The Exile Files

Raging Against the Outrageous. Laughter and Insanity Abound.

Making a Bowstring

Posted by Exile on October 21, 2021

…isn’t easy either.

In the middle ages they used flax. These days we use other materials, polyesters and other strange things. I went for dacron, which is a polymer thing and is very strong. One starts by making 7 huge loops at a couple of metres in length and then cut the loops to form two cords of material, each one with seven strands. Wax the ends to form a more solid cord and keep them seperate from each other to avoid tangles. Now one overlaps two ends and begins to twist the cords together to form a string. At some point one has created enough twisted string to form a loop. The overlap has to be long enough to allow room to twist the two sides of the loop together to start forming the string, This is done by combining the two shorter ends made while forming the loop with the opposite string. Continue twisting until the ends are gone. This leaves one with a string with a loop in one end and a lot of untangling to be done on the remaining string.
Go to the other end and choose a point well up on the string. Wax the two strands and begin twisting them together until one reaches the end. Tie a simple knot to end the process.

All a bit difficult to explain, difficult to do and requires a good deal of manual dexterity and patience.
The string then gets put on the bow. Tie a timber hitch (known now as a bowyers knot) to attach the string to the bottom nock and the loop goes into the top nock. Bow strung.

The string isn’t finished yet. It has to be served. This is a process where one whips a thin thread around the string, covering a little more than six inches in length, to protect it from wear from the arrow nocks and your fingers. A simple machine is required to do it nicely but one can wind thread on by hand if one does not possess such a simple tool. Whipping is precise and, again, not easy. Finishing the whipping is especially time consuming as one has to suddenly reverse the proces and bury the loose end under the whipping.
Having got that job out of the way one needs to define the point at which the arrow meets the string and set another nock to mark that point. Make that by whipping a small thread around the string, over the serving or use a brass nock ring squeezed into place with a small tool designed specifically for such an operation.

And that’s it. You’re done. And your fingers hurt. Never mind. You can now use the bow, which makes the whole process worthwhile!

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Making a Longbow

Posted by Exile on October 20, 2021

…isn’t easy,
It all started at the archery club. A friend turned up and gave me a limb that he had cut from a yew tree. “Here. Make a longbow.” I took the limb and looked at it for a while. “How?”, I asked.
”You’ll figure it out.”, he said, leaving me to it.
The limb was seven feet long, very knotty and not straight. I studied it for days. Having decided where the best option was for getting something out of it, I went to it with a hatchet and began roughing out the shape of a longbow. It was very tapered at the top, so that bit had to go. I was left with about six feet of wood decorated with knots and pits. I debarked the limb and carefully left the top layer of sapwood intact. This will be the back of the bow and it must be unbroken. The sapwood will tolerate the stretch and the heartwood will bear the compression in the belly of the bow. Which is why yew is the best wood for a bow.

Draw-Knife Roughing out is a big job but refining the bow takes a little more delicate working. I did this with a draw knife and a spokeshave. Traditional tools for the bowyer but somewhat untested by me, Also the traditional way to do this is on a shave horse. I don’t have one and I wasn’t going to build one, so I had to get creative with a wooden frame and my workshop vise. After a lot of shaving, studying and more shaving I finally had something resembling a bow. Knotty and not quite straight but a good facsimile, I decided it was time to start tillering.

Tillering is done on a tillering tree. I had to make one. It consists of a pole with a small platform on the top to ballance the bow on and a pulley system to hook to the bowstring. By pulling on the string from a distance one can see how the bow is bending. Start gently. Too much and you will break the bow. One is looking for weak spots as well as parts of the limbs that are not bending. Those unbending areas have to be reduced. Leave the weaker spots alone. Eventually the limbs will bend evenly and uniformly. Continue until the bow will bend to the draw length that one requires. I went to 28 inches.
Reducing the limbs was done with a spokeshave and a scraper. Use both sparingly and remove very little wood at a time. Spokeshave A long process, but necessary to get the bow working properly.

Finally I had a bow. Unfinished, but ready for the final dressing and fitting of nocks and grip and string. All these things have to be made, I got hold of some horn to make the nocks. I found some fine leather to fashion a grip and I had to shop for materials with whch to make a string. Dacron thread, a serving machine, serving thread and wax.

