Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Ulrich- The Journey... or, How I Learned to Handle Horn and Not Hate It. Pt.1

I just completed a lovely bow, am proud of it. It was a culmination of most of what I have learned these past several years, as well as a good deal of NEW learning, on my part.
I wanted to try my hand at a fairly authentic copy of a medieval bow, as close as one could get and still 'sell' it, as... at this time, I am not yet sufficiently famous enough to make a very authentic bow and KNOW that someone will buy it! Although, that plan IS in the works.

So, we still make what the client wants, and that is far from onerous, especially in this case.

Dawn approached me to make an Ulrich bow for her. These are the copies we make of the amazing crossbow in the Metropolitan Museum, that was gifted to Count Ulrich V of Wurttemberg, attributed to Heinrich Heid Von Winerthur.

And when I say "copies" I mean, pretty much the shape, and the bone and horn inlay. That carving... whew. Amazing. I read somewhere (on Teh Intarwebz, so it must be true!) that it takes about 7 years to get good at something, to Master it. Well, I've been making bows for 6 years, so getting pretty close there, however, taking the next 7 years to be a masterful carver is likely not in the cards.  I just need to FIND someone who already spent those years...

Back to the Ulrich.

So. Dawn commissioned, I accepted. I'd wanted to do it as 'right' as it was in my abilities to do so, and stretch those abilities where I could.

I started by studying the photos on the Met Museum site, which are incredibly detailed, and many. I realized many things from those photos. The bone top was inlet, the wood shaped up to it. The horn was somehow glued in with something that must have been really good glue, had to be, it's lasted for hundreds of years... and many more observations.

Then, I printed out the photos, and knowing the length, extrapolated the other measurements as best I could. Now, having no math skillz, that was HARD. Next time, I am bribing a friendly mathematician.
So, I started here:

After that it was off to the ole lumberyard, to find some three inch thick cherry, and actually start the process.

And, that is how I got here:

But, before the rounded shaping, I had to make certain all measurements were good. Once that 

was done, I needed to do the bits that needed to be square, so rather than galloping off excitedly and starting the fun fun shaping; yeah, I had to carefully inset several parts.

so this bone, (moose horn)

(I loved the color of the horn. No, it is not always this color, but, this one was good.)

became this:

Then, here, I was able to at least shape the sides.

so this bone, (moose horn)
(I loved the color of the horn. No, it is not always this color, but, this one was good.)

became this:
Then, this:
Roller socket!  And, the hard part, yah, you guessed it, is to mortice a hole in the stock, that that bit will fit not too tightly into, (roller won't roll) and not too loosely, (roller will oscillate). 

Laters for more Ulrich story, I need to go and actually make some other crossbows.


Been experimenting lately with figured wood. We can't be certain folks in medieval times didn't use figured woods, but we do know that maple was at least, available.
Been a nice learning curve figuring out how to stain the wood, yet, be sure to bring out the chatoyance, or, the shimmer in the wood, that makes it so beautiful.
Part of this is staining, then sanding, and repeat until you reach the shade that you like. I found that TransTint has a lovely amber color.

First attempt, using the directions given on the tint, gave me to understand that a flat surface and a round bow, are two quite different things.

So, using a brush to apply the stain, and then, the shellac, did not work with the round bow.
That led to inconsistent staining and the finish.

Second try, using the stain in water, apply with a rag, rubbing it gently in, letting dry, sanding, repeat until color desired, then finish with a tung oil, worked much better for me.

That came out to be a nice bow!
Here is a shot of the tail end of the tiger maple Maximilan bow I made for a client.
Quite the lovely bow, it is.

Trekked to the lumber yard last week, to look for another bit of the flame maple, but, no joy.
While there was a bit there, it looked to have nowhere near the fugure of the last bit I got, so passed. Will keep looking.
Have yet two stocks rough cut of this board, another Maximilian, and a Danish/musket ended bow. Can't wait to get the time to finish these two.