The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #62: Zen in the Art of Archery

Episode #62: Zen in the Art of Archery

https://archive.org/download/Podcast62_201610/Podcast%2062.mp3

On today’s episode, I’m reading from a little book called Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel.  We talked about Zen in episode #44, and while that episode focused more on empty handed martial arts, this one is about the practice of archery, and how that can be used as a pathway to understand Zen.  It’s a book I first read when I was about 13, didn’t really understand, and re-read a number of other times afterwards, each time taking a slightly different set of ideas from it (never entirely understanding it, I will say).

I can say for sure, though, that the best shots in archery, and perhaps this is so with many things in life, come from that place where Zen resides, the land of no conscious thought, that retreat your mind wanders to when it’s fully present and occupied by what it’s doing at the moment.

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #34: Archery in the Media

Episode #34: How Archery Gets Portrayed Inaccurately in the Media 

Discussion of how not shoot a bow by modeling Hollwood, book covers, and other art

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/13th%20hr%2034.mp3

The Hunger Games movies and books have created a resurgence in archery as a sport.  A lot of times, beginners will wrap a finger around the arrow to keep it from falling off.  But it’s best not to ever put your fingers anywhere near the tip of the arrow.

Some different grip styles of drawing a bow.  There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong – just depends on the gear you have.

The famous Diana statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  I originally thought she was using a thumb style draw.  But after looking at the statue more closely, she isn’t; she’s pinching the arrow nock, a common way beginners think bows are drawn (they can be, though it’s hard to manage a stronger pulling bow this way).  Since she’s supposed to be a hunter, probably not a hunting bow.

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Not sure what’s going on here – guess it’s some stylized version of the pinch grip.

Image result for archer drawing bow mechanical release

There are some situations where the drawing hand is in this position, but it’s when a mechanical release is used.

Here, Oliver Queen from Arrow shows an anchor point on his chin, important for accuracy, The position of his right hand seems a bit off in this photo, though I can’t imagine they were using real arrows on set.

Lara Croft from Tomb Raider (2013) shows the same.  This game actually portrayed archery pretty well, though there some artistic licenses clearly taken.

A floating anchor point (the drawing hand is not anchored to another part of the body, like the face or chest).   Not great for accuracy …

http://geekdad.com/2014/08/hawkeyes-fault/ – a funny article about the portrayal of Hawkeye in the Avengers movies.  The 2012 version of the comics, though, portrayed archery more realistically.

Needless to say, art is. of course. different from real life and gets a pass on one level for creative license.  But it makes it not the most reliable place from which to learn – at least when it comes to archery.

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News: free raffle for these three ebooks until 4/10! http://gvwy.io/9fdxaih

Brain to Books Fantasy Cyber Convention 4/8/16!

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #33: Archery and PVC Bows

Episode #33: Archery

https://archive.org/download/13thHrEps16On/13th%20hr%2033.mp3

This episode focuses on archery, which I’ve featured a few times on this blog (see links below) and on Instagram, since it features in The Thirteenth Hour, though it will play a bigger role in the yet-unnamed sequel.

https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/02/07/on-the-state-of-archery/

https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/on-the-state-of-lars-andersen-speed-shooting-and-armchair-quarterbackery/

If you’re interested in making your own bows and arrows, here are some posts and links to get you started.  Using PVC, you can make a cheap, durable, and powerful bow in an afternoon.  There’s still a learning curve, but it’s not nearly as steep as it would be to make a bow the traditional way.

Here’s how to make this takedown bow:

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Clicking on the picture will take you to an accompanying youtube video.

https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/how-to-create-your-own-three-piece-takedown-pvc-fiberglass-bow/

The blue bow below is a variation of the model above:

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https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/07/07/how-to-create-your-own-three-piece-takedown-pvc-fiberglass-bow-part-2-the-fourth-of-july-bow/

I’m working on a small how-to guide that goes into more depth on the making of the bows above as well as a crash course on archery – watch for more updates in the coming months.

The bows below as also takedowns of different designs:

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https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/09/06/the-imperial-ranger-three-piece-pvc-takedown-bow/

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https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/auroras-bow-a-compact-two-piece-pvc-and-fiberglass-tent-rod-takedown-bow/

Clicking on the picture above will take you to a video on youtube.

The bow below is a little different.  It’s a children’s bow made of bamboo, though repurposed from a Halloween costume prop.

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https://13thhr.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/the-halloween-bow/

This is the hunter’s bow from A Shadow in the Moonlight:

bow hunter

If you’re interested in learning more about this particular model, signing up for the mailing list will give you access to a special podcast that talks more about it.

I highly recommend you check out videos on youtube such as the Backyard Bowyer channel by Nicholas Tomihama as well as the Google plus community for PVC bowmaking, a great resource!

Next week, archery in the media!

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In other news, the 80s style ending song that I previewed last week is done.  As I mentioned before, I decided to write a song to accompany The Thirteenth Hour, a novel I wrote influenced by the 1980s films I loved as a child.  Those movies often had theme songs that played in the opening or ending credits referencing the story, title, or themes involved.  Sometimes, the lyrics were largely unintelligible but relied on a catchy riff or beat to carry the song.

“Searching for Forever,” with its synthesizer backing track, electric guitars, and lyrics that allude to various 80s songs and the plot of the book is my attempt to pay homage to this aspect of 1980s cinema.

You can hear it at https://joshuablum.bandcamp.com/track/searching-for-forever).  

As always, thanks for listening!

