Thursday, March 17, 2011

Take a bow

Having ruined two wheels for the secret project, I bade lilac goodbye for now (although fond of it, I find it very hard to bend, even in the pressure cooker). So I went out and scanned my driveway for a suitable alder. Found it. Split it, planed it, and it bent 360 degrees, one piece, with no steaming. No wonder the spinning wheel was so easy.

But while I had the alder quarters, I thought of the NanoDivider and said, "if I had a bow for it I could turn with it." Now I have been reading up on the fine art of bow making, and they all say you should use dried wood. But I wanted a bow, so what I did was to make it green. This would not do for Sherwood Forest, but for my purposes it might do all right.
What you do is take a pole, or in my case a section of alder, and split it in quarters. One of your quarters is the bow-to-be, or stave, as the bowyers say. OK, the rounded part of the quarter is called the belly of the bow. All you do to the belly is peel it. Never touch it after that. If you turn your quarter so's the back is away from you, you have a sharpish edge, containing pith. This is the back of the bow. You do all your wood removal from the back. A bow has two tapers. It tapers from the center to the tip as you view the bow from the back, and it tapers same way as you view it from the side. The whole trick in bowmaking is to get these tapers right. This activity is called tillering. Why, I cannot say; I thought tillers were used to steer sailboats. I began with my trusty Frost knife and wound up planing for finer work. Bowyers use spokeshaves, but my indoor spokeshaves are all too big.

Periodically you bend the bow. Or try to. At the beginning it is impossible. As you remove wood it becomes easier. You are looking for the right curve in the bend, and for symmetry port and starboard. If you are wise you will build a tillering jig for this purpose; the net and bowmaking books are full of tillering jigs -- they ain't rocket science. But I did it all by eye, and it shows. Then you string it up. Where it doesen't bend quite right you remove some wood. Very easy to take off too much. While thousands of people have devised clever methods of removing wood, not one has devised a method of putting it back on, except, of course, glue.

So now Sir Brian-le-Bow is drying out. I twanged Sir Brian today, and it was quite satisfying. I am tempted to make an arrow, and practice indoor target-shooting. I can hardly wait for spring, so I can make a full size one. Sir Brian, by the way, is 26 cm strung; hardly the thing to poach a stag in Sherwood Forest. But it was fun to make.

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