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    Oh god what am I doing

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    TheCorvus
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    Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:38 pm

    Hi everyone, after much lurking I have finally decided to make an account. I'm Corvus, I'm a Staff Sergeant in the US Air Force, and I'm building my first crossbow in a cave with a box of scraps in my woefully inadequate, largely improvised workshop. I'm hoping to get some advice/critiques from some of the more experienced members here.

    For my build I'm using a 120lb steel bowstave from Slobows, which in hindsight may have been biting off more than I can chew. The stock is made from a piece of fir I picked up from Lowes. The overall design of the stock is pretty basic as I have only rudimentary woodworking experience and am using mostly hand tools. The trigger mechanism is a roller nut, which I also acquired from Slobows. I have zero experience with metalworking/forging, and lack the tools and facilities to start, so I've contracted my good friend to forge a stirrup, trigger bar, and lockplates for me. The stirrup will be bolted to the stock, as I figure binding the bowstave to the stock will be easier if there's fewer other parts involved.

    Here's a photo of what I have so far. I know the workmanship is rough and downright crude in places. This is honestly the first project I've done that involves actually shaping the wood, so mostly it's been me and my good friend Mister Chisel just doing our thing and hoping for the best. I'm hoping it'll look nicer after some good sanding and filing. The narrow bit of the stock near the end is where I'm attempting to work it down to a thinner, somewhat cylindrical shape, which I'll wrap in 550 cord as a grip.



    A few questions:
    What material is best for binding? I have some 550 cord, though I figure that's probably too thick and elastic, and some twisted mason line.
    What tools are best for getting those nice curves in the stock design?
    What type of woods should one avoid for making stocks?

    Thanks so much!

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by twedzel on Mon Nov 09, 2015 12:08 am

    Corvus wrote:What tools are best for getting those nice curves in the stock design?
    Everyone will have their favorite tools. But for hand tools I like basic rasps (half moon), Japanese saw rasps, files and backed sand paper. Bandsaws and power grinders speed up the job but are not a necessity. I actually prefer hand tools when it comes to really working surfaces with precession. With power tools you are always putting your work against the tool and working somewhat blind whereas with hand tools you are always getting complete visual updates to what you are doing. Just a note a good vice really makes things a hell of a lot easier. You have to giver a little and really attack the surface to hog off wood when laying out the basic shape. A sturdy vice will let you get two hands involved and keep the work piece stable rather than rocking all over and absorbing half of your effort. But the tools are only a small portion of the job. The real job is having the basic knowledge of how to use the tools and how to control the flow of the work. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well here is a video that shows Larry Potterfield working over a rifle stock. Watch how he crafts the shape by laying it out with simple flats, then works it to smooth shapes.



    You can use all the principles he uses in your projects. He has a few more stock making videos around if you dig for them. But this one is a great little primer to get your feet wet.

    For making stocks I wouldn't hesitate to use most hardwoods, especially anything from a fruit or nut tree. I couldn't tell you specifically what to avoid though.

    I'll post some links to specific tools I use later. Its bedtime now!

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by c sitas on Mon Nov 09, 2015 7:08 am

    Corvus ,looks like your having fun. One word of caution . Don't get to skinny, especially if you are going to use something like a whippie to cock with. You might snap your stock in half.You don't have to know how I know this.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Mon Nov 09, 2015 9:30 am

    Yeah I won't be using a whippe, I figure I can handle 120 lbs using a stirrup and my own strength.

    If all else fails I'll simply salvage the metal parts and try again, maybe with a simpler, lighter design to get the hang of things before going back to the heavier steel bow.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by Gnome on Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:29 am

    Corvus,
    I think that 120# steel prod is a great place to start. I have one and it's the least powerful full size steel prod I have, and the easiest and most fun to shoot. With a thick pair of gloves you can draw it by hand pretty well, but if you're shooting a lot you'll want some kind of aid, I'd recommend a cocking rope as they are cheap to buy or make and you don't have to do any major modifications to the tiller to use. Speaking of tillers, some here would disparage your choice of a soft wood like spruce, but I think it's a fine choice to start with considering your as yet limited means of working wood. You can learn a lot and apply what you learn to the next one you build.
    For prod binding, there are all kinds of choices, but of course each one comes with it's own consequences. I've used somewhat stretchy material like paracord before and it's lasted years without getting loose. I think the trick is that it has to be stretched hard, near it's limit, when winding it on, and then wedged again after.
    Good luck and keep us posted,
    Gnome

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Mon Nov 09, 2015 10:58 am

    Thanks Gnome!

