Hornbows Vol.6- sinew- backing the prod

Last volume was dealing with the final shaping of the horn- lam. Now the horn- lam has to be backed with sinew- fibres. But before backing the prod has to be wrapped with bundles of sinew- fibres.

precoating the prod all over its length at least 4 times
The wrappings are enforcing the joints of the horn- slats and the recurves
After having wrapped the prod with the sinew- bundles, the prod is wrapped with cotton- or silk cloth for to press the fibres as close as possible to the prod
2 weeks later the cloth- wrapping is removed- the prod is ready for the backing

About a quarter of  prod´s thickness will be the sinew- backing,  3- 4 layers of sinew- fibre- bundles has to be prepared. According to a total length of 30″ minus the recurves about 25″ of the prod´s length and an average- width of 2″ incl. the sides of the prod , so about 50 sq.inches have to be backed. As a total that means 4-5 buffalo- leg- sinews have to be spliced, at least a job of 8h.

The backed prod- one day after the backing
Closer and better sideview at the backing- one day after it has been done. The backing is still about 1/2" in thickness, when it is dry it will have about 1/3"- 1/4" of the prods thickness.

Waiting time! At first I planned to finish the prod in April or May, that´s to less time for the polymerisation. I´ll do it at the end of August, 9 month after having backed the prod.

So next volume will be focused on the braced and ready to final tiller- work prod.

Hornbows Vol.5- the crossbow- final shaping of the horn- lamination

Sorry, sorry again, for this time-delayed report about the making of the prod for the crossbow. The prod is almost ready, maybe within the next 2 weeks I´ll go to do the final tillering.

The final shaping of the horn- lam is a delicious job to do, cause while drying horn-lams are more or less twisting sidewards. The job to do is to end up with a straight, symetrically prod- lengthwise, in width and in thickness with oval cross- sections. The cross- section of the recurves should be rectangular. I don´t use any machine for this job, machines are nothing else but very fast hand- tools, too fast for delicious jobs, no machine can replace the feeling I got from shaping and tillering thousands of bows by my own hands.

That´s how the lam looked after glueing- no recurves added, not shaped

A rough shaping has been done, the recurves had been spliced in, time for final shaping.

The draw- knife is my favourite tool for shaping the horn- lam

My wife will use the horn- splinters as a fertilizer in our garden. The white lines on the back are cutted through glue- lines.

.......done- isn´t it looking elegant?

I´ve even bent it some 5″ for to check an even tiller of the 2 limbsif you do bend a horn- lam the first time, it´s a horrible experience, cracks and cracks, that´s the usual sound………when I bent my first horn bow years ago, my nerves were done.

Next volume is dealing with the sinew– wrapping and sinew- backing of the horn- prod

Selfmade clamps for laminated bow- constructions

About 10 years ago I did my first hornbows with usual bow- woods as a core: ash, elm, black locust, wild cherry………The glueing turned out to be a kind of not to much reliable The glueing procedure itself was  becoming more and more a thing of chaos and even some horror:  glue drying to fast, fingers full of glue, glue everywhere, all things glued up but not the horn to the core- wood…………….these flops made me to think the whole thing over, to reset and to update my mind about traditional glueing of laminated bow- construction. Remember 10 years ago the infos dealing with hornbows and other laminated bows were not as wide- spreaded as today. It took me another 4 years to become able to manage the procedure in a more secure way. When glueing bow- lams with natural glues it is a must to organize the whole procedure very carefully. Clean and degrease the parts to be glued with curd soap, coat them several times with a thin solution of glue: water- glue= 5 : 1. Take care that the workshop is well- tempered- 77F, as well as the glue- 150F, preheat the wood and the horn to about 75F. Place your clamps or rope ready for to go. When the glueing is done fix the lam to a straight and stable wooden lath for to make sure that the bow will stay aligned. Maybe you want a reflexed or recurved bow, so fix the bow to an according wooden form. This procedure is called glue- shaping.  The Japanese makers of the traditional Yumi- bows are using a rope and wedges made of bamboo for to glue- shape the multicurved yumis.

After having done my experiences in glueing bow- lams I ended up in using selfmade clamps for to match as exactly as possible the needs of a well working glueing.

selfmade clamps- bottom-, side-, top view

The clamps are made of mountain- maple slats cut to 3″ in length, about 1/2″ in thickness for the bottom piece and 1/3″ for the upper piece, width is about 1″. For to screw them down I use thread rods and fitting nuts, countersinked into the bottom piece of the clamp. It´s also a good idea to use winged screws, but for to develop heavier pressure I prefer to screw the clamps down with a ratchet wrench.

selfmade clamps in action- use a wrench of your choice or wing screws

It´s also possible to do these clamps by glueing small pieces of wood at their internal sides for to guide the lams not to slip out of place. But don´t do them to thick, otherwise you can´t produce the necessary pressure: I leave an open space of about 1″ – 11/2″ in width and about 1/3″ in thickness,  you can make clamps with more or less open space matching the different cross- sections of the lam.

another view of the clamps in action- note the glued on small pieces of wood working as a guide

Before using the selfmade clamps open them up, organize the glueing well, prepare all tools you need, take care for the right temperature of the workshop and the glue.  The advantage of these clamps is that you can develop pressure where it is needed, more or less. Don´t screw them down to heavy.  Just as far as the glue is flowing out of the glueline.

