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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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I have a bad habit of over-researching something when I'm considering trying my hand at it. (I say bad because sometimes it just leads to weeks of reading with little or no action being taken). My dad and I had talked about getting a couple crossbows for deer-hunting next season. Now just in case anyone wants to take exception, I've got a real love for archery. I have a trad-recurve but if I'm honest with myself I'll probably never be able to shoot it well enough to go deer hunting unless I dedicate a large part of the next year to it. Crossbows on the other hand require less practice, and in KY we have three seasons: one for archery, one for crossbows, one for rifles. The way I see it, it'll be a lot more fun than purchasing and using a rifle, I'll have a longer season, and they're honestly just really cool weapons.

So I've been reading up on the history of crossbows this last week. I had always envisioned them being used in medieval Europe, but it turns out they've been used all over the globe for over a thousand years. Several of the Chinese dynasties used them to great effect, and they were the ranged weapon of choice in Europe until the long bow became available. What surprised me most was the history of the crossbow in the America's though.

There is evidence that the Inuit in Alaska made use of an all wood crossbow with a cylindrical barrel like a gun. The prevailing theory is that contact with Asiatic tribes across the Bearing Strait led to the technology being adopted in America. As I kept digging I also read that until recently crossbows were being used in Southern Appalachia as well. Referred to as "mountain crossbows" or "Appalachian crossbows", they were basic designs made out of local materials for hunting game. The pictures I have seen feature a typical gun stock and a wooden bow lashed to the front. The limbs are pretty long (no composite limbs in the hills I guess). One of the articles I read featured a man in his 80's who remembered his grandfather hunting with one. He stated that guns were scarce, and only those well off could afford them (and the gunpowder). The man interviewed is pictured below with a replica he made for the author. I believe the information and pictures are from a book entitled Guns and Gunmaking Tools of Southern Appalachia by John Rice Irwin.

Just thought I'd share a cool fact. If anyone else has cool crossbow facts I'd love to hear them, or if you have tips for an aspiring hunter feel free to share. I've been looking at entry level recurve crossbows (I prefer them over compound) and will probably spring for one this Summer. In the meantime I found a fun PVC crossbow build (100lb wt) online by a guy named Nicholas Tomihama. He has a YT channel called the "Backyard Bowyer" and he's published a few tutorial books as well, all on making functional archery equipment out of heated and molded PVC. Definitely a fun way to spend a weekend. I made a horsebow a few years back, and although it isn't a beauty queen, it definitely shot well enough to take rabbits and squirrels.
 

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PVC bows are somewhat controversial among archers. My understanding is that they are prone to failure. I know that the Society for Creative Anachronisms (the medieval recreation group) does not permit them. There used to be a lot of PVC bowyers on Etsy - but they are either gone of selling leather good. Not sure if their failure rate is a rumor or a fact. If there is even the smallest failure rate - why take the chance? There are some Youtube reviews of the lower priced models. Have you checked those out?
 

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Dang, Mikeylikesit...and ere'body...I, too, love Nick. I made one that sort of functions. But it does not work well or have much power.

Nick is awesome...And I have an iron kit that I have not put it together.

PS- I do the same thing when researching. About 4 years back I did the same thing with my dad. I love archery, but I will never again have the draw length to generate enough power to kill with a bow. But a crossbow...no problem.

One last edit- Checkout Cherokee blowguns...and Horace Kephart, a librarian turned Appalachian chronicler.
 

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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
PVC bows are somewhat controversial among archers. My understanding is that they are prone to failure. I know that the Society for Creative Anachronisms (the medieval recreation group) does not permit them. There used to be a lot of PVC bowyers on Etsy - but they are either gone of selling leather good. Not sure if their failure rate is a rumor or a fact. If there is even the smallest failure rate - why take the chance? There are some Youtube reviews of the lower priced models. Have you checked those out?
I have Blue Raja! There's been quite a few good reviews out there to steer me in the right direction. As for the PVC bows, I don't think anyone can make a reasonable argument for them over wood or composite bow frames. The materials simply aren't as suitable. However, the PVC builds are definitely a gateway for aspiring builders and hobbyists since all you need are some 2x4's and a heat gun. I wouldn't be comfortable selling the bows to others d/t liability issues, but the one I made is only about #40 draw, so I'm not too worried about limb failure. I imagine it would bend or fold over rather than snap. I'll definitely keep an eye on the limbs though just to be safe.
 

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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Dang, Mikeylikesit...and ere'body...I, too, love Nick. I made one that sort of functions. But it does not work well or have much power.

Nick is awesome...And I have an iron kit that I have not put it together.

PS- I do the same thing when researching. About 4 years back I did the same thing with my dad. I love archery, but I will never again have the draw length to generate enough power to kill with a bow. But a crossbow...no problem.

