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

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Flightarrows are flightarrows are flightarrows………………..

Flightshooting has turned out to be a kind of drug to me.  If there is some spare time I go for making a new flightbow or trying some new ideas for flightarrows.

Maybe you remember my trials on that gliding- arrow- thing, coming up every now and then in traditional bowery- forums. I have really given it a chance and  against my expectations I had ended up 20% succesfully. Sorry, no post about now, but within the upcoming 2 weeks.

Trying gliding- arrows I got the idea that it is not only possible to laminate arrows or to build them up lengthwise( inserting a foreshaft and nocks, like  some Native American tribes have done it). It´s also possible to insert a tapered strip of very hard wood into a given common wooden shaft, for to get a relatively light, but anyway hard and barrelled  arrow. The following pic will make things very clear:

Flightarrow( cedar) enforced with a strip of hardwood, nock and tip enforced with hardwood too

That´s it! I swear, this is the best arrow I´ve ever shot. I admit not to have shot an Alan Case tonkin- hex- arrow. Cause of  the actually very cold winter, I will have to wait some weeks for making some flight- shots, but chronos I´ve done with this arrow are promising a real yards killer.

The building plan:

The making of is not to easy, but manageable and takes some time. First of all check out your wooden arrow shafts, I recommend cedar 5/16″ in diameter and 28″ in length, take the best you´ve in stock: very clear running through growthrings, no knots, physical weight about 150grs, for to end up with an about 180grs. arrow, that´s the best weight for a short flight bow with a drawweight of 45- 49lbs at  a 23″ drawlength. Don´t shorten the shaft, the extra length is a must for the making of.

Look for the hardest hardwood you´ve, the inserts should measure about 1/3 of the 23″  arrow length plus 2″ for the taper(1″ in length at each end), a bit more than 5/16″ in width and about  1/16″ in thickness. Make the insert very accurate, I use my small bandsaw and a real tiny Japanese plane for the tapers.

Splitting the shaft exactly along the centerline seems to be very delicious, cause it is round. I fix the shaft on a blank with screws(that´s why the shaft is still 28″ in length), an adhesive tape or glue is thinkable. The shaft has not to be splitted its whole length, I split it from the nock side towards the head, stopping at about 2/3 of its length.

The cedar- shaft is fixed on a blank with screws at the ends(extra length) for to assure a cut along the centerline

After the shaft is cut, the first insert could be glued in.

The usual way to glue laminated arrows, wrapped with a strong yarn(flax, silk, hemp) and clamped to a straight blank

When the glue is dry, the second insert has to be made, same procedure, but it has to be done exactly in a 90 angle to the first insert.

The inserts at the top and the nock should be calculated well for to get the right weight. I´ve checked out the arrows point of gravity and then cut the inserts: the point of gravity should be located a bit towards the tip. After having done some test- flights I added a second shorter insert at the top perpendicular to the first insert. Beginning with this kind of arrows, this is a try and error- game, but with some experience this will be a very calculable kind of flight arrow. It is even possible to make hollow arrows with this method, when inserting 4 strips of hardwood about a 1/4 in thickness of the shaft, so there is a gap within the arrow.

For to end up with a perfect round arrow I´ve made the jig I was thinking of since years. A kind of selfmade turning machine by using a common drilling machine, some wooden boards and screws.  It has turned out to be such helpful jig for every kind of arrow that I´ll post a making of soon. Anyway pics of it.

Turning jig for shaping and grinding arrows
The jig viewed from above

And the most perfect arrow I´ve ever shot:

That´s it: barreled and ultimately hard

Next BowXplosion will again be dealing with flightbows. Succesful flightbows need sharp recurves, so I´ll post a making of naturally grown recurves  and a post focused on steam- bent recurves, inclusive a how- to- v- splice recurves.

Flightarrows Vol.6- finally naked figures and summer!!!!

heading for first flight- shots- wearing the bowXplosion T-shirt, a birthday present of my daughter

The radially laminated flightarrows are ready, finally the rain has gone, summer, summer! 90F since one week,  haymaking is done, space for great arrow flights. For testing the arrows I decided to pick up my short osage-selfbow, mindful readers remember ” 2xdouble dragons bow”, it is 44lbs at 23″ and shots a normal target arrow(330grs.) at about145yards. I expected it to cast the flightarrows(125grs and 140grs.) at about 170yards.