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The Halloween Bow

I happened to be in the store Party City the other day when I came across this:

download

Billed as a “Native American Bow and Arrow,” it carried a sticker price of $16.99, which I have to say, seemed kind of steep since it was only Native American by way of China and was mainly intended to be a costume accessory.  But looking closer, I saw a few interesting things.  Despite a rough finish, the central riser was hardwood, and the limbs were bamboo rather than, say, plastic.  The arrows were solid bamboo shafts and were likely way too heavy for this little 40″ bow, but it did get me thinking … what if it could be turned into something more than a costume accessory?  Could it serve as a functional, rather than decorative, bow and arrow?

The answer is yes, which I’ll detail below, though, to be honest, unless you can find it cheaper than 17 bucks, you’re better off making a bow out of PVC. You’ll get a better, stronger, and faster bow for much less money.  But … where’s the fun in that?  And so began another wayward project.

Here’s a picture of the bow taken out of the package:

2015-10-31 10.30.32For some reason, the manufacturers used a clear monofilament line (like a fat fishing line or a string from a classical guitar) for the bowstring.  Even more bizarrely, instead of cutting nocks in the ends of the bow, they drilled  holes in the distal parts of the limbs and threaded the string through that.  Kind of a fail, since doing that weakened the limbs, but, to fair, they were never intended to be very functional anyway.  However, for my purposes, it also limited the bow’s draw to less than 20″ (15 or 16″, I think, definitely less than the length of the included arrows, which were 20″ long; at that draw length, it pulled about 10#).  So all this needed to be changed.

Here was the bow’s profile unstrung:

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Not too different from the strung profile, huh?  I heated up the limbs with a heat gun and gradually bent them forwards to reduce the amount of deflex:

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I thought about recurving the ends more, but with the holes drilled in the ends, the area would be weaker, so I decided against it.  I did cut nocks in the ends, extending the limb length another inch and half or so.2015-10-31 12.17.56

There was a central cutout in the riser with an arrow rest intended for a left handed shooter, but since it neither lined up with string nor reduced the archer’s paradox in any way, I got rid of it and reshaped the handle a little to be more comfortable to hold. Then I wrapped it with the cloth strap that came with the bow and wrapped it with a leather thong:

2015-10-31 12.17.28

Here’s the bow strung:

2015-10-31 12.17.23

It now draws to about 22″ and pulls about 15#. Not going to win an power or speed awards, for sure, but with these minimal changes and a properly matched set of youth arrows, it could actually serve a starter bow for young hands.  I’ll save it for my daughter when she’s big enough to use it.  Can anyone else think of ways to modify this Halloween bow?

Speaking of which, Happy Halloween, folks!

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details! 

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Aurora’s Bow – A Compact Two Piece PVC and Fiberglass Tent Rod Takedown Bow

In my last post, I wrote about the making of the Imperial Ranger takedown bow, a large, heavy 3 piece bow meant to emulate a warbow that was small enough to fit inside a backpack.  At the same time, I was also making the one which will be detailed in this post, which, in many ways, is the total opposite.  Whereas the Imperial Ranger bow was large and heavy, this one was designed to be as small and light as possible.  The Imperial Ranger was also complex (although not necessarily on purpose), whereas this one was designed to be straightforward and simple.  Yet, they both function as takedown bows able to fit in small spaces, and despite the small size, this one packs a punch – 50# of draw weight when pulled back to my draw length of 32″.

So what do you need to do to make a bow like this?

Here’s the materials:

  • One piece of 1/2″ Sch 40 white PVC pipe (I used a piece 36″ long)
  • One length of 3/4″ Sch 40 white PVC pipe for the handle (I used a piece 7″ long)
  • A flat hardwood coat hanger (I used one made of cherry; for strength, make sure the grain of the wood is running horizontally when the hanger is held in its hanging position)
  • Fiberglass tent poles (I used four, two per limb, each about 15″ long and 4 mm in diameter)
  • 550 paracord for the string (or your bowstring material of choice)
  • Heat gun
  • Gloves (for handling hot PVC)
  • Flattening jig (to flatten the PVC pipe once hot; see info below for more info)
  • PVC cement (optional)
  • Sandpaper
  • Saw
  • Spray paint and clear coat varnish (optional)
  • Leather for arrow rest and arrow strike plate (optional)

If you already have the tools (heat gun, saw, etc), this bow can be made cheaply (for under ten dollars – the main costs will be for PVC, paint, a can of Great stuff foam – the hanger and tent poles you may be able to find around the house or by repurposing stuff you find used).  This bow is not very complex to make, though if you’ve never made a PVC bow before, I highly suggest you make a few prior to attempting this one.  Or, check of the 3 piece PVC fiberglass rod bow post with the associated video or the updated Fourth of July bow for a hybrid PVC/fiberglass bow you can make in probably less than an hour.

PVC is a forgiving material.  Even so, practice does make the process easier, and making PVC takedown bows is more complex than one piece bows.  I highly recommend you check out videos on youtube such as the Backyard Bowyer channel by Nicholas Tomihama.  Though plenty of folks have uploaded videos of their creations, he, in particular, has a huge variety of tutorials (meant for both beginners and advanced PVC bowyers) to walk you through making PVC bows as well as the equipment you’ll need to make one, such as the flattening jig I mentioned above – easy to make once you’ve seen it, though more difficult to explain in isolation.

I’m going to pick up after the PVC pipe has already been flattened (in this case, I flattened the pipe in such a way that the handle was thicker and gave the limbs a gradual taper).  I next cut off the ends (~8″) of the wooden coat hanger to make wooden tips for the bow (called siyahs in archery terminology).  Wood is lighter than PVC, and the lighter ends allow the bow tips to move faster, theoretically increasing the velocity imparted to the arrow.  In order to attach the wooden tips to the PVC, the ends of the PVC pipe need to be heated until they swell back up again.  Then the wooden tips can be inserted inside (about 2″ should do) while the PVC is still hot.  When the PVC cools, it will shrink, forming a tight grip on the wooden siyahs.  It is important at this step to make sure the nocks line up.

