News and Announcements

Interested in learning about blacksmithing? Read this!

--News & Announcements--
Upcoming projects:
Building a Frame Saw
Forging a Copper Kettle
Making a pair of leather work boots
Forging and Fletching a Bodkin
Flocking a drawer interior

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


As I meet more of the outstanding craftsmen of our time and diversify the interests of my own creations, I have accumulated a great deal of information and sources for materials. Here is a list of useful links I have come across. I will continue to update this as time goes on and with any community recommendations.

***Links to the same website will be to DIFFERENT pages pertaining to the specific sections***

EDIT: Links to McMaster Carr searches automatically redirect to higher subcategories. I apologise for the less direct link to specific items on this site.

Armour Archive: Extensive database for historic armour patterns.

Bladesmith's Forum: Without doubt the best community of bladesmiths out there. Excellent information and friendly advice from practitioners of the craft both new and old.

Cartographer's Guild: Exactly what it sounds like. Filled with cartographers around the world where you can see the work of others and share your own for critique.

My Armoury: Wide database of historical arms and armour, both originals and historically inspired modern interpretation.

National Novel Writing Month: A happening place especially in November, but filled with resources for writers all year. For anyone interested in writing, this is the place to go.

Wood and Shop: A very nice forum dedicated to hand tools of all kinds, although mostly relating to woodworking.

Wood Talk Online: One of the best and largest woodworking forums around. Great people and filled with excellent knowledge of all woodworking disciplines.

-Friends in the Craft-
Robert Burns (Wilderness Ironworks)
Josh Burrell
Andy Davis (Coal Ironworks)
Dave Stephens
David DelaGardelle (Cedarlore Forge)
Eric DubĂ© 
Eli Sideris
J. Arthur Loose
Jake Powning
Jesus Hernandez
Jason Kraus (Northstar Forge)
Lee Sauder
Luke Shearer
Myles Mulkey
Nate Runals
Nathanael Brandt (Coal Ironworks)
Peter Johnsson
Petr Florianek (Gullinbursti)
Jim Austin
Owen Bush
Ric Furrer
Scott Roush (Big Rock Forge)

-General Suppliers-
3 Rivers Archery: Archery supplies for fletching, string making, and bow building in addition to a wide variety of commercial archery products.

Alpha Knife Supply: Best in the business for knife parts, tailored more towards the folding knife community but also offers other materials and hardware.

Blacksmith's Depot: Tools for the smith. All varieties and sizes, excellent quality and fast service.

Lasco Diamond Products: Rotary bits at the best quality and cheapest prices I have seen. Carbide, tungsten, felt, aluminium oxide, diamond, etc. with various shank sizes.

Luthier Mercantile International: Resource for instrument crafting from wood to tools and information.

McMaster Carr: Almost anything industrial can be found here from hardware to sheet metal to safety equipment. Reasonable prices, fast shipping, and good customer service.

New Jersey Steel Baron: The best steel out there for blades, stainless and non. Aldo is a great guy and knows the craft. There is nowhere better to turn, and if the size you need is not available, just give him a call.

RioGrande: Source of non-ferrous metals, casting tools/equipment, and jewellery making supplies.

-Tools, Materials, and Equipment-
Anvils, Stakes, and Forms
     -Refflinghaus: Where I purchased my anvil. Dick is friendly, helpful, and professional. Great customer service and outstanding anvil quality. Refflinghaus anvils are hard, flat, and have excellent rebound. They ring like a bell unless securely attached to a stand, but once they are, they are nice and quiet.
     -Old World Anvils: Smaller block and stake anvils in additional to full sized. The 4x4x4 block/stake anvils are perfect for shops with space constraints.
     -Dishing Forms: Ironmonger Armoury. Most of the other armouring forms here are not regularly stocked.
     -Stakes: Robert of Stokewood Armoury. Great tools made by a great guy who uses them for a living.
-Swage Blocks
     -Blacksmith's Depot

