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Chris Goerner




Location: Roanoke, Virginia
Joined: 19 Sep 2004
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PostPosted: Thu 19 May, 2011 8:08 am    Post subject: Some Questions about Archery         Reply with quote

A friend recently gave me an old Bear recurve bow that has kindled my interest in archery. Given my bent towards history, I thought it would be fun to get a bow more accurate to the middle ages. Unfortunately, I am a complete novice when it comes to these weapons. Just a cursory look at bows offered in a traditional style has revealed some pretty substantial differences between them and the recurve I was given, leaving my mind swimming with questions.

First, my modern recurve has a ledge cut into it for the arrow to rest on. It appears traditional bows lack arrow rests altogether. Are there any traditional European bows that used arrow rests, or was the arrow shot off of the hand holding the bow? I imagine that would be painful after 20 shots or so unless a glove was worn.

Construction of my modern bow includes fiberglass on the face and back. I have seen traditional bows that are laminated, and some that are self bows backed with linen or other materials. My impression is the fiberglass makes the modern bow pretty much indestructible. What would be the useable life of a traditional bow? Is any special care required?

My modern bow has a substantial amount of wood at the grip. Traditional bows I have seen appear to be fairly flat without much noticeable increase in width at the grip. Does this make traditional bows uncomfortable to shoot? Did any traditional bows have substantial grips more like a modern bow?

All of the traditional European bows I have seen on the market are long bows. Were recurve bows used in Europe in the middle ages as well?

Finally, can anyone recommend a good maker of a traditional European style bow that won't break the bank? If I wanted to forfeit strict historical accuracy for some of the benefits of a modern bow, but still wanted one that gives the general impression of being historical, are there any makes and models you would suggest?

Thanks for your help!
Chris

Sic Semper Tyranus
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Joel Minturn





Joined: 10 Dec 2007

Posts: 232

PostPosted: Thu 19 May, 2011 11:08 am    Post subject: Re: Some Questions about Archery         Reply with quote

Chris Goerner wrote:

First, my modern recurve has a ledge cut into it for the arrow to rest on. It appears traditional bows lack arrow rests altogether. Are there any traditional European bows that used arrow rests, or was the arrow shot off of the hand holding the bow? I imagine that would be painful after 20 shots or so unless a glove was worn.


I don't believe that there are any period bows that have an arrow rest. At least I haven't seen any. Bow rests seem to more of a later development, not sure when they first started to apear. For the msot part the default design seems to be no bow rest reguardless of time or place.
Shooting of the hand isn't too bad. I have done it a few times with out a glove with out an issue. A couple of things that can help. One is to cant (tilt) the bow when shooting. The second is to use arrows that are on the flexible side so that the archers paradox can help get the arrow off your hand. The arrow should be flexing around the bow anyways.

Chris Goerner wrote:

Construction of my modern bow includes fiberglass on the face and back. I have seen traditional bows that are laminated, and some that are self bows backed with linen or other materials. My impression is the fiberglass makes the modern bow pretty much indestructible. What would be the useable life of a traditional bow? Is any special care required?


The working life of the bow is dependant on several things, not the least of which is the skill of the bowyer. But a well made bow can have a long working life, in the decades. As for special care, there isn't too much. Keep the bow in a dry, shaded place, basically keep it in the house instead of outside. I would recomend keeping the bow unstrung when not in use. Keeping the bow strung when stored in high heat, like in a car, is particullarly bad. You can be out shooting in the high heat that fine, its more of a long term storage concern or letting it bake in a car.

Chris Goerner wrote:

My modern bow has a substantial amount of wood at the grip. Traditional bows I have seen appear to be fairly flat without much noticeable increase in width at the grip. Does this make traditional bows uncomfortable to shoot? Did any traditional bows have substantial grips more like a modern bow?


No in fact it can make them more comfortable depending on the grip design. Modern compound bows have gone back to thin flat grips. There are different grips depending on the bow style you may like some more than others but once you get used to them they can be quite comfortable.

