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    Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

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    Basilisk120
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    Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by Basilisk120 on Wed Mar 10, 2010 12:10 pm

    First topic message reminder :

    After having read about them I would really like to build one. I was wondering if anyone had any plans/ experience with making horn and sinew prods. About the only thing I know about them are that they are made from horn and sinew (Capt. Obvious strikes again )

    If I can get the process down (and its not too time consuming) I may make a few more to sell for those looking for that extra touch of authenticity to their period crossbow.
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:37 pm

    Making one of these should not be to hard. I have been making bows (hand bows) for about 20 years. In my early days I did some work with sinew and horn. I kind of gave that up due to the fact that at normal draw weights, wood is just a lot more efficient. Horn bows start to shine at higher weights due to all of the extra mass not being as important then, and I do not care much for shooting bows much heavier than about 85 punds in draw. Horn and sinew are a lot heavier than most wood. All of the problems with making a composite bow, like the turkish or korean ones, do not really exist with the crossbow. No stability issues or anyting (or at least not like with those highly stressed hand bows)...just need to make it thick and short, so it will be expensive in terms of horn and sinew. Tillering should be fairly easy if you make the core to very careful measurements, then add the sinew. once it is on if you sand it to make sure each side matches, it should be pretty close. It should be not so hard to find horns long enough to have without splicing in the middle. If you have only short horns, you can cut them apart spiraly and then flatten them, and if the horns are long enough, you can cut them up the middle and make one big sheet to cut the strips from. Either way you end up with the same product. having the grrove match on the sides is good, helps get a strong glue line to handle the shear force. In a sense, it is not such an issue here due to the extreme amount of sinew that is used all the way around the bow. that will hold almost anything together. As thick as the sinew on the backs are, the other parts should not be dealing with much tension, just with shear force and some compression. Horn is great with compression. In fact, these should be a lot safer to use than steel bows. with that much sinew, you should not have a tension failure unless you dont handle you glue properly. The sinew will be streatchy enough and the whole bow really will not be bending very far. I plan to start one as soon as my wife lets me spend the money on the horn. I just got a house, so now have a garage to work in at nights.... all those years in apartments made life hard on a bowyer (wood chips are hard to get out of carpet). As soon as I get the horn (probably in a month or two when we have some moeny saved up after spending all of it moving in here) I will make an order for some horn and put photos up as I go. I have always wanted to do one of these. I have also been thinking to do one with steel, but seems like to much effort and expense (and I have almost no metal working experience). I think two extra large bull horns will make enough material for a bow.
    Seems like the thing to do is to cut the hollow section out and boil it for a couple of hours, then flatten the whole thing into one sheet. If you can get your hand on an extra long bull horn (like the ones out in texas) you should have more than enough length. Then you can cut the strips out to any size you like. the grain orientation of the horn (they have it jist like wood) will not matter if you are laminating many thin strips together, they will hold each other straight. Some composite hand bows were made this way to keep them from twisting as the horn tried to get back to the original shape. I suspect that type of horn is not all that big a deal. It seems that way now, since everyone loves the water buffalo or gemsbok horns. I think they are the thing now because peple do not like working with twisted horn, or splicing in short sections. the photo above sure looks like cow horn. If they were make in large numbers in the middle ages, then I would be that cow horn was the one used. Others may have been used as well, but having as strong supply of material for these things would have been a matter of national scurity.
    If you make them to the original size, I would expect it to be very strong in draw weight. they look massive.
    I notice that both of the diagrams above have the wood on the belly. That is interesting, if you do it that way, the horn does not serve a function. It jsut sits in the middle of the bow and deals with shear forces. since it is on the neutral plane of the bow, it would do very little in terms of compression or tension. I have seen some horn bows that show a more normal cross section of either horn directly backed with sinew or with the wood as the middle of the sandwich, so that it is only making a spine to glue the other parts to. this would make the whole things a lot easier to handle as you work. the other ways (as shown above) will work fine, otherwise they would not have done it. I suspect that in those cases, the real work is being done by the sinew on the back. As long as that is properly applied, it can make up for a lot.
    The thing to keep in mind when doing a project like this is that all the people who say it is too hard to do have mostly never tried. People did this hundreds of years ago. People now are just as capable and smart as they were (and we have power tools).
    On another note, mentioned in posts above. I have heard that whale baleen does make good bows. Naturally I have never used it, but I think it can be obtained from some sources (like natives who are allowed to still hunt whales). Might not be worth the troble of explaining your bow, made of whale parts, to the police though.
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Sun Apr 10, 2011 7:38 pm