Although I added more heat to bend the limbs forward just proximal to where the siyahs were inserted, thus reflexing the bow limbs (adding a bit more spring and draw weight), you don’t need to do that.  You can create a bow that has a simpler longbow shape as opposed to the one I ended up with.

At this point, after everything cools, you can string the bow and check its profile.  There should be fairly evenly bending limbs on both sides without major twisting.  If one area is bending more than the other, correct it now by gently heating the area until it puffs back out, then use gloved fingers to shape the limb.  This part is admittedly finicky and takes me the most time.  But it’s always a good idea to try to correct minor issues of limb asymmetry or misalignment now prior to progressing further.  For those that make wooden bows, this trial and error process of making the limbs draw as evenly as possible is akin to “tillering.”

When I was finished with this portion, I strung the bow and tested the draw weight – it was about 20-25# at 32″, which was about right for 1/2″ PVC.

Once I was satisfied with the profile, I cut the bow in half at the center.  I then heated up the piece of 3/4″ PVC and fitted it over the limb I’d designated as the lower limb.  A layer of PVC cement helped secure it in place.  I then heated and shaped the other end, making it a bit more of an oval shape in cross section to match the lower limb side.  In general, despite what I said above about making the limbs draw as uniform and evenly as possible, one limb may bend slightly more – this is fine.  Make that one the upper limb, since the grip is usually in the center of the bow, and the point where the arrow is resting is usually above that, meaning the upper limb needs to bend a little more to compensate for the arrow not being right at center.

Next came the rejoining of the two limbs.  This was not my first takedown attempt – I have been fiddling with them for the past six months or so – but still find that they can be persnickety things to get right.  Of course, there’s the simple fact that you must make an essentially “broken” bow function as if it were whole again without exploding in your face.  But if you take care, make sure the limbs are aligned and the junctions properly reinforced and not at particularly high stress areas, making a functioning and safe bow gets easier with time (though there can still be surprises, as my last post will attest).  No, for me, that hardest part is, in some sense, the simplest – once joined, getting the two pieces apart again.  It’s taken a lot of fiddling and some consultation from people smarter than I on the interwebs (i.e. youtube and the google plus PVC bow making community) to get it right.

So here’s the secret – heated PVC expands.  Cooling PVC shrinks.  So the trick to being able to get the 1/2″ limb out of the 3/4″ PVC piece once heated is to heat the end of the 1/2″ PVC limb, stuff it in the cool 3/4″ piece as best you can, then wait.  As the 1/2″ PVC limb cools, it will shrink in diameter, allowing you to pull it out again once cool.  It sounds simple (and is, once you know the trick), but I’ll be damned if it didn’t take forever on this particular bow to get right.  A layer of plumber’s grease on the joints hasn’t hurt, either 🙂

2015-08-13 12.09.03

Above is a picture of what the bow looked like when everything was assembled.  Then, since I had them lying around, I wondered what would happen if I added some small (4 mm diameter) fiberglass tent pole rods in the limbs.  I had a bunch lying around that I’d found somewhere, and since they were about 15 inches long, I figured they could fit easily into the flattened limbs.  I was able to fit two in each limb, which I “glued” in place with expanding Great Stuff foam (which comes in a spray can and is used to seal holes around doors and such – a wonder of modern technology that I both admire and curse.  Two words – wear gloves.  You will be glad.)

Once everything was dry (I let the foam cure for about a week, I think), I reassembled it and tested the draw weight.  I was surprised at how much the draw weight had shot up – somewhere in the upper 40s to low 50s – an increase of 20-25# of draw weight just from using the two thin fiberglass rods in each limb.

From there, it was just the finishing touches – a few coats of spray paint and clear coat lacquer, a grip, an arrow rest, and a string with nocking point wound on.  The pictures do these details better justice than my descriptions could.

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 Final specs:

  • Length nock to nock when strung: 45″
  • Unstrung length: 47.5″
  • Length of each limb: 27″ for the lower, 22″ for the upper
  • Brace height: 4.75″
  • Draw weight: ~50# at 32″
  • Speed: varied considerably from 166 fps – 194 fps with the 446 grain arrow I used; I suspect due to inherent inaccuracy in the sound based app I used to test the speed, but after averaging the four values I obtained together, it came to 179.25 fps.

So how does it feel to shoot?  Well, it’s small, light, and solid.  The brace height is low and is probably more comfortable to shoot with an arm guard on, since the string sometimes snaps the wrist or heel of the hand.  Since it’s such a small bow, the angle the string makes with the fingers is fairly acute, so comfort-wise, it could be better.  And it stacks a little at the end (meaning the draw weight jumps up the last inch or so), but given the small size, I expected that.  I’m surprised it can go back as far as it can without collapsing.  All in all, I’m happy with the way it turned out.  Given its speed and pull, it goes to show that appearances can be deceiving.  It makes a nice little companion to its larger partner bow, the Imperial Ranger takedown.

If that bow was meant for Logan in The Thirteenth Hour, then this one is meant for his partner in crime, Aurora – smaller, lighter, but just as fast, strong, and versatile.  And so, ladies and gents, that’s where the bow in the title gets her name.  You will see more of Aurora and her bow in the as-of-yet-unnamed sequel to The Thirteenth Hour.  So stay tuned!  Until then, I leave you with a picture of Aurora from when she last fired a bow in the The Thirteenth Hour.

aurora with dragonWM

VIDEO UPDATE!! (1/5/16)

There is now a showcase video that accompanies this post.  Click on the youtube link to be taken to it.