Chris Goerner wrote:

All of the traditional European bows I have seen on the market are long bows. Were recurve bows used in Europe in the middle ages as well?


yes there were recureves in Europe in the middle ages. They seem to show up mostly in painting of hunting scense at least in Western Europe. But Europe is a big place with a wide varity of cultures and the middle ages, depending on your definition, is a long time period. If your looking at the classic horn and sinew horse bow they did exist. http://www.grozerarchery.com/index_b.htm has several different types from different European cultures (and cultures that invaded Europe) . While they Scythian and Roman Bows are pre-middle ages the Hungarian/Magyar bow would fit the bill. Also pre-Middle Ages is the Holmegaard design but thats not a recurve or a tradtional longbow. I know there were others but I am drawing a blank


Chris Goerner wrote:

Finally, can anyone recommend a good maker of a traditional European style bow that won't break the bank? If I wanted to forfeit strict historical accuracy for some of the benefits of a modern bow, but still wanted one that gives the general impression of being historical, are there any makes and models you would suggest?

Thanks for your help!
Chris


I am not sure of any makers off the top of my head for English Longbows (sometimes abvriviated to ELB) but I know that people are still makeing those bows. You could always try to make your own. An ELB isn't too difficult to make.
If strict historical accuracy isn't important. One thing is to add a small leather shelf to the bow. Take a small piece of leather (1/4" x 3/4" give or take) bend it in half so it is an inverted L. The bottom half will glue to the bow just below where the arrow sits and the top half sticks out to form a simple rest. It is really simple and if I had a picture it would be great.

Other things. Yew bows are very expensive and white historical isn't the only bow wood. Hickory backed Ipe or bamboo backed Ipe Longbows perform well and look kind of historical. (they have a light back and darkwood belly like a Yew Self bow would). Osage Orange can make a nice longbow as well. If you looking to make your own bow then red oak is a good choice.

if you ahve any other questions or want me to explain something better just let me know.
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
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PostPosted: Thu 19 May, 2011 1:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
All of the traditional European bows I have seen on the market are long bows. Were recurve bows used in Europe in the middle ages as well?


There are many recurved longbows on paintings and other works of art, and AFAIR, most Mary Rose bows were very gently reflexive, or just recurved.
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Tjarand Matre




Location: Nøtterøy, Norway
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PostPosted: Thu 19 May, 2011 1:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are also plenty of sources on self bows made from wytch elm and ash. At least in Northern Europe ash and elm is very dense and could easily sustain draw weights of 120 - 140#.
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Larry R




Location: Minneapolis
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PostPosted: Thu 19 May, 2011 4:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Some Questions about Archery         Reply with quote

Joel Minturn wrote:

Shooting of the hand isn't too bad. I have done it a few times with out a glove with out an issue.


My experience with archery has been almost exclusively with compound bows, however, one of the few times I shot a long bow I used my hand (or got my hand too high on the handle, I cant remember) for a rest and got a nasty cut. Maybe the feather fletching was a synthetic-- I don't know, but I'd use a glove for the first few times!
Good luck.

Larry
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Thu 19 May, 2011 6:01 pm    Post subject: Re: Some Questions about Archery         Reply with quote

Larry R wrote:
Joel Minturn wrote:

Shooting of the hand isn't too bad. I have done it a few times with out a glove with out an issue.


My experience with archery has been almost exclusively with compound bows, however, one of the few times I shot a long bow I used my hand (or got my hand too high on the handle, I cant remember) for a rest and got a nasty cut. Maybe the feather fletching was a synthetic-- I don't know, but I'd use a glove for the first few times!


I've gotten light bruising and light scrapes on my thumb (this is shooting Asiatic style, with a thumb ring, so the arrow is on the right hand side of the bow, on my thumb). This is with polymer fletching, which will make this worse. Feathers would be no problem at all, even with my soft delicate thumb. But with feathers, you want to make sure that the leading end of the feather shaft is smooth, low-profile, and well-attached (glued down properly, or bound with thread, or both).

I could use a glove, but bare-handed looks more historical, from the artwork I've seen.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Glennan Carnie




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Fri 20 May, 2011 1:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Quote:
All of the traditional European bows I have seen on the market are long bows. Were recurve bows used in Europe in the middle ages as well?


There are many recurved longbows on paintings and other works of art, and AFAIR, most Mary Rose bows were very gently reflexive, or just recurved.


Sorry Bartek, but that's not accurate.