Abrasives, Grinding and Sanding
-Belt Sanders
     -Wilmont TAG (what I use)
     -Esteem 2x72 (Brett Matthews)
     -KMG 2x72
     -Wuertz Machine Works-Abrasive Belts
     -True Girt: Great prices and range of grits/sizes.
     -McMaster Carr
     -Phoenix Abrasives: Good customer service.
-EDM Stones: Used for polishing and sharpening.
     -Mold Shop Tools
-Water Stones: For sharpening. I mostly use them on edges that require a straight line (chisels, plane blades, etc.) and when I do not want a slightly convex edge ground by a belt sander.
      -Shapton Ceramic Water Stones: Do not require the same long soaking as other water stones and are much slower to dish.
-Files: Never buy files from the hardware store if you can avoid it. They are often of a severely lesser quality than when bought from the manufacturer.
     -MSC Direct.
-Rotary tools
     -Foredom Flexshaft Drill: Flexible shaft rotary tool with adjustable speed foot pedal. Excellent tool that I have used extensively and highly recommend.
     -Rotary Bits: Lasco Diamond Products. Long lasting quality, best prices by far I have ever seen, and great customer service and shipping time.

Bowyering Supplies
     -Feathers: Custom Feathers. Solid feathers for fletching, reliable service and one of the few sources for undyed pointers of a good quality.
     -Adhesives: 3 Rivers Archery
     -Arrow Shafting: Twig Archery. Call for current stock before ordering.
-String Making
     -String thread: 3 Rivers Archery.
     -Serving thread: 3 Rivers Archery.

     -Graphite: Legend Inc. I use the 'Budget Graphite Crucibles' and have never had any problems.
      I use these for melting steel as well as non-ferrous metals.
     -Silica/Clay: RioGrande. For non-ferrous metals only.
-Casting Investment
     -Satin Cast: RioGrande. Can also be found elsewhere.
-Silicon Mould Making: For making duplicates of wax carvings
     -OOMOO Silicon Rubber: Smooth-On. No vacuum chambers needed.
     -Other Silicon: RioGrande. Best to have a vacuum chamber for these.
-General Casting Equipment
     -RioGrande: You will need to refine the search a little more here. Everything available from casting flasks to melting furnaces and casting machines, investment, wax, etc.
-Wax: For carving models of pieces to be cast or to fill silicon moulds made from a master.
     -Primary/Master: RioGrande. Colour represents different properties (soft, hard, machining, etc.)
     -Secondary/Duplicate: The softer the better, easily fills moulds without an injector if the vent is large enough. Minimal shrinkage and aeration, although a little cleanup is needed.
     -Sprues: RioGrande.
-Sand Casting
     -Delft Clay: Oil sand, many people recommend this but I have never tried it personally.
     -Bentonite Clay: Used as a component for making greensand. It seems they do not offer it any longer, but that could be temporary.

     -New Jersey Steel Baron: The best around, no doubt about it.
     -McMaster Carr: Source of mild carbon, harder to find tool steels, and sheet metal.
     -Blacksmith Bolt & Rivet Supply: Exactly what it sounds like. Great selection of rivets and other fasteners.
-Precious Metals
     -RioGrande: Sheet and wire amongst other convenient base forms.
-Casting Grain
     -RioGrande: Bronze, brass, aluminium, pewter, nickel silver, etc. Mostly grain rather than ingots.
     -McMaster Carr: Lead, Bismuth alloys, zinc, bronze, tin. Mostly ingots rather than grain.
     -Meteorite Market: Great selection of mid size and large meteorites at the best prices I've been able to find. Eric provides great customer service and the shipping was quick.

     -Bell Forest: Great selection of smaller sized exotic and figured wood.
     -Small Chisels: Lee Valley. For the price, quality, and application to what I need them for, there is no better set of chisels out there. I have the "Detail Carving Set of 5" and has everything I need with nothing I don't.

-Tandy Leather Factory: Many physical stores across the US. Best to purchase any leather in person. Also carry a wide variety of leatherworking tools.
-Weaver Leather: Higher quality leather than Tandy, although a little more expensive.

