Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hurrah! A New Post!

A lot’s been going on here since the last update. My apologies for taking so long to get anything new on the blog here. The dial-up connection makes frequent updates a challenge… and, I’ve been busy.
This may seem a little bit scattered as I remember things I wanted to write but I’ll try to get it all to make sense.

We did the Chamberlin Ranch 3D shoot in April. This is a great shoot that I make every effort to attend each year. It’s held on a private cattle ranch just north of the little town of Los Olivos, which is just north of the town of Solvang near California’s central coast.
Last year’s Chamberlin shoot was pretty interesting. It rained. A lot. Really a lot.
We got there Wednesday and had to be towed into the event site by a tractor due to a muddy road that my little truck wanted nothing to do with. It stopped raining Friday afternoon and everything dried out well but it was still a very interesting time.
This year the road was graded and graveled to prevent the muddy morass we experienced last year. Of course, this year’s weather had nary a drop of rain. Daytime temperatures were in the mid 80’s and nighttime was in the mid to upper 40’s. All in all we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

At this year’s shoot I had the rare privilege of meeting one of this blog’s readers. I am really, really bad at remembering names but this was a woman who is a SCUBA instructor with the Los Angeles County SCUBA program. Probably the two most common SCUBA certification programs in the US are NAUI (National Association ofUnderwater Instructors) and PADI (Professional Association of DivingInstructors). Both of these programs turn out well trained divers but the LA County program is known for the depth and thoroughness of its training.
Anyway, before I get into a past life of working in a dive shop, I had an absolutely wonderful time chatting with this lady about everything under the sun. She was a joy to spend time with and meeting her absolutely made the trip for me. I wish we could have spent more time together.

Not long after we arrived at the site, the booth wasn’t even set up yet, a young kid came by with his father and asked me for beef jerky. His dad said he’d been saving his money so he could get plenty of beef jerky at the shoot. I hated to tell him that I didn’t have any jerky this year. The poor little fellow just deflated. Our move in October just tapped me out on money and I couldn’t afford to get the meat to make jerky before the shoot. This kid wasn’t the only one I had to give the bad news to. The jerky I make has been pretty popular.
I had a bow horse for sale at the shoot and while there were a couple people looking it over no one came by waving money to get it. Joe Dabill, one of the area’s premier knappers and primitive skills instructors asked me about the horse and we ended up settling for ten of his knapped arrow heads in trade for it. Another very talented knapper, Ralph Lawless, was interested in a set of used arrows I had and we made a similar deal. I think all three of us were pleased with the results of our respective trades, I know I am. The two of them have items that they can use and I have expertly knapped arrow heads and a knapped knife blade.

Ralph Lawless, a knapper of exceptional talent

Some of Ralph's work modeled after actual local artifacts

A bit of Joe Dabill's work

The shooting line for the clout shoot

Richard and Gary discussing the finer points of archery
A surprise visit from Fayme's daughter and her family
Fayme and Maggie, her new grand daughter

A little before the Chamberlin shoot we attended a local SCA event. The al-Sahid/Gallavaly Anniversary was held on the old George Air Force base which has been decommissioned and is now open to the public.
We had a great time at the event. I had my booth all set up but also took along the bow horse, tools, and a piece of Pacific yew that I’ve been working on. Some good friends, Rebecca and Joe, spent the day with us and we had a great time. I donated an interpretation of a medieval war arrow that I’d made to the archery contest and it went home with Nico, who did quite well that day. He also won the rapier events.

Rough shaping the bow's profile with a hatchet modified by the talented David Brunetta

I had to keep an eye on Mike, he really wanted that stave

Rebecca doing what she does best: being wonderful

Nico with the war arrow and the prize rabbit (the rabbit is not skewered, it's just being held in the same hand as the arrow)

Last weekend we took a two hour drive and did the SCA Robin Hood Tourney archery event in Van Nuys. Another great day!
In addition to all the wonderful SCA friends who were there I also got to see Francis, Joseph, and Heath (who has been pictured in this blog in his full kit as an English archer). To top off a great day, our good friends Sal and Aimee showed up unexpectedly and spent the day with us.
Lexy, who built a bow with me at the 2011 Great Western War, was also in attendance with her family. I am happy to report that she is still interested in archery and bow making.
I donated the last of the war arrows to this event for them to award as they saw fit and it went home with Baron JonThomme, who I am sure will treasure it as a memento of the day and the people he spent it with.

Explaining the fine points of bowyery to a young admirer

The next shoot we have coming up is the ConejoValley Archer’s Pacific Coast Traditional Challenge. This is a two day trad archery 3D shoot in Simi Valley, CA. If the Chamberlin shoot is the best one I go to every year, this one must be a close second.
We tent camp in the little county park adjoining the archery range and that is the only gripe I have. A few years ago the county tore out beautiful big eucalyptus trees to make room for RV pads in an effort to “upgrade” the park. What used to be a beautifully natural camp is now concrete and grass sod. Where we used to pay a reasonable camping fee with no complaints now we get hassled every year by the county park rangers who squeeze every possible bit of money out of every camper and who threaten death and destruction on anyone who disagrees with their interpretation of the rules. While I do like the new showers that were installed I’d gladly give them up in exchange for not being attacked by the rangers every year.

I’ve been doing some interesting arrow work lately.
I know crossbows have little love in the world of mundane traditional archers but they can be popular in the SCA. Especially for those who cannot pull a bow for health reasons. And frankly, a medieval-type target crossbow has little relation to the modern crossbows that hunting archers find so upsetting.
All that is a lead in to some bolts I made for a Lady who shoots a crossbow in the SCA. The colors may not be medieval but sometimes utility trumps authenticity and she’ll be able to see these in the target.