2xdoubledragons, 2 radially laminated flightarrows:cedar and pine, bone- tips, euonymus nocks, eagle- feathers

You remember, in Vol.5 I presented an easy to do jig for to make hexshafts. After the glueing the shaft looked like that:

first radially hexshaft- glued- wrapping removed

I used a small plane, a rasp, a file and sanding paper for to convert the hexagon into a dodecagon, from than on it is easy to get an even ciricular barreled shape.

the hexstrip- tool- used for to make the hex- cross- section into a dodecagon

Again preparing tips, nocks and feathers.

preparing feathers- bone tip- euonymus nock

My flight- arrow- flying field, just about 250yards away from our farm in Vorderheubronn:

flight- arrows flying field 200 yards
flightarrow- flying- field the cedar and the pine arrow flew about 200yards

Hey, thats so great, I´ve never seen arrows flying such stable and about 30% further than the target- arrows, the best flight- arrows I´ve ever done. If dreams come true, problems are just beginning: is it possible to make them better, should I do a better bow, matching these arrows more exactly………….you know these games, male mind?

The figures: the cedar- shaft weighs 125grs., the pine- shaft weighs 140grs., length of both shafts is 23″, I´ve no spine- tester, but it I guess both arrows to be at about a 55lbs- spine. Feathers are 1″ in length, 1/2″ in height, shaped according to the Ottoman flight- arrows.

I tested the hollow cedar- shaft, whose making of is posted in Vol.4 of this article, too. Remember it weighs 125grs. and is 23″ in length too, it flew as stable and far as the radially laminated hexshaft- arrows. I guess this way to do a hollowed flightarrow is very effective too, maybe a bit easier. I´ll try to take some pics of these arrows flying and post them here………………

Flightarrows Vol. 5- surfing the DIY- store focused on the greatest arrow- flight ever!

Wow, this is Vol. 5 of my flightarrow- article, I guess there´ll be some more volumes.

Beside my flightarrow- experience I was doing a soapbox for my daughter Maja, who had her 11th birthday on the 9th of May: my wife and me asked her if Maja wants a cell phone or a soapbox. Surprise, she wants the soapbox doing with me. Should I be proud of my somehow succesful education or should I call my little one a bit old- fashioned?  Whatever, kids of today should master a wrench , a screwdriver and a high- tech tool.

The soapbox was almost finished, but like always some screws where failing, no way, heading for the next DIY-store, I remembered a jig I´ve seen for making flyrods – http://hipwader.com/2004/building-custom-cane-fly-rods/1/ – I decided to buy all what I would need for to make the fly- rod- jig! I picked up the screws for the soapbox, when I came across so-called construction wood,  I felt magically attracted by some slats of pine, 2″ in width, about 1″ in thickness, about 3 times the length of a flightarrow, nothing special about it, I  had  already bought construction wood for several purposes. But with the hexagonal strips for flightarrows in my mind I realized the first time that the cants of these slats are edged smoothly in a 60degree angle. That´s it!! Realizing it, I recognized what to do: cut 2 slats about 30″ in length, clamp them lengthwise together, make the marks at the tip, the center of gravity and the nock. Drill the holes for the screws, release the clamps, rescrew them again but now add a  thin shim(about 1/64″) at the nock and a thicker( about 1/32″) one at the center of gravity between the 2 slats- that´s it, that´s a simple jig for to make the hexagonal- strips for the greatest fligtharrows ever. Don´t discuss DIY- stores, it´s all a matter of your tuning. You get what you need.

making of the DIY- market jig: construction wood- machine-screws- 2 shims- nuts
the hex- strip tool- notice the distances at the nock, the center of gravity, the tip

The principle of construction of this jig is the same as it is about the jigs flyrod- makers are using. To get a barreled shape just widen the triangular groove where it is necessary.

Another way to do the same jig is to groove a wooden slat (2″ x 2″) with a selfmade tool. Look for a triangular file, you need no more, cut the grip and glue it at a wooden block fitting your hand. Mark a centerline lengthwise with a gauge for to get the guiding line. It´s really hard to do it, it took me about an hour to file the groove. When the groove is done, cut the slat lengthwise right along the middle of the groove. Done so, go further as written above.

I prefer to buy the edged slats, the second way to do the jig is for real tough guys! It´s obvious, the jig made of metal will last for ever, take your choice.

selfmade tool for making a triangular groove- use a marking gauge making a guide line for the tool
the jig made of one slat- triangular grooving tool- marking gauge
the triangular grooving tool- work the groove till the width is about 1/8"

Cut the strips roughly with a small band -saw, than barrel them in your jig, fixed with a clamp. I prefer to use a small plane for to work them down, keep care to work with an even pressure for  to make sure that the strips will not pop out of the triangular groove, one strip is easy to break.

hey- first hex-strips I ever did!

