small things

Its funny how small things can impact on a project.  Take the crossbow stock for instance. The stock can be roughed out relatively quickly, but the table and spine inlays need to have been completed before the final shaping can be undertaken. In this instance, that means the bone needs to have been sourced (local butcher for a marrow bone),  cleaned, shaped and thoroughly de-greased.  The bone preparation can take up to a month as it requires prolonged soaking in powerful de-greasing chemicals, the more nasty the chemical, the less time it needs to soak.   So. all the work on the stock comes to a halt until the bone is prepped – another few weeks of soaking in detergent, but at least that means work on the bow-laths can continue uninterrupted.


The yew and horn composite lath is at the most labour intensive stage, filing all the individual horn strips into tapered strips some 8mm thick and 13mm wide.  Just cutting enough strips to make 6 layers of horn some 70cm long took a few hours on the band saw, its going to take a good deal longer to complete the filing.


The yew and sinew lath is nearly ready for sinewing, the horn nocks have been fitted for theirs v-splices. I’m dithering about how much I should tiller the lath before I sinew it, were it a bow then I would take it to brace before sinew, but these little crossbow laths are so highly stressed I am worried about putting set into it. I’ll probably flex it a couple of inches to see what’s what then apply the sinew before finishing the tillering after about a 2 month wait.




carried away

While re-sawing the first batch of horn I was somewhat surprised/disappointed to discover one of the horns was home to a couple of beetle grubs – if it would have been in timber I would have called it wood-worm. Having immediately disposed of the affected pieces, I guess I got a little carried away and decided to re-saw all 16 horns to inspect and seal them so as to be able to store them without worrying whether any more was infested.  Mercifully none of the remaining horn had any little visitors but now I have a mountain of horn pieces ready for cutting into strips, enough for 4 composite crossbows I reckon, though I had only intended building one….

the other crossbow project

I have two crossbow projects on the go at the moment, a yew/sinew lath crossbow and a horn/sinew composite lath.  This is a little progress update of the latter.  You may recall that I had a delivery of buffalo horn off-cuts awaiting cutting-up in the last update.  After being let-down by a local joinery company I finally managed to get some band-saw time at the green-wood workshop (cheers Rhys) where I sawed down 6 of the horns.  Bit disappointed by what the shorter horns yielded but still, as you can see, there is a tidy pile of useful bits and pieces.


Next job is to re-saw this lot into 40, 1/2″ wide (13mm) rectangular strips.


More than a few years ago I inherited book two of this pair of books:

20180602_160106.jpgYou can probably tell its been useful by the state of the cover.  Written by a master of woodcarving the books are very much a ‘how to’ instruction manual, showing the tools needed, the cuts, direction of cut and depth of cut required.  Book two is worth it just for the section on the  acanthus, the image below being one of the diagrams in that chapter


If book two is aimed at competent carvers, book one, which I have only just got hold of (hence this review),  is designed as a complete guide for a total novice, and while the section on history of carving is not to my taste, when the book gets going on the various skills a neophyte carver will need to acquire, it really hits its stride. Frankly, what I paid for book one is ridiculous and I should have sought a copy out years ago – it cost less than a daily news paper .including postage!!  Highly recommended.




crossbow project photos

I’ve found an image I took early on in the project, not a great photo (they never are) but it shows the prod as it currently is, ready to splice the nocks into and then sinew – I’ve shredded the sinew – and the apple branch the stock is to be carved from.  The other photo shows the stock as it currently stands, about 2/3 roughed out and I’m starting to plan the inlays.  Its not as curvy as I would like but its going to be rather nice.




In case you were wondering about the shakes in the tiller, as the moisture content stabilizes they will close up on their own and be firmly glued together with super-glue.  It can be a mistake to execute a repair with wedges and fillers as this will prevent the wood from naturally pulling back together. It is sometimes necessary, though, so I’ll just have to wait and see what happens once the wood finishes shrinking

crossbow project

I’ve been making a crossbow over the last few weeks as a kind of intermediate step towards building the ‘big one’ – no pictures yet but I’ll post some before long.  The prod is roughed out of a piece of yew and is going to receive some horn nocks before I sinew it, the tiller is roughed out of a not very promising piece of apple but I think it will end up as something really lovely. Work has been delayed as my local joiner promised to re-saw my buffalo horn for about 6 weeks but then kinda let me down, When I collected the horn they pointed me to a nearby unit where lurks a green oak worker but, and God is very good, the guy there -Rhys – is so much more than that – he’s also a tool maker and blacksmith and I needed to find a blacksmith to forge the metal-work for the crossbow.  He also does a rather fabulous bearded carving axe, best balanced axe I’ve ever seen, so, Christmas is coming and its time to start saving up…

Mouseman of Kilburn in Caerphilly

St Martins is the main parish Church in Wales church for Caerphilly; back in the day the choir stalls needed replacement and the then-rector was from up-north and ordered the benches from his home town of Kilburn (I think, I was told this tale a long time ago), and from the joiner known as ‘The Mouseman’ aka Robert Thomson.  He was known as Mouseman because his signature was a carved mouse and all his apprentices have had to learn to carve a mouse before they have been allowed to progress onto furniture –  here are two of them, one day I’ll take my big camera up there and do a photo-essay; one day, been promising to do that for 15 years….