High Temperature Equipment
     -Inswool: High temperature ceramic fibre blanket used in forge/furnace linings. Rated at different
      temperatures depending on the grade.
     -Superwool: Alternative to Inswool.
     -High Temp Tools: Variety of refractory coatings for forge and furnace construction.
     -IR Coating: High Temp Tools. Helps increase thermal efficiency of combustion chambers.
     -High Temp Tools. These can also be found locally or through ebay.
-Venturi Burners
     -T-Rex Burners: Hybrid Burners. Some of the best venturi burners out there, although expensive.
-Temperature Measurement
     -K-Type Thermocouple: Omega. There are hundreds of thermocouples offered through Omega if this one does not suit  your needs. Note the connection type.
     -Digital Thermocouple display: Amazon. Any compatible device will work for temp readout. This one needs an adaptor to work with the above thermocouple, as it is the mini K-type. Read more below in the useful information links on thermocouples.

Other Tools
     -Blacksmith's Depot: Wide selection of speciality hammers at decent prices
     -Sam Salvati Hammers: Beautiful, comfortable, and hand made hammers by Sam Salvati. Usually
      available only on request. Sam works at Baltimore Knife and Sword Co.
     -Quick and Dirty Tools: Solid tongs in a variety of styles at reasonable prices.
-Hardy Tools: Fullers, forms, dishes, forks, cutters, etc. that fit in the hardy hole of the anvil.
     -Blacksmith's Depot
          -Cutoff Hardies
          -Cones and Bickerns
          -Bending Forks
          -Forming Stakes
          -Additional Forming Stakes
     -Chasing Tools: Saign Charlstein. Also available here is pitch to secure/support the piece.
     -Chasing Hammers: Blacksmith's Depot

-Mercy Supply: Hand made leather and canvas goods, highest quality.
-Duluth Pack: Hand made packs.

-Useful Information-
EDM Stones: What they are and the differences between the many types available.
Chasing Hammers: How to choose one and what a little behind the form.
Thermocouples: What they are, how they work, and the different types.
Don Fogg style forge: How to build a simple, effective blown burner forge.
Heat Treating and Metallurgy: Information from the master smith Kevin Cashen.
Peening Rivets
Sword Typography: Different sword classifications
     -Petersen and also this
     -Geibig Viking Sword Typography
     -Wheeler (Viking Age)
     -Behmer (Anglo-Saxon Migration Age)
Hearth Steel and Aristotle Furnaces by Lee Sauder: How to construct the furnaces and detail behind the process of refining steel.
Bloomery Furnaces: Another article by Lee Sauder. Turning ore into steel. Similar reading found here.
Steel Making: Articles by Jesus Hernandez.
The Evenstad Papers: On shallow hearth steel refinement

-Recommended Reading-
The Complete Bladesmith by Jim Hrisoulas: Introduction to knifemaking.
Mastering the Fundamentals of Blacksmithing by Mark Aspery: Introduction to the skills demanded by any blacksmith presented by one of the best of our time.
The Traditional Bowyer's Bible: Set of four volumes on the art of bow making.
The $50 Knife Shop: Beginner's guide to establishing a working metalsmith's shop.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lost Wax Casting

A while ago, I delved into the world of casting with my attempts at creating greensand. When the geometry of the parts I needed to cast were unable to be used with this medium, I turned to the more conventional plaster investment.

Before even beginning any of the casting itself, the object to be casted had to be carved. There are a few different materials that can be used for this, depending on the type of casting being done. For lost wax casting, the material is obviously wax, although other things such as styrofoam can be burned out of the investment as well. For non-destructive casting, the master can be virtually anything that will hold its shape, although the geometry usually limits this sort. The undercuts of the wax I carved prohibited it from being used in a pressed mould (where the top is open to the environment) or any sort of sand (where the mould is made in two halves, each done separately and then stacked when the part is going to be cast to create a void representing the whole object).

Not knowing much about casting, I went with a generic 'purple' wax, which has decent hardness and carvability. There are other varieties, ranging from green to blue to red, which all have different uses. One melts more easily and is more malleable, other extremely hard for machining, etc. This wax came from RioGrande, although there are several suppliers online and, if you are fortunate, in local jewellery outlets.

