Colletiere a Charavines Crossbow

For the sake of completeness, so far, the only other paper I have stumbled over is this one from 1980:

L’habitat médiéval immergé de Colletière à Charavines (Isère). Premier bilan des fouilles 

[article]

Renée Colardelle Michel Colardelle

Contributeur : L. Leboutet Philippe Olive Claude Olive K. Lundstrom-Baudais

Archéologie médiévale  Année 1980  10  pp. 167-269

Below is the drawing (fig 50) from the article. I have no idea why they selected that particular bow fragment, but it would have fitted into the bridle and that reflex tip does make for a very attractive profile in the artist’s impression. In most respects I think this is pretty good, though I suspect the bow is not thick enough at the centre. The artist has drawn the trigger leaning back for a pinch-grip and that might be more correct for a European crossbow, perhaps, but no-one knows for sure. Biggest issue is the lath binding which I can’t see working as the bow will just twist out of it. Running the binding back into the cut-away works very effectively.

So what have we learned? A beautiful crossbow, the tiller was made from beech with a lath made of yew, elm or hazel, or indeed any suitable bow-wood. A pretty long draw length of somewhere around 25cm (10″). A “backwoods” type lever trigger and an unusual cut-away fore-grip. I think I have enough information to make a decent fist at making a lath now that I know for certain that my previous attempt is pretty good, and have confirmation of the timbers in question.

Colletiere a Charavines Crossbow: a translation from a French thesis by Amont and Serdon

When making my first replica of the CC crossbow, I wish I had access to the relevant section of this document and so I have cut that section, in full, from the thesis and offer an English translation which I have drafted from a Google Translate version – GT doesn’t cope entirely well with the technical terms.  If you feel I have made any errors, please post a comment. To avoid confusion I will post a seperate entry with my thoughts and comments on the findings of the French team.

TROISIÈME PARTIE : LE MOBILIER ARCHÉOLOGIQUE – TYPOLOGIE, TECHNIQUE DE FABRICATION

(Amont/Serdon) available at:  

http://theses.univ-lyon2.fr/documents/lyon2/2003/serdon_v/pdfAmont/serdon_v_troisieme_partie.pdf

P200++

C. Les éléments d’arcs et d’arbalètes

En effet, un arbrier complet, parfaitement identifiable, a été mis au jour sur le site (Musée Dauphinois, n° inv. 80-91-112). Il est confectionné en hêtre et mesure 496 mm de longueur. Il est pourvu d’une rainure creusée dans le bois dans sa partie supérieure sur 200 mm de longueur environ. L’extrémité de l’arbrier, ou crosse, présente     une section circulaire d’approximativement 20 mm de diamètre ; elle s’étend sur environ 145 mm.

La partie centrale de l’arbrier est nettement plus large et une encoche est aménagée dans le bois pour le logement du dispositif destiné à retenir la corde (elle mesure 59 mm de long sur 4 mm de large et 24 mm de profondeur). À 9 mm du bord supérieur, les étroites parois sont percées, de chaque côté, d’orifice carré de 4 x 4 mm. Cependant, au vu de la faible largeur de cet espace, il interdit l’usage de noix traditionnelles : en effet, le mécanisme permettant de retenir et de déclencher la corde doit être très différent des noix d’arbalète plus traditionnelles, par ailleurs découvertes à Colletière et dont les dimensions dépassent largement celle du logement pratiqué dans le corps de cet arbrier. Celles-ci devaient s’adapter sur d’autres modèles d’armes,  vraisemblablement de calibres plus importants. La pièce, servant de déclencheur, doit être plate et perforée de la même manière. Un axe permet de maintenir le tout de façon solidaire. L’arbrier présente une encoche profonde dans laquelle venait se loger la corde lorsque l’arme est bandée. Par une rotation du déclencheur, actionné par la détente, la corde se dégage ainsi de ce logement et propulse le trait. Nous proposons une hypothèse de restitution d’après les pièces découvertes à Charavines et selon un modèle inspire d’exemples ethnographiques321.

En effet, un groupe de trois objets est à mettre en relation avec le mécanisme de détente d’arbalète. Ces pièces sont morphologiquement identiques mais de gabarits différents : leur module varie de 79 à 114 mm d’envergure. Leur forme évoque le bec d’un oiseau. La partie terminale, amincie et de section rectangulaire, est percée d’un trou carré. Cela nous conduit donc à envisager la présence sur le même site de deux types distincts d’arbalètes utilisées de façon contemporaine ; elles pourraient correspondre alors à des usages différents. L’arbrier se termine par une partie beaucoup plus large

dans laquelle est aménagée une encoche ; sa largeur conditionne celle de l’arc. Celui-ci est emboîté dans ce logement et fixé vraisemblablement par des ligatures. Quatre autres fragments de bois de diamètre similaire et dont une des faces est creusée d’une rainure nous amène à les interpréter comme des fragments d’arbriers.