I started with the nocks. One takes the tip of a horn and bores a conical hole up the middle. Then one sharpens the tips of the limbs of the bow to fit snugly into said conical holes. This is best done with a rasp and a file. Again, it takes time and multiple test fittings. The nocks need a groove carved into them to accomodate the string, Use a rat tail file to do this. It makes the fingers ache but it does get the job done. The grooves in the top nock have to follow the line of the string that will be made once the string is on the bow. Not easy and requiring a good eye, I worked at it for a long time. The bottom nock is different. It requires a larger groove which covers the entire circumference of the nock. A bowyers knot gets tied into that groove. It has to be angled slightly  to take the string which will tighten all around the nock.
Satisfied that all was as good as it was ever going to be, I set the nocks in place and glued them with epoxy.
The leather grip was easy. Cut a square(ish) piece of leather and simply glue it to the bow. I used a spray on adhesive for this. It allowed me to strecth the leather to fit. Now for the really easy part. Get a cup of tea and wait for the glue to dry.

I’m still far from finished. I need to make a string and the bow needs to be properly finished and the nocks need refining, but I am waiting until I have tried the bow before I invest more time in it. I want to get the string on and test shoot with it. I have arrows, I have a target face and a range I can use.
Tomorrow will be a stringfellow day. I’ve never made a bowstring before. I have seen a few tutorials on Youtube….
It’s going to be another interesting day…

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Grandson’s Tool chest.

Posted by Exile on June 3, 2021

I want one, Grandad. So that was that.

IMG_0689He wanted a tool chest to keep all his tools in, just like mine. Jealousy is a wicked mistress and I couldn’t have that sort of thing going on around here. So off to the lumber yard it was and buy wood. I decided I’d make one similar to my own but scaled down to suit him. He has a collection of tools but not as many as I and his are smaller, where that can be so.
He has a Nr. 3 plane that he can use, a saw, a square, screwdriver, clamps, a hammer embossed with his name, a tape rule, a straight steel rule, pencils and other bits and pieces. He can use most of them quite well. For a ten year old, he’s getting quite profficient.

Putting it all together for him wasn’t difficult. I had learned a lot while making my own tool chest so the work went quickly. I made a few dividing pieces to fit his tools and even gave him one of my Nr. 4 planes to use when he gets bigger. The lid is limited on opening by a steel chain and the bottom drawer is a direct copy of the one I made for myself. I filled it with his tools and waited for the weekend to roll around. He comes to stay every other weekend. I showed him the chest on the saturday morning.
He was thrilled, describing it as being “The coolest thing ever.”

We discussed how we should finish it. I suggested varnish or stain. “I want to paint it blue.” he said.  So we had to go and get paint.
Blue is his favourite colour. I bought a 2” paintbrush while I was there. I reckoned he could paint the thing while I watched. That’s how they learn.

IMG_0718_InPixioAnd paint it he did. Twice. We left it overnight to dry properly. It turned out very well. He stood back to admire his work and found a terrible flaw in the whole arrangement. It doesn’t have wheels, Grandad. So that had to be put right immediately. It now has wheels.

He’s pleased with it all. While we were in the shed, I had him make a bench hook to add to his tool collection. He used his own tools, did it in his own time and was pleased with the result.
He’s going to be quite the carpenter one of these days…