Bright bolts

I’m also making some that are more authentic. These bolts are a custom order and they will be presented to a recipient along with a reproduction of the Ulrich crossbow that resides in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Heavy bolts

I had to order a few hundred arrow shafts recently. I was just about at zero in the lower spined shafts. Sometimes getting a few new shafts is a mixed blessing. It’s good to have them available to make new arrows for folks but it’s a lot of work before I can turn them into arrows.
First I spine all the shafts on my spine tool, then I weigh each shaft on a digital scale. The spine and weight numbers are written on the end of the shaft. Next I spread all the shafts of a given spine group out on a table; lightest at the left and heavier moving to the right. Shafts are then gathered into bundles of a dozen shafts with weights +/- ten grains. Most are much closer in weight than that. These are the bundles that I use to make arrows. Doing all this prep work takes me an inconvenient amount of time but there is no substitute for it; it’s got to be done in order to turn out high quality arrows.

Sorting shafts by weight

The results, well grouped shafts that will become matched arrows
One strange little thing that you’ll see in my arrows is how I refer to the spine. The industry standard is to sort in five pound groups and this is written as: 45/50, 50/55, 55/60, etc. You will note a slight inconsistency in that: the actual groups listed have a spread of six pounds. Plus, a number is repeated in two adjoining groups. In the 45/50 and the 50/55 groups, where do the 50 shafts go, the lighter group or the heavier? I prefer to refer to the groups as 45/49, 50/54, 55/59, etc. Not a big difference but it just seems to make more sense to me.  
Our washing machine died a couple months ago and we’ve been going to a local laundromat about once a week. It’s kind of a hassle but it’s also a little fun to people watch.
We decided to turn the old washing machine in to a used appliance reclamation event yesterday but we wanted to keep the metal drum inside for a fire pit in the back yard. Holy cow, what a pain in the butt that was to remove. I figured it wouldn’t be too difficult but it involved breaking my screwdriver, a sledgehammer, a hacksaw, a pry bar, a Dremel tool with a cut-off wheel, a socket set, wire cutters, and well scraped knuckles.

The beginning...
The end.
The good news is we got the drum out and ready for its first campfire, we also got a plastic drum that was around the metal one and will use it to plant tomatoes. The remains of the washing machine were turned in as scrap metal. 

New lives
Long time readers of this blog will remember that we welcome prospective bowyers to the monthly Pasadena gatherings. Since the movies Hunger Games and Brave, there continues to be a lot of interest from people fascinated with the idea of making their own wood bow. Some of these people will not finish their bow as they learn that it’s not as easy as they may have thought it was. Others will stick to it and turn out credible works. Some few will really do something special.
Gabriela made her first bow with us at Pasadena and did a great job on it. Only trouble is that it turned out far lighter than she wished, a not uncommon occurrence with new bowyers (and some old bowyers). So she made another one. And it was just what she wanted. I wish I’d gotten pictures of the artwork Gaby did on the back of her bow, it is really special and very well done. She also made the quiver you see in the picture. Some people are just plain talented.

Gaby did a fine job on her bow
Jessica has been working on her bow for a while. She’s not able to make it to every month’s gathering and she can’t usually stay the whole day. She’s been very patient with herself as she learns how to use the tools as well as learns how to make a wood bow. Lately she’s taken on a job that will make it difficult for her to get to the gatherings but I know she’ll keep at the bow when she can, until it’s done. I wish every new bowyer had Jessica’s patience and attention to detail.

Jessica putting in the time on her bow

We just about lost Wallop, the cat, recently. He’s been getting daily medicine for some time for an internal problem but he recently took a turn for the worse and went downhill rapidly. We were literally scant hours from taking him to the vet to have him put to sleep. He’s fourteen years old and it just didn’t make sense to prolong things.
But then he turned a corner and began improving; the vet visit was canceled. He’s doing pretty good now so we have our fingers crossed. I know that with his age and his infirmity we kind of have him on borrowed time but I’m going to cherish him as long as I can. Wallop’s been a good friend and companion, even if he does occasionally fart next to me in the bed.

Wallop, the cat
And last, beauty is where you find it.
Living out here in the desert has shown us a bit of a stark landscape. Joshua trees, creosote bushes, and cholla cactus don’t seem to give much in the way of a beautiful view. But if you know where to look for it, beauty is where you find it.
Happy archery, and happy life.
Thanks for reading.
Please note that many of the photos used in this post are by Fayme Harper ©2013


Mark said...

Man, these pictures make me jealous! You must have had some awesome fun there. Unfortunately there are no such events where I live right now (Poland). Someday... :)

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Audrey Burtrum-Stanley said...

All of our household is interested in archery and has been for ages; therefore, you may find this of interest. The TURNER MOVIE CLASSICS (TMC)TV Channel did a brief feature (actually a time-filler between feature films) with a former 'Sound Engineer' from Hollywood. He was enraptured with the sound of the arrows in a vintage ROBIN HOOD film. They presented a clip several times and sure enough, it sounded fantastic! When the Engineer was tasked with reproducing the audio for a new movie, he spoke of the toil involved in trying to figure out how they had earlier produced the distinct sound. The Sound Engineer altered the recording system, changed the design of the bow, the targets, just about everything. THEN, they went back to the film. There a small cut-away portion of the fletching was noticed. They tried cutting the feathers to match. BAM - they had reproduced that beautiful SOUND! These feature interviews filler-pieces are aired ONLY during the '31 Days of Oscar' series - so I hope you get to see and HEAR this yourself!