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Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > I need some crossbow bolts Reply to topic
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David Lewis Smith




Location: NC
Joined: 26 Aug 2003
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Posts: 484

PostPosted: Sat 15 Mar, 2014 2:40 pm    Post subject: I need some crossbow bolts         Reply with quote

I have found some on by the sword but does any one have any other suggestions?
David L Smith
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Jason Daub




Location: Peace River, Alberta
Joined: 14 Jan 2005
Reading list: 78 books

Posts: 162

PostPosted: Sat 15 Mar, 2014 3:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have found that you are better off making your own. Tod has some wonderful feather fletched bolts, Matuls does a good parchment fletched munitions bolt, but by the time you factor in exchange and shipping it gets rather expensive. I have made a crossbow or two using Alchem prods and strings, and for those I built the bolts from 3/8" hardwood dowel or 23/64" Port Orford cedar. With the smaller strings you can use heavy archery supplies and tools without a problem, if you have a more accurate reproduction with a larger string like this one http://www.myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=28460&highlight you have to get a little more creative. I have been using drumsticks, hickory size 7A and using the standard taper tool to turn the head off, then cut them to length and taper on a belt sander. I then shape the butt and eyeball the placement of the fletches.
'I saw young Harry, -with his bevor on,
His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly arm'd,-
Rise from the ground like feather'd Mercury,
And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
As if an angel dropp'd down from the clouds,
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
And witch the world with noble horsemanship.'
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David Lewis Smith




Location: NC
Joined: 26 Aug 2003
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Mar, 2014 3:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Jason,

That is actually a lot more helpful, i have found some bolts but most are from England and all are pricey

I am going to see if I can buy in bulk some drum sticks from Amazon

David L Smith
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Leo Todeschini
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Location: Oxford, UK
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Mar, 2014 5:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

HI David,

Bolts need to suit the bow and it will depend very much on a few variables what will work and I actually can't give a straight answer.

Principally it is about how much energy is in put into the bolt.

Generally the higher the energy of the bow, the longer and heavier the bolt needs to be to fly stably.

As another rule have the balance point of the bolt 1/3 to 1/4 from the front.

Historically long fletches were the norm, around or just under half the shaft length.

As a rule my 150lb bows have a medieval length draw of around 4.5" and so are not terribly efficient by modern standards and these shoot a 12" 11/32 125grain head bolt with a 4" fletch. Shorten this bolt below this and it gets unstable until you get to around 8" and then some resonance thing comes into play and the bolts will be stable again. longer than 12" and they are fine.

My 300lb bows will shoot these light bolts fine though it is not great for the string so I use 1/2" beech or hickory shafted bolts with a 10 gram head and 4" fletches at around 13" long for feathered bolts. I sell these because they are cheap and the market wants them, but in reality I have yet to see any medieval bolt that was fletched in anything but wood. (Please post up examples to contradict this because I would like to see some and I guess they did fletch in feather).

My authentic bolts for these bows are 1/2 ash with a 25gram head and 6" wooden fletches and are around 13.5" long.

For 500lb bows I use the same shaft and a heavier head.

for 800lb plus I use a 15" 1/2" ash shaft with 6" wooden fletches and a 60gram head or bigger.

Here are some wood fletched bolts. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=413376552064108&set=pb.137641229637643.-2207520000.1394931255.&type=3&theater

All my bows have short (and therefore inefficient) draws as was the norm, and so if you are using a New World Arbalest or Alchem bow or similar that is set up with a much longer draw and a much lighter string, then the energies will be higher and treat these bows as heavier draw weights and make the bolts to suit.

I set up bolts by making a shaft too long and fitting a head in place and I shoot it. If it shoots clean I take 1/2" off the length and shoot again and so on until the shaft becomes unstable. I then cut all the remaining shafts 1/2" longer than the unstable one and make them to this spec.

I agree that unless you know the spec of the bolt for your bow, you are better off making your own. I have missed a 4' boss at 10 yds before because the bolt was unsuited to the bow and flew like a dog.

As an aside I have done tests with 850lb and 1200lb bows around bolt weight and off the top of my head the results for the 850 were very interesting. 80gram bolts went at around 150 fps, by 120 gram the speed had dropped by only 2 fps. After 120 gram and the speed starts to drop quickly. Moral of the story is that you shoot heavy bolts because they pack much more energy so you keep increasing the weight until you get a noticeable drop in speed. You will likely find that this will require a heavier head than you can easily find. But I would start with an all up bolt weight of at least 30 grams and I would think that somewhere in the 30-45 grams weight on a 13" 1/2' shaft with 5" fletch will suit well if it has a draw of around 8" and a weight of 150lb.

The short cut here is that if it is a New World Arbalest or Alchem bow; ask them for a bolt spec.

Tod

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David Lewis Smith




Location: NC
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PostPosted: Sat 15 Mar, 2014 5:55 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tod you rock

I will take some photos, and get some measurements and post them tomorrow

This is what I love about this forum, sharing of information that really with out price, invaluable as it were.

Thanks

David L Smith
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Jason Daub




Location: Peace River, Alberta
Joined: 14 Jan 2005
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PostPosted: Sun 16 Mar, 2014 3:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are bolts listed in catalogs as "hunting bolt" due to the head, they are recorded as having "none" or "no evidence" of fletches on them. This leads me to assume that they were feather fletched, as I understand that wood fletching requires the cutting of a small groove in the bolt. If you do an image search for the "Martyrdom of St. Sebastian 15th century" there are several images that clearly show (to me) feather fletched bolts.