Here are some animated gifs made from the video above that show the bow in action:

bow shoot 1

bow shoot 2

Reference List

3 piece PVC fiberglass rod bow post and video and the updated Fourth of July bow (quick and easy hybrid PVC/fiberglass bows)

Backyard Bowyer channel by Nicholas Tomihama and a link to his book on takedown archery

Flattening jig video

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details! 

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The Imperial Ranger Three Piece PVC Takedown Bow

 … My shooting equipment was back in my cabin, including the three–part take–down bow we’d all been issued with the quiver of arrows fitted for my bow and draw length, but even though I was better with my own equipment, it would take too much time to get it, so I grabbed a spare shooting glove, a bracer, the longest arrows I could find, and a warbow with the heaviest pull I could accurately manage from the ship’s arsenal and rushed out onto the deck, where the men were firing away diligently with flaming arrows.  The monster swatted most of the projectiles away.  The few that did hit the serpent bounced off, and the fire fizzled away against the animal’s wet exterior.  The serpent was playing a game with us.  I could have sworn that it was smiling …

Aside from the fight with the sea serpent, this passage from The Thirteenth Hour makes mention of a “three-part take-down bow” that the soldiers in the passage (Imperial Rangers) have been issued.  And although I didn’t draw a picture of that particular bow being used, I did later draw an idea for one:

Imperial Ranger LoadoutWM

If you notice in the upper left hand corner, there’s a three part takedown bow.  Although I wrote about this before, the bows I created in those two posts (1 and 2) didn’t really look like the one in the drawing.

So I decided I’d continue fiddling until I could replicate something more closely resembling the drawing.  Since the drawing above was meant to be a page taken from a general training manual for these special soldiers, I decided to give myself the flexibility of some artistic license with the design and come up with a 3 piece take down bow (made of PVC) that was both functional and worthy of being issued to an Imperial Ranger.

To back up a bit, I have been making bows out of PVC pipe for the past few years.  There is a wealth of information out there on how to do it, and I wish I’d known about it sooner, as it has revitalized my interest in archery in a way that no store bought bow ever could.  In any event, the general idea is that because PVC can be flattened when heated, you can basically bend it into (almost) whatever shape you want.  If flattened, the once semi-rigid pipe will bend easily, and owning to the inherent resilience of the material, it will generally spring back to its previous shape.  And because PVC is cheap, easy to find (at least here in the US), and easy to work with, the learning curve for making a bow out of PVC pipe is low, much lower than making a similar bow from wood.  So for this project, I decided I’d try to make a PVC takedown bow that Logan, the main character, would have carried.

Here were some early plans:

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

2015-09-06 09.07.11

My original idea was to have a central riser made of thick diameter PVC where the limbs, presumably made of thinner, more flexible PVC, would fit inside.  I thought that if the joints were reinforced with an outer sleeve and inner fiberglass rods, it would provide sufficient rigidity to make this central part of the bow strong enough to withstand the stresses of being bent and released, despite the inherent weakness of a takedown design.

Well, as it turns out, the design I picked – a Cupid’s bow shape reminiscent of an upper lip – has lots of stress on the limbs at those exact spots where I decided to split the bow in thirds. Whoops.  As you can see in the picture below, this central piece had a bunch of parts – the main piece of 1″ PVC, another outer sleeve heated and wrapped around the handle for strength, two inner 3/4″ PVC pieces to serve as guide posts for the hollow PVC limbs, and (not shown, two fiberglass rods inserted in the ends of the white pipe for rigidity).

IMG_6108I only figured none of this was going to work after making a prototype, which naturally took quite a bit of time.  Despite all the reinforcements, there was still too much stress on the joints to be safe.  Needless to say, I was, how shall we say, somewhat … peeved?

But that’s the way it goes sometimes.  Making bows, like a lot of things in life, is sometimes about trial and error and not giving up when things don’t go your way.  There’s usually another solution.  So instead of scrapping the whole thing, I thought for awhile and decided to revise the design and make the takedown junctions in different places.

Here is the end result:

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I kept the original Cupid’s bow shape but split the limbs farther back in parts that didn’t bend as much.  Then I just glued the original joints together and filled the riser and limbs with Great Stuff foam (a real mess to work with) to add some resilience to the hollow limbs.  After a few coats of paint/clearcoat, a wrapped paracord handle, and arrow rest, and a string, the bow is what you see in the pictures.

DSC_0170  DSC_0172 DSC_0175

I used 1″ grey PVC pipe* for the whole thing (since that’s what I had around), so it’s heavy, and the reinforced grip is beefy.  It feels like a warbow.  Yet the takedown capability works well enough to fit in a backpack.

*if you’d like to make a bow like this, I’d probably recommend using 3/4″ white PVC, as it’s snappier than grey pipe and easier to work with than thicker diameter pipe.  But if grey pipe (Schedule 40 electrical conduit is what I had) is what you have, you can make a good bow as well, though the PVC is more apt to take a set once the bow is strung.

So how does it shoot, you might ask?  I have to test it at farther distances, but as far as the short distances in the basement go (5 yds), it’s easy to hit what I’m aiming at!  However, it creaks and groans when drawn like a geriatric racehorse the morning after a race.  I find this somehow oddly appropriate given that a guy like Logan would probably find it entertaining, in an albeit dark way, that he was trusting his life to something that sounded like it was going to fall apart.  Luckily, I think the groaning is mainly from some movement of the internals and the outer PVC stabilizing sleeve around the complex handle.  It hasn’t affected performance, as far as I can tell, and it’s a still a pleasure to shoot.  Not as smooth drawing as some other bows I’ve made, as there’s some stacking near the end of the draw, but it’s not bad.  At my 32″ draw, it pulls an even 50#, and shoots a 446 grain arrow somewhere in the 160-169 fps range (if my sound based chrono app is accurate).

Stay tuned for another takedown bow and a video in the near future!

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details! 