One of the bows on the MR has a reflexed limb tip, but that's more likely a natural feature of the wood it was made of. Unfortunately, several authors and a couple of TV presenters (who should all know better) have wildly extrapolated from this to suggest a large number of English bows had induced reflex in their limb tips. There is virtually no evidence to support this theory.

Period artwork does indicate Burgundian bows were made with reflexed limbs.

As to hurting your bow hand when you shoot. Simple: if it hurts, you're doing it wrong. The most common cause of scraping / scratching your bow hand is having the nocking point on the string set too low. If this is happening to you when you shoot try moving the nocking point up by 1/4".
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
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PostPosted: Fri 20 May, 2011 2:05 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Glennan Carnie wrote:


Sorry Bartek, but that's not accurate.

One of the bows on the MR has a reflexed limb tip, but that's more likely a natural feature of the wood it was made of. Unfortunately, several authors and a couple of TV presenters (who should all know better) have wildly extrapolated from this to suggest a large number of English bows had induced reflex in their limb tips. There is virtually no evidence to support this theory.

Period artwork does indicate Burgundian bows were made with reflexed limbs.
.


May sources are obviously mostly secondary, I've read somewhere that good number of staves exhibited very slight bent away from archer in rest state.

I guess it wasn't accurate description.
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Glennan Carnie




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Fri 20 May, 2011 4:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Glennan Carnie wrote:


Sorry Bartek, but that's not accurate.

One of the bows on the MR has a reflexed limb tip, but that's more likely a natural feature of the wood it was made of. Unfortunately, several authors and a couple of TV presenters (who should all know better) have wildly extrapolated from this to suggest a large number of English bows had induced reflex in their limb tips. There is virtually no evidence to support this theory.

Period artwork does indicate Burgundian bows were made with reflexed limbs.
.


May sources are obviously mostly secondary, I've read somewhere that good number of staves exhibited very slight bent away from archer in rest state.

I guess it wasn't accurate description.


I've been in the privileged position of being able to examine the bows, first hand.

There are some bows that exhibit some small amount of forward set (reflex). This is desirable in a bow, but not something that you would manufacture in to a weapon. Remember, these bows are livery weapons - effectively munitions grade bows. They would be made - admittedly with incredible skill - to the minimum specifications. A time-consuming and failure-prone process like steaming and (re)forming the bow just doesn't make economic sense.

Another factor is you only experiment and try and improve a technology if you think it is lacking in some way. The English archer clearly knew he was the best in the World. He clearly didn't feel his weapon, as it stood, needed any improvement.

It's only from our distant, more technically advanced, viewpoint that we can see the English war bow wasn't the best bow ever conceived (far from it, in fact).
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Chris Goerner




Location: Roanoke, Virginia
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PostPosted: Fri 20 May, 2011 5:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gentlemen,

Thank you so much for your insightful replies -- they are very helpful!

Based on what you've said, whether I go for historical accuracy or go for a modern bow that gives some degree of historical impression, it sounds like the long bow would be a better choice than the recurve for me.

Since my question about the arrow shelf has been answered (ie, no historical precedence) I am wondering how different it would be to shoot a historical bow without one. Can any of you who have experience shooting both modern bows with an arrow shelf and historical bows tell me what I should expect if I make that transition? What adjustments should I anticipate making?

Any recommendations on makers of historical bows? I've seen several for sale on eBay, but don't know the quality of them. Museum Replicas sells some as well, though the draw weight is only 28 lbs (I am looking for something more in the neighborhood of 40-50 lbs.) My price range for the bow itself is around $250-300, though I might be willing to go a bit higher if the difference in quality was worth it. However, I know I will need arrows and some odds and ends, so I don't want to blow the budget on just the bow.

Finally, any comments on modern bows that I should consider? Are Bear and Martin decent entry-level bows for the money, or are there other makers I should consider.

Thanks for your recommendations!
Chris

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Glennan Carnie




Location: UK
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PostPosted: Fri 20 May, 2011 6:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are several sellers of English longbows in the US.