The entirety of the shaping was done with three tools. A coping saw to cut the block into pieces close to the size I would need, a small drill bit to start the holes for the blade's tang, and a 120 grit flap disk bit for my rotary tool. That is it. The miniature flap disk has a convenient radius and leaves a surprisingly smooth finish. Although a bit expensive, it was well worth the investment (when I got it for a different project years ago).

After all the pieces are carved and situated with the antler handle counterparts (to finalize the spacing and position), I made any final adjustments. This was important because I will be making a silicon mould of these carvings with which to make additional waxes. Those in turn will be invested in plaster and burned out, being destroyed in the process. Because my setup is extremely crude and my experience limited, I knew I would not have a perfect success rate. With vacuum or centrifugal casting machines, it is much easier to produce good castings, and often the process of making duplicates of the models is unnecessary. 

From my recycling bin, I fashioned a home-made vacuum chamber. It consists of a jar with a hole cut in the bottom, lined with duct tape. The hose of my floor vacuum fits over the hole and seals along the duct tape, and I can suck the air out. This was meant to help the silicon settle and remove the air bubbles as it began to cure. 

To make the silicon moulds, I used a 2 part silicon compound (any will probably do) and submerged the waxes in them. A few lessons learned-
     -Pour a layer in the bottom of whatever you make these in (probably about 1/5th of the total height) and allow it to begin curing before putting the piece in. The wax is more buoyant than the silicon, so it floats to the top. By having the layer in the bottom, you can adhere the wax to it enough to keep it from rising.
     -The vacuum chamber was probably useless but I pretend like it was a good idea. The silicon is so viscous that the air bubbles will be unaffected unless you want to burn out your vacuum trying. An actual vacuum chamber might work better.
     -Do not be afraid to mix the two parts of the compound thoroughly. I had a small pocket of unhardened silicon trapped in one of the moulds, and even months later it is still fluid inside. While this did not effect the parts I needed to be solid, it very nearly did.
     -Similarly, trust the working time listed on the package. Use as much as you need to ensure the hardener is mixed in homogeneously.
     -Cure it in a toaster oven set a little higher than the higher of the two 'recommended curing temperatures'. I had it sit in at the higher of the two temps listed for quite a while before bumping it up another 20 degrees or so. That did the trick and the silicon began to firm up nicely. (The silicon is rated to much higher temps than this).

From the silicon, I was able to pour in a pink injection wax. Heated gently over the stove in a pot to the point where it is almost smoking and releasing air bubbles, it pours like a dream. There is no need to vacuum the copies, as it flows into every, and I mean every, detail of the silicon. Each of the copies needed only a little cleaning before being read to cast in the investment. I removed the seams and added sprues to the cone left by pouring it into the silicon. This was the best part, as I had to make over half a dozen of the rightmost wax before getting one in bronze that I was happy with.

The investment I used was Satin Cast 20, also from RioGrande. Word of warning, it comes in a bag in a box, which is only bad if you have a violent time opening it. The instructions give you the ratios to mix it with water by weight, so I used a small postage scale to see the consistency I needed. In the subsequent ones,  I more or less winged it, which worked out fine. 

For each of the three castings (upper guard, lower guard, and the two spacers together), I made two flasks. The size was about perfect for the purpose, but will likely be a bit small for anything else. Be sure to measure what you are casting before deciding on a size! The bottoms are rubber and have a cone in them to attach the sprue to. I would recommend a type that has a solid rubber cone with a straight hole drilled in it to accept the sprue rather than the type I have where the walls of the cone are a uniform thickness and the hole widens the deeper it goes. This made it difficult to remove the rubber bases without damaging the plaster. To work around that, I filled the cone, allowed it to dry, then carefully 'welded' the wax to that in a few key spots so it would hold for the plaster but break away easily when pulled off.

