Saturday, December 12, 2009

bow and basket

bows and baskets are 2 good examples of how primitive does NOT mean crappy. easy examples. but good.

im sure youve found yourself sitting there, contemplating your ham sandwich and found yourself thinking something like, "gee i wonder who was the first person to put a piece of meat between two pieces of bread". well, now try imagining "primitive" man running around with bears and giant cats chasing him, trying to figure out how to turn a tree into a hunting weapon. or a woven vessel for carrying home the harvested meat.

right. mind: blown.

i mean, it seems so incredibly simple. weave some branches together. done.

rip a branch off a tree and throw some deer gut on there. problem solved.

but really think about the mechanics of it. weaving the simplest of baskets takes a leap of mechanical logic that i think most, myself included, would under-estimate. think about it this way:

baskets are the only hand made craft that can not be automated. you can not build a machine that can make a basket. and yet here we are making them. thats something really interesting about the notion of "simple". sometimes the things we think are simple or easy actually involve brain tricks that are incredibly complex. they are only made possible as a result of a compiling of a lifetime of learned motor skills and we just take for granted the ability to pull off these tricks because we've slowly built up to them. even still our first attempts will be of questionable value. the only reason we dont pop a fuse when we sit down to make a basket for the first time is because the brain is able to asses, improvise and create new learning pathways so fast we dont even know its happening.

but when did this first happen? who was the human that woke up one day and realized they could weave a basket? and what was their inspiration? how would you conceptualize a basket if you had never seen one before? what is your frame of reference? what enticed them to that particular solution? i realize all this is mental masturbation but its these dark, long lost points in time that there is no memory nor history of, where strokes of immense genius happened that for me, are a BIG part of the fascination in learning these skills.

the bow has been automated. there are machines that turn space age plastics into pieces of hunting machinery which are beautiful in their own right. but for all their displays of engineering innovation they seem a bit like gilding on the lilly, products more of marketing than practical innovation. but this is a novice speaking so dont take that to heart.

what i can say is that as far as the wooden bow goes not much has changed. the engineering developed thousands of years ago for constructing a hunting weapon out of wood is largely the same engineering used today. like a shark, perfected by evolution, needing no improvement. creative artistry being the dominant influence for evolving design.

in comparison to some of the amazing peices of deadly art that are being produced i feel like a palsy victim being asked to paint the roof of the sistine chapel on the head of a pin

this is a stave cut from an ash tree. awaiting my ineptitude.

practically just getting started and the bow is already drawing blood.

i had a disagreement with my draw knife. draw knife won. bob ross would say "there are no mistakes, only happy accidents". well...i guess the happy part of this is that i got a sweet blood stain on my bow. unfortunately it didnt stick around too long because i ended up having to take a *#$!-load more wood off then i would have liked

to make the bow back the outer bark must be stripped away and the wood shaved until one continuous growth ring, which follows the entire longitude of the stave has been exposed. the back of a bow undergoes enormous stress when the bow is pulled so the growth ring on the back must be continuous and unbroken. there can be no split fibers, cuts, dings or chips. any corruption of the growth ring will cause a stress point which will eventually fail and the bow will snap.

with a white wood like ash this should be a relatively easy task. with some types of wood a bow must be made from the heart wood where the fiber in the rings are dense and strong. white wood is all sap wood and in the late wood or "summer wood" the fibers are very strong so you can pretty much start the back of your bow on the ring directly under the outer bark.

everything was going well until i nicked a very small, unseen knot and a big rip opened up in the wood ring, right where the bow shape would lay. so, i have to shave down another ring. which wouldnt have been so bad except the outer growth rings on this stave are paper thin. so of course i shaved too deep and before i know it one extra ring turned into like, 10

but i think i finally nailed it. it is tricky to say the least especially when the rings are so thin. it can be mind boggling to keep track of what ring you are on and not go too deep due to confusing a given ring for the ring below it. or above it. or something...anyway, all those esoteric markings on the stave are me trying to learn how to not mess up.

and now for the bad news:

the splits you see on the corner of the stave are called checks. checking is something you do not want. it means your stave has not dried completely or has somehow been humidified after being dried and then re-dried too fast. my mistake was not re-applying a sealant to the ends of the stave after i started working it. of, course there was no way for me to know this until after it had happened and i whined "WWHHHYY MEEE??" on just about every bow making forum on the internet.

i have since been reassured that all is not lost. there is still the shaping of the bow itself left to do and i think i can work around the splits.

stay tuned

you payed for the whole seat...


1 comment:

  1. can you please hurry up and finish your bow please? pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease?