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” 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
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.
I´m a happy man with that speed and a very satisfied bowyer too. It took me almost 20 years for to make wooden bows performing as fast as hightech- bows- that´s great!!!
Don´t ask me now, why these bow- designs are coming out such fast. It´s some try and errors, I´ll need some time for to realize it. I´m that type of guy following something and not really knowing why.
Above all I was heavily inspired by Marc St. Louis recently posted short elm flightbow, have a look at PALEOPLANET
I just want to do it. I thought about it and come up with some variations. Just have read something about the Golden Angle as a very a well known construction principle in former times(A- frame houses) and in nature(flowers, crystals……). So I gave it a try. Instead of joining the limbs with a tapered finger joint, I attached the well prepared limbs(shaping, steam- bending the angle, heat- treating) to the handle and fixed it with dove tailed wedges, the rowan flight 137.5 is done this way. Don´t be confused about some leftovers of the wedges of a former trial. My first trial went wrong cause I bent the limbs backwards to much while heat treating them. So I cut the limbs of and could use the handle again. The handle is made of mountain- maple, the wedges are made of field- maple as well as the v-spliced in siyahs.
The limbs of the osage flight are v- spliced into the handle which is made of flowery ash and reenforced by small logs of blackthorn at the belly, shaped so for to keep the string as near as possible to the limbs and to allow a comfortable and secure grip.
Length of the osage flight 137.5 is 46″, width is 11/8″ at the handle tapering to about 1/2″ at the tips. The rowan flight 137.5 is measuring 50″ in length, width is tapering from 11/4″ at the handle to 1/4″ at the tips.
Sorry, but I´m still suffering from a badly influenza, so I felt not strong and tough enough for to make the chronos at full draw. At full draw speed will be 200plus f/s.
The design is combining ancient designs like the Angular bows of the Egyptians, the Scythian bows, a lot of the insights of Marc St. Louis, Tim Baker, Steve Gardner, Alan Case, the ATARNET- and PALEOPLANET- members, Adam Karpovicz´ ideas and work on “low stack bow- designs”. Last but not least it is a result of the www and the networks, so this is a kind of global bow.
Next volume is updating the chronos and tells the making of the flights 137.5
After having drawn the rowan bow up to 18″ I had to work the tiller a bit for an equal bending. I left it aside for about 7 weeks, last week I could finish the bow. Checking tiller again, sanding, cause of the beauty of the wood at the handle I didn´t wrap the handle with leather or some woolen cloth:
I always try to leave the natural grown shape of a stave. Usually I end up with a very charming and comfortable handle.
The string is made of linen, two- coloured, some natural coloured strands mixed up with some yellow dyed strands.
The padding of string is done with red silk.
I left some tracks of the inner bark(cambium) at the back.
The tiller of the bow is looking uneven, but limbs are still twisted a bit, maybe I ´ll try to balance it. Depends on the performance of the bow.
The wood is dry now(12%), I picked up the stave 5 month ago.
In the meanwhile I´ve done some more bows of green wood, I really prefer to do wooden bows of green wood now. I could exercise much more control on the drying- process, the wood seems to be much less stressed by the drying, done the usual way causing splits and twists. Now you´ll always find some preworked green staves fixed at square timbers.
Green wood seems to respond way better to a heat- treatment and could be pre- shaped by just fixing it near to the final shape at a square timber for some weeks.
Bows made of green wood perform as well as bows made of 2 or more years air- dried staves!
I´ll shot the bow for performance this weekend and will update you soon.
Another advantage of using green wood for to make selfbows is the possibility to shape it while drying. Vol. 1 was focused on working a green bowstave a bit longer, wider and thicker than the final dimensions will be. So drying will help us again in making working easier.
But for to draw the drying wood into a shape a jig is needed, a kind of “shaper”. Don´t expect to much what is possible to get. I recommend slight deflex, reflex or recurve. For more curvature I reommend steam- bending( there will be an article about it soon). Anyway I´m not a friend of highly reflexed or recurved bows, maybe they are somehow looking wild or fast, but their performance is often quite disappointing compared with the challenge of making and shooting them.