One last edit- Checkout Cherokee blowguns...and Horace Kephart, a librarian turned Appalachian chronicler.
Nice build Pat! That's pretty sharp looking and has a nice classic vibe to it. I'm not expecting the one I'm planning to have a whole lot of power either, just something fun to shoot in the backyard. If/when I build it I'll be sure to post some pics on the forum.
 

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A very interesting write up: enjoyed that!

William Tell is a national symbol related to freedom in Switzerland. The classic scene many will have seen is that of William Tell shooting at an apple placed on a young boy's head with a crossbow.

Here some more details about William Tell: http://www.tell.ch/t_story.htm

Interestingly, our equivalent of the National Rifle Association is called "Pro Tell: their homepage says it all: https://www.protell.ch/de. Unlike the rest of Europe, we enjoy significant freedoms in gun ownership.

You mention a preference for recurve crossbows: according to what I have read, Excalibur crossbows are apparently top notch, able to reach high arrow exit velocities - here the link: https://www.excaliburcrossbow.com/crossbows/

Sadly, hunting with crossbows is largely prohibited Europe, so make the most if you are legally entitled to do so in your part of the world.
 

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Dang, Mikeylikesit...and ere'body...I, too, love Nick. I made one that sort of functions. But it does not work well or have much power.
Nick is awesome...And I have an iron kit that I have not put it together.
PS- I do the same thing when researching. About 4 years back I did the same thing with my dad. I love archery, but I will never again have the draw length to generate enough power to kill with a bow. But a crossbow...no problem.
One last edit- Checkout Cherokee blowguns...and Horace Kephart, a librarian turned Appalachian chronicler.
Nice build Pat! That's pretty sharp looking and has a nice classic vibe to it. I'm not expecting the one I'm planning to have a whole lot of power either, just something fun to shoot in the backyard. If/when I build it I'll be sure to post some pics on the forum.
It is good for large duct tape fletched skewers at 25-30'...broke all of mine...and trigger is either sticky or hair...a loose cannon. Hence its retirement.
 

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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
A very interesting write up: enjoyed that!

William Tell is a national symbol related to freedom in Switzerland. The classic scene many will have seen is that of William Tell shooting at an apple placed on a young boy's head with a crossbow.

Here some more details about William Tell: http://www.tell.ch/t_story.htm

Interestingly, our equivalent of the National Rifle Association is called "Pro Tell: their homepage says it all: https://www.protell.ch/de. Unlike the rest of Europe, we enjoy significant freedoms in gun ownership.

You mention a preference for recurve crossbows: according to what I have read, Excalibur crossbows are apparently top notch, able to reach high arrow exit velocities - here the link: https://www.excaliburcrossbow.com/crossbows/

Sadly, hunting with crossbows is largely prohibited Europe, so make the most if you are legally entitled to do so in your part of the world.
Thanks for the link! I knew the story when I was a kid. We used to have a record with children's stories and I would spend afternoons listening to Robin Hood, William Tell, and the Three Musketeers. It's nice to have a refresher 20 years later :)

I've seen the excalibur crossbows, and they definitely seem to be the top tier for recurve setups. I've actually gotten to handle a couple at a local outfitter shop, and they have the feel of total quality. Unfortunately they're a little out of my price range at the moment. I'll probably pick up a Barnett or Centerpoint first. They're about $200 and have good reviews, although they are less powerful. I'll try a season or two with one of those and if I stick with it I'll reward myself with a real quality piece.

We just spent an evening with some Romanians last week, and talking to people from other countries really highlights the differences in cultures in societies throughout the world. I know America has plenty of problems, but I'm definitely grateful for the myriad opportunities I'm afforded here.
 

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PVC bows are somewhat controversial among archers. My understanding is that they are prone to failure. I know that the Society for Creative Anachronisms (the medieval recreation group) does not permit them. There used to be a lot of PVC bowyers on Etsy - but they are either gone of selling leather good. Not sure if their failure rate is a rumor or a fact. If there is even the smallest failure rate - why take the chance? There are some Youtube reviews of the lower priced models. Have you checked those out?
I have Blue Raja! There's been quite a few good reviews out there to steer me in the right direction. As for the PVC bows, I don't think anyone can make a reasonable argument for them over wood or composite bow frames. The materials simply aren't as suitable. However, the PVC builds are definitely a gateway for aspiring builders and hobbyists since all you need are some 2x4's and a heat gun. I wouldn't be comfortable selling the bows to others d/t liability issues, but the one I made is only about #40 draw, so I'm not too worried about limb failure. I imagine it would bend or fold over rather than snap. I'll definitely keep an eye on the limbs though just to be safe.
Correct - my understanding is that some of the PVC bows bend and fold. This is not particularly dangerous. I am a big fan of bows in the 38 to 40 lb. range. I find that I can take advantage of a full draw and with a properly matched arrow get a great deal of accuracy and penetration. I am not a hunter, but interested in good arrow flight for target shooting.
 