Le seul arc d’arbalète complet mesure 980 mm d’envergure pour un diameter moyen de 18 mm ; une telle arbalète devait avoir une puissance sinon considérable du moins plus élevé qu’un simple “arc à main”. Sa section est triangulaire aux extrémités et devient circulaire, puis semi-circulaire au centre. Une encoche est aménagée sur l’arc pour permettre le passage du carreau. Par ailleurs, quinze éléments d’arcs ont été  découverts sur le site de Colletière. Ces fragments ont très probablement appartenus à des arcs d’arbalète, mais aucun exemplaire n’a conservé sa partie centrale qui montrerait sans ambiguïté la zone de contact avec l’arbrier. Cependant les diamètres et les profils sont similaires à ceux de l’exemplaire entier. Ils sont confectionnés en if (taxus) pour la plupart, mais aussi en hêtre (fagus), aulne (ulmus), noisetier (corylus)… La plupart des éléments présentent des coches sur les poupées d’arc, simples ou doubles, destinées à la fixation de la corde. Ce dispositif à double encoche sert vraisemblablement à régler la tension de la corde. Aucun renfort en corne n’était donc prévu.

Pages 200 onward

C. The parts of the crossbows

Indeed, a complete tiller, perfectly identifiable, was brought to light on the site (Musée Dauphinois, inv. no. 80-91-112). It is made of beech and measures 496 mm in length. It is provided with a bolt groove some 200 mm long, approximately. The end of the tiller has a circular section of approximately 20 mm in diameter; the butt is about 145mm long. The central part of the shaft is much wider and a notch is carved in the wood to house the device intended to hold the drawn bow string (it measures 59mm long by 4mm wide and 24mm deep). 9mm from the top, the narrow walls are pierced, on each side, with a square hole of 4 x 4 mm.

However, given the small width of this space, it prohibits the use of nuts traditional: indeed, the mechanism making it possible to retain and release the bow string must be very different from the more traditional crossbow nuts, otherwise discovered at Colletière and whose dimensions largely exceed that of the housing practiced in the body of this tiller, these were to adapt to other models of weapons, probably larger calibers. The piece, serving as a trigger, must be flat and perforated in the same way. An axle makes it possible to join the trigger to the tiller. The tiller has a deep notch in which the string was held once the weapon was drawn. By rotating the trigger, the bow string is pushed up out of the notch, releasing the drawn bow.

We propose a hypothesis of restitution according to the pieces discovered in Charavines and according to a model inspired by ethnographic examples. Indeed, a group of three objects is to be related to the mechanism of this crossbow trigger. These pieces are morphologically identical but of different sizes: their module varies from 79 to 114 mm in wingspan. Their shape evokes the beak of a bird. The terminal part, thinned and of rectangular section, is pierced with a square hole.

This therefore leads us to consider the presence on the same site of two types distinct from crossbows in contemporary use; they could use them for different uses. The tiller of the second type ends in a much wider part in which is arranged a notch; its width determines the width of the bow which is nested in this housing and probably fixed by ligatures. four more fragments of wood of similar diameter, one side of which is hollowed out with a groove leads us to interpret them as tiller fragments.

The only complete crossbow lath measures 980 mm in wingspan for a diameter medium 18mm; such a crossbow had to have a power, if not considerable, then higher than a simple “hand bow”. Its section is triangular at the extremities and becomes circular, then semi-circular in the center. A notch is provided on the lath to allow passage of the bolt. In addition, fifteen bow elements were discovered on the Colletière site. These fragments most likely belonged to crossbow laths, but no specimen has preserved its central part which would show unambiguously the zone of contact with the tiller. However, the diameters and profiles are similar to those of the complete specimen. They are made of yew (taxus) for the most, but also in beech (fagus), elm (ulmus), hazel (corylus)… Most elements feature nocks, single or double, intended for the string attachment. This double notch device is probably used to adjust the string tension. No horn reinforcement was therefore planned.

Colletiere a Charavines Crossbow – oops, got it a bit wrong!!

In June 2021 I posted about my replica Colletiere a Charavines crossbow (its only one post back – not had much time to wood-work recently). I absolutely raved about the stop on the trigger transforming the design and how sophisticated it is. I do truly love the design but I have just managed, after much searching, found the document that provides the text that goes with the drawing. Imagine my shock when I saw the sentence that said words to the effect that the drawing shows three Asian triggers that the text suggested might be indicative of the type of rotating mechanism the crossbow may have had. It was not a nice surprise! There is no way the triggers shown are indicative of the form of the original, other than that they rotate. Now the archaeological drawing makes sense, I could not work out why the original artist had drawn a flat curve not a notch and curve. The triggers do not go with the tiller. Bother. On the plus side, the text also provides several much needed details of the “other” type of crossbow found at the site (the roller nut type) and I am steadily moving toward being able to do a correct replica.