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Wakey Wakey…

Posted by Exile on May 30, 2021

Time to rise and shine, Thumper…

The weather was wonderful today. It hasn’t been of late, well below the average temperature and short on sunshine.  Global warming hasn’t kicked in around here, again. I’m beginning to think it’s all nonsense…
Anyhow, I thought it was time to bring my motorcycle out of hibernation and take a quick spin round the block to remove dust and cobwebs. That all sounds reasonable and why not? The sun was shining from a cloud free sky and the temperature was, well, reasonable. The thing is, one cant just jump on and ride off without doing a few basic checks. Lord knows what 6 months of inactivity could do to electrics, tyres, oil and fuel and I don’t like surprises…
The tyres had lost pressure. Easily solved, I have a compressor and a tyre pressure attachment. I checked for oil but since there was none on the floor under the bike then I know he hasn’t lost any. I pulled the dipstick anyway. No problem. I put the battery on a charger for a half hour. It was then fully charged, The electrics all worked with a turn of the key. Lights, horn, brake lights and all the instrument lights were working. Now to the fuel. We have to live with ethanol. It is in all our fuel. It might be clean and cheap or whatever but it isn’t good for anything remotely related to rubber or plastic and it attracts water. I checked all the lines for breaks or brittleness and then turned the fuel supply on. Sure enough, I was leaking fuel from the tiny float bowl under the fuel tap. There is a rubber washer in there and it had shrunk. I managed to tighten the bowl but I know that little rubber washer needs replacing now. It won’t last another year.
OK. Everything done up, checked and tightened where necessary. We’re ready for the off.
Boots, helmet and gloves on, I climbed aboard and attempted a start. Not entirely straight forward with a big single Royal Enfield Bullet…. It’s ritual. Pull in the clutch and kick it over to free the clutch plates as they will stick  together like crap on a blanket. Then open the decompressor to get the piston over top dead centre, Close the decompressor. Set the stop/start switch to “run”. Ignition on, start help on the carburettor on and give it a kick. Pray.
If at first you don’t succeed, give it another kick.. and then a third…
Damn, it was so good to hear that big 500 cc engine roar into life. Even my neighbour cheered…
And then I was off, round the block a few times to get used to riding again. I’m more rusty than the bike. If I didn’t have a stinking cold right now I would still be out there but not being able to blow my nose every five minutes is so aggravating that I had to give up any thoughts of a good long thrash for the time being. But OK, Thumper is ready for that now. It won’t be long before we’re back on the road for more fun and games.. Let summer begin.

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Not Worth Losing Your Head Over…

Posted by Exile on April 26, 2021

It was a youngster weekend again.

My grandson was here for his fortnightly stay with the old ‘uns. He enjoys these weekends, no pressure, all fun and my wife spoils him rotten. His birthday is on the 1st of January and, due to things way beyond our control, we didn’t get him a birthday present. It was promised and not forgotten. He wanted a remote controlled “Mario” go kart. Better late than never, we got him one and he was given it on arrival at our home. Some assembly required. The battery pack has to be charged and fitted and batteries for the controller need to be loaded into the back. No problem and quickly done.

MarioThe kart wouldn’t turn to the left. It went in a straight line and to the right but refused to go the other way. I told him to read the instruction booklet but what ten year old ever did that? So I did. I had to. The kart needs to be trimmed to the controller. One does this by pressing the “trim” button and getting the thing to run straight. Then switch “trim” off and try again. That worked. Hosanna! Jubilation! So off to the street outside and see what this thing can do. It does about 20 kph. That’s 12 mph in old money.

I told the lad to take it easy until he had some idea of the capabilities of the kart. Steering and speed and so on. Again, what ten year old boy does that?
Nope. not mine. It was full speed ahead and no holds barred.
This was great fun for a while but then the inevitable happened. He ran it at full speed into the kerbstone. The kart stopped but Mario’s head continued and bounced across the pavement, disappearing into the hedge.

I thought, he’ll be upset now. He’ll scream and shout and bawl. The world will end for him right here. I expected a right old fuss.

Not a bit of it.

He looked at me with calm and control written all over his little face. “You can glue that back on, Grandad.” he said. Infinite trust. Absolute belief in what he said. I was quite taken aback.
I reckon we can, I said and retrieved Mario’s head from the hedge.

Off to the shed then. This could also be a learning moment for him. Two part epoxy should be on everyone’s list of stuff to have lying around. I explained what two part epoxy is, a resin and a hardener. Mix in equal amounts. He was very attentive, but then again, he always is in the shed. We mixed it, found a little stick to spread it with and set Mario back together again. Leave it until the morning, I said.

It worked. Mario is as good as new and the lad is driving it happily and, perhaps, a little more carefully  once again.

One can’t even see the repair.

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As Time Goes By..

Posted by Exile on April 23, 2021

…so says the old song..

A year ago I bought a watch for my dear wife. Not just any old watch, no, she wanted a Tag Heuer Aqua with mother of pearl and other blingy bits like gold and a diamond. I found one, bought it and wept at the sight of my greatly reduced wallet. She loves it and has worn it every day since she got it.
The time has come for a service of this expensive piece. We have a service agreement, the first two are free and they are annual. Corona has hindered us in getting in on time but they were very understanding at the jewellers and “no problem, Sir” was the order of the day. So far so good.