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How to Create Your Own Three Piece Takedown PVC-Fiberglass Bow Part 2: The Fourth of July Bow

A few months ago, I wrote up a little post about making a PVC fiberglass rod takedown bow and made an associated video.  That post has since been turned into a magazine article, which you can find in this month’s (July/Aug 2015) copy of Backwoodsman magazine, quite possibly my favorite magazine of all time and a great one for those that like to tinker with things and enjoy the outdoors.
2015-06-28 09.26.41

So I decided to do a redux of my original design with the goals of increasing the draw weight, getting an idea of the speed, and improving the appearance.  Without further ado, I present the Fourth of July bow (finished around the Fourth of July – happy belated Fourth for US readers – adorned with red, white, and blue).
IMG_6204IMG_620315 - 315 - 2IMG_6199The design is similar to the one I wrote about before, with a central PVC riser that fiberglass rods slide into.  This time, I added additional strength to the core by using three pieces of telescoping PVC: 1/2 inch pipe fitted into a heated piece of 3/4 inch pipe fitted into a heated piece of 1 inch PVC pipe.  I used a longer piece of 1/2 inch PVC than I did before, hoping the added resistance would increase the weight a little.  I also painted the riser metallic blue, added a grip, and an arrow rest for more comfortable shooting (before, the arrows were shot off the hand).  The fiberglass rods were wrapped in star-spangled duct tape that I think I found in a dollar store.

Sometimes I wish I had shorter arms, making buying shirts and finding arrows easier.  But, alas, I don’t, and sometimes a bow that works well for someone with more normal arms is uncomfortable for me.  For this one, I ended up sacrificing the draw weight a little in favor of comfort, figuring that the longer piece of PVC I used for the handle would still add more draw weight than what I had before.  I deflexed the handle of the bow (making it curve in) a bit to make it more forgiving to shoot (less likely to shoot up in weight in the last few inches, a.k.a. “stacking”).  At a 32 inch draw, it still pulls a modest but respectable 40 pounds and is comfortable even for my organutan arms.

I was curious to see how fast it would be, so used a phone app chronograph to get an idea of the speed.  I think there’s probably some variability in how well these apps work (they cleverly use the sound of the bowstring twanging and the sound of the arrow striking the target to estimate the bow speed), but they probably give you some idea.  Using 446 grain arrows, or about 11 grains per pound for this bow, here were some of the results:

15 - 715 - 6

So between 190-200 fps according to this app with that weight of arrow (446 grains) – on the higher side for the bows I’ve made with PVC, but given this one has light fiberglass rod limbs (capable of moving faster with a thinner profile than heavy PVC), I guess it’s not too surprising.

Interested in making one of these for yourself?  Go for it!  You can do it in a few hours, and even if you mess up, you’re only out a few bucks, making it easy to give it another go.  It’s pretty easy, though: check out the last video for a walkthrough, and see the parts list in my last post or in a copy of Backwoodsman magazine (where to find it).  Let me know if you have questions!

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details! 

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Videos are Now Also on Vimeo

Vimeo, a video sharing site like youtube, tudou, and facebook, to name a few, has a quite a few independent films in its catalog.  So I thought it might be a nice place to add content created for The Thirteenth Hour.  So far, I’ve uploaded the book’s trailer, the music video, and the bow creation video.  They’re already on youtube, but the more the merrier.

They’re available here: https://vimeo.com/13thhr

I have some ideas for a promo of A Shadow in the Moonlight which ties in a bow I recently made (the hunter’s bow from the story) – some shots of a hunter cloaked in black aiming his bow at an ethereal deer in a forested background. I don’t have any actors to use, so I may just end up using myself in a homemade costume, but there is magic in Adobe Premiere, me thinks, that may give even potential poo a glimmer of gold.  And I think a little movie (well, more like a 30 second commercial) might be fun to make.  So, when that’s done, I’ll upload it to vimeo as well.  As always, thanks for watching.

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How to Create Your Own Three Piece Takedown PVC-Fiberglass Bow

When I was writing and drawing the pictures for The Thirteenth Hour, I thought I’d give Logan and Aurora, the main characters, some unique gear.  Not to the level of James Bond-style stuff, just something a little distinctive.  Kind of like how Indiana Jones had his whip and hat, Luke Skywalker had his lightsaber, Marty McFly had his Delorean and flying hoverboard, etc.  I’ll cover some of these things in future posts, but this one will be on archery gear.

It’s not a huge part of the book, but I do have a few mentions about a three-piece takedown bow that Logan is issued (meaning a bow that can be broken down in to three pieces for ease of transport).  I figured these special soldiers should have something special up their sleeves when it came to their armament.  Something functional and compact, but with a bit of, how shall we say, elan (pardon the French).  Bows are, by nature, kind of bulky, and despite characters on TV using their bows as maces and staffs for braining people, they’re actually kind of delicate in some ways: large dents in the limbs from using the bow as a club would probably compromise the integrity of the wood; the string and wood are subject to temperature and humidity changes; bows should ideally be unstrung when not used so the limbs don’t take a set (and so on).  So I figured someone on the move without a lot of time to fuss over equipment would appreciate something that could be easily taken apart and packed in a backpack and wouldn’t be much longer than a quiver of arrows.

Hence, the three part takedown bow (nothing new from a modern perspective; but probably pretty neat in a less technologically advanced world, like the one in the book). Below is a picture of a generic Imperial Ranger with a typical loadout – note the bow in the upper left-hand corner.

Imperial Ranger LoadoutWM

So I figured, why not try to make one myself?  Although this is another topic entirely, it’s not difficult to make a bow quite cheaply and easily using PVC pipe that is heated and bent into the desired shape.  If you search on youtube (there is also a corresponding google+ community), you will find many such examples.