    sorry, I did not realize how long that post was...I will keep it shorter next time.
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by mac on Sun Apr 10, 2011 8:48 pm

    Vaboyer,

    I have always worried about the the wood on the compression side of the bow. My impression is that although such a configuration is document-able, it was not by any means the most usual construction. It seems like the most usual cross section had the horn on the belly and the sinew on the back, and no wood at all.

    The other thing that we see in surviving bows is that the horn is used in rather short lengths.

    I will try to post a pic or two from Holger Richter's book later this evening. That will be worth a couple thousand words...

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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by mac on Sun Apr 10, 2011 9:37 pm

    Here are a couple of pics from Holger Richter's "Die Hornbogenarmbrust" http://books.google.com/books?id=bGqxqn4b_SMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=hornbogenarmbrust+richter&source=bl&ots=f3o3MWrRFv&sig=OFTKouen-8qreIkpn9ZBJXiSDx0&hl=en&ei=M3OiTZ2AHYrZgQfYjfnaBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBUQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    This book is a MUST HAVE!

    In these pics we are looking at the backs or perhaps the bellies of horn cores, which have lost their coverings of sinew. they are made up on numerous short slabs of horn. These slabs are of different lengths and thicknesses. They taper to an edge at each end and are assembled more or less randomly into a monolithic core.

    The thing which strikes me is how organic the structure is. The slabs resemble the cells of living tissue.

    [img][/img][img][/img]

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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Mon Apr 11, 2011 5:41 am

    Hello,
    Thanks for the photos. It was helpfull to see from this angle, as I had only seen cross sections before. Looks like the bowyer was cutting the strips of horn without any alterations, so that you have the thin end on one side and thick on the other. Seems to have just but the strips on in alternate directions. Makes good use of the material that way, with less waste. Lots of shear planes here, so would have been able to develop alot of energy along them. making it with all of these little strips back to back would have eliminated any worry of twist. I will have to try to get my hands on this book.
    the wood in the middle would not be of use for much, other than as a filler. would make the bow a little more efficient by making it lighter in weight. Still, with such short limbs, it would not make a difference that could be measured.
    I wish there were some horn prods nearby to see in person. I wonder if they were all generally straight, or were they made with a light upwards bend like in the steel bows? I guess it would not be needed if the bow was not strung tightly, I notice that most composite bows seem not to have been braced, but had a sort of loose string on them. I have seen photos of ones that were braced with about a three inch brace height though, and I wonder if they would have been made the same way.
    Thanks for the photos.

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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by Geezer on Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:16 am

    "I notice that most composite bows seem not to have been braced, but had
    a sort of loose string on them. I have seen photos of ones that were
    braced with about a three inch brace height though, and I wonder if they
    would have been made the same way."
    I disagree here. We see plenty of old composite bows in museums with dead strings that are quite loose, and some scholars take this as evidence that such bows were shot that way (loose), but those of us who have practical experience with crossbows know that loose-strings just don't work for many reasons, most obvious of which is a tendency to fly away at every shot.
    Period illustrations of medieval crossbows invariably show a healthy brace-height. See pics quoted elsewhere on this site of hunters... mostly cadged from Gaston Phoebus' "Book of the Chase".
    It does look like many composite bows were made straight, but some, like the Dresden bow, and the big composite siege-bow at Vienna, show a substantial counter-bend when unstrung.
    I must say, I'm enjoying this discussion. Keep up the good work, guys. Geezer.
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by mac on Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:12 am

    vabowyer wrote:Hello,
    Thanks for the photos. It was helpfull to see from this angle, as I had only seen cross sections before. Looks like the bowyer was cutting the strips of horn without any alterations, so that you have the thin end on one side and thick on the other. Seems to have just but the strips on in alternate directions. Makes good use of the material that way, with less waste. Lots of shear planes here, so would have been able to develop alot of energy along them. making it with all of these little strips back to back would have eliminated any worry of twist.