I’ll post a detailed article soon and an update of the reworked lever. I am afraid that for now this apology will have to do, but in my defense, I did only find the original text at 8:00 this evening.

Medieval crossbow almost done

Well, finally found enough time to complete the crossbow – last ivory carved, glue made, mastic made, calligraphy filled, ivory inlaid, pivots cut to length, metalwork installed, prod lashed on, stirrup lashed on, string made. Time on this phase about 20 hours. Still got to do the string centre serving (half hour), carve the bolt rest(half hour) make a set of bolts (10 hours), tune the bow and snag the whole thing (two or three hours) but basically it’s shootable and I’m calling it done. To be honest, it is way more pretty than I expected, that curving tickler is just stunning, setting everything off beautifully and it’s a LOT of fun to shoot despite being only 75lb draw weight. Hope you’ve enjoyed the long and drawn out process, now, I really need to get to grips with that composite!

Colletieres a Charavines style 11th century crossbow

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11th century style crossbow

Its half term and I spent some time catching up with half finished projects,  in this case following the archaeological drawing of an original tiller and trigger. The original finds date to the 1040s AD and are from Lac du Paladru, Colletieres a Charavines,  in France.

The lath was roughed out and sent to me last summer by Derek Hutchinson (http://bowyersdiary.blogspot.com) and is a lightweight 30lb prod of walnut sapwood,  33 inches from nock to nock with a 10 inch draw

I have to say, the tiller is a really sophisticated design, you lean against the trigger with your thumb which you activate by pushing it toward you (not pulling) while lightly laying a finger on the bolt (no bolt clip) and holding the back end of the cut-out section, all with one hand, the other hand being at the fore-end holding up the bow. The trigger has a stop designed into it and gives a lovely positive action, clicking into place on both ends of its movement, though carving the stop into the trigger channel is a bit of a potch. I messed the geometry up and had to put the nose of the trigger into a groove in the string notch to stop it gapping as it reached the top of its arc. Its all mated to the bow with a late gothic type binding as no-one knows what the binding should be and this type of binding is as likely as any as well as being very effective. Properly carved and rounded out its a beautiful little crossbow and I’m very pleased with its feel and performance, now on to build the proper one.

Harp part 1

In January 2017 I posted that I hoped to build a celtic style harp during that coming year. For various reasons, especially the difficulties of sourcing the timber, it didn’t happen. I still haven’t been able to get what I need from a timber merchant or tree surgeon but the autumn storms have brought down what I hope will be a suitable tree (for the soundbox) nearby and so I have started roughing out some well-seasoned hawthorn half logs for the pillar and neck. Pretty much all done with axe, a number 3, 1 inch gouge, and a rasp. I haven’t posted any details until now as its not really been a very technical process, just knocking off all the waste and trueing everything up. Roughing out isn’t quite finished, but it’s getting there.

Light-weight push-pin crossbow

So, the gnarly little yew branch, made of magic, did it hold together? Oh yes. It was far from simple, and started with trimming the sapwood down to a couple of mm thickness so that the heartwood would run right to the tips. Following this the tapers were laid in and much careful tillering followed. The result was a very sweet little bow with no set and plenty of character.

Medieval crossbows follow a rule of thumb where the tiller is a similar length to the bow string. The yew bow was a few inches shorter than the ash lath which meant the tiller needed shortening. This actually made it nicer to handle.

Next came lots of little touches: bone bolt rest, antler insert on the string slot, antler end cap on the tiller, steam-bent tickler, steam bent horn bolt restraint, multiple coats of oil and wax. Was it worth the effort? Yes, absolutely, it all came together into a really beautiful little weapon I am trying very hard to avoid passing on to its new owner.

Light weight push-pin crossbow

The photo at the end of the last post shows the beautiful ash bow I carved for the crossbow. If you’re observant you may notice the deeply curved belly, like a medieval long-bow. Ash likes a flat belly but I wanted to see what would happen. It wasn’t pretty, I fitted a temporary lashing and began test firing. Almost immediately compression fractures (called crysals) appeared. Time for lath number 2.

Taking the dimensions of the ash lath but moving to a flat belly I turned to my favourite bow-wood, apple, of which I had 2 short billets but both had tiny, almost invisible pin-knots and both failed. It was time to go fully medieval and raid my yew stash. I had one small, gnarly, sorry, characterful, yew branch that was only slightly too short but yew is made of magic. This one will work, won’t it?