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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 5:05 am    Post subject: Bowmakers         Reply with quote

I see that there are quite a few number of people selling longbows online, some purported to be medieval type bows, while others are simply listed as "longbows" without the designation of medieval. However, are there any bow makers who make the shorter style of bow frequently found in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries?
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 5:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The problem with making "earlier' bows" is that there's not that much known about them, sadly.

Finds are very rare and usually only fragments remain, and depictions in literature obviously aren't particularly detailed.

Still, I doubt that those bows would be really particularly shorter. There's not much point in making very short bows out of wood, they won't be very efficient most of the time.

Famous finds from Nydam and Thorsberg are assumed to predate Middle Ages, they seem to suggest that ~6 feet yew bow was pretty persistent 'template'.

http://www.arcus-lucznictwo.pl/index.php?id=49

So generally plenty of talented bowyers can make '11th -13th' bows, though it's kind of a guessing.
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Alain D.





Joined: 04 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 5:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I've never seen convincing evidence to suggest that shorter bows, or rather the "short bow" was ever used in Medieval Europe, besides possibly in the form of Eastern-influenced composite bows which may have appeared in areas of Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Even if short bows did exist, we have little evidence to accurately reconstruct them in any way, besides records mentioning the woods used in bow making at the time. I would suggest reading up on your region of interest and finding some records pertaining to the woods used in the construction of their bows, then finding something made to the desired specifications that way. Personally, I would just stick with a yew longbow as a pretty safe bet for most of the Middle Ages as yew was early recognized as superior to elm and other woods sometimes used and considering that bows of "longbow" form have been discovered from ancient times such as with the Tyrolean Iceman.

-Alain
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Harri Kyllönen




Location: Finland
Joined: 12 Jun 2009

Posts: 42

PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 7:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd say it's almost certain that "short bows" were used plenty for hunting and by militias since pre-historic times. 50 lbs of draw weight is fine for hunting and deadly in warfare.. This can be archieved by shorter self bows and with common woods so why waste time and money on long yew warbows.
Native americans often used bows as short as 1m for hunting and war. I suspect similar shorter bows (though not likely as extreme as only 1m long) could have been common in Europe too for common people who would use it for hunting and defence or militia duty.

Where to get them? I think some shops sell them as starter bows or bows for children and women. The problem is that they would propably also have a poor draw weight for someone who wants it to be as authentic as possible.
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Bartek Strojek




Location: Poland
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 7:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Harri Kyllönen wrote:
I'd say it's almost certain that "short bows" were used plenty for hunting and by militias since pre-historic times. 50 lbs of draw weight is fine for hunting and deadly in warfare.. This can be archieved by shorter self bows and with common woods so why waste time and money on long yew warbows.
.


Poundage isn't really an issue here, as evident by crossbows, usually short and usually very hard.

The point is that short wooden bow will generally snap if someone tries to make it with long draw length.

It's efficiency as far as both gathering and releasing energy will be poor as well - from simple mechanical reasons.

Relfexes, siyah, and other things that combat it, and turn sluggish short bow into mean launching machine aren't really possible with wood alone.

So, in many ways, short wooden bow is actually waste of time and timber.

As far as Native american bows go, weren't they made that way mostly due to 'botanical' reasons?

So lack of big enough shrubs etc.

So all in all, while I agree that shortbows were certainly possible and used from time to time, I would be surprised if they were used widely in areas and times where good elm, yew, ash or whatever wasn't very hard to find.
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Terry Thompson




Location: Suburbs of Wash D.C.
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 7:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The bow of Otzi the caveman was found with a simple (unfinished?) bow stave (1.82m) made of yew, leaning on a rock near by.

So, I would agree that Yew was identified as a decent bow material pretty early on.
-Terry
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Harri Kyllönen




Location: Finland
Joined: 12 Jun 2009

Posts: 42

PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 9:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bartek Strojek wrote:
Poundage isn't really an issue here, as evident by crossbows, usually short and usually very hard.

The point is that short wooden bow will generally snap if someone tries to make it with long draw length.

It's efficiency as far as both gathering and releasing energy will be poor as well - from simple mechanical reasons.

Relfexes, siyah, and other things that combat it, and turn sluggish short bow into mean launching machine aren't really possible with wood alone.

So, in many ways, short wooden bow is actually waste of time and timber.


I guess the native americans weren't aware of this wisdom then. They used relatively short bows for thousands of years for hunting and war.

>60" selfbows are sold here:

http://northwoodtraditionalarchery.com/bow_and_arrow_warbows.html

Most are native american style but I think many are generic enough to pass for European "short bows".

Quote:
Relfexes, siyah, and other things that combat it, and turn sluggish short bow into mean launching machine aren't really possible with wood alone.


Many selfbow types had a recurve shape.
Finno-ugric two-wood bows (usually pine and birch) had siyah's.

Quote:
As far as Native american bows go, weren't they made that way mostly due to 'botanical' reasons?


The plains indians started using very short bows for mounted archery.
But even when suitable wood is plentiful they didn't often feel the need for very strong and long bows.

