Author Topic: Another historical question  (Read 12243 times)

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Offline islandpiper

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Another historical question
« on: September 01, 2009, 08:44:00 pm »
I have a question regarding the really old ELBs, like those found on Mary Rose and possibly some other sites.  Did the old bowyers chase rings?  Did they do it as carefully as you all do ?  Or did the men responsible for making a thousand bows before the next battle started just "crank 'em out"......getting "close' to a ring, cutting off the obvious and leaving the best parts and piling the staves in baskets when the light got too low to work? 

Somehow I can't imagine a bowyer who was facing the prospect of the French or the English or the Germans coming over the next hill with utter conquest on their minds finessing each bow the way we do now? 

Any comments?  Historical evidence?  Personal opinions?   thanks, Piper

Offline Davepim

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2009, 04:42:25 am »
I have a question regarding the really old ELBs, like those found on Mary Rose and possibly some other sites.  Did the old bowyers chase rings?  Did they do it as carefully as you all do ?  Or did the men responsible for making a thousand bows before the next battle started just "crank 'em out"......getting "close' to a ring, cutting off the obvious and leaving the best parts and piling the staves in baskets when the light got too low to work? 

Somehow I can't imagine a bowyer who was facing the prospect of the French or the English or the Germans coming over the next hill with utter conquest on their minds finessing each bow the way we do now? 

Any comments?  Historical evidence?  Personal opinions?   thanks, Piper


Hi Piper,
     I am hoping to see the originals in the museum in the autumn, but, I am told by others who've seen them that many were not chased simply because the sapwood layer was already very thin. Bowyer Steve Stratton tells me that with Italian yew it isn't necessary to be so very careful with the rings - you can take them down to more or less the same layer along the length. You cannot do this with English yew because the sapwood has a completely different texture, here you have to be spot on with the layers and no margin for error. You are quite right about the time you need to spend when chasing rings, it's hard to imagine every bow being done this way.

Dave

Offline islandpiper

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2009, 07:40:57 am »
thanks Dave.   Yes, getting a thousand, or several thousand bows out, all somewhat identical, in a time frame would be a job.  And think of 24-arrows each!!   Those fellows were busy.  piper

Offline markinengland

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2009, 02:51:54 am »
A well respected bowyer here in the UK has told me that cutting the tops of the grain mountains is not a good idea but leaving islands of grain in the valleys is not problem.
He has made many fine bows out of English yew and thinks it has an undeserved bad name.
The grain needs to be respected but not followed obsessively.

Offline adb

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2009, 10:47:38 pm »
A well respected bowyer here in the UK has told me that cutting the tops of the grain mountains is not a good idea but leaving islands of grain in the valleys is not problem.
He has made many fine bows out of English yew and thinks it has an undeserved bad name.
The grain needs to be respected but not followed obsessively.
Who are you referring to?

Rod

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2009, 11:41:02 am »
As Dave says, except that it is not a question of it being Italian or English yew (or Baltic or Spanish or American).
It is a matter of density and ring count.

Bear in mind that livery bows would have been made very quickly by (mostly) very skilled craftsmen.
It was neither economical, practical or even necessary to attempt to precisely follow one back ring on very fine and dense yew.

Steve makes too much of Italian yew, except that he is trying to replicate the probable source of the MR staves.
And like good Oregon yew they come from a location where one is more likely to find the right quality in reasonable quantity.
(And that he likes to promote it as a USP for his self bows).

With yew that is coarse enough in ring count that it is practical, one can follow a back ring, but with very fine ringed staves it is not necessary, indeed it can be highly impractical.
As long as the general line is followed and no radical departures made, it should not be a problem.

And very fine English yew does exist, it is just not at all common.

Rod.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2009, 06:51:50 am by Rod »

Offline Davepim

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2009, 12:39:36 pm »
In general I agree with you Rod, but there's a difference between timber density and ring count - I have personally seen and used a yew bow with a very high ring count and yet low density. I would also agree that English yew will make a perfectly good warbow, but again, I have personally observed that the sapwood tends to have a completely different character from Italian yew; a character that would make me be much more careful about working the back down. Of course, I would also be the first to admit that I haven't personally worked English yew and haven't seen more than one example at the unfinished stage, so maybe there's a lot of variation. We are all protective of our own views on this and I think that on the whole Italian yew is a more reliable timber than English - I can say no more than that other than, there has to be a good reason why so much Spanish and Italian yew was imported - perhaps it was just quicker to work into a bow?

Dave



Offline Del the cat

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2009, 01:24:01 pm »
there has to be a good reason why so much Spanish and Italian yew was imported -
Maybe it was because we didn't have enough native stuff and our woodland was being mostly used for Oak for ships.... Maybe it's as much about supply and demand as about quality.
They had lots of the stuff and they wanted to sell us other goods, it was easy to make 'em bring it in as a sort of 'tax'.
And maybe it was just simpler to do it that way...a bit like how we have outsourced so much of our industry these days.
My experience of English Yew has been that it is beautiful.
Del
Health warning, these posts may contain traces of nut.

Rod

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2009, 08:55:55 am »
I take your point Dave, but I also think it likely that very few of us will ever have seen the best English yew and that such wood is hard to find.
Chris Boyton once showed me a relatively old select English stave he was hoarding and it was far superior to any other English yew I had ever seen.
We mostly have the wrong sort of micro climate and growing environment for that kind of wood and it is relatively rare these days.

Rod.

Yewboy

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2009, 09:02:34 am »
As Dave says, except that it is not a question of it being Italian or English yew (or Baltic or Spanish or American).
It is a matter of density and ring count.

Bear in mind that livery bows would have been made very quickly by (mostly) very skilled craftsmen.
It was neither economical, practical or even necessary to attempt to precisely follow one back ring on very fine and dense yew.

Steve makes too much of Italian yew, except that he is trying to replicate the probable source of the MR staves.
And like good Oregon yew they come from a location where one is more likely to find the right quality in reasonable quantity.
(And that he likes to promote it as a USP for his self bows).

With yew that is coarse enough in ring count that it is practical, one can follow a back ring, but with very fine ringed staves it is not necessary, indeed it can be highly impractical.
As long as the general line is followed and no radical deparures made, it should not be a problem.

And very fine English yew does exist, it is just not at all common.

Rod.
Obviously the is "In your humble opinion"!

English_Archer

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2009, 05:21:25 pm »
"Yewboy", I think we'd all be interested to know who you are.

Offline adb

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2009, 12:15:42 am »
Yes, I agree.

Yewboy

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #12 on: September 09, 2009, 09:20:24 am »
"Yewboy", I think we'd all be interested to know who you are.
Now that would be telling wouldn't it? ;) What I will say is that I am along with Yeomanbowman a "Master Bowyer" in the Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers and Fletchers.

Dave

Offline jb.68

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2009, 04:58:19 pm »

"Yewboy", I think we'd all be interested to know who you are.

Some of us have already worked out who Yewboy is.... Come on gents, not much of a stretch to work it out.  ;)

jb
« Last Edit: September 09, 2009, 05:40:35 pm by jb.68 »

Offline Phil Rees

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Re: Another historical question
« Reply #14 on: September 11, 2009, 05:17:18 am »
I can remember reading somewhere (and I,m sorry I can't remember the source) that the first quality standards were laid down for bowyers .ie bows were not allowed to be made by candle light, so I think that gives a little indication of the importance of the bowyers craft when the bow was such an important weapon of war. As for following growth rings as the original question asked, the Mary Rose bows I've seen in storage, I,d say the bowyers were respectful of  the consequences of not following the growth rings.