    Yeah I've looked into a cocking rope and that'll be my fallback if hand-spanning gets too cumbersome. I'll probably brace tiller with some steel bars first, don't want it to crack under the strain.

    This is going to be the first of many such projects for me. I absolutely love tinkering and building stuff and this is the first time in my life where I've had the time, space, and disposable income to really get into it. Future project ideas include a lighter bow with all the parts made by me rather than ordered and a Skyrim-style cocking lever, a Chinese repeating crossbow, a longbow, and a percussion lock musket made from a pipe.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by Onager Lovac on Mon Nov 09, 2015 5:02 pm

    Hello and welcome, for your next crossbow i would recommend you use alder, fir breaks easily when chiseld and rasped, alder is just a bit harder but creamier if that makes any sense, in fact my last crossbow had an alder stock and it pulled #120 pounds just like yours, i use a router to make the groove but you could use a chisel or even better a non electric router, as a way to bind your crossbow to the stock i mostly use waxed hemp and sometimes nilon but its a bit tricky to now how to tie it you should really check how that works, anyway i think the inner strands of paracord would work pretty well, it doesnt matter if its a bit streachy. #120 pounds is very easy to pull dude, unless you are very old or have back problems you should be fine, and as long as you have a place to clamp the wood in place and some patience you could use only a couple of chisels a hammer, a coping saw and some rasps :p, ps: Skyrim is my favorite game Smile

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Fri Nov 20, 2015 2:12 am

    What grain bolts should I use on my 120lb bow?

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by c sitas on Fri Nov 20, 2015 8:13 am

    Hello Corvus: one thing about your bolts. Don't go tooooo light . That's suicide for your bow. Something around 350-375 to 450 475. Thing is too light ,they don't take enough energy from the bow . Too heavy they die off fast, not much distance.I don't know where your from but cedar or popple works.So do the cheap Chinese stuff.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by MePilot1 on Fri Nov 20, 2015 9:11 am

    Something around 350-375 to 450 475
    Agree

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Mon Jan 25, 2016 4:29 pm

    Hello all, I know I haven't done any posting lately, just figured I'd give everyone an update on my project. So I had my friend forge me the stirrup, trigger bar, and lockplates for the crossbow. Unfortunately my inept local post office managed to lose them when he mailed them to me, along with several other things I've ordered recently. Can't get new ones since my friend is deployed to the middle east now and won't be home until August-September.

    So, for the time being I'm going to put the 120lb steel prod design on hold until I can get the parts I need to finish it and some more experience with stock design and binding. In the meantime I think I'm going to try something a little more basic, was thinking a simple Skane-style pinlock bow that doesn't require steel parts. I'm thinking of either buying a lighter, cheaper fiberglass prod for it, or making one myself out of loose laminate. Anyone else here have experience making a loose laminate prod? Any material or design advice?

    Thanks!

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by phuphuphnik on Tue Jan 26, 2016 4:39 am

    Why not use the prod you have? If you think power is an issue, reduce the draw.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by kenh on Tue Jan 26, 2016 5:20 am

    I've used fiberglass chain-link fence Tension Bar to make loose laminate prods.  The bar is 1/4" x 3/4" and a single 28" piece wil give you about 120#.  Go out to 30" or 32" and you'll reduce the draw weight.  If you can't find it where you are, I'd be happy to send you a piece.  It costs me about $7 for 6 feet here in Fort Myers.

    Here's my Skane pinlock build with fiberglass loose laminate prod:

    http://thearbalistguild.forumotion.com/t945-loose-laminate-pinlock-build?highlight=loose+lam

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Thu Jan 28, 2016 2:20 am

    phuphuphnik wrote:Why not use the prod you have? If you think power is an issue, reduce the draw.


    I think it's a matter of wanting to save the high-quality steel prod for a higher-quality build, with better materials and the better roller nut trigger. Pearls before swine and all that.



    kenh, thanks for the advice there! I'll let you know if I can't find any of that laminate locally! Smile

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Sun May 08, 2016 1:53 pm

    Anyone have instructions on the Han Dynasty-style method of binding the bow to the tiller?

    I'm still working on my derpy little Skanelock-style bow, trying to figure out how the hell I'm going to go about mounting the actual bow. The way it's designed the bow fits into a slot drilled into the stock, which I managed to screw up and make just a tad too wide to just fit via friction. So I'm thinking of sliding the bow in and then binding it in place Han-style.

    Really wishing I had the facilities to make some proper-fitting bow irons right about now. I already feel like I've cut enough corners using a loop of rope as a stirrup.

    I guess if all else fails I can just lop the nose off the tiller and attempt to mount it traditional style.