Seiko Presage automatic_InPixioFourteen years ago, I bought my own watch there too. A Seiko, fully automatic, generator and batteri driven. It has served me very well. It is also in need of a service. The weight that drives the works has become noisy and the second hand moves in a less than ideal manner. I delivered it at the same time and, again, no problem. They will ring and give me a price. All is well.

Now neither my wife or I have a watch at present. (Not entirely true because I have a few cheap ones for daily use in the garden and the shed, but not, well, nice.)

Then this thing caught my eye as I was leaving the shop. As a secondary accoutrement it will serve my purposes. It will (hopefully) not be a replacement for my grand Seiko but one does need to consider one’s appearance.

Again a Seiko, automatic, from the “Presage” series. Not terribly expensive but elegant enough and it isn’t too heavy.

So I bought the thing.

The dear wife says it’s nice. Thank heavens….

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Thieving Mouse..

Posted by Exile on April 18, 2021

I thought I was feeding a hedgehog. We have one or two that come round, one spent the winter here in another house. This house was set up as a feeding station and resting place for itinerant hedgies. Something was taking the food so I decided to set up the trail camera and catch the hedgie on film. Turns out, it isn’t a hedgie.. The little mouse was in and out several times during the night. Always took the same route in and out. I think it may be a nesting female gathering food for her brood. Oh well, they are a part of nature too and as long as she stays outside of the house then I’m OK with it.
Video here:

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The Tool Chest. Part 3.

Posted by Exile on April 14, 2021

Nearly there….

IMG_0648_InPixioI figured out how to put the lid together. Bless my grandson for his input. I cut the four pieces to length and fixed the construction with dovetails. The flat lid is glued and dowelled to this box like affair and the whole thing sits nicely on the chest. I dropped the hinges into the carcass and allowed myself to screw them directly to the underside edge of the lid wall. The lid sits flush with the carcass over the hinges. I set the lock piece into the opposite side and the whole thing closes and locks with a padlock. A lot of thought and work went into that one piece but I am more than pleased with the “pop up” storage space the lid now creates. It will give me space for all the skinny things like marking knives, pencils, marking gauges, try squares, screwdrivers, bits and such other things. Those decisions will have to wait though. Fitting comes later..

IMG_0649_InPixioIn order to keep the lid from tipping backwards, I fitted a window lock to limit the travel. I had to modify it a little as it really needs two screws to hold the one end. Had I used two screws it wouldn’t be able to swivel as is required. One screw then, and it rotates on that perfectly. It also gives me a variable opening height to the lid if I so need it. Positioning it was a bit of a chore but it got done. I think it will need wheels… damn thing is solid and heavy. But that was the point in the first place. It should be so.

IMG_0647_InPixioFor the moment, I’m done building the chest. I need to find out what kind of finish I will give it but I’m experimenting with a clear varnish which is meant for maritime use. It gives a warm colour to the wood, yellowing it slightly and leaves a glass finish.
I have a lot of sanding to do and that will give me time to think.

As a final clou, I printed a small label to stick inside the chest. It says, simply; “Hand made by (me). April 2021.”

I like to think that this tool chest will outlive me, so I am leaving something for posterity!

I enjoyed building this thing. I enjoyed the challenge, the work and the sense of achievement that it brought. I learned a lot from it. Let’s hope I get some good use from it.

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The Tool Chest. Part 2

Posted by Exile on April 11, 2021


This is getting to be a saga…

I worked out how to fix the peg that holds the drawer shut. It wasn’t difficult once I’d had a good think and the solution is elegant enough. The front of the drawer was given a rebate to accomodate the peg and then screwed and glued to the lower front section from inside. Fashioning the peg was easy enough and with a polish with some besswax it dropped nicely into position. See my pictures on the right.. The peg drops through the floor of the upper tier and enters the hole in the drawer front.

The drawer got a quick rub all over with wax too, so that slides nicely back and forth in it’s housing in the bottom tier.

So, on to the lid… which quickly spun out of hand…

IMG_0628_InPixioProgress had slowed a bit due to my grandson who comes to stay every other weekend. He enjoys being in the shed with me, especially if I let him get involved with whatever it is I’m doing. He looked over this project with a critical eye and we dicussed how I should make the lid. I was determined to have a bread board joint on each side to hold the thing flat and I explained how that would work. He seemed impressed at my ambitious solution and suggested I let the lid fall into the box. No, I said, the lid has to close the chest and ride over all the edges. Well, he said, why not just screw a few batons under the lid all the way round instead of the complicated bread board thing?

