Author Topic: 240's sheep horn bow build with Tom Lucas  (Read 37931 times)

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Offline NorthHeart

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240's sheep horn bow build with Tom Lucas
« on: February 15, 2018, 09:09:45 am »
The first time i read about sheep horn bows i was immediately hooked, and knew it was just a matter of time until i built one.  I currently live in WY in the Shoshone National Forest where the natives built these bows and hunted with them.  I also happen to be 30 minutes away from Western artists Tom Lucas, who has built over 50 sheep horn bows in his lifetime.  As you can see this was simply meant to be, and i had little choice but to locate a set of horns, which i was finally able to do. )P(

Tom has been kind enough to walk me through the process and help me out.  He has also given me permission to post his method and pictures as we work.  I know there are other build along threads, some of which provided me inspiration up to this point.  I will build this particular bow using Toms method, however I'm up for all comments and suggestions.  It's possible that i'll be moving to MT half way through this build.  Toms goal for me is to at least get the horns straightened before i leave, then i can add the sinew later.

Hopefully when its done ill have a functional sheep horn bow of hunting capability.

« Last Edit: February 19, 2018, 06:25:50 pm by 240m3srt »

Online timmyd

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2018, 09:15:46 am »
really looking forward to this one. Thanks for doing it.

Offline JWMALONE

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2018, 09:15:58 am »
I gotta see this. Good luck and good shooting.
Red Oak its the gateway wood!

Offline Pat B

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2018, 09:30:57 am »
240, I'm moving this to the Horn Bow section so you can get advise from others who build these bows.
 Looking forward to your build along.
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline bjrogg

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2018, 12:37:33 pm »
240 that's great and I will be watching. Very much enjoyed the video of Tom I watched.
Bjrogg
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Offline NorthHeart

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2018, 09:09:09 pm »
Ever since i joined PA website i've had problems with my account for some reason.  There was no "Horn Bows" section on my screen, i never even knew this section existed, now its like a whole new world to explore haha!  Thanks to Stickhead and Pat B for doing some kind of wizardry and getting me all squared away.

Now back to sheep horn bows!  Keep in mind as your reading this that i put opinions throughout that aren't necessarily my own based on experience, rather little tidbits of information that either Tom told me, or that i read somewhere else.

Offline NorthHeart

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2018, 09:33:33 pm »
The first step is to get your horns.  I was able to locate a set at an antique store.  You don't want a set that has been dry rotted in the sun.  This is why mounts that have been kept inside are good candidates.  Now keep in mind all this is/was all new to me, and i'm no sheep expert, so ill go through some of the concerns i faced when finding a set.  First off think of the horns cross section as a triangle.  What we care about is the side that faces up at the base and continues on back down the horn.  In other words, if you were to put your finger right in between the horns in the middle of the sheep's forehead, the surface closest to your fingers that runs up and back over the head is the surface that provides the bow limb.  The other 2 sides don't matter, you can salvage them for tip overlays or other projects, but if there are cracks and damage in them it is of no consequence to the bow. 

Lets talk wild vs domestic.  Your wild sheep candidates (to my best knowledge) include Bighorn, Desert, Dall and Stone.  I have read that the Dall are thinner and have less material to work with.  I was told that the domestic breeds are even thinner and have more curls, therefore you fight the issue of your limbs wanting to twist back into their original shape.  This is an issue with any sheep horn but apparently more so with domestic sheep horns.  The consensus was domestic might work, but expect a lighter draw weight bow(even having said this i have located a domestic set of horns i might end up trying just for fun).  A good set of wild sheep horns will run $300-$600.  You want to look for cracks that may indicate someone using a hammer to remove the horn, or cracks from where they have been fighting.  Now, the first thing i noticed is that all these horns have surface cracks, and some imperfections from fighting or just how the horn grew.  What were concerned with is true cracks running into the core of the horn.  I used an LED flashlight to carefully inspect down into the cracks to see how deep they went, some were almost 1/4" deep but angled in a manner so as not to go straight down into good horn.  This is the first place where having some prior bowyer knowledge helps, being able to identify what will "rasp out" and what might be a deal killer.  I was told by other sources its always a bit of a gamble and you never "really" know what you'll find inside.  Keeping this in mind, I spent the better part of 30 min analyzing the set, sweating bullets, and then eventually pulling the trigger and deciding to give them a shot.