Although I’d made a number of PVC bows, the takedown ones never quite worked out until recently.  Luckily, PVC pipe is so cheap that experimentation is fairly painless.  In any event, this design, which did work, was so quick and easy I thought I’d share it.  It doesn’t look like the one in the picture above (that’s for a future project), but captures the spirit of what I was going for in the design: quick to take apart and put together, easy to use, and compact.

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This is an aside, but archery gear is, in my opinion, incredibly overpriced.  I can understand paying for bows that are handmade or made using difficult-to-work with materials (like horn).  No complaints there.  But most archery tackle is produced on a larger scale and with prices in the several hundreds of dollars for a bow (much more for a competition or top flight hunting bow); it’s beyond the reach of most people.  So although not related to the book, for this project, I wanted to make a bow that could be made quickly and easily out of readily found or re-purposed household items (in keeping with my roots of making bows out of household materials).

Here’s what you need to make it:

Untitled

The youtube video below documents the process of making the bow:

http://youtu.be/9NVO4Sc8YMs

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on it – via this site or through my email address (writejoshuablum@gmail.com).

Interested in making more PVC takedown bows?  I’d highly recommend looking for other examples on youtube as well as checking out the book Takedown Archery by Nicholas Tomihama for more details of making takedown PVC bows and more.

If you’d rather buy a takedown bow, there are, of course, many commercial examples to choose from.  You can also buy handmade PVC takedown bows from the following sellers at very reasonable prices:

1.) LLBows and Archery (see the takedown option)

2.) Jaycubl (see “Takedown Survival Recurve Bow Set”)

Happy creating and safe shooting!

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details! 

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On the State of Lars Andersen, Speed Shooting, and Armchair Quarterbackery

In my last post, I talked a little about how archery has been brought out of the dark ages in the last decade or so thanks in large part to popular media that have featured modern day Robin Hood-styled characters armed with bows.

So I thought for this post, I’d comment on a video that’s been making the internet rounds lately and currently has racked up over 25 million hits on youtube at the time of this writing, again catapulting archery into the limelight.  I didn’t even know there were 25 million people who even cared one way or another about archery, but you learn something new every day.

You’ll have to watch the video (linked above) to get the idea, but basically, Lars Andersen is a Danish archer who put together some videos of himself employing an unorthodox way of shooting where he holds arrows in the hand that draws bowstring, allowing him to shoot faster.  He also claims to have figured out this technique by reading old archery texts, which as far as I (or anyone knows), he certainly could have.  Bows and arrows have been around for a long, long time, there are lots of ways to shoot them, and lots that’s been written about them, some of which is probably good, some probably not, just like stuff written today.

So I can’t really comment intelligently on any of the historical aspects of what he says (that’s been picked apart ad nauseum by his critics anyway, as discussed below).  My only take on the historical bits is: isn’t all this conjecture now anyway?  How many people walk around wearing armor to ward off arrows these days?  Okay, yes, maybe if you work at a renaissance faire.  But even there, people are not being killed for the sake of entertainment.  And yes, although people can certainly argue about the practicality/lethality of whatever medieval military practice from a historical perspective, but, come on, people have guns to shoot each other with now.

Academics aside, what I will comment on is the level of fervor that the video has sparked.  You can read some on youtube or in any of the response posts (e.g. this one) and videos (e.g. this one).  Then, if you’ve gotten through those, here are two more pages of responses from facebook (1, 2).  It’s interesting that there are both Lars supporters and Lars haters, and like the US Congress of late, most of the time, they can’t seem to agree on anything other than their own personal view being right.  Occasionally, someone will concede Lars’ skill in a backhanded kind of way, saying something to the effect of, “Well, he obviously practiced a lot and is good at what he does, but 1.) these techniques wouldn’t be effective on a medieval battlefield, or 2.) he must be using a really light bow, or 3.) if I weren’t too (insert some pejorative personal characteristic), I could do that, too.

Which is probably true.  Perhaps we should all keep that in mind.  It’s a remarkably optimistic and hopeful view of personal achievement.  You know those those gold medals folks win at that thing called the Olympics?  Yeah, you could probably win those, too.  Yup, just like that.  President of the United States?  Sure!  Why not?  Anyone can do it, right?  Made it to the NFL?  Finally got your PhD?  Ehh, no big deal, sure, you could do it if, you know, you tried.  But you don’t feel like doing that right now.  But later, you know, no problem.  Just let me send a few text messages and finish this can of Pringles first.

To be fair, Lars’ supporters also end up sporting the same kind of fanboy/girlism in the veracity of their support (just read the comments in some of the links).  But this kind of thing is nothing new.  People are divided on lots of polarizing topics, both big and small – Republican vs. Democrat, PC vs. Mac, Sega Genesis vs. Nintendo, Apple vs. Android (actually, my brother wrote an article that touched on the latter two), pro vaccination vs. delayed/no vaccination, prochoice vs. prolife, Nancy Kerrigan vs. Tonya Harding … the list goes on and on.  I guess the only difference now is that the internet has given anyone with access to it an honest, uninhibited voice to be heard in a public forum with the anonymity of a computer screen that protects against real-life retaliation, violence, and social ostracization.  Because when you turn the computer off, all those flame wars go away.

Or do they?

One does have to wonder, when Lars’ staunchest opponents are alone with their bows, those moments when the range is empty or they are in their backyards somewhere where no one can see – do they get an urge to fiddle around and see if they can figure out how Lars shoots?  Do they flip on one of his youtube videos on their phones or computers, try to copy what he does, and mutter under their breaths, “Wait, what does he do again?” and then go back and rewind for a better look?

