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Crossbows - Everything about Building, Modding, and Using your Crossbow Gear

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5 posters

    Munitions-Grade Crossbows

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    Wilhelm
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    Post by Wilhelm Fri Jul 29, 2011 2:56 pm

    It seems like a LOT of the crossbows we see from antiquity are highly ornate pieces that someone treasured and kept safe from the scourges of age and abuse. I can only imagine that the pieces we see in collections and museums represent the pinnacle of the bowyer's craft, but what about munitions-grade work? What did the bows used in everyday hunting or military applications look like? Were they decorated at all, or quite bare? I have seen military campaign drawings, of course, but they don't contain as much detail as an actual extant piece. I'm sure the Padre Island bows are fairly representative of what conquistadors carried, but they are also somewhat of a style unto themselves. Can anyone chime in on what these might look like? Are there any indicative pictures I could reference while building my next project?
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    Post by Geezer Fri Jul 29, 2011 3:29 pm

    Wilhelm: You have put your finger on an interesting subject. I do think that the surviving medieval/renaissance crossbows are to some extent a skewed sample that favors nicer pieces. However, the Skane (notch and pushpin) bow is certainly a very basic piece... it would be hard to imagine a simpler one.
    The Padre Island bows are two examples of a very popular style of Renaissance bow. The Spanish royal armory in Madrid, and the armory in Malta have plenty of bows of this type.
    Perhaps very simple bows in collections tend to miss the photographer's eye as well, because there's a much prettier one in the next display case.
    I will say there are some very nice 'medium quality' bows in the collection at the Churburg Armory in the Tyrol. If you ever get a chance to see a catalog for that collection, it's worth taking a look.
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    Post by Archer46176 Fri Jul 29, 2011 8:43 pm

    I would have to agree with you fellas. It would compare, to me anyway, like a pair of matched dueling pistols compared to a pair of cavalry pistols actually used in combat. Or a highly ornate Brown Bess (if their is such a thing) compared to one that was used on the lines. Don't get me wrong I love my old Bessy but she isn't much to look at. I bet the crossbows of old were about the same way. Maybe a few of the fellas had a little money and had nicer ones made for themselves but I bet if they were issue pieces they were made to be functional. Could be like the trench art of WW1+2 where the crossbowmen would have had down time and carved on their stocks and made them ornate and personal.

    Just my thoughts...

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    Post by Basilisk120 Sat Jul 30, 2011 11:53 pm

    Here is one from myarmoury. http://www.myarmoury.com/albums/photo/2459.html Not the simplest design but could qualify.

    Have you seen the crossbows at Tod's Stuff: http://www.todsstuff.co.uk/crossbows/munition-crossbows.htm While not period Tod does put some work into making sure his stuff is period.

    I'll try to find some more tomorrow.



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    Post by Archer46176 Sun Jul 31, 2011 7:33 am

    I like those. The one from Tods stuff looks great.
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    Post by Wilhelm Mon Aug 01, 2011 9:33 am

    The bows from Todd's stuff are really incredible. That Bavarian bow especially blows my mind.

    The expense of spanning devices seems like a possible deal-breaker for some of the munitions-grade bows. I imagine cranequins, windlasses, and gaffes were quite expensive, leaving the wippe, belt and claw, etc. to the poorer foot soldier. Elite troops (like mounted crossbowmen) might have had access to the better spanning devices, but that's just speculation on my part. Might this mean that poundage was pretty low on munitions-grade bows? Does anyone know much about the strength of ordinary quarter bows and half bows from the period? Period bows also seem to have higher brace height and lower power stroke than our modern reproductions, but that is probably (in part) due to the steel from extent bows taking a "set", right?
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    Post by Geezer Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:57 am

    Wilhelm: Cranequins would certainly be very expensive, and the big windlasses, only somewhat less so. I suspect gafas were pretty widely available, though certainly not cheap... which pretty much leaves the common man with wippes (probably cheaper than gafas, but also slower to operate) belt-hooks, and cord/pulley arrangements.
    Egon Harmuth suggests belt-hook bows practially limited to @ 150 kg (or Newtons if you prefer) and bows with 'two-foot' stirrups (and likely cord and pulley or belt and pulley) limited to a bit over 200 kg. So crossbowmen of limited means would probably have no more than @ 350 to 400 lb. draw available, limited by the strength of their legs (remember, these guys walked everywhere).
    Certainly medieval/renaissance steel bows have very short draw and rather high brace... anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of draw and 4+ inches of brace, but wooden bows with longer prods probably had substantially longer draws. I haven't seen enough horn/composite bows to make general observations, but the big siege-bow in Vienna (@ 5 feet long, with greater span) is set up for a very long draw and high brace.
    As for bows taking a set, they probably did, which makes estimating original brace-heights a bit problematic, but Germanic bows in particular, usually have a bit of friction-relief cut alongside the top of the 'table', which invariably widens-out where the brace-point should be... so you can get a good idea about length of draw and brace on just about any of the rounded Germanic types.
    It is true that most of our medieval reproduction bows tend toward slightly longer draws and lower brace-height than their original counterparts... to some degree that may be due to the prods on the market. For that I will admit some responsibility. Twenty-five years ago, my repros were about the only thing on the market. Most of my bows were built around a lightweight 75 lb. aluminum-alloy prod made by a company called Jayhawk archery. Jayhawk used 28 inch blanks to cut their prods... mostly for most efficient use of materials. I built my bows with best use of the Jayhawk prod in mind. Both Alchem and Darkwood armory based the general shape and size of their steel prods on mine, which were copies of Jayhawks.
    Quite Coincidentally, Barnett Crossbows made fiberglass prods the same
    length. 28 inches. They were followed by Italian San Marino crossbows, which were a
    knockoff of the Barnett Panther, and finally the Chinese manufacturers,
    who more or less follow Barnett's lead.
    So the 28 inch steel
    prods is kinda my fault... or maybe it's Jayhawk's. The 28 inch
    fiberglass prod is Barnett's fault.
    When you look at Medieval steel
    prods, you'll find most of them are a bit longer... more like 30-32
    inches, though there are some dinky little steel prods on Spanish bows.
    The original prods on the Padre Island bows were about 22 inches in
    length, but I suspect Spanish steel prods, like Spanish steel swords
    were the best available in Western Europe
    Geezer, mouthing off again.
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    Post by Wilhelm Wed Aug 03, 2011 12:28 pm

    Excellent information, Geezer, and exactly what I was looking for - thank you!
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    Post by Michael Sun Oct 02, 2011 2:44 am

    Gentlemen; It"s funny you bring up the craftsmen Tod (Tods Stuff) I just received my crossbow from Tods workshop. Truly a fine weapon. A five inche draw will produce 300lbs of draw wt. I have to use a goats foot to span the crossbow. So far for crossbows I only found only two fellas that will craft what I like. They are Dave Watson from Austin Tx. (2) Leo from Tods Stuff, in the UK. I'm sure there are many more out there. Mike

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