Quote:
So all in all, while I agree that shortbows were certainly possible and used from time to time, I would be surprised if they were used widely in areas and times where good elm, yew, ash or whatever wasn't very hard to find.


Shorter ancient European Holmegaard bow types were usually 150-170cm and made of yew or elm. I wouldn't count them as longbows.
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Harri Kyllönen




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alain D. wrote:
I've never seen convincing evidence to suggest that shorter bows, or rather the "short bow" was ever used in Medieval Europe, besides possibly in the form of Eastern-influenced composite bows which may have appeared in areas of Western Europe during the Middle Ages.


Bows in the Bayeux tapestry look short(er than longbows).

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Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 1:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Harri Kyllönen wrote:
Bartek Strojek wrote:

So, in many ways, short wooden bow is actually waste of time and timber.


I guess the native americans weren't aware of this wisdom then. They used relatively short bows for thousands of years for hunting and war.


Short draw length means less energy. European and Asian warbows of 80-140lb draw weight, delivering over 100J, are overkill for hunting small game, and overkill for warfare in the absence of armour. We see high-energy bows for two main reasons: trying to put arrows through armour, and for hunting large dangerous game. If you're not doing these things, high draw weight is bad - it increases the physical demands on the archer, which reduces accuracy, makes it harder to train archers, makes keeping archers in top physical condition more important, etc.

In America, we see high draw weight short composite bows (similar sinew and horn construction to Asian composite bows) for hunting bison. They work for war as well. We see some other composite constructions, used for short bows (of lower draw weights than buffalo-hunting bows, I think).

Most American self-bows are long, 60-70" seems typical.

Apparently there are short self bows from the west coast, built to a similar pattern to the usual sinew backed short bow used there. The self-bow version is usually longer (maybe 45"?; the backed ones are found as short at 36"). These are "paddle bows", with thin wide limbs, so the wood is less strained. Still, they sacrifice draw length (and therefore energy) compared to longer bows. Also, with thin wide limbs, they might not be any more efficient than longer self bows.

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


Last edited by Timo Nieminen on Thu 21 Nov, 2013 3:56 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Alain D.





Joined: 04 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 3:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I may be wrong, but I had the impression that the original poster was interested in military bows circa 11th-13th century rather than lighter, and potentially more diverse, hunting bows.

Harri Kyllönen wrote:
Alain D. wrote:
I've never seen convincing evidence to suggest that shorter bows, or rather the "short bow" was ever used in Medieval Europe, besides possibly in the form of Eastern-influenced composite bows which may have appeared in areas of Western Europe during the Middle Ages.


Bows in the Bayeux tapestry look short(er than longbows).



Matthew Strickland's The Great Warbow has a good chapter on the myth of the short bow. I wouldn't say definitively that the short bow never existed, but I think there's a common notion that the English longbow represented a pinnacle of bow development preceded by shorter, cruder and less powerful bows. Considering the discovery of Otzi's yew bow and (admittedly few) remains of bows constructed similarly to the English longbow, that concept doesn't really make sense. It seems more likely that similar "longbows" existed long before the 13th and 14th centuries and that its implementation in new military tactics is what resulted in English successes with its use. It's certainly possible that the Bayeux tapestry is accurately depicting a short bow that was used by the Normans, though we have little other evidence to suggest the widespread use of short self-bows in Western Europe as a predecessor to the longbow.

-Alain
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Harri Kyllönen




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 5:16 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is a bit OT already but ...



This is a bronze age bow found from Lake Ledro in Italy. It's made of yew, recurved and definately a short bow at 57".
But it's noteworthy that short recurved bows were known and used in Europe this early in history. Would longer and simpler bows replaced these almost completely? I don't believe so because Ötzi's longbow was over thousand years older than this one. Same goes for long Holmegaard and Meare Heath flatbows.
There must have been a reason to go through all this trouble instead of making a simpler longbow or a long flatbow from the same material.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 9:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are a few reasons to support the idea of shorter bows being used. First, as Harri has noted, there's a lot of manuscript evidence, not to mention carvings and other such illustrations, that suggest shorter bows did exist. I realize that medieval artwork is not always the most reliable for indicating the size of weapons. However, the prevalance of shorter bows in medieval artwork is common enough that one must ask: if all bows were long bow length, why would the artists have not represented the bows so that they were nearly as tall as the person wielding it all instances? That there are so many shorter bows shown is a good indication that such bows existed.

But we have better evidence than this. Andrew Halpin presented an article for the Papers for "Medieval Europe Brugge 1997" Conference entitled "Military Archery in Medieval Ireland: Archaeology and History". I quote from the relevant sections:

"Bows are rarely found on excavated sites but excavations in the town of Waterford have produced one complete bow and fragments of six others. All are simple yew bows dating between the mid-12th and mid-13th centuries, and they provide one of the first opportunities to look in detail at actual bows of this crucial period.