6 strips are ready, check them for evenness, remove some overlapping wood. Now the hollowing is to be done just by flattening one top of the triangle lengthwise. I do it with a small plane, checking the remaining thickness by having a look at the cutted wood. Again work with an even pressure!

this pic is bad- flatten one top of the hex- strips is to hollow the shaft

Now the strips could be glued together, use less glue( I prefer hide- glue, a bit thinner than usual), maybe do a dry- glueing for get confident with the procedure, at the beginning the wrapping of the strips is very confusing, wrapp the strips around a nail, but once begun, it turns out to work of its own.

how to wrap a laminated shaft for glueing- use your foot as a controller for the strength of the wrapping
glueing of the hex- strips by wrapping them

Done, my first hollow hexshaft, waiting time for 2 days, let´s have a look at tips and nocks.

Arrowmakers of the past made very light tips of bone and nocks of horn or hardwood for flightarrows, I prefer euonymus or spindlewood for the nocks. Tips of bone are looking great when heavily polished.

cutting the bone- tip out of a thighbone of a cattle
the splice for to adjust the euonymus nock
bone- tip and euonymus- nock are ready for to be glued
still remaining the fletching- the shaft with tip and nock and the tools used for to make it

Still the fletching is to be done, so Vol.6 will be dealing with the how to choose and to prepare the feathers for a flightarrow, maybe there´ll be some results of first shots with the arrows, we are still longing for the summer of 2010, June has turned out to be rainy and unbelievable cold.


Flightarrows Vol.4 – statics, some misunderstandings and flyrods

The reader of   this topic is a witness of a real  live- experience. While preparing Vol.4 I was misleaded by the term radially lamination. Bede Dwyer mentioned it recently in the ATARNET, while explaining the basic construction of Turkish flightarrows. The English language is not my mother tongue, so I thought the  Turkish arrowmakers did it like these famous Russian puppets are done, just sticking cane- tubes of different diameters one into another. In fact a conclusive thought, but wrong. I don´t quarrel with me about this, it is history, I guess the term radially lamination could be misunderstood in every language.

left: a usual lam( pine/hard maple/pine) has to be cut cross to the lamination - radially lamination( 4 strips of blackthorn)

In making flightarrows the point is to balance weight and strength. I f you have a closer look at a fligtharrow laminated as usual, you´ll easily recognize that it bends more with the gluelines and less cross to the gluelines. Even  a solid shaft bends unequally. For to match the needs of a stable arrowflight it is obvious to produce shafts bending as equally as possible. Historically the Turkish flightarrow- makers solved this problem by making shafts composed of radially laminated strips of wood, cane or bamboo. It is the same construction- principle as flyrods are done.

working down a blackthorn- sapling to about 3/8", length about 28"

blackthorn- sapling worked down to 3/8"
blackthorn- shaft cutted into 4 strips- the flattening of the top of the triangle "will make" the hole, when the strips will be glued (imagine just the new cross- section!)



Thanks to Alan Case and Bede Dwyer I understand this principle now. I ´ve had the same idea in mind, but first tried to solve the “even- bending- problem” in another way. I splitted a ready 5/16″ cedar- shaft along its length into halves, hollowed the halves with my bone- scraping tool, splitted the hollowed halves again into halves and glued the 4 strips around a wire.

using my hollowing toll for to hollow one half of the splitted cedar- shaft

I made the shafts by radially laminating 4 strips , it works, maybe a trial for to become confident with the technique.  But with a hexagon as a base it works at its best. The hexagon is the most stable principle of construction, a hollowed hexagon could not be outperformed. Look at the geodesic domes invented by Buckminster Fuller, in every respect the most effective building. Buckminster Fuller is my favourite philosoph, google him, he is such a genius………………..

wrapping the blackthorn- strips around a wire- the beginning is confusing, but once started it is working of its own
how to wrap a laminated shaft for glueing- use your foot as a controller for the strength of the wrapping


There are so- called hexshafts available, composed of 6 hexagonal strips, but not hollowed.  These shafts are very stable, bending even while flying. But they are not hollowed, so they are very heavy, useless for flightshooting, useful for heavy bows and strong penetration.

Next volume is as a matter of course focused on the radially lamination of shafts composed of wooden strips with a hexagonally cross- section.

Everytime it is possible I work outside my workshop under the protruding roof of our old farmhouse and my handicapped magpie starts crying for a splinter of wood I´m working. As soon as I give him a splinter he works it with his pecker, when I do a break he makes a break. His name is Elliott and somehow he is the center of our family.

Elliott working a tonkin- making a flightarrow