Iolo's Musings

    Musings, as of 02 / 04 / 2010 , 11:47AM

Concerning the Stock Patterns

Occasionally I get enquiries about the classification system I use for crossbow stocks. The truth is, when I started making crossbows for sale, I discovered I needed some sort of system to describe the various bows. After a minimum of thought, I came up with a classification system based on the stock profile. So stock no. 1 was the simplest, a tapered board, starting about 3 inches high at the front and an inch and three-quarters high at the tail. The 1A stock is still a tapered board, but given the rounded shape and bevels, it looks a lot more like one of the model 5 derivatives rather than a straight 1.

The original no. 2 stock was absolutely straight to a point just behind the lock, where it narrowed suddenly and then went straight back to the tail. I got the pattern from miniatures out of Froissart's Chronicles of the 100 yrs. wars. In fact, the original no. 2 is quite ugly. The model 2C of that series is another common stock shape for much of medieval Europe. Everybody likes the 2C, I like the 2C. Nobody ever orders straight 2s, and I don't blame them.

The model 4E 'Flemish' bow is one of the best documented stocks I have. These bows underwent a slow evolution... at least from the 15th century until the 19th and there are plenty of examples to illustrate the changes.

The model 5S Maximilian bow is not very different from a slender 2C. So why did I decide to categorize Maximilians with the 5s rather than the 2s? Because the Maximilian has a profile shape almost identical with the 'Finnish' 5F. I use the same template when I draw either a 5F or 5S on a piece of wood. The 2C stock uses a different template for cutting. I could go on and on concerning the different shapes and their relations to one-another, but suffice it to say, the decisions were arbitrary ones, made to deal with the problem in hand.

In fact, medieval crossbow stocks vary widely around some basic principles, and it's a bit difficult to decide what's what. So what are the principles? Typically, medieval bows put more wood around the prod/lath/bowstave, so the stock won't split there. They usually put more wood around the lock, so it doesn't tear itself out of the stock from the load. Since the recoil is fairly low, compared to the weight of the weapon, the tiller/butt is usually fairly narrow. Since most shooters simply laid the tail of the stock alongside their cheek ( just like shooting a handbow) the tiller was usually straight rather than curved downward, though I have seen a few medieval bows whose tillers were curved downward and bent one side, to make sighting easier.

Stock length is based on convenience as well. 15th-16th century sporting bows that used the cranequin, like the 5B and 5U, were short and stout.

Central European military bows of the 14th century (like 5G and 5F) were fitted with wooden or horn/sinew prods. They tended to be long and slender, to facilitate using the belt-hook for spanning.

The great windlass-bows of the late 15th century (like 4E and some 5S models) were rather long and heavy, with substantial reinforcement of the stock to handle the heavy loads of both prod and windlass.

In the end, this is one of those deals where knowing more isn't necessarily an advantage. The stocks all start to flow together after a while. To a degree, the rounded Central stocks form a continuum. The square Western bows do the same. If you're a historical reinactor, trying to portray a specific time and place in the late middle ages or Renaissance, we can get you pretty close. If you're trying to portray a Norman mercenary from the 11th century we're in the realm of educated guess-work. There's simply not enough stuff left from the early years to make hard decisions... though that never stops self-proclaimed experts from making their opinions known.


    Musings, as of 01 / 29 / 2010 , 11:15PM

We'll be at Estrella War!

For those of you who are interested: I'll be sending my apprentice, "Dirty" Burdwood to the big SCA's Estrella War meet over President's Day weekend. She should be there February 9th through 14th. We'll be set up with Darkwood Armory in the market area.

So what will we have in stock for the War? Well so far, there's a model 5S Maximilian in maple, a pair of model 2C Western bows... one in cherry, one in walnut, and a Han-Chinese pistol bow. By the end of next week, we should have added a walnut model 5F Central European bow, an oak 4E 'Flemish' bow and another pair of model 2C Western bows. One of those is Walnut and the other is cherry. If everything goes to plan... which isn't terribly likely, we'll have 8 bows. I'm counting on a mininum of 6, as well as 6 dozen bolts in various colors.

Hoping to see you there,
DRW/New World Arbalest.