At first glance one thing seems clear: the Waterford bows are not longbows. The only complete example is 125 cm. long and the other surviving bowstaves were probably of much the same length. The arrowheads found with the bogs are as strongly military in nature as the Dublin arrowheads, so it is impossible to argue that these bows were for hunting and that longer bows were used for war. These are military bows, and, what is more, most of them seem to be Anglo-Norman."

In fact, Halpin goes on to argue that part of the problem lies in the term longbow, which has lead people to lead that a longbow is "qualitatively different from other wooden self-bows." He argues that long bows and ordinary bows as seperate, "it is more helpful to see the wooden bow as a single type, within which length (along with other characteristics) was a variable factor, depending on circumstances."

At the same time, Halpin also notes that we have a complete bow that is 185 cm long found at the crannog at Ballinderry. It has been dated to the late 10th century. So certainly, bows that were "longbow" length existed during these centuries. My point is that shorter bows existed alongside them, and were clearly used for war.

Here's the article for those who would like to read further: http://www.archerie-primitive.com/articles/Mi...reland.pdf

So, regardless of what we choose to call them, shorter bows did exist. I was wondering if there are any manufacturers who make them or who would make them.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2013 10:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The point is that short wooden bow will generally snap if someone tries to make it with long draw length.


Something to consider is that we have medieval illustrations of archers not making a long draw length with a bow. Instead, they often made shorter draws. Admittedly, it is unclear how often the shorter draw would have been used in war, if ever, but we certain have evidence that a shorter draw was employed.

Richard Wadge's book Archery in Medieval England: Who Were the Bowmen of Crecy? includes several plates of illustrations that include not only shorter length bows, but also shorter draws being used, too. If I recall correctly, the short draws are employed primarily in hunting scenes or martyrdoms, rather than scenes of war.
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Neal Matheson




Location: sussex UK
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 12:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

"There must have been a reason to go through all this trouble instead of making a simpler longbow or a long flatbow from the same material."
Recurved bows have considerably different flight characterisitics.
" part of the problem lies in the term longbow, which has lead people to lead that a longbow is "qualitatively different from other wooden self-bows"
Absolutely! In addition beyond the draw weight a "longbow" is not a particularly sophisiticated design and is incredibly ancient, more than one specimen is known from the neolithic. The earliest extant bow, from Holmgaard is a very sophisticated design. Modern cultural notions of progress, are just suiperimpositions and often don;t help in understanding the past. Rather than a progression or a regression the medieval long bow is just a design that met the needs of militaries of the day and fitted in with the limitations of the environment and technology.
To answer your question any bowyer will be able to make a shorter longbow though making one that shoots nicely will be much more challenging. As others here have written a shorter bow won't offer any advantage but will give a whole host of disadvantages but would only be margianlly more efficient with wood and would still take the same amount of time to make. A shorter bow might of course be much easier to carry around, fit on (shoot from?) boats etc etc.
If your German is up to it my friend Jurgan Junkmanns has released a pretty comprehensive archery book.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pfeil-Bogen-Von-Altst...5BOS3CL069
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Neal Matheson




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 1:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I hope my reply was useful, I am really keen to see what any bow you buy looks like and more importantly shoots like!
Neal
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Harri Kyllönen




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 6:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Neal Matheson wrote:
As others here have written a shorter bow won't offer any advantage but will give a whole host of disadvantages but would only be margianlly more efficient with wood and would still take the same amount of time to make.


A shorter bow is more energy efficient (energy used to draw the bow vs. energy released).
if all other things considered are equal and you have the ideal material for both. That's one of the reasons why composite bows were invented and why the extremely short turkish bow has been considered the most efficient of traditional bows.
This is simply because longer and heavier limbs use more energy on their own movement than shorter and lighter ones.
The same general rule applies to all sizes and types of bows: less mass on the bow usually means less energy spent on the bow itself and more on propelling the arrow.
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Neal Matheson




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2013 7:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yup I was writing about self bows.
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Alain D.





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PostPosted: Sun 24 Nov, 2013 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Craig Peters wrote:

In fact, Halpin goes on to argue that part of the problem lies in the term longbow, which has lead people to lead that a longbow is "qualitatively different from other wooden self-bows." He argues that long bows and ordinary bows as seperate, "it is more helpful to see the wooden bow as a single type, within which length (along with other characteristics) was a variable factor, depending on circumstances."

At the same time, Halpin also notes that we have a complete bow that is 185 cm long found at the crannog at Ballinderry. It has been dated to the late 10th century. So certainly, bows that were "longbow" length existed during these centuries. My point is that shorter bows existed alongside them, and were clearly used for war.


I agree with this completely. I mostly take issue with the notion some people seem to have that magical "longbows" (which I also agree is too ambiguous and very misleading) sprang up out of nowhere just in time for the Hundred Years War. Shorter bows probably did coexist with longer bows for thousands of years and I think I've been guilty of presenting this in the black-and-white way that I myself don't like to see. I would love to know pre-Mary Rose bows, especially ones different from the more typical "longbow," but there's just so little to base our knowledge on. It's a shame so few bows have survived.

Please do let us know what you decide on, it would be interesting to see.

-Alain
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