The jig: as a mindful reader of the bowXplosion you still know it. It´s one of these multi- jigs I prefer so much, it could be used for heat- treating too. And its easy to do.
It is made of a squared timber of douglas fir(2″ x 4″ in cross- section). Be generous and choose a real stable timber, maybe some found beech would be a better choice. The curvature is suited for to get a slightly deflexed bow with long slightly reflexed tips. Usually bowyers have more jigs with different curves: more or no deflex, reflex all over the complete length, more reflex or even some more recurved tips. Anyway it is a good idea to have more than one of such jigs avaible, when a bow made of green wood is drying you can´t use the jig for heat- treating.
The most important thing is to get a right angle all over the length, otherwise you´ll end up with a twisted bow.
The parallel lines are indicating a center- line for to fix the bow straight.
Sorry this pic is not to good, but you see the string of this is running just at the edge of the handle: the bow should be fixed at the jig so, that the string is running a bit more towards the center of the handle. Heat- treating is so genius, it is possible to correct twists, to add deflex or reflex and at the same time drawweight is increasing!
Anyway it is possible to use a squared timber without sawing any curves, just straight and stable enough, the shaping could be done by using blocks of wood or cork as displayed above.
Next volume is dealing with tillering the dried bow.
The mentioned rowan- bow is ready, but to far away from 50lbs at 23″: 27lbs at 23″, what´s wrong about it? I did the bow to thin! That´s all, cause of my lack of experience in making bows of rowan- saplings. To fail is the teacher you´ll never forget.
Anyway I heat- treated much more reflex into the bow, I didn´t succeed in increasing the drawweight: if there is to less material, it is a no- go to enforce a selfbow. It´s quite better to cut away to less wood 20 times than to cut to much wood away one time! It´s not possible to add wood to a selfbow. Usually I keep such a failed bow, sooner or later a customer will ask for it.
The bow was tested, 27lbs at 23″, I did no chronos, it shoots a 350grs.- arrow at about 130yards.
Beside the failed drawweight the bow is matching my expectations. I want the slightly reflexed limbs to become straight when drawn, most working is just beside the handle, so there is a quite well energy- storage.
This bow is a kind of study for to more get confident with the deflex/reflex- design I´m actually studying.
The second trial with a rowan- sapling:
What looks straight is a bit snaky and twisty too, but with someheat-treating I could get by with it.
Cause the stave is green, it´s really easy to straighten it finally, but there´ll remain some tracks of its naturally growing- pattern. That´s what makes selfbows such distinctively genuine.
The handle is almost completely beside the center- line. Laying out the handle and the skinny tips. I wanted to make a longer handle as usual for to shorten the working area of the limbs. Combined with the skinny tips, this is a way for to mix the qualities of a longer bow with the capablities of a shorter bow: good leverage and a quick movement of the limbs.
My Swedish ax is one of the best tools I´ve ever bought, this blacksmith is making single pieces, just tell him what you want. The most important thing is a premium blade, highly durable and not to heavy. If an ax is to heavy, it is not possible to make exactly cuts and your hands will be tired soon.
Next volume will be focused on making a jig for drying a greenwood- bow, it could also be used for heat- treating.
In the meantime it has become a maruki- style bow, a yumi made of a single piece of wood, the fore- runner of the delicious to do yumi made of bamboo. It measures 75″ in length, 11/4″ in width at its widest point at the handle.
There are still some details to work, tillering it at 30″, about 55lbs, sanding, polishing, coating with walnut- oil.
The recurves are steam- bent, the s-shaped natural growing was at first heat- treated, but without any appreciable succes, so steam bending was required. The bow insisted on keeping a bit of its natural shape, I agreed, the string is running across the handle. Juniper is quite delicious to heat- treat or to steam bend, cause of its content of essential oils. The workshop smells great when working juniper. Store the splinters as a remedy against clothes moths.
The ratio of the length of the upper limb to the length of the lower limb is 1.61- the Golden Ratio.
The string is made of linen, the slight recurves are wrapped with thin buckskin, the handle is wrapped with a thicker buckskin, buckskin is naturally tanned with fat.
Eventhough I prefer short bows, I like this style of “primitive” yumi, due to its asymmetry it makes you feel to shoot a somewhat shorter bow than it really is. For to use it to full capacity, I guess I´ve to take some kyudo lessons.
This bow makes me feel very happy: juniper is one of my favourite plants, but I´ve never succeded in making a juniper- selfbow, they´ve all broken. I succeded in making shorter bows of juniper by backing them with sinew, juniper is very compression strong but tension weak. But this stave is completely knot- free with very thin growthrings- perfect. Done as long selfbow, it is a durable character bow.
The bow stave is half the work to do a good reliable selfbow. To go out cutting wood is the beginning, to grade the staves and to assign them to a design and to the purpose of a bow is the 2nd step. If you want to make a great performing flightbow, the wood has to withstand heavy tension and compression- forces choose the best stave you´ve, if you´ll do a kid´s bow take the smaller staves. Keep in mind: the handle- area of a selfbow does usually not bend, if there is a knot don´t care to much about it, but it´s a matter of your evaluation. As a rule of thumb you´ll get by if a knot´s cross-section is not more than about 1/3 of the handle´s cross- section.
To debark or not to debark is another question. I do usually debark the woods with shorter fibers( rowan, maple, birch, whitebeam, cherry, plum………..)cause they trend to rotten soon if humidity can´t escape. I left the bark on the long fiber- woods(black locust, osage, elm………..), if they dry to fast they´ll split.
Super bow- woods like hawthorn, blackthorn, euonymus(spindlewood) are told to split soon and heavily while drying. That´s cause of their usually small diameter cross- section. I cut them roughly to a bow´s shape while green and force them with clamps into the chosen design, not any problem working them this way! Look for “Bow staves Vol.2- making a bow of green wood”.
I post a lots of pics of handling bow staves, the stave is 50% of the bow:
This rowan is dedicated to become a deflex/reflex– flightbow, the deflex is naturally grown, the reflex at its ends will be enforced by heat- treating. For to succesfully split a smaller stave, debark it and mark the splitting line. Go for enough material: handle thickness about 11/2″, limbs thickness at least 3/4″. If the split will fail, stop it and use the bandsaw.
Usually a twisted tree is easy to recognize, but some trees like rowan hide their growing. Lately while splitting them you´ll see what´s up. Trees with a thicker and rough bark like elm, black locust, osage, hawthorn, blackthorn tell you soon if they are twisted. Maple, cherry, whitebeam, rowan and plum are less kind, almost no signs of twist in their thinner bark.
Black locust is one of the woods with long fibers, grown straight and knotfree it is a pleasure to split, a few blows and it is done…………………..
The string of a bow has more or less to cross the handle- section. The best case is the string lays towards the side where the arrow is shot off. So for to check the straightness of a bow stave use a chord and string it over the back- side of the stave. It is possible to make a bow with both limbs pointing in an opposite direction, the main thing is, that the string crosses the handle.
There is the rowan from above again. I found this stave just cutted by the forest- ranger for to thin out a hiking trail. It has been rainy, the thicker end of the stave was covered with leaves and some other cutted smaller woods, great conditons for a rottening.
I debarked the stave soon, splitted it, stored it at a breezy and dry place, rottening can´t cause any further damage. The bow will be made as a skinny tip design(holmegaard, mollegabet), so I´ll get by with this stave.
There is a whitebeam to split, a part of a real big tree. One side is to knotty, the other side is knotfree but somehow snaky, anyway a delicious to do bow. But due to the capablities of whitebeam as a bow wood and its beauty it´s very worth to do it.
One of the best rowan staves I´ve ever come across, one straight half, so easy to split.
The bow within this rowan sapling is in its knotfree slightly reflexed half, cause it is of a small diameter, I´ll not split it. The only knot is just in the center, at the bows belly- side at the handle, there is no bending.
Bow staves Vol. 4 will be focused again on making bows of green wood.