    It's hard to see in the pics I posted, you if you look carefully you can see that the slabs taper at *both* ends, with no butt joints at all. It shows better in the book.


    vabowyer wrote:
    I wonder if they were all generally straight, or were they made with a light upwards bend like in the steel bows?

    As far as I can tell, the composite bows are symmetrical from top to bottom, and do not have the "smile" profile that we see in steel bows. This will result in more string drag, but at least it will not tend to twist the limbs.

    vabowyer wrote:
    I guess it would not be needed if the bow was not strung tightly, I notice that most composite bows seem not to have been braced, but had a sort of loose string on them. I have seen photos of ones that were braced with about a three inch brace height though, and I wonder if they would have been made the same way.

    Like Geezer says, these things are designed to be braced. Some bow laths are pretty straight when they are unstrung. Some have a significant recurve. Still others now exhibit a deflex. I suspect that the deflexed ones were not that way originally. They were probably left braced for a century or so on some collector's wall, and have suffered permanent deformation.

    vabowyer wrote:
    Thanks for the photos.
    jamie

    You're welcome. I hesitate to post too many pics form Herr Richter's book. He has done a valuable service in publishing it, and I hope more folks will buy it. There is a tremendous amount of valuable material in that book, even if you don't read German.

    Mac
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Mon Apr 11, 2011 6:53 pm

    I suppose there is no english translation?
    I have the one from the the royal netherlands army museum. good photos anyway with some english. I studied the wrong languages for this hobby.
    The ones with a set may have been strung in humid conditions. the composite bows would be very vulnerable to that. No way to make it completely waterproof...you can to a lot to help, but nothing to fix it. Sometimes if you put it in a heater the sinew will shrink again. For most of the bows with recurve, it looks like the sinew was put on fairly wet, so that it would shrink a long way and draw the bow into reflex. just kind of has that look.
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by mac on Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:21 pm

    vabowyer wrote:I suppose there is no english translation?

    The text is in German, but all pictures are in English.

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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Mon Apr 11, 2011 7:24 pm

    Great...I cant read German pictures ;-)
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by mac on Mon Apr 11, 2011 8:10 pm

    I should mention that there is a 7 page English summary in the back of the book. This is just enough to make you wonder what you are missing if you don't read German.

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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by 8fingers on Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:08 pm

    In the Traditional Bowyers Bible Vol. 1 there are instructions on sinewing. Use hide glue (not liquid form)or glue from fish swim bladders, reduce sinews to size of small twine, sort by length, size back of bow with glue, let dry. dip sinew in glue, strip excess glue from bundle and apply to bow, overlapping bundles. On some bows they were bent backwards for sinewing, the bend increased for each layer of sinew.
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by Ivo on Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:24 pm

    mac wrote:I should mention that there is a 7 page English summary in the back of the book. This is just enough to make you wonder what you are missing if you don't read German.

    Mac

    Before I started The Arbalsit Guild, I've had this hobby of digitizing books for viewing on my tablet...some of these books were in different languages that I didn't know and started looking for a way to translate them at low-to-no cost and at a great speed...guess what, I was able to get there to some extent with ABBYY Finereader which is a program that converts a scanned picture of text to actual text that can be selected/edited/etc. My tablet computer broke and I've abandoned the masochistic hobby of scanning books page by page.

    There is a link somewhere in this topic leading to some of the books you guys are talking that have been scanned, but haven't been converted to text yet...I'll see what I can do. Wink




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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by basileus on Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:07 am

    8fingers wrote: Tendons show up in larger pet stores as dog chews. don't know the source.

    Are you sure? I though dog chews were made from rawhide. At least that's why I bought them Smile.
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by Basilisk120 on Fri Apr 15, 2011 12:46 pm

    basileus wrote:
    8fingers wrote: Tendons show up in larger pet stores as dog chews. don't know the source.