The idea lamp went on. The lad doesn’t know how inspiring he can be. I’ve decided to let the lid construction become a box in itself, which will give me extra space to hold things like chisels, marking gauges, screwdrivers, pencils, and other long skinny stuff. It might give me a problem with the hings and other hardware but I’ll figure something out…
Quite how that will work out, I have no idea.

But it’s going to get done.. somehow!

IMG_0637For now, I’ve started on the lid. 4 boards with a 40mm wide insert to allow the thing to be broad enough to reach from front to back. Cut to length and glued up it didn’t need much truing up. I ripped a board lengthwise to create the strip which is placed centrally in the lid. Then I ripped another to make the bread board ends.  It actually looks good. I marked out for the tenons to be reduced to fit the ends and cut the grooves to fit. All I need to do now is final mortis and tenoning to get a good fit.
I think I’ll have that done by tomorrow evening. Never having attempted anything like this before, I’m taking it very slowly. We’ll see how it goes…

Progress so far, the carcass is done. The drawer is fitted. The locking mechanism is in place and works. And here is a final picture documenting the beginnings of the end joints.

I’m enjoying this….

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The Tool Chest

Posted by Exile on April 9, 2021

Part 1.

Having collected a heap of tools I decided to make a chest to hold them all. After a year of trial and error and building a few small things like hedgehog houses and bird boxes I needed to set myself a real project that would be of benefit to me. I had no idea where to start so I had to sit down and think for a long while. Setting pencil to paper helped to fasten my thinking and the plan slowly grew.
I decided to make a two tier chest. An upper storage area and a drawer in the bottom. The side walls would be dovetailed to the bottom of the carcass but otherwise screwed and glued on all sides. The drawer will be held shut by a peg internally, which can only be removed once the lid is open. The lid will lock with a padlock.

IMG_0616_InPixioI worked out how much material I needed and then it was off to the builders merchant to stock up. Planks, glue, screws, hinges, a lock thingy for a padlock and a few other bits like a groove cutter for my router.
Getting it all in the shed was a chore because it can’t really hold planks at 3.6 meters in length so I had to reduce them before I could get them in. It was cold outside at the time… Saw, shiver, saw some more.
Finally all indoors, I got cracking and cut all the pieces I needed to build the carcass.

I cut all the pieces I needed to length and lined them up in piles of long sides, short sides, bottom and lid. I may not be the worlds best chippy but I can organise the workplace. The short sides will be vertically positioned, the long sides horizontally. So I started with the most demanding bit and cut dovetails and dados to hold the internal floor of the upper compartment into the side walls. The bottom was cut for dovetails and the thing started to come together.

It took me a days work, but by the end of that day I had the short sides and bottom assembled and I was gluing up the long sides.

Day two had me fitting the back wall of the carcass. This immediately squared the whole construction up and despite a few minor alignment problems, it all started to look like a tool chest in the making.  I fitted and fettled the internal floor and then needed to take a break to figure out just how I should proceed. I needed to create the space in the internal floor to get the locking peg in and work out how the drawer should be formed to accomodate the peg. So it was back to the drawing board before proceeding with the front wall and the drawer section.

IMG_0622_InPixioThe internal floor would be further supported by strategically placed blocks glued to the inside of the long sides. So I needed to fix that too..
I ended up cutting a recess to allow the peg to penetrate the internal floor and then screwed the top section of the front side into place. It all fitted nicely. I glued the support blocks into place and then turned my attention to the drawer. I don’t want all the fancy bells and whistles so this is just a basic box to fill the space. I fashioned it out of cross ply and planking and it all went in very nicely, thank you very much. The front of the box drawer is screwed to the lower section of the front side from the inside. Once the drawer is closed and locked there is no way to get into it without removing the peg.

I’m far from finished but I won’t get much more done until next week. Grandson is on his way for the weekend…  Anyway, here’s a picture of what I have achieved up until the time of writing this account of the state of battle. I have not done myself any real damage but I did nick my finger with a very sharp chisel. One learns by one’s mistakes..!!

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