    Honestly though without a real workshop and serious shop tools I'm rapidly getting frustrated with the entire project. I recently got myself a planing tool and of course it wasn't sharp and didn't include any kind of whetstone to sharpen it with, making it an expensive paperweight until I can find the right kind of whetstone and oil for it. -____-

    Anyway, here's what I have right now. As you can see the whole thing is pretty crude.




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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by JoaoLS on Mon May 09, 2016 9:57 am

    Looking good!

    A point about handplanes: I've been where you are, with my first plane. Here's what i learned: 

    Make sure the plane sole (base) is flat, especially right in front of the blade opening: 
       - take some 180 or so grit sandpaper, stick it to a flat surface (kitchen counter, stone bathroom top) with some window cleaning spray.
       - remove the plane iron (blade) and "plane" the sandpaper on the flat surface a few times. 
       - see where the scratchy marks are, if you're hitting the front of the plane and the bit just in front of the blade opening, you're good. If not, keep sanding the sole until you do, it won't take much. Use the window cleaner for wetting the sandpaper, it doesn't clog up that way.

    Then, use the same setup to sharpen the plane iron, going progressively higher in the grits. I'll link to a couple of videos of how to do it freehand, with no whetstone, just sandpaper and a bit of glass, or granite tiling, or kitchen counter as a flat surface. (In the video it's a chisel being sharpened, but the exact same technique applies to plane irons.) Paul Sellers, the man in the video is an amazing source of woodworking knowledge by the way, you should watch his videos, they have been a great help in understanding the principles of woodworking. 






    Hope this helps your frustration. When you have that plane going smooth, you'll find it's perhaps the most satisfying tool to use in woodworking. (Last night i planed a cocobolo board square just because i like it Smile)

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Tue May 10, 2016 6:19 am

    Okay awesome I will definitely try that!

    How about binding? I still wanna see if I can try the Han Dynasty style but I can't find any guides on how to do it.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by Geezer on Tue May 10, 2016 8:21 am

    Binding?  The original Skane bows, discovered in the moat of Skane castle (ca 1927) have a large hole a few inches behind the prod-socket for a binding cord. (bridle) Han bows do something similar, except their bridle fastens to pegs that can be driven further into a rectangular slot for tightening.  If you look on Youtube, you can find a video (in German, but so what) of the correct binding process.  Geezer.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by Geezer on Tue May 10, 2016 8:30 am

    for binding in a medieval crossbow the right way, follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2VDpAauAZI
    That's now how I did it in the old days, but I do it like that now.  Gets tight and looks authentic, because it is.
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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by Geezer on Tue May 10, 2016 8:31 am

    Correction: that's NOT how I did it in the old days, but its how we do it now.  Geezer, the incompetent typist.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Tue May 10, 2016 1:17 pm

    Alright. I modified my stock to accept such a mounting. I guess I will use the steel stirrup I have kicking around, the rope loop is dumb and won't last.

    What kind of cordage do you guys recommend for binding? I have a bunch of 550 cord right now.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by Geezer on Tue May 10, 2016 2:00 pm

    I use heavy hemp twine bought from an online house: global hemp.  I buy it in bulk, but you should be able to buy a spool sufficient to do the job without breaking the bank.  Get heavy stuff: 140 lb. test if they have it.  I use a lot to get the right look: generally 7 fathoms (@40 feet of cord) to tie both prod and stirrup in place, but honestly you can probably get away with half that if you tie it tight.  As for steel stirrups, I make mine out of 3/4 in mild steel flat stock from the hardware store.  But in fact, it looks like the original Skane bows probably had rope or leather lanyard for a stirrup. Indeed the original Skane bows had not metal in them at all.  (See Josef Alm's "A Survey of European Crossbows" for details. 
    Geezer.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by Geezer on Tue May 10, 2016 2:24 pm

    Correction: the last hemp I bought was from Hemp Basics.  Since I build a lot of bows, I buy the 170 lb. stuff in 10 lb. spools.  You won't need that much, just get a ball of reasonably heavy stuff.  3 mm or 120 lb will probably do just fine.  Geezer.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by TheCorvus on Mon May 23, 2016 5:01 pm

    Progress pic:



    Letting the varnish dry for now. Tomorrow I'll do final binding and assembly (and carve out the bolt groove, which I forgot to do), and make a bolt clip out of some brass sheeting I have.

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    Re: Oh god what am I doing

    Post by Onager Lovac on Tue May 24, 2016 4:06 pm

    Nice dude!, what will the draw lenght be on your crossbow? seems a bit short.

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