And one has to wonder – what about all of Lars’ supporters?  For all their staunch online defense, what do they get?  They flip on one of his youtube videos, try to copy what he does, and mutter under their breaths, “Wait, what does he do again?” and then go back and rewind for a better look … is that what happens, too?

That, I would say, is my main critique of the video – the man doesn’t tell you exactly what he does and how he does it.  And that is … damned frustrating in this age of instant gratification of information available at our fingertips.  But why should he?  I mean, if *you* read ancient texts from the library of Alexandria (or whatever) and figured out a lost secret hundreds of years old, would you give that shizat out for free?  Hellz, no!

So, at over 25 million views, he clearly did something right.  Whatever publicity he gets, good or bad, it’s good for him.  And hopefully, good for archery as well.

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Not that this really relates to anything, but what would Logan from The Thirteenth Hour think of all this?  I always pictured him as the kind of guy who held his arrows in the same hand that held the bow (or stuck them in his pants, like in the picture below).

He seemed like the kind of guy who wasn’t really organized enough to, you know, have all his arrows in an actual quiver.  I pictured him as someone who’d just grab a few on the fly and then kind of hope for the best.  So I’d guess he’d like the idea of the Lars Andersen technique of holding arrows and might try it a few times but, in the end, scratch his head in confusion, shrug, say the hell with it, and go do something he liked better, like skipping rocks or something.  Because he wasn’t really a guy who was super into archery.  For him, it was just a means to an end.  A tool in his tool chest.  And that gets to the idea that, at the end of the day, archery today, which is done as a hobby, should be fun.  Lars Andersen says so on his youtube page, and that’s probably something we can all agree on.

(P.S. If you actually want to lean to shoot like Lars, I have found only one place – so far – that attempts to reverse engineer and explain what he might be doing – see this youtube playlist for more info.  It’s harder than it looks!).

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details! 

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On the State of Archery

For awhile when I was a kid, I wanted nothing more to be an American Indian.  Of course, my conception of being an Indian largely revolved around making fishing poles, shooting bows and arrows, and running around in the woods.  That’s pretty much it.  I’m sure I would have been disappointed to find out anything else, but such is life as a child.

One of my favorite books, The Sign of the Beaver, had a chapter where the main character learns to make a bow.  The premise of the book is that the young boy, left alone in the woods while his father leaves for months to bring his mother and sister to their cabin, is eventually befriended by an Indian tribe, who teach him how to eck out a life for himself without the white man’s tools (like coal and black powder).  They also teach him a fair bit of their culture.  Such subtleties of plot and culture, were, of course, lost on my twelve-year-old self.  The part I remember is the bow chapter, of course, which I dogeared to read 20+ times.

Thus began my odyssey with the bent stick.  And many a stick I bent, many more I broke.  For some reason, I tended to use the worst wood possible.  Do you know those flat pieces of wood that are in vinyl shades?  The piece near the bottom to give you something to grip when pulling down the shade?  I’d pull those slats out, tape a few together, attach a string, and there would be a functional, if weak, bow.  Sometimes, I’d find a piece of flat molding in the garage and try using that.  The problem with all these attempts was that the wood was almost always pine, which was entirely too soft a wood to use for a proper bow.  So these all inevitably broke with enough use or if I drew them back too far.  I had slightly more luck trimming fallen branches from the oak and maple trees in our yard and making arrows out of relatively straight wooden dowels I found lying around the house.  Even with the instructions from The Sign of the Beaver, all these bows inevitably broke and/or did not shoot terribly well.

Eventually, my father either took pity on me or decided that he’d had enough of me shooting holes in the drywall and took me to a real archery range about 20 minutes from our house, where, presumably, I could shoot holes in someone else’s drywall.  There, I learned how to properly shoot a bow.  So, for a few years, this became a kind of weekly ritual which I now look back on fondly – my father would take me to the range for a few hours on Friday night, and he and my younger brother would go do some grocery shopping or other errands.  My brother always loved these outings, as I recall, since he usually managed to get my father to take him to a comic book shop that wasn’t far away from the range.

If you’ve never been to an archery range, it’s quite different from a range where there are firearms.  It’s less noisy, of course, so no one needs to wear ear protection.  Eye protection is not needed, either.  I’m not sure about this, but I imagine that people being less walled-off against the potential self-inflicted dangers of their weapons probably lets down other social barriers as well.   Imagine it being kind of like being in a bar on a weeknight (like, say, Tuesday) minus the alcohol.  There are a group of regulars – generally men in their forties to sixties, often hunters, sitting around chatting, smoking, fiddling with their equipment, and occasionally taking a few shots with their bows.  The TV is usually playing in the background (or at least the radio).  There’s usually an area to buy food, often a vending machine, but occasionally a convenience store-style fridge with cold drinks, and these machines sometimes see more action than the bows do.  The decor is decidedly seventies at best – wood paneling is the usual staple, and perhaps not surprisingly, women are a sort of rarity (this may be changing though, more below).  The atmosphere is generally warm and relaxed, with plenty of good-natured ribbing, but in a casual sort of way.  The smells are earthy and homey – stale coffee, cigarettes, wood finish, and oil.  The sounds are as well – chatter from the men discussing their latest hunt, the laugh track from whatever sitcom is playing on the TV, the twag of bowstrings with thunks as the arrows thud into the backstops downrange, and someone occasionally yelling, “clear!” – the signal that it’s safe for all to walk down and retrieve arrows.

All in all, not a bad place for a pre-pubescent boy to observe groups of men in their natural habitat.  I was generally the only kid there, but I don’t think anyone really minded.  Occasionally, someone would stop by to give me pointers, ask about my bow, or help me adjust the sights (that thing was always getting knocked out of alignment) so I could actually hit something.  But for the most part, people let me do my thing.  It’s not like women and children were prohibited, because as far as I know, there was no age minimum to shoot, and there was no “No girls allowed!” sign on the door, at least not literally.