Try:

3 Rivers Archery
http://www.3riversarchery.com/SCA%252DMedieva...thumb.html

Rudderbows:
https://rudderbowsarchery.com/shopping/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=298

Don Adams
http://www.donadamsarchery.com/bows.htm

In Europe, try Fairbow:
http://www.fairbow.nl/asp/default.asp?id=360

The finest English warbow replicas are made by Steve Stratton in the UK:
http://diyarchery.co.uk/index.php?option=com_...;Itemid=56
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Larry R




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PostPosted: Fri 20 May, 2011 5:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris,

As far as modern makers go both Bear and Martin make good products. I've owned a few Martin products over the years and have never been disappointed.

Like you said you need to budget for arrows and misc. costs. They can add up!! Just like most things you get what you pay for so save up and buy the best you can afford, even if it means doing without for awhile.

Good luck

Larry
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Sam Gordon Campbell




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PostPosted: Fri 20 May, 2011 7:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Excuse as I hijack the thread momentarily Razz
But what Australian timber would be good for said bows and/or prods?

Member of Australia's Stoccata School of Defence since 2008.
Host of Crash Course HEMA.
Founder of The Van Dieman's Land Stage Gladiators.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Sat 21 May, 2011 2:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sam Gordon Campbell wrote:
Excuse as I hijack the thread momentarily :p
But what Australian timber would be good for said bows and/or prods?


Straight-grained acacias and eucalypts are worth trying. Something not too heavy, if you want any efficiency. Many years ago, I made an Acacia bow which was OK as far as the wood went (the deficiencies were my doing, not the wood's).

If I was going to try purchased sawn timber, I'd try Tasmanian Oak as a first choice, but I'd fear splitting. Backing or laminating might be good.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 25 May, 2011 11:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chris Goerner wrote:
Since my question about the arrow shelf has been answered (ie, no historical precedence) I am wondering how different it would be to shoot a historical bow without one. Can any of you who have experience shooting both modern bows with an arrow shelf and historical bows tell me what I should expect if I make that transition? What adjustments should I anticipate making?


None specifically. Just practice, practice, and practice. You will probably find that your shot placement will become much less consistent at first since you're still struggling to find the best way for your hand to hold your bow in a firm and stable but relaxed grip, but eventually you'll get the hang of it and everything will suddenly fall into place. It's probably a very good idea to watch your anchor so that it doesn't go too high and make sure that your draw hand (or, well, both hands) don't jerk upwards at the moment of release. When I make either of those two mistakes one of the feathers can brush my face alarmingly close to my dominant eye as the arrow flies past.

With regards to the potential dangers of shooting an arrow right off the bow hand, my own (admittedly limited) personal experience shows that there are two most important concern. The first is maintaining a relaxed state on the portion of the hand that the arrow is resting on. For me this is the side of the thumb since I shoot Eastern-style, but for you this is probably the side of the index finger's first segment. Either way, try to make sure that the part pushing against your bow is neither the thumb nor the index finger but rather the meaty web between the two. The second thing you need to consider is getting your arrows fletched with natural feathers whose shafts have been pared down until there's barely anything left beneath the barbs. This will leave the feathers quite floppy and rather difficult to attach to the arrow shaft (usually some thread whipping is needed even when a good glue is used), but any experienced traditional bowyer/fletcher ought to be able to handle it just fine. If much of the feather shaft is left on then it will stab you in the bow hand at the most inconvenient moment..

The warning against setting the nocking point too low is also worth paying attention to. Sometimes, just to be safe, you could raise it by a couple of milimeters above the perpendicular. If I'm not mistaken, this practice is mostly used in modern recurve bows to offset the slight asymmetry between the limbs, so I don't know if it'd be a good idea or not--but a little bit of trial and error probably wouldn't hurt.
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Chris Goerner




Location: Roanoke, Virginia
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PostPosted: Thu 26 May, 2011 3:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gentlemen,

Thank you all for you great advice. Since I do not plan on doing any reenacting around archery, I have decided to go with a modern long bow starting out to take advantage of both modern advancement, and the potential of reselling the bow easier if I chose to either upgrade or drop the hobby.

I will be going with a bow that at least is somewhat historical in appearance, and am looking at two bows from Martin -- the L-100 and the "Stick". Does anyone have any first hand experience with either bow?

Thanks,
Chris

Sic Semper Tyranus
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