Author Topic: Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?  (Read 8336 times)

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Offline stuckinthemud

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Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?
« on: May 15, 2023, 11:25:07 am »
Simple question.  Did medieval bowyers temper war-bows/hunting bows/whatever?  How far back does tempering go?

Offline Chumash

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Re: Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?
« Reply #1 on: May 15, 2023, 02:02:29 pm »
Hardening wood with fire or heat - the wooden speerpoint, the grave stick - is older then the knowledge of archery, I think.

Offline Hamish

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Re: Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2023, 09:26:54 pm »
I can vaguely remember reading that some bowyers put their stave into a bakers oven at the end of the day. Not sure if it was done before working the stave, into a bow, or whether it was done during tillering. I don't know if it was done in Medieval or Renaissance times, or if the reference was more modern, ie 18th/19th century. I can also remember other old  sources saying not to expose it to heat. Toxophilus would be the first book I would check, if I was doing research.
 As most experienced contemporary bowyers know yew doesn't like being too dry, or overly heated, it often leads to violent breaks. Whether the bowyers of the time did it with white woods???. I agree with Chumash. Fire hardening wood goes back to the  stone age, so its very likely craftsmen of the medieval ages were aware and could have employed some such process to maximise performance, especially with white woods.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2023, 12:06:59 am by Hamish »

Offline Del the cat

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Re: Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2023, 07:41:30 am »
I generally try to avoid speculation but:-
I wouldn't think they would bother for warbows because of the time involved and the potential loss of reliability. When I heat treat Yew, I keep the heat off the sapwood. Heavy bows are highly stressed anyway, anything that may weaken the sapwood back is a recipe for disaster. Why would they bother?
Maybe for whitewoods, but not Yew IMO
(I've exploded enough Yew bows to give a considered opinion ;) )
Del
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Offline Strelets

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Re: Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2023, 04:43:20 am »
In Toxophilus (1545) Roger Ascham wrote:

"Yet I would desire all bowyers to season their staves well, to work them and sink them well, to give them heats convenient, and tillerings plenty."

So, in the 16th century at least, "heats convenient" were a well-known part of the bowyers craft.




Offline Aksel

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Re: Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2023, 01:52:52 am »
In Toxophilus (1545) Roger Ascham wrote:

"Yet I would desire all bowyers to season their staves well, to work them and sink them well, to give them heats convenient, and tillerings plenty."

So, in the 16th century at least, "heats convenient" were a well-known part of the bowyers craft.





Interesting!




Hardening wood with fire or heat - the wooden speerpoint, the grave stick - is older then the knowledge of archery, I think.

I think you are right. Our ancestors were not stupid. If you understand that heat dries the wood Im sure you put the bow next to the camp fire. And move it closer. And closer. But then Del has a point, yew war bows from the medieval times were made in the thousands for huge armies so heat treatment might not have been significant enough on that scale to be worth the effort. More likely people in the stone age did this.
Stoneagebows

Offline JNystrom

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Re: Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2023, 05:08:13 pm »
I would add, heat treating a wood bow is by no means dangerous. On the other hand reflexing a bow too much with heat treating might be bad idea.
Heat is a good way to strengthen some areas. Its something that would be done during tillering. Surely that should be considered heat treating too.

Offline Marc St Louis

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Re: Did medieval bowyers heat treat their bows?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2023, 08:03:47 pm »
Something that go me started heat-treating bows in early 2000 was an article in PA about English bowyers of old using dry-heat to revitalize "tired" bows, what these bows were made of I don't remember but I would assume yew.  That article got me thinking at the time of using dry-heat on new bows
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