Sprues themselves are best left as big as possible. I learned that the hard way. Especially with high surface tension metals like bronze, small sprues will not fill properly in solely gravity-based casting systems. Larger sprues let more metal flow into the hole, faster. Think of a mercury thermometer. The meniscus is gigantic compared to a water or alcohol thermometer. The larger the difference between where the metal adheres to the walls of the shaft and the top/bottom of the curve connecting those two points, the worse off you are. So, if that did not make sense, trust me when I say bigger is better (within reason, of course). I think 1/8"~3/16" would have been better than the ~1/16" sprue I used (until I stuck a bunch of them together). Anything over 1/4" for this size of a casting would be excessive (in my limited and uninformed opinion).

Once the wax was affixed to the rubber base, the flask (nothing more than a piece of pipe really) was inserted around it. Some prefer to create a plaster 'shell' around the wax before pouring in the investment in an effort to prevent air bubbles from adhering to the wax, while others place the plaster in a vacuum chamber. I did neither of these. Instead, I was careful not to aerate the plaster when mixing, and poured it slowly into the flask. The only point where I had to tend specially to it was with the holes in the waxes for the tang of the blade. I filled it about 3/4 of the way up the height of the hole, then tipped the flask until the trapped air could escape. Then a little more, and a little more, repeating the tipping action, until the hole was fully submerged and air free. Poking the hole with the tip of a knife made sure there was nothing in there but investment. From there, I topped it off and let it sit.

Curing these is fairly simple. Depending on the type of investment, there will be a sit time associated with it (assuming you mixed it properly). I let mine sit over night, having coincidentally poured them all in the evening. The next day, I set them upright (so the wax would stay in the flask, not pour out everywhere) in the trusty toaster oven at ~300-350 degrees (F) for an hour or so. When the wax was fully liquid, I poured as much out as possible, then returned it to the oven. After that hour, I bumped the temperature up to the max, which was around 450~500 for another hour~hour and a half. This cures the plaster and helps expunge any water trapped inside. Read, do not heat them too fast! (ask me how I know there was water in there...)

Finally, I put the moulds in the forge at about 2000 degrees (F) for an hour. This atomizes any remaining wax and ensures a sterile environment for the bronze to inhabit. Any wax in the cavity can turn to gasses which prevent the metal from filling the space, cause pocked holes on the surface, large voids in the metal, or a complete failure like you will see later. This is the time where you want to be overly careful. A few ways to check the moulds-
     -Take them out of the heat. Are they burning like a candle? If yes, there is still wax inside. If no, there might still be anyway.
     -Is the plaster blackened? This indicates there is still wax lingering where it should not. Once it is completely gone, the plaster will become white again.
     -How hot is the inside of the void? If it is still at a black heat (no visible colour), then it is not hot. Mine were glowing when I took it out and allowed it to cool a little.

While the moulds are curing, I began to prepare the bronze. Mine is in the form of casting grain, although it also comes in ingots. I prefer this, as it generally melts faster. I used both clay crucibles (above) and graphite foundry crucibles. The clay were easier to use, as you can see the surface of the bronze without removing it from the heat source (in my setup anyway). There are a few ways of melting the metal. The simplest, at least in my shop, was to simply put it in the forge and wait. Under the burner cone, the metal easily reached pouring temperature, which is around 1905 degrees (F) for this alloy. Beware! The pouring temperature and melting point of the metal are NOT the same. In the case of this particular grain, the difference was about 175 degrees.

On top of the grain, I sprinkled a little flux. This forms a glassy layer over the surface of the liquid metal and prevents oxidation (at least in crucible steels). This is not really necessary, but I was weary of these crucibles and the other things that I had already melted in them. An important note- do not add flux to cold things. It will eject everywhere the instant you introduce it to the heat (if it is not electric), as it will not have had time to melt and adhere to the things inside the crucible. 5~10psi is plenty to shoot the powder in all directions, and it is not something you want to breathe.

If you are using clay crucibles, it is critical that you coat them with borax or comparable flux before using them the first time. As with any crucible, you also need to fire it before use. This drives out any moisture that may be trapped inside from manufacturing and sitting on a shelf. If you are curious about this, there is plenty more information elsewhere on the internet.

