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

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    Micarta versus bone

    kiltedcelt
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    Micarta versus bone Empty Micarta versus bone

    Post by kiltedcelt on Tue Mar 02, 2010 6:00 pm

    My next two crossbows are going to resemble something like these two bows:

    Micarta versus bone HuntingxbowGerman1590-2

    Micarta versus bone Austriansportingxbow1550

    I intend to duplicate as closely as possible the style of carving on the overlays of these bows. I don't know much about these two particular bows but I'm going to try to contact the museums they're held at and see if I can learn some more about them and possibly get some better photos. Anyway, I'm sure these bows would have used ivory for the inlay on the sides as well as the larger overlay pieces covering the tables of both bows. My original intention was to use actual bone pieces. However, from what I've found online so far most pieces are fairly short which would lead me to have far more seams in my pieces than what you can see on the two bows above which appear to have used fairly large pieces of ivory. Micarta was suggested by Lightly and I've seen it used on a number of crossbows that have come out of the shop she works for. In photos micarta looks like it could pass for bone but I'm wondering how well it would take to the fine carving I'd need to do to duplicate the carving on the bows above. Also, how closely does it resemble bone? I'm wanting these bows to be very close to period-accurate. Obviously I'll have to have some compromises in materials and construction. If micarta looks like plastic I don't want to go that route. Opinions anyone - particularly regarding anything you've done which would approximate the style of bows I'll be building.
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    Micarta versus bone Empty Re: Micarta versus bone

    Post by Lightly on Tue Mar 02, 2010 7:23 pm

    The micarta we use does not particularly look like plastic. It is a just off-white color, (this I believe that you can get it in other colors.) As for carving, hm... I really do not know how that would work! I DO know that we use a router to put arrow grooves in it, when used as a topper, and I see no evidence of chipping.. Geezer might know more of that than I...
    It IS very hard. Most difficult to use a spokeshave on, I usually use a rough wood rasp to get it close to shape. This makes me think it may do fairly well for carving.
    It has a tendency to slightly yellow as it grows older, rather like ivory, another of the reasons that we use it. Hope that helps!

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    Micarta versus bone Empty Micarta vs bone

    Post by Geezer on Wed Mar 03, 2010 1:13 pm

    Hey folks, Geezer here: Lightly has dragooned me to signing on. Ivory micarta looks a lot like bone, it even yellows the same with age... well okay, it yellows a bit faster than bone, but even so, the color's about right, though of course there is no grain... it's just smooth. When I need micarta carved, I send it to a friend who has training as a jeweler and a high-speed dentist's drill... uses an air turbine to turn the tools about 200,000 rpm. The drill works effortlessly and turns out good work. There are down-sides to micarta. First: it's a dickens to glue. About the only thing I've found that works tolerably well is Gorilla Glue (a urethane-foam glue) Even so, I usually put in a few discrete tacks, since the urethane glues sometimes get brittle with age. Second: Micarta is quite brittle, it will take a gentle bend, but NO compound curves. If you want to cover a rounded surface, you're out of luck. So what to use instead? Bone has rather more flex, if you get it thin enough... steaming should help get it to shape, but boy does bone stink! I have used cow-horn for compound-curved surfaces. It also stinks.
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    Micarta versus bone Empty Re: Micarta versus bone

    Post by kiltedcelt on Wed Mar 03, 2010 9:13 pm

    Well, it looks like bone is what I'm going to have to use to achieve the type of overlay with curves and all that is displayed on the bows I'm hoping to duplicate. I'm assuming horn would have to be flattened to achieve a proper surface for creating the overlays? Also, can horn be purchased in a white color or is it mostly going to be the parti-colored black and white that I've seen on most horn?
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    Micarta versus bone Empty horn vs. antler

    Post by Geezer on Wed Mar 03, 2010 9:42 pm

    You want to be careful when discussing horn vs. antler vs. bone. Antler and bone are essentially bone or tooth-like, hard materials. Horn, as in cow-horn is much closer to fingernail in composition. Cow horns have a hard outer coating that's usually white/tan/or black. Underneath that 1/16 in. layer, they're generally a translucent greenish color. cow-horn is flexible and can be made more so by steaming in water for a while. Some people put a bit of vinegar into the water as well. The horn will be flexible while still hot, but will harden to some degree when it cools. The longer you cook it, the less it will harden on cooling.
    I once tried micro-waving cow horn, hoping to get it to higher, more flexible temperatures. Unfortunately, cow-horn is a laminate. If you micro-wave it, the little pockets of water in the horn turn to steam and blow it into little fragments. You should be able to find information on working with cowhorn on line... I think the rendezvous recreationists use a fair amount of horn for powder-horns, spoons, lantern lenses and the like. They'll know what to do.
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    Micarta versus bone Empty Re: Micarta versus bone

    Post by kiltedcelt on Wed Mar 03, 2010 11:36 pm

    Geezer,

    Well, you've obviously built way more crossbows than I have so what would your professional opinion be regarding the two bows I'm wanting to build. Obviously I can't use ivory (even Mammoth ivory is too expensive), for the inlay and overlay pieces. What would you go for - bone or horn, taking into account that there are some compound curves in both bows. I'm leaning towards bone and I've seen on some sites where I can get camel bone scales which should be long and fairly thin to begin with albeit a bit on the pricey side. Also take into account that at some point I intend to enter these very elaborately decorated bows into SCA A&S competitions, so obviously more points for being as historically accurate as possible given limitations in materials and availability.
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    Micarta versus bone Empty bone vs. horn

    Post by Geezer on Thu Mar 04, 2010 6:48 am

    Geezer here: On the subject of bone vs. horn for your ambitious crossbow projects. The really nice medieval bows use bone or ivory for decoration. You'll see cow-horn for the reinforces alongside the roller-lock and occasionally for the table (top of stock) but for highly decorated pieces, you'll want bone. Of course it's hard to get in large pieces and will necessarily require piecing a lot of stinking preparation and piecing together. I prefer to make the reinforces ahead and behind the lock-socket, (I call them lager-blocks) from scraps of moose-horn that are too small for roller-nuts. Axis-stag also makes excellent roller-nuts and lager-blocks.
    As for making things for SCA artisan's competitions, beware: SCA gets its pool of judges from within... they never use outside experts, so you often get judges who know less than the artisan. Convincing documentation can often be more important than doing things well. That isn't to say you shouldn't participate in the competitions, just don't be too disappointed when the judges don't know half as much as you do... it's a pretty shallow knowledge pool in some areas.
    If you were doing something like costume, armor or embroidery, things would be different... but for crossbows or early firearms... don't expect too much. Geezer
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    Micarta versus bone Empty Re: Micarta versus bone

    Post by kiltedcelt on Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:55 am

    Geezer,

    Yeah, I've already talked to some people about entering items like these in competitions and most agreed that judges aren't typically going to know more than you are when it comes to something like a medieval crossbow. Apparently this is where documentation becomes all important. If everything is heavily documented it works more in your favor, even if you had to do things a lot differently than a period piece would have done. At least that's my understanding. However, probably what's more important is getting the work recognized by Greenwood Company members, as a couple of my SCA archery mentors are trying to "groom" me for inclusion in Greenwood, thus wanting to see me enter A&S stuff of an archery nature, which is something I excel at. Well, getting back to the discussion at hand - it sounds like bone is definitely the way to go. Now to just start roughing out those stocks.

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    Micarta versus bone Empty Re: Micarta versus bone

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