA- cameras so different. SIGMA- cameras are made for selfbowyers! So my SIGMA DP2 has become another daily tool for my work.

Hatchet, adze, drawknife and a knife with a 300years old blade and a handle made of a bladebone of a moose
Hatchet, adze, drawknife and a knife with a 300years old blade and a handle made of a bladebone of a moose

The hatchet and the adze are presents of 2 guys from Turkey, who did some of my bow- classes. It is a good old custom in Turkey to make a gift to a teacher or a master, these tools are meaning a lot to me, they are made in local blacksmith shops in Turkey and I’ m using them a lot.

This drawknife is  working the best for, during the last 20 years I’ ve really been using a lot of different types of drawknife, but this one is my favourite. It’s not to long, the globular handles are charming my hands very properly.  The blade is made of real thick steel.  It is made by the French ARNAUD BROTHERS COMPANY.

bxplo tools 2 5 2013
The ARNAUD knife at work: tillering an osage bow

The knife with the moose-handle is a beauty and a great tool, which I’ m using daily. The blade is about 300 years old, maybe it has been used for killing, its sheer age leaves space for fantasy. It is made by a former friend of mine, a pastry chief, who was famous for his scrimshaw works too. He made  the knife, I made him a plains- bow of osage, hey, that is  the real deal. No money!

Favourite tools are almost like an extension of my hands and fingers, I don’t feel comfort or a bit helpless when I’ ve to use other  knifes or hatchets. I can’ t work without them, it’s like being married.

I prefer blades not to sharp for bow- making, otherwise the blades will “bite” to deep into the wood. Usually my moose- knife is very sharp for working hard and knotty areas in a stave, it is my tool of choice when fine- tillering a bow.

Another pic of the adze, the hatchet, drawknife andthe moose- knife
Another pic of the adze, the hatchet, drawknife and the moose- knife

Next post is dealing with my progress on the “zero- brace- height- bow, this design is so delicious, everybody is foretelling  its explosion.

The explosive "zero- brace- height- bow
The explosive “zero- brace- height- bow