When you have all the preparation done, it is time to begin melting the metal. Bronze, brass, copper, aluminium, lead, tin, pewter, silver, gold, whatever it may be, it will take time and patience. There are a few methods of melting, summarized here for your convenience-
    -In the forge. As a smith, this is the most readily accessible. I slid the crucible into my smaller forge so it sat directly under the burner.
     -Torches. If you have access to an acetylene torch, this works too. It is faster because the flame is hotter. This provides the clearest view of the metal as it melts. For zinc containing metals, however, and other things that burn off at lower temperatures, it is more important to not overheat it this way, as the flame is well above the temperature of evaporation.
     -Electric melting furnaces. These are the easiest and most foolproof, yet most specialized. Simply set a temperature (the pouring temp of the metal) and wait until it tells you it is good to pour. If I had one, I would use it, but I don't...
     -Other melting furnaces. Like electric but not. Likely crude and with little to no temperature control other than in the fuel line. No PIDs, unless there is a thermocouple in there somewhere, and probably little to no view into the crucible without opening it. More useful for melting steel or larger quantities of casting metals. For the size of this project, absolutely overkill.
     -Things that I don't know about.

This is the product of the first melt. There were still gasses trapped in the void, so it created a pocket that would not allow more bronze to enter the mould. Also, the bronze was not hot enough. It was liquid but not quite there for pouring. Back to the drawing board.

As the carnage of the first melt re-melts, you can see the two moulds staying warm on the other side of the forge. It is important that they are not cold when the bronze goes in, as the thermal shock will either break the mould or solidify the bronze or both. Burnout for the wax happens around 1800~2000 degrees while pouring in the bronze is as low as 1000~1400 degrees.

One way to tell that the metal is ready to pour is how the surface looks. If your equipment allows you to see the surface of the liquid metal, you will notice a series of wavelike ripples on the surface when it is close. I also had a non-contaminating rod (you can use either graphite or a pure bar of one of the predominating metals in the alloy, or a bar of the alloy itself) I could use to stir it. When it is ready to be poured, the metal will roll off the rod like water. Finally, if you have a thermocouple that can be submerged in the liquid metal, that is the easiest way to indisputably read the temperature. If it is below the pouring temp, it is not hot enough yet.

Melting temperature strikes again. This was the pour I used the graphite crucible for, and the result is clearly half baked (bad pun intended). The fresh casting grain melted fine, but the larger chunks from old attempts did not fully liquefy. As a result, the semisolid bronze clogged the sprue, resulting in this thing. 

A general note, it is advised that a mixture of new and recycled bronze (or otherwise) be used if you are remelting any previously used. This prevents brittleness in the piece. If I remember properly, the numbers are 50/50, but I could be wrong. 

This is the result of the 5th cast, finally a good one. The 4th was very close, but I heated the plaster too quickly any boiled the trapped water out of it. That deformed the interior of the void beyond repair. Other than that, the cast was good, which was a shame.

After a little cleaning and removing the sprue, I could fix the geometry and begin the patina. There are a thousand different ways to patina bronze, or any metal for that matter.

In the end, I came out with a good cast and the experience to finish the remaining pieces. Soon, I will finally be able to finish this project that has sat on the bench for nearly a year now.

Happy casting!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Few Points on English Longbows

At the time when I created my video 'Crafting an English Longbow' I will admit that I was less informed about the style of bow than I probably should have been. However, as the video began to receive a considerable amount of traffic, there is no limit to the number of people who were eager to jump out and claim that, amongst other things and said in a variety of ways, this is not an English longbow.

