Saturday, April 6, 2013

Th' Past two weeks

Well, this past two weeks has been rife with activity- Aside from taking care of th' new baby and taking over many of th' household chores, one of th' highlights for me has been taking over some of the homeschool duties for Fynn, who will be five years old by th' time you read this. We spent time in th' wood shop together, learned how to measure things, made and painted split bamboo marble slides,  went running and exercising in th' woods, learned some winter plant identification- I was pleasantly surprised when Fynn pointed out to me a hackberry tree which had no on leaves on it. Started reading through Bruce Lee's book to learn how to begin to learn Kung Fu, amongst other things. This has been really exciting for both of us, and both Fynn and i look forward to more. 

And in addition to all that, i've managed to make a few things for our winter maket booth. If you live in Fort Collins, th' markets are held every other weekend from november-april, and every weekend in december- we'll be there december and febuary, come on down. 

Here's a pole lathe turned bowl in black locust wood, painted with milk paint, which is non-toxic, mixed with earth pigments for color. To make th' paint you dissolve milk curds with lime, then mix in th' pigments. Or, without th' pigments it makes around a 20 lb. test glue... similar, though not quite as strong as hide glue.

milk paint bowl

 Here's a couple of spoons, th' one on th' right is hackberry, th' one on th' left is made from a crooked branch of apple, painted with milk paint.

apple and hackberry spoons

Here are th' side views, th' hackberry i carved from a straight log, th' apple from a crooked branch, so th' spoon follows th' grain exactly, this would be a small ladle or serving spoon. 

 Also split out some hackberry cutting boards, painted th' handles, and painted one whole side of one of them, the idea being you can chop on one side, then use th' painted side as a decorative serving board. 

hackberry cutting boards.

 I also finised up a bow and started another one, as well as prepared about twelve staves for quick drying. Here's an ash longbow in th' Meare Heath style. The Meare Heath bow dates from th' Neolithic Period, or about 2500 B.C. It is the second oldest surviving bow in th' world that we know of. It has wide flat limbs and is an extremely durable design. This was made completely without power tools from an ash tree i felled in east Texas with a hand axe. It is hard to get good pictures of bows because they are long and skinny, and you mostly see th' background, but here goes.

Ash long bow.
 I left some of the inner bark on for camouflage, and sewed on a simple leather handle. Th' string is made from twisted linen. Th' bow pulls 56 lbs. at 28".

 Once i finished that one i started on a hackberry bow for an old friend. It is in th' tillering stages now.
I've read many archery books, and they all say th' same thing, "tillering is more art than science"-
well, i have a lot of respect for those guys who write good books on how to make bows and arrows, i could not have gotten to where i am without them- But, tillering is not art and it is not science, it is skill. I'm sure we could debate th' meaning of art for ages but we can all agree that it is an expression of yourself, and science is knowledge, or th' study of knowledge- Tillering is making a bow bend evenly, the only thing it expresses is if you can do it or not, and it is not easily done- it takes lots and lots of practice, patience, and repetition. So, if you are new to bowmaking, don't give up- keep trying and go much slower than you think you should once that bow starts bending. 

Here's a hackberry bow that i've been working on th' last few days as well.

hackberry longbow
So this all gets roughed out with an axe, then i thin th' limbs till i can bend them by pushing th' bow against th' ground. By tapering th' rings on th' belly you can come close to an even bend before you ever start bending th' bow, which is very helpful once tillering proper begins. But it took me many bows to learn this. And i'm still learning. Here's what it looks like on th' first tillering board pull, you can see already too  much bend in th' right limb near th' handle, that spot will be meticulously avoided till th' bend is even. 

When chopping out a bow stave, it is helpful to work up th' limb with a series of ladder chops, then back down th' limb no deeper than those chops. This goes a long way to prevent you chopping too far into th' stave and pulling out a split which will narrow th' width of your bow, especially with severely cross grained woods such as elm, and to a lesser degree hackberry. I've also set up a 3 tiered chopping block system so i can work up and down th' stave without having to bend over, placing the axe in relatively th' same position everytime. This makes a huge difference in how you feel after chopping for half and hour or more.

And remember when chopping to leave yourself plenty of room on th' block to catch the axe, should you need. Here's a picture of an actual event, th' axe chopped off th' wood easier than i had anticipated and landed firmly in th' block. Note how far back th' stave is, if it had been on th' closer edge i could be a hurtin man. This need never happen, but when you've been chopping for a long time you get tired and lazy, so allow for this, and take a break if you need it. 

Robin Hood?

Till next time,

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