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'I saw young Harry, -with his bevor on,
His cuisses on his thighs, gallantly arm'd,-
Rise from the ground like feather'd Mercury,
And vaulted with such ease into his seat,
As if an angel dropp'd down from the clouds,
To turn and wind a fiery Pegasus,
And witch the world with noble horsemanship.'
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Joel Minturn





Joined: 10 Dec 2007

Posts: 232

PostPosted: Sun 16 Mar, 2014 8:30 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have made a few dozen crossbow bolts over the years.

I have had good luck with bolts made from 11/32" shafts cut in half, so the bolts are between 15-16 inches long. I typically use 125gr points because that's what I have the most off. I have used 100 to 145 grain points. Lighter points shoot a bit faster the heavier points soak up a bit more vibration.
For fletching I have used lots of different things. 2.5, 3 and 5 inch feather fletching, both 2 and 3 feather fletched. I like the shorter feathers, less drag. 2 fletches should be sufficient, if that doesn't stabilize it enough they there is other issues, like a misaligned prod.
I have also played around with other materials, like wood and rawhide. Both worked well, less drag then the same sized feathers but less durable. And they tended to be a bit more work to install then feathers.

One last thing, I have had good luck using NO fletching. As long as the crossbow is well tuned then bolts with just shafts and points can shoot quite well.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Tue 03 Jan, 2017 7:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just saw Jason Daubs' posts about feather fletched bolts - thank you!

I suspected they did, just have never seen it.

Tod

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 04 Jan, 2017 12:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In his book With Bended Bow: Archery in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Erik Roth writes "In Le Livre de Chasse the crossbow arrows [sic] are pictured as cylindrical shafts about 15 inches long with heavy broadheads and two-vane feather fletching."

Elsewhere, commenting on different types of fletching one sees, he writes "Bolts were fletched with a variety of materials, usually thin strips of wood, two vanes being glued into deep grooves cut into the shaft with a fence plow plane on a curved track... Although feathers were generally used, some bolts were fletched with pieces of leather, others with copper vanes affixed to the shafts with rivets; the author has seen one example with straight vanes of parchment glued to the shaft. Some bolts, however, had no fletching at all."

Le Livre de Chasse was created sometime between 1387 and 1391, while the St. Sebastian images Jason posted are obviously from the 15th century. So it seems that feathered bolts were known in the late 14th and 15th centuries. The question is, were feathered bolts used earlier than this?
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 04 Jan, 2017 12:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I had a look through Manuscript Miniatures. There is an image from the BL Harley 4751 Bestiary, circa 1225-1250 AD, that shows two figures armed with bows of some sort: one has a bow, while the other has a crossbow. The man with the bow seems to have been shot by the crossbowman. If you look at the fletching, there are little lines on it. From what I have seen of Tod's wooden bolts, such lines do not appear to be present. Do you think this might be a representation of feathered fletching?


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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 04 Jan, 2017 12:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This image, from the Histoire du Saint Graal, circa 1250 to 1275, also seems to show feather fletched bolts.


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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Wed 04 Jan, 2017 11:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Logically I have always suspected that feathered bolts were around, but have never seen any evidence of it so thanks for these.

Assuming that crossbows were new to war around 1100 I would assume that they followed the fletching of arrows as a first seat point so feathers would be the way to go.

Wood fletched bolts last indefinitely so make a longer lived magazine missile but are harder and more expensive to make and harder to make fly true, so for non war bolts, feathers make more sense from a practical point of view.

What I have not done is a distance test on the two bolt types, as it is possible that wood ones fly further.

One day I guess.

Tod

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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Wed 04 Jan, 2017 8:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Tod,

I have found a couple of different places that mention crossbows being used in the Siege of Senlis in 947 and the Siege of Verdun in 985. However, it seems that they were not used particularly widely in Europe as a tool of war until the second half of the 11th century.
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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Thu 05 Jan, 2017 12:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote
Quote:
I have found a couple of different places that mention crossbows being used in the Siege of Senlis in 947 and the Siege of Verdun in 985. However, it seems that they were not used particularly widely in Europe as a tool of war until the second half of the 11th century.


Thanks for that. I had assumed that the first mentioned instance of the crossbow in war was Anna Comnena in the very late 11thC.

I have suspected that there was not really a break between the the Roman Acuballista and the crossbow at least in a domestic setting, but its nice to see a war reference 150 years earlier than I thought.

Tod

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Leo Todeschini
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PostPosted: Fri 06 Jan, 2017 4:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am just making some bolts for a 450lbs bow at the moment so before apply wood to one shaft, I feathered it instead and shot two similar bolts.

They are the same length and weight
One is fletched with helical and chorded wood flights at 6" long
One is fletched with 6" feather fletches cut to the same profile and size and fitted aggressively helical but without chording.

The wood fletched give a high level of spin, and so inherent accuracy.

The feather gives a lower level of spin.

I shot these off a 100lbs bow and the wood did 88m and the feather did 86m, so not much difference

So I would say that a high spinning bolt flies further with wood fletches.

Tod

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