Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Quarrel Too Far

Well, it certainly has been a long time between posts! In the interim I've been busy attending to a great many things, and generally just being a happy go lucky scamp. Also, this is another tangential post, but I will come back to the castle soon (it's been sitting for a while, but much progress has been made).

Anyway, to the post!

I haven't mentioned it before, but I'm a big fan of archery. When I was fourteen years old I got my first bow - a Hoyt compound with a 40lb draw weight at 26". I loved it - it was deadly accurate, hi-tech and great to learn with. Half a year later on a lovely Saturday afternoon I was down at my archery club when an older gentleman showed up on the field. Everyone there was firing modern recurves and compounds, and being that I live in Australia that's about all you could get in the 1990's. Anyway, the gentleman in question moved to the 20 metre target butt and pulled out a longbow. Magyar bows and the like were lovely and amazingly crafted, but the longbow was something I'd grown up reading about. Most of my favourite stories had featured at least one character that utilised this deadly weapon to great effect, and I always saw it as a sinuous, elegant item of weaponry.

Anyway, I went over to chat to the gentleman as he set his equipment up. He was a lovely man and was more than happy to share what he knew. He had a leather quiver, wooden arrows and a lowish strength (35lb) longbow, but I was instantly smitten. Despite no one else taking any interest, I stood and watched him, chatted with him and that was it - I had to have a longbow.

Quite a few years later I finally got around to having my very own. The moment I laid eyes upon it I loved how beautifully simple it was, at which point my girlfriend (now fiancé) decided that she really wanted a bow of her own. As I like to make all my own arrows I figured that I'd make a particularly detailed set heavy ash arrows for my bow as well as a set of light, softwood arrows for her along with matching quivers. Aluminium/carbon fibre arrows are accurate and cheaper, but building wooden arrows involves so much more; a mix of science and art. Below are the results.

On the left is my quiver - a back quiver that holds over a dozen shafts, with a cutout on the back that is ideal for quietly taking out an arrow (as you don't have to go pulling one out the top of the quiver, in the process scaring off your target by flailing your arms about in the air). Rabbit fur lines the top, with 2mm leather wrapped around a PVC tube lined with fleece (to keep the arrows quiet and protected) and hand laced with black thong. I used my awl to sew in a slot for a file (to keep broadheads and knives sharpened) and a pouch for my favourite knife.

The shafts are ash and have been hand tapered, crested, stained, varnished, tipped and have hand cut turkey feathers that are bound to the shaft with waxed cotton. I'm proud to say they're the finest arrows I've ever made and are quite heavy. I did cheat a little by using plastic nocks, but as carved nocks break quite easily it was a very practical concession. I had to build a new target butt for these arrows, as they punched through my old one (which was 25cm deep and backed in 8mm MDF) and the two fence palings behind it aswell. Needless to say I was very impressed with them, particularly since they're spined for a 50-55lb bow (mid-heavy weight), though I am perhaps a bit too careful with them as I'm loathe to take a risky shot for fear of one of them breaking.

On the right is the hip quiver I made for the 25lb recurve bow, which is 3mm cow hide lined with wolf fur from a old vest I was offered when my mum was spring cleaning. The arrows are very light to match the bow, and have been hand dipped, crested and varnished. The fletches are standard 3" feather fletchings from my local archery store, and I hand painted roman numerals on to each one so that she could keep track of her favourite (re straightest shooting) shafts for crucial shots. I still have to attach straps so it hangs from a belt, but otherwise it's finished.

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