The pics are a bighorn sheep(darker horn first pic) vs a domestic sheep(lighter color second pic).  I was actually told the lighter set was Desert sheep by the seller but Tom didnt think it so and i passed on them(im open for any opinions on this set from any sheep experts here).  As i understand it the color is not necessarily indicative of one being wild vs domestic it just happens to be the case on these pics.  I actually found another set of Bighorn or Desert sheep(not sure which) that is more of a light brown tan color, not the dark grey color.  I might actually pick that set up too for another bow. :BB
« Last Edit: February 15, 2018, 09:37:35 pm by 240m3srt »

Offline NorthHeart

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2018, 10:01:14 am »
The first thing we did was cut the skull in half down the middle giving us 2 separate pieces to work with. We then cut the horns in half length ways on the band saw.  Tom demonstrated and did the first horn by eye.  I did the second one at home on my band saw.  We marked my horn with a pencil down each side, we error slightly further away from the side which will serve as the bow, knowing that we can take more material off but not add back on if i ruin the cut.  Unless your skilled with a band saw you might wish to use a hack saw for this.  I just went slowly, constantly pausing to look at the underside where the blade came out.  If you use a band saw make sure you use a thin blade with smaller teeth that can cut hard material like horn without "catching".  I ran into an issue where the height of the opening where the band saw blade passes wasn't tall enough for the widest part of the horn to pass through, so i clamped the horn in a vise and came back from the other direction with a hack saw to complete the cut.

After this we remove the remainder of the skull which runs up into the horn.  This is carefully pried out by tapping a screwdriver or similar device down in between the bone and the horn.  We take our time and work it slowly so that when we pry we don't crack the horn.  After we remove the skull from the horn we go back to the band saw and remove more material from the sides (working from the inside of the horn).  We eventually transition to a rasp for removing the final "lips" off the side.  The idea is to work it down flat to where the thickness is even all the way across.  Next we work the outter surface with a rasp to remove all the tiny cracks and imperfections so that we are left with solid usable horn.  I ended up using a belt sander in stead of a rasp to accomplish the same thing as Tom for the both the inner surface and outer surface.  Use whatever tool your most comfortable with.

Offline NorthHeart

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2018, 10:07:24 am »
Getting the horn down to uniform thickness.

Offline NorthHeart

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2018, 10:11:06 am »
This is what the horn looks like when its thinned down.  Id estimate thickness somewhere around 1/2"-5/8" of an inch or so.  Work the back side and underside almost all the way out to the tip of the horn.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2018, 10:14:46 am by 240m3srt »

Offline NorthHeart

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2018, 10:23:29 am »
Once the horn is thinned down we will soak it in hot water for 5days, 15days, however long it takes to get pliable so that we can bend and shape it.  The first picture shows a horn which needs to be thinned down more vs a horn thats ready to soak.
« Last Edit: February 16, 2018, 10:29:06 am by 240m3srt »

Offline wizardgoat

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2018, 12:03:41 pm »
Nice to see you on here Shelton. Good luck on your build. Here’s a link to a build I did on here a while back. One thing I’ll add, thicker horn bows are much more stable than thinner cores in this style of bow, so try and keep it thick. This was my first horn bow, and it’s still a shooter, but needs some “limb training” every now and then.
http://www.primitivearcher.com/smf/index.php/topic,53905.0.html

Offline Parnell

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2018, 01:03:14 pm »
Very fun!  Looking forward to watching this progress.  I have Tom's video somewhere.  Exciting post.
1’—>1’

Offline bjrogg

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2018, 01:04:15 pm »
Thanks for the build along here 240, very interesting and thanks for the link Wizardgoat
 bjrogg 
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Offline NorthHeart

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Re: 240's sheep horn bow build
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2018, 01:26:57 pm »
Nice to see you on here Shelton. Good luck on your build. Here’s a link to a build I did on here a while back. One thing I’ll add, thicker horn bows are much more stable than thinner cores in this style of bow, so try and keep it thick. This was my first horn bow, and it’s still a shooter, but needs some “limb training” every now and then.
http://www.primitivearcher.com/smf/index.php/topic,53905.0.html
Hi Ryan. Now that i can access the horn bows section i get to check out your build!  In your experience, is the draw weight based more on the thickness of the core, or the amount of sinew on the back?  And regarding limb training do you mean that the braced profile changes, and then you work the limbs back to where they should be?  Ill be learning a lot about the characteristics of a horn bow with this build.