Here is a quick summary of the mistaken points people commonly claim make a longbow 'English' and evidence that refutes them:

-English Longbows are made solely of yew. This is not correct. Not even close. English longbows were made from a variety of heartwoods including elm, ash, oak, hazel, laburnum and yes, yew. In fact, according to the master historian Edward Oakeshott, the Welsh (who actually originated the design later adapted by England) never used yew. Instead, they used elm. Regardless of what materials were traditionally used, a modern interpretation of the design is not inherently limited to the historic materials. Like the bowyers of old, I used what materials were available to me. I had oak, so I used oak. Some people use osage orange because it is an outstanding wood for bow staves. Does that mean osage can never become an 'English' longbow? No. The other qualities of the bow are far more important as to its classification than the wood.

-English Longbows had draw weights exclusively above usually 100lb or more. Similar to the materials, there were common draw weights of bows made for use in war, but rarely is the weight used in any definition of English longbows. Mine was not made to be used against armoured men at extraordinary distances, so the test was considerably lower. While the war bows were usually in the 100~120lb test range, that does not mean every English longbow ever made was in that range. Most people who present this argument fail to understand that firing a bow of that weight takes considerable strength and training. If English longbows are only over 100lb test (which is extraordinarily arbitrary if you think about it for any amount of time), what are training bows that have the same dimensions, shape, and wood characteristics? Certainly bows used by children could not then be English. Function determines form.

-Your bow is not English because it is not a D shape (this is actually correct, but...). This is the most preposterous one, because the bow I made was in fact a D cross section. This is historically what they would have been, or in extreme cases, even circular. This is perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of an English longbow. It stems from the massive quantity of bows demanded by the English army and conservation of material. Cutting a tree into several D shaped staves, where the ')' part of the D is towards the inside and the 'I' part towards the outside allows the bowyer to produce a far greater number of bows from the same material (assuming a similar power required for the bow) as would a 'flat' bow where the cross section is rectangular []. At their peak, England produced so many thousands of bows that their resources were depleted and any merchant bringing goods into the kingdom was required by law to produce staves with their shipments. Concerns of material also forced the English to begin using other woods, as all their yew was dangerously depleted (going back to the first point).

-English Longbows were never backed. I am not entirely certain what this even means. When they were made with yew, the wood itself acts as a natural lamination between the harder heartwood and softer sapwood. The heartwood gives the bow its power, while the sapwood keeps it from splintering during use. Traditional bows were self bows, meaning they had no recurve/decurve in them, and made from a single piece of wood. Placing a backing of linen or silk or anything that does not add to the weight of the draw is there for one of two reasons. First, for aesthetics, usually with some thin veneer. Second, and more importantly, to counteract the quality of the stave. I used oak on the bow in the video because the stave was from a hardware store, not a bowyer. The linen I backed it with is there to, should the wood break, prevent it from splintering into  hundreds of pieces and embedding itself in my arms/hands/face. In my opinion, this is completely justifiable, if not Traditional. (but that was not the purpose of the project). Curiously, traditional English longbows could have been laminated, as the technique actually began in the 18th century when archery began to shift out of practise in war in favour of recreational sport. When laminated English longbows (again, material is far less important in the classification than other qualities of construction ie. length and shape), a wide variety of woods became popular. Some of these included Rosewood, Lemonwood, Snakewood (Brosimum guianense), Bloodwood (Brosimum rubescens), Purple Heart, Greenheart, Ipe, and Osage orange for the core and belly woods, while Hickory, Yew, Maple and Bamboo were used for backings.

-A few final points. English Longbows were usually between 6 and 7 feet long, although they were built specifically for one individual to shoot. The bowyer would measure draw length and height of the archer and fit the stave to them for a specific draw weight (or close to a weight since the other dimensions are more important in effective shooting). Common target ranges were upwards of 250 yards, which is quite far by modern archery standards (and even for the precision of modern firearms). Finished bows were generally coated with a concoction of fine tallow, resin, and wax. This protects them both from the the environment and stops the wood from losing/gaining moisture. Moisture content in bows is extremely important, as overly damp wood will take an enormous amount of set (permanent bend from being strung/shot, which impairs performance) or too dry, which will cause the wood to splinter.

Hopefully this quells the misguided comments people seem willing to make without taking the effort to do a quick check of their information.

Oh, and the term 'English Longbow' is a modern classification. They were never referred that way at the time of their hayday.