    Are you sure? I though dog chews were made from rawhide. At least that's why I bought them Smile.

    I was thinking the same thing but rawhide chews are really common. Next week when I need to go pickup some more dog food I'll look around to see if there is a chew that might be tendon/sinew instead of rawhide. Would be nice if there was (and it was cheap)



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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Fri Apr 15, 2011 8:02 pm

    I looked at the sinew chews that petsmart has. They have been cooked and have flavor added. Might be worth a try, but probably not. better to spend a little more money and get them from three rivers, or moscow hide and fur, or some one like that.

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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by 8fingers on Sat Apr 16, 2011 11:24 pm

    Stopped by the biggest pet shop in 250 kms. A look at the only piece of sinew left in the store didn't inspire my confidence. My problem is international borders make importing animal parts difficult. I am eyeing road kill with speculation and some longing. cyclops Embarassed
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Sun Apr 17, 2011 5:53 pm

    Where do you live? It is kind of hard to import some animal parts here also, lucky for us there are plenty of local sources. If you cant order some, you might have better luck at a meat processor. There should be one someplace near you. Here, the cow leggs are not often used for anything. If you can find someone to talk to, then maybe you can get lucky.
    Good luck!

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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by 8fingers on Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:04 pm

    Northern British Columbia, Canada is where I call home. Been lots of dead deer and moose in the ditch lately but I'm healing up after losing 2 fingertips, so they are quite safe from me for a while.
    The pet shop I was at had an over supply of bull pizzles and I briefly considered their properties as bow /prod material. Explaining to some pretty lady what I used for a prod, priceless. Right. Embarassed
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:33 pm

    It would be worth a try just for the story....you never know, it could be a long lost secret in bow making.....what happened to your fingers?
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Wed Apr 20, 2011 6:34 pm

    I will have to look around, but I do think I have seen some canadian companies that sell sinew and horn.

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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by 8fingers on Wed Apr 20, 2011 11:54 pm

    Nearest Place I know of for horn is Halford Hide house,Edmonton.
    I was just reminded about using thin rawhide to back bows. Resists string follow, pulls a bow straight after use.
    My table saw took 2 finger tips on my left hand and almost got a 3rd.
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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by vabowyer on Sat Apr 23, 2011 4:42 am

    Power tools are dangerous, souds horrible.
    rawhide can help a little if you give it a good streatch before you put it on, so that it pulls harder as it dries out. I have not used rawhide in ages. Might have to run to tandy and buy some goat skin.
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    Making composite prod

    Post by swotavator on Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:55 pm

    Hi,
    I am working on making a composite prod. New to the site, but I have probably read this thread 20 times.

    I have attached a picture of my intended design. The prod will be 30" long, and the core will be ipe (1.25" by .5" at the center tapering to .75" by .25" at the tips). The horn material will be grooved cow horn. The sinew is deer back sinew, attached with hide glue. The whole thing is wrapped with sinew (hide glue), then rawhide (hide flue), and finally 2 layers of brown paper bag (TB III).

    Questions I have:
    1. Is ipe too stiff? Would hickory be better (not as good in compression though)?

    2. Would i have to back the ipe somehow, between the wood and the horn?

    3. Are my dimensions okay? I want to avoid the ipe failing when i am all done.

    4. I am aiming for about 3/4" thick of horn, tapering to 1/2". Is this accurate?

    5. What is the intended purpose of the layers of leather shown in the historical pictures, attached to the belly? Is this padding for the prod? Would my rawhide suffice?

    6. Is the TB III and paper a good idea? i am trying to get a smooth finish that is somewhat weather proofed. I heard TB III is.

    7. should reflex be glued in? or is historical reflex from sinew drying?

    8. I intend to tiller after the sinew wrap, but before rawhide. Good idea?


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    Re: Making Horn and Sinew Prods?

    Post by swotavator on Thu Dec 08, 2011 8:56 pm

    http://i49.servimg.com/u/f49/17/09/29/38/bow_pr11.png

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