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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2010 12:47 pm    Post subject: Indian Steel Bow         Reply with quote

Anyone know anything about this weapon? It looks very interesting but I can find almost nothing about it online.

Here are two short articles I found:

http://margo.student.utwente.nl/sagi/artikel/...elbow.html
http://margo.student.utwente.nl/sagi/artikel/steelbow/steel2.html

Anyone know of any good sources for this weapon in English?

J

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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2010 1:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is really had to find out much about steel bows. They seem to have been a novelty for a short period of time in India. The properties of steel mean that it would be inferior to even a self bow of similar weight and length. The only real use for a steel bow would be its ability to be stored in arsenals for long periods of time without deteriorating.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2010 2:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

To state the obvious, If they were no good why would people use them?

Never tried a solid steel bow, but The Wallace has a few and they are certainly beautifully made and look to me like they would shoot well ( I make steel crossbows but not bows) and great consideration has been given to reducing weight.

I have shot tubular steel bows that were quite the fashion in the 1950's and they were fast as hell - different animal though.

If the bows that are in the wallace are anything to go by, they are bows that belonged to very rich people and not for storing in armouries for the masses.

They are very cupid bow shaped so they have a straight central handle and very recurved limbs. The front of the limb is flat and the belly is an obtuse triangle, I would guess just above and below the handle was 3/8" maybe 1/2"; quite chunky and overall length similar to a composite horse bow.

Tod

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2010 3:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
To state the obvious, If they were no good why would people use them?


Todd,

My thoughts exactly. And the obvious fact that crossbow prods made very (the most) effective arbalests. We also know that the Indians were very advanced in Metalurgy, so if it was possible to make effective self-bows they would have been well equipped to do so.

There did seem to be at least two types, one as Dan said a cheaper "munitions grade" version for storing in armories until being issued to troops, who also used bamboo bows. Another very ornate type with silver inlay, wootz steel, gold leaf and beautiful scrollwork etc., which from the expense of making them, if it was actually a weapon and not just some kind of prop, seems like it must have been of quite good quality. Unless it's the bow equivalent of a bearing sword maybe...?

But without more detailed information available it is difficult to do more than just speculate. I'm hoping someone has more information or can point me to a book or something.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic


Last edited by Jean Henri Chandler on Sat 13 Feb, 2010 3:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 13 Feb, 2010 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Found this article, has a little bit more information, and a beautiful photo:

http://www.atarn.org/letters/ltr_dec04.htm



J

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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2010 12:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Interestingly that bow looks to me like it would be slow and lazy. It looks like the steel would not be under nearly enough strain to return quickly.

I would love to know though rather than just speculate. Any of you FEA engineers out there want to make a quick approximate model?

Its that or actually make one and I am not interested enough to go and do that................

Jean Henri Chandler wrote
Quote:
My thoughts exactly. And the obvious fact that crossbow prods made very (the most) effective arbalests. We also know that the Indians were very advanced in Metalurgy, so if it was possible to make effective self-bows they would have been well equipped to do so.


I would agree, if there was anywhere likely on the planet to get it right you would have to suspect India. But in fact steel bows (in the context of crossbows) are quite inefficient and crossbow prods got over this simply by being very heavy. But steel crossbow bows were not recurved, had heavier limb tips and generally a simple rectangular section and so were actually very unsophisticated things. It is not to say that a good and efficient bow could not be made from steel as the tubular 1950's ones proved to me and if I remember right from some archery book or other the last enemy killed by an English Longbow was a German solidier in WW2 by an English officer who was an Olympic archer and he used a steel bow.

On the earlier point I made about if they were no good why did people use them. I think I actually retract that at least partially - history is littered with things that were no good and that people did or used anyway. 13thC vase guns for one, plague masks are another etc etc etc.

But still the point in my head at least was that the bows I remember from the Wallace just looked like they worked well, in a way the bow above does not look like it would.

Tod

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2010 12:55 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Leo Todeschini wrote:
Interestingly that bow looks to me like it would be slow and lazy. It looks like the steel would not be under nearly enough strain to return quickly.

But still the point in my head at least was that the bows I remember from the Wallace just looked like they worked well, in a way the bow above does not look like it would.

Tod



I agree if the bow when unstrung was of the same shape/curve as it appears in the pic, but if when unstrung it bent greatly in the reverse direction it might not be as slow as it appears.

I guess that steel bows are inefficient because the weight of the limbs can slow the motion of the string because of their mass relative to the draw weight of the bow ? Solid rectangular sections certainly but more complex shapes like central or parallel spines would give the steel bow rigidity and draw weight with lighter limbs ? Don't know if this was done historically but I'm sure one could design a T shaped Or H shaped or W shaped cross section where the bending force could be adjusted over the length of the limbs in a optimum power versus weight ratio ???