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PVC bows are somewhat controversial among archers. My understanding is that they are prone to failure. I know that the Society for Creative Anachronisms (the medieval recreation group) does not permit them. There used to be a lot of PVC bowyers on Etsy - but they are either gone of selling leather good. Not sure if their failure rate is a rumor or a fact. If there is even the smallest failure rate - why take the chance? There are some Youtube reviews of the lower priced models. Have you checked those out?
I have Blue Raja! There's been quite a few good reviews out there to steer me in the right direction. As for the PVC bows, I don't think anyone can make a reasonable argument for them over wood or composite bow frames. The materials simply aren't as suitable. However, the PVC builds are definitely a gateway for aspiring builders and hobbyists since all you need are some 2x4's and a heat gun. I wouldn't be comfortable selling the bows to others d/t liability issues, but the one I made is only about #40 draw, so I'm not too worried about limb failure. I imagine it would bend or fold over rather than snap. I'll definitely keep an eye on the limbs though just to be safe.
Correct - my understanding is that some of the PVC bows bend and fold. This is not particularly dangerous. I am a big fan of bows in the 38 to 40 lb. range. I find that I can take advantage of a full draw and with a properly matched arrow get a great deal of accuracy and penetration. I am not a hunter, but interested in good arrow flight for target shooting.
Right. The bend and fold thing. I remember his putting rods inside his builds to improve power and stability like from driveway markers?
 

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Oh, last but not least, I used some flat 2 mm thick PVC bars to make a regular crossbow and a smaller pistol version a few years ago. The pistol version sports a decent trigger unit made of a section of flat steel: no special tools, all handmade except for the electric drill...kept me quite busy. Tapering was achieved with different lengths of PVC bars i.e. fewer layers at the extremities.

Power levels are clearly nothing to write home about, and I would now recurve-shape the PVC bars using a mold consisting of two separate, specifically shaped pieces of wood to press the PVC bars together after heating with a heat gun. The process merely involves drawing the recurve bow shape on a board with a suitable thickness using a compass, and sawing along the recurve-shaped line to obtain the two pieces of shaped wood: this guarantees a symmetrical shape of the bow section - or bow sections, if you need two separate bow limbs.

That said, although PVC has fairly good elasticity, it will gradually deform permanently. Moreover, as demonstrated by "Backyard Bowyer", some PVC varieties will shatter under tension, which is why he conducts the hammer test prior to using the PVC tubes he purchases. The flat bars I used for these projects bend amazing well.

Like with slingshots, safety glasses are always a good idea when trying out such homemade devices....remember the old adage "%&ç& happens"! :hmm:

Regular PVC crossbow:

Pistol PVC crossbow:
 

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Missing Barns and Telling Yarns
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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Oh, last but not least, I used some flat 2 mm thick PVC bars to make a regular crossbow and a smaller pistol version a few years ago. The pistol version sports a decent trigger unit made of a section of flat steel: no special tools, all handmade except for the electric drill...kept me quite busy. Tapering was achieved with different lengths of PVC bars i.e. fewer layers at the extremities.

Power levels are clearly nothing to write home about, and I would now recurve-shape the PVC bars using a mold consisting of two separate, specifically shaped pieces of wood to press the PVC bars together after heating with a heat gun. The process merely involves drawing the recurve bow shape on a board with a suitable thickness using a compass, and sawing along the recurve-shaped line to obtain the two pieces of shaped wood: this guarantees a symmetrical shape of the bow section - or bow sections, if you need two separate bow limbs.

That said, although PVC has fairly good elasticity, it will gradually deform permanently. Moreover, as demonstrated by "Backyard Bowyer", some PVC varieties will shatter under tension, which is why he conducts the hammer test prior to using the PVC tubes he purchases. The flat bars I used for these projects bend amazing well.

Like with slingshots, safety glasses are always a good idea when trying out such homemade devices....remember the old adage "%&ç& happens"! :hmm:

Regular PVC crossbow:

Pistol PVC crossbow:
Really nice builds! I'll definitely be using safety glasses for these creations of mine. I don't have that much faith in my materials or building skills. I didn't know about the 'hammer test' but I'll look it up an utilize it when buying PVC
 
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I have made a couple bows like Backyard Bowyer shows to make, the ones with the fiber glass rods inside of them. I had good results and they shot better than I can lol. I left them strung though and they took a set over time and lost power. I need to make a new one and get a new target. Thanks for reminding me of this guys :)
 
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