These clamps are highly effective, done by yourself you´ve to buy screws, nuts and thread rod. Choose them made of iron not made of aluminium, as I did it for the first time. Iron is much more stable.

Cupid´s, Apollon´s or Armors bow

Diana breaking Cupids bow

Some years ago I was involved in a research- project, guided by Prof. Erhard Godehardt,  focused on Greek archery of the Antique. We did some reconstructions of different types of Greek bows,  most of them based on the design of Scythian bows. The Greek were very impressed by the performance of Scythian bows and they adopted them soon for to replace their former wooden bows.

Among the reconstructions was a type of a Greek bow attributed to Apollon, the Greek god of love and the later Roman God Armor or Cupid, the god of love or of to fall in love.

cupid riding a dolphin

We did 2 Cupid bows as hornbows succesfully. I´ve found them a challenge to do, cause of the shortness of these bows. During the making of the bows I got very interested in all the myths about Apollon and Cupid, but above all I was very attracted by all the legends about Apollons sister Artemis, the later Roman godness Diana. I got a feeling of the so- called Amazons, the times of matriarchy and some actually negated aspects of feminity.

2 years ago I got a fax of a customer of mine, with the pics you see above: Diana breaking Cupid´s bow and Cupid riding a dolphin…………….Michael, I want such a Cupid´s bow made as a hornbow, 100cm in lenght drawing about 50lbs at 26″, further instructions soon…………… further instructions were telling me to make the limbs heavily reflexed. I´ve to tell that this guy knows to do selfbows very well,  he´s an artist and former physicist and I´ve several got some very useful advices in the physics of different bow- designs.

So we cooperated and ended up in making the bow as a usual horn- composite with a spliced in handle, the limbs made of mountain- maple, horn as belly and sinew backed. The bow is based on some paintings done during the Renaissance, when a lot of Italian artists painted scenes of the Roman and Greek Antiquity. So it is not historically prooved, no findings.

The lenght measured over all the bows curvature is 103cm, the non- bending handle is 30cm in length, 2.5cm in width, 2.8cm in depth. So the limbs are 36.5cm in length, 3cm in width with the last 6cm tapered to 1cm, the thickness of the limbs is about 0.6cm midlimb.

I cut the horn- slats from the inner curve of a pair of waterbuffalo- horns, with a radius of 12cm. It took me some hours to go into the woods for to find a mountain- maple grown in the fitting shape.  I don´t take care to much on the growthrings of the handle- piece, cause it would not bend, I just cut  it from a piece of mountain- maple too.

At first I glued the horn and the core of the 2 limbs, than I v- spliced them into the preformed handle, when the 3 parts were fitting, I glued them. A week later I did a pre- tiller, I drew the horn- maple- lamination to about 15″, for to see if it works without any problems(twisting, breaking glueline………), everything was working well. The client wants me to splice in 5cm long slats of horn with a cross- section of 1cm x 1cm for to shape the nocks as he has seen them on the paintings. Finally the bow was backed with 3 layers of leg- sinews from deer. Now we decided to give the bow a drying- time of 13 month( 13 is the lucky number of the Ancient times).

When I began to tiller the bow, I was quite nervous, cause of the shortness and the heavily reflexed limbs, the limbs were reflexed almost allover their whole length. After 3 trials I drew the bow to 25″, no cracks, no explosion, drawweight as desired, great to see almost the whole limb unrolling, like a fresh grown shoot which has just penetrated the soil as my wife noted…………………….Anyway we decided to sew the bow limbs completely into canvas for safety reasons. Additonally the canvas is a great base for to paint the bow. It is very obvious that the sea and diving is another passion of the client: Cupid loved it to surf with dolphins, for those of you interested in totem- animals, the dolpin means joy of life, harmony, social behaviour,  the squid means the art of disappearing, our inner monsters, the depth of our being…………………

This Cupid´s bow draws 48lbs at 26″, it shots a 340grs. arrow at 151f/s. due to its big handle this bow is so comfortable to shoot, no handshock, the “unrolling” of the limbs makes a very smooth and  even draw. But don´t be to much attracted by the exciting curves of this Cupid´s bow, it is a beast. Imagine a 70lbs- version.

The shape of the bow is like the human upper lip, drawn the bow looks almost like a heart.

Keep in mind Cupid´s guiding theme: amor vincite omnia- love beats everything.

Some of you know that I´ve been involved in the research of horn- bows for some years, anyway I prefer selfbows again, cause I´m seriously in doubt about the efficiency of hornbows.Even the Cupid´s bow is a great example of what the horn/maple/sinew- gang is able to withstand.  But the Cupid´s bow will ever be one of my favourites, I love its charming shape turning into a beast when drawn and released.


cupid braced

cupid unbraced
cupid with dolphins on its back
carving at the handle
Cupid string bridge- silencers
cupid at 25

For those who like to look intelligent and charming movies: go for the TV- Series “Cupid”, created by the maker of the “Veronica Mars”- series, Rob Thomas. He creates a modern version of a Cupid, damned to live in our actual human world…………I love it.

For those who like deeper insights in squids, go for Martin Moyniham, the famous evolutionary biologist, look for his book: communication and non- communication.  A summary of it at http://www.deviantart.com, look for octopi as a metaphor( there is a search), really interesting.

For those who like unserious pics and  some hoax, here we go, a modern Cupid visited me today:

a modern cupid?
modern cupid: love beats everything