Wednesday, October 26, 2011

She Made a Bow!

If you saw the last post you read about how Amanda met me at Pasadena and got a good start on her bow.
At this past Sunday’s SCA event she and I got back together so she could get it finished.

The bow was bending pretty good but one limb was consistently stiffer than the other. Amanda kept working on it with the cabinet scraper without a whole lot of change.

When Amanda asked me for the Shinto rasp I asked her why she wanted that tool since it removes wood a lot faster than the cabinet scraper. She showed me how she had compared limb thickness from one limb to the other and saw that she had quite a bit of wood to remove before they matched thickness. That was just about the best reasoning I’ve ever seen and it just pleased me to see her take that jump in understanding. I gave her the Shinto.

It wasn’t too much longer before she was back with the cabinet scraper. A little bit after that and we decided tillering was done: the limbs were bending well and evenly and the bow’s weight was in the range she was looking for. After thinning the limb tips Amanda re-cut the nock grooves and we were ready for a string.

By this time the event had ended and we had to leave the field. Changing location to the benches at the nearby short range I made up the new string, served it, and she put the first arrows across the bow.


At this shoot I also met a gentleman who had what is probably the most beautiful bow I have ever seen. Heath had an #85 longbow of Italian yew made by English bowyer Steve Stratton. Mr. Stratton is a Master Bowyer in The Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers and Fletchers and if Heath's bow is a representative sample of Mr. Stratton's work, he well deserves the title.
I had the pleasure of holding the bow for a few minutes while I put a new serving on the string and I did not want to give it back. A yew bow of that weight has something it in that awakens the soul of a traditional archer.
Also impressive was Heath's clothing and kit, all period appropriate for an English longbowman. To top it all off, he was a hell of a nice fellow to chat with. Heath mentioned that he wants to learn bowmaking so I told him he really needs to come to our Pasadena gatherings where he can meet others of a like mind and we can get him started on his bowmaking path.

Watching those big arrows fly in the clout was a real treat.

Happy archery, everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2011

She's Making a Bow!

It looks like I’m on a roll for posting lately!

Yesterday we had our monthly gathering of primitive enthusiasts at the Pasadena Roving Archers range in Pasadena, CA.
This is a loosely knit group with widely varied interests. For the most part we focus on doing things by hand. Some of the folks are skilled in things like flint knapping, primitive fire making, forging, bow making, making arrows from natural materials like shoots, branches, etc., and other “older” skills.

The monthly gatherings are a chance for us to show off our most recent successes, and failures, and get advice from others who may be more familiar with certain skills. Plus, we get to spend time with some truly great friends.

I met Amanda at Great Western War, the SCA event I recently attended. She was interested in making a bow but didn’t have the time available during the event. We arranged to meet at this month’s Pasadena gathering to get her going down the dark path of bowery.

Amanda was certainly working harder than those characters sitting in the background.

That's my new red wagon back there... thanks Mom! It's become invaluable to cart stuff from the truck to where we gather. Plus, Jack, who is hiding under Barbara's shirt in the background, loves riding around in it.

A number of tools are suitable for making these board bows. Personally, I prefer the block plane but Amanda got good use out of the spokeshave.

She didn’t quite get the bow finished before I had to leave, taking the bow horse and tools with me. But Amanda did get to the point where we put a tillering string on the bow and she began to get the limbs bending evenly. We should be able to get it finished at this next weekend’s SCA Agincourt event at the Woodley Park archery range in Van Nuys.

Single day SCA events don’t really have enough time for me to help someone build a bow of their own, I just get too busy working with my customers. But if any local folks would like to do what Amanda is doing then just let me know and we’ll get together at the Pasadena range to get you going.

Happy archery!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Interesting Blog Stats

Here's something that really kind of took me by surprise.

This is a screen shot from the stat counter I have keeping track of various things in this blog. This picture shows visits to the blog by country for about the last two weeks.
I'm not surprised by the preponderance of visits by United States residents; after all, that is where I live. But check out some of those other visitors: Hungary, Finland, Macedonia, Russian Federation, Slovakia. Heck, there are 16 hits from Greece!

How cool is that?
I had no idea when I began this blog that it would ever reach so many people across the world.
Admitedly, I don't know if all these folks meant to visit my blog. I know I've occasionally landed on an unintended page and left as soon as I realized what had happened. I hope that doesn't happen too often here but I'm sure it does once in a while.

I've said it before and I'll say it again:
My thanks to everyone who visits and reads this little blog. You guys don't always leave replies to what I post but I still appreciate the time you spend here reading what I write and looking at what I make and what I do with my time.

Happy archery!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Great Western War XIV Review

Great Western War XIV is done and I’m home, having survived the experience.

GWW is a multi-day Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) event currently held at the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreational Area near Taft, CA. I was there from Monday, October 3 when merchant set-up began to Monday, October 10 when the event ended.

I didn’t do as well with sales as I hoped I would but it was better than it could have been. I heard a rumor that attendance was down a bit and that could have affected things.
It’s always a little tricky trying to sell ready-made custom arrows at an event. There are so many dynamics to the arrow that must be properly matched to the archer/bow that it can be difficult to have the right thing sitting on the table. Then there are the artistic elements of the arrow.
It’s not unusual for a customer to find the perfect spine arrow but be allergic to their pink artwork. Or maybe an archer finds the perfect red arrows but they’re spined for about a 50# bow and he’s using a 35# bow. I much prefer to make arrows custom to order but I have to have something on the tables to showcase my work.

At this event I had some prime red oak boards that Salvador had picked out for making into bows. These boards are great for beginning bowmakers and I took along the bowhorse and my tools in the chance that someone would want to get a board and make it into a bow at the event.
As luck would have it, I sold one board to a young woman and she dove right into making it into a bow. Lexi didn’t have much experience with hand tools but where there is a will there is a way. I helped a little bit when she began running out of time but it’s safe to say that she did the bulk of the work. She finished the bow Sunday evening and I made a string for it just before I left Monday morning.

There were other people who were very interested in bow making but who didn't have the time to do it at the war. For many of those individuals I gave them information about the monthly Pasadena gatherings where we can get them started on bowmaking.
I spoke with some wonderful people over the course of the seven days I was at the war. Some I've dealt with via email and never had a chance to meet in person, others I met for the first time. I even got to meet one reader of this blog (who's name I unfortunately can't remember). I thank all of you for the time you spent with me.
I didn't get any pictures of him or his booth but my neighbour to the right was Aelred, master potter of A's Round Pottery. It was a real treat to hear him joke with his customers and those just walking by:
"These are the pots you're looking for." (said in the best Obi Wan Kenobi voice)
"Come, fondle my pots!"
"The mugs are microwave safe, dishwasher safe, and drunk resistant."
Thanks, everyone!