What was clear, even to a pre-pubescent boy, was the range represented an escape for these men.  An escape from the daily grind of their jobs and other aspects of their lives, a chance to revel in the glory of a hunt, a chance to hone their skills in a martial craft from an era when men relied on bows to bring food to the table and defend their homes, and a chance to do, you know, stereotypical male things – burp, fart, scratch their genitalia, eat junk food, tell dirty jokes, watch bad TV, comment on the relative hotness of the actresses on said bad TV shows – all in a place where no one else would really care, either.  But if you asked them, I’m sure plenty of the guys in the range would have loved having more women around – at least, in theory.  Having a mix of genders does change the dynamic somewhat (sometimes for the better, sometimes probably less so).

All that was over twenty years ago, so things may have changed, and who knows, I may be remembering things differently from the way they actually were.  Such is the way with memories. At the time, archery seemed less … public.  Less well-known, from a bygone day, more like something out of the back of an old comic book.  Cool in an old Boy Scout knife kind of way, but not exactly on par with soccer, basketball, hanging out at the mall, or whatever other kids my age were doing with their time.  Of course, there were notable popular cultural exceptions (see below for pictures).  There was always Robin Hood and his famous splitting the arrow trick, in paper, animated, and live action forms.  There was Rambo, the Army Ranger still mentally grinding through Vietnam that could live off the land and eat things that would make a billy goat puke, who did quite well for himself with a bow.  And there was Arnold Schwarzenegger, using a homemade bow to defend himself against the Predator.  And there are probably plenty of other good examples that I’m not mentioning.

Today, however, bows are a part of popular culture in a way that even Robin Hood, Rambo, and Arnold could never have competed with.  A few examples out of many: The archer, Katniss, from The Hunger Games series, is pretty much a household name (and I wouldn’t be surprised if a rash of people in 2014-2105 name their kids after the character).  (See this article from the NY Times on the impact of the character on archery.)  The DC comic book hero Green Arrow, a sort of Bruce Wayne equivalent in a different city sporting a bow rather than a Batarang, has his own TV show, on its third season, no less.  Hawkeye, the Marvel equivalent archer, is a character in the popular Avengers movie and has a rebooted solo comic series.  The popular video game Skyrim has a number of fantasy style bows to use from both a third and first person perspective (see this article for other games with bows).   And the Tomb Raider reboot in 2013 had a young Lara Croft sporting a bow as her default weapon rather than her usual twin pistols, and thanks to well designed controls, it was surprisingly intuitive and easy to use.

aurora with dragonWMLogan fighting sea serpent updatedWM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Archery featured in The Thirteenth Hour

At the time when I wrote the first draft of The Thirteenth Hour, I just put in little bits of archery here and there because I liked it and thought it fit with the world the characters inhabited.  But certainly most people in the wider culture couldn’t have given, as King Darian, a character in the book says, “two rat’s rears” about it then.  So I guess if you wait around long enough, things become popular that weren’t.  And I’m sure the rise and surge in archery lessons brought on by the appearance of all these big screen heroes with bows will ebb and eventually die down after people discover that 1.) archery equipment is (still) way overpriced, 2.) owning a bow does not make you shoot like Katniss Everdeen, Hawkeye, or Green Arrow, and 3.) like anything else, it takes a lot of work and practice.

I do hope, however, that archery will emerge better than before given this recent surge in popularity.  In terms of society as a whole, goodness knows modern civilization can benefit from any kind of activity that gets us off our duffs and using our muscles for something other than texting.  I also hope that archery itself will see this as an opportunity to recruit a more diverse constituency and in turn, begin to tolerate a wider array of practices.  It’s fine to nit pick about correct form and all, but at the end of the day, people have been shooting bows for thousands of years, and there are plenty of ways to shoot a bow from all over the world, not all of which are the ways people are taught now (at least here in America).  At the end of the day, if you can hit what you’re shooting at, shouldn’t that be good enough?

In the next few posts, I’ll continue this topic with a few more archery-related posts.

 Disney’s Robin Hood

Rambo

Arnold aiming at the Predator

Katniss from The Hunger Games trilogy

Green Arrow taking aim with a hybrid compound recurve in Arrow

 The Marvel Hawkeye comic series

 Skyrim – the game already has a many bows in it; this is one of the many mods for it that just happens to be about making the bows even better …

 Lara Croft taking aim in Tomb Raider (2013)

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details! 

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The Thirteenth Hour Kindle Edition 60% Off Sale – This Week!

Get The Thirteenth Hour for the Kindle this week for $1.99, as opposed to its usual $4.99 price!

That’s a discount of 60%!

Want to try before you buy?  Check out the links below for excerpts and other free stuff.

Here’s the link to amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Thirteenth-Hour-Joshua-Blum/dp/1505792673/ref=as_sl_pc_tf_til?tag=thethihou-20&linkCode=w00&linkId=UDBZIFI4NFSPCHG6&creativeASIN=1505792673

logan and aurora castle grounds moonWM

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One sentence summary: a nontraditional faerie tale for adults about a young man and his childhood friend who journey to the ends of the Earth to find the secret of eternal life for a narcissistic King, learning a little about living, loving, dying, and dreaming in the process.

You might like this book if you enjoy … 

  • 1980s fantasy and scifi films
  • books like The Neverending Story by Michael Ende or Stardust by Neil Gaiman
  • adventures with unassuming, introspective protagonists
  • coming of age stories
  • irreverent (probably politically incorrect) humor
  • fantasy art
  • martial arts
  • gymnastics/acrobatics
  • archery
  • throwing cards
  • skipping stones
  • contemplating the nature of human existence
  • backflipping chimpanzees (yes, there is one)

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