Although the bow shown doesn't seem to be anything but a flat rectangular cross section or at best a slightly convex rectangular cross section ?

Just a bit of speculative thinking here. Wink

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Owen Bush
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PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2010 7:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I find these bows very interesting and they are on my to do list .

As Tod has said Steel springs are not at all efficient compared to lighter materials .crossbows get over this with huge poundage .with bows I can see no advantage in the use of steel .Cross section would make a huge difference .
So there may have been other reasons for using that material .
Social ,economic political climate , both for growing suitable wood or as mentioned before humid decomposition of organic material ? Or passably fashion ?
this is a beautifull bow I wish there were side picks
19 century Indian . Not I think a war bow .



It looks to have a bit of three dimentionality to the profile ?



Are the Wallace bows like this ? I cant remember them accurately ?

forging soul into steel .

www.owenbush.co.uk the home of bushfire forge school of smithing .
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2010 7:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think from memory the Wallace bows have a section in the style of but not proportionally the same as the bow on the latchet bow shown on the gallery pages of my site. Flat on the back and an obtuse triangle on the belly.

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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2010 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the bow Owen posted is a completley different animal to the earlier pictures.

On this bow the central 30% is effectively solid and immovable, the limb tips and where it narrows are also non working areas and this makes the whole set up much like eastern composite bows. It is maybe 20% each side of the handle that are the working areas. If we assume that they are sectioned accordindly then it looks to me like this bow would really shoot. I base this on the fact that the earlier bow is lets say 50" of spring with 6" not working in the middle. This bow is say 50" of spring with only 20" working so the working part would be heavily strained which is what you need.

This is of course all assumption.

Tod

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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2010 1:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hunting Weapons from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century by Howard L. Blackmore has a brief section about steel bows has they were known in Europe. In the sixteenth century, Roger Ascham noted the long history and contemporary popularity of steel bows among the Turks but dismissed metal as an inferior material. Apparently various steel bows appear in European armory records. Blackmore also cites an English document from 1588 that encouraged the use of the steel bow, which it claimed could shoot four hundred yards and twice as fast the crossbow. This seems anomalous, as the other evidence suggests steel bows could not match the performance of composites. On the other hand, I think it would be premature to write off the weapon as a silly fad. In a wet climate, a well-oiled steel bow that you could always keep strung would have significant advantages over one of horn and sinew that required stringing and careful maintenance to protect it from moisture. The reduction in power might be worth those benefits.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2010 2:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think Benjamin has it. The reduction in performance would be worth having a bow that could function in situations when composites could not.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sun 14 Feb, 2010 9:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is there any difference in the arrows used with a steel bow?

The steel bows I've seen draw weights for don't seem to be very high draw weight. So it isn't a case of sacrificing range (through heavy limbs) in order to shoot heavy arrows with more energy, so I wouldn't expect to see especially heavy arrows being used. However, pretty much every discussion I've seen that discusses the performance of such steel bows comments on the poor range (due to the heavy limbs), so there doesn't seem to be any point in using lightweight arrows.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Mon 15 Feb, 2010 10:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some comments... all jumbled up since I'm in a bit of a rush.

From what I have been reading, there appear to have been several different types of steel bows, ranging in qualiy from very fancy engraved bows decorated with silver and gold which were used by aristocrats and are at least alleged to have been of some extraordinary military value, to very cheap munitions grade bows whose principal value was longevity in the barracks armoury. They ranged in size from very small "cupid" bows no more than two feet wide, to bows which were apparently a copy of the recurve done in steel, some composite weapons with steel elements mixed with horn, wood and sinew, some steel copies of large (but weak) bamboow bows used by concripts, to another type of almost longbow sized 'flatbows' which were of a higher value.

So it's important in considering these weapons to keep in mind that there were apparently a wide variety in terms of quality, size and overall design. Probably some for infantry and some designed for horsemen; some for levies some for higher status warriors..

Speaking of which, the rectangular bow shape is not necessarily a problem, this is similar to the flatbow which was used by Finnish / Saami, several Native American tribes from North America, and Andaman Islanders. I don't know much about bows but some people appear to realy like this type of design.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flatbow

Some of the Indian steel bows were apparently made of wootz steel, I'm not sure what that means in terms of how they would perform.

There is apparently pictoral evidence of the Mughals using these weapons in battle (haven't found any paintings yet but I'm looking), they evidently adopted it, as did the Persians and the Ottoman Turks.

Almost all the (fragmentary, derivitave) accounts I've read seem to indicate they were short ranged, but used for heavy armor piercing arrows I even read some references to steel arrows which seems.. remarkable. But I have also seen some mention of these being exceptionally long ranged, maybe this is referringto some of the different types of these weapons per above.

Hopefully more will be coming.

J

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

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