Heat- treating is the most important way for to boost wooden bows, for to correct their shape or to heat in a small reflex, slight recurves, a small amount of deflex. But there ar limits. Soft or open porous woods are more suitable for heat- treating than dense woods like osage orange or black locust. An eligible candidate is moutain maple, it is the wood of choice if you need a solid core for a hornbow, cause it is the wood with outstanding glueing capablities due to its open cell- charcter. Less bowyers know about the outstanding performance of heat- treated mountain maple- bows.
Recently I had been ordered to do a selfbow for a 12 years old girl, she wanted a bow of maple. Among my mountain maple- staves there was a small thin fitting strip of mountain maple. Cause it was cut from a small diameter- sapling, it was such high- crowned, that I had to decrown it first ( decrowning bow- staves will be a soon upcoming topic at bowXplosion). I cut the bows´ design, tillered it at a drawlength of 21″, drawweight was 12lbs, the favored drawweight was about 20lbs. I decided to heat in a bit deflex in the center of the bow and to reflex the outer limbs for to get a shape like the half of a hexagon. This is a very powerful bow- design ( bow- design and geometry will be another upcoming topic at bowXplosion in fall).
If there´s only a bit adjustment work , a small amount of deflex or reflex to do, heat treating every marked section for about 2 minutes will be enough. It depends, heat treating dense woods could take 30 minutes/limb.
If the heat treating wasn´t succesful repeat it. After a heat treating, I leave a bow clamped for 24h, than I brace it checking the tiller again, maybe there´s something to rasp. Finally a full draw will point out a result. If the bow will keep its heated in shape, you´ve got it.
The bow kept the heated in shape, the drawweight has increased from 12lbs to 21lbs.
Next volume is focused on heat- treating juniper and hawthorn and heat treating vs. steambending.
Heat treating or tempering a wooden bow has turned out to be the magic formula in selfbowery since Marc St.Louis, the well reputated Canadian traditional bowyer has published his experiences with it in vol. 4 of “The Traditional Bowyers Bible”.
Thank you Marc for publishing this precious tool.
I had been always suspicious to treat a bow in a somehow extreme way. The heat of a heatgun or of its forerunner the bowl filled with burning pieces of charcoal used by the Osmanian hornbowyers seems to be an extreme way. But Marc St.Louis was always wondering about some tribes of Native Americans having preferred wood of trees which have been strucked by lightning. He got more and more curious about it. Look out for Traditional Bowyers Bible Vol. 4 .
I did never use heat- treating for wooden or sinew- backed bows. Usually I´ve steam- bent a reflex or recurves or a more or less twisted stave. I used heat- treating for to shape horn or to adjust a hornbow, or to enforce a bamboo- slat of a boo- backed bow.
Marc´s report made very clear, that you can´t destroy your bow, if you heat- treat nothing but the belly of it. The belly is the compression side of a bow. Wood is stronger in tension than in compression.
Heat makes wood compressing and so it becomes hard and dense. Remember our ancestors getting reliable arrows by heat- treating the arrow- tips. Marc St.Louis noticed that heat- treated pieces of wood have lost weight and a flat belly of a bow will get a concave shape after a heat- treating. So it´s clear that heat- treating will have more impact on more porous and lighter woods than on more dense and heavier woods.
Heat- treating a selfbow is one of my favourite tools for adjusting and enforcing a wooden bow, I don´t want to have missed it.
My first experience in heat- treating a bow was very impressive. I´ve done a selfbow of black locust in the American flatbow- design, 38lbs at 28″. It was my intention to make a bow not to strong, for to get some data what a heat- treating is able to do. It took me some nerves and 2 heat- treating runs of about 20 minutes. Drawing the bow the next day turned out to be a real burner: 52lbs at 28″, I´ve heat- treated a small reflex in the formerly straght grown bow- stave too.
I use heat- treating for to adjust bows, for to put smaller amounts of reflex into a bow, for to make bows stronger. Everytime when you heat- treat a bow, its compression strength is rising.
I use steam- bending for to get higher amounts of reflex or sharp recurves and for to get more drawweight too.