Meare Heath Bow

Read Only - storage of past discussions of the authentic replication of historical bows.

Meare Heath Bow

Alan H
Registered User
Alan H
Registered User
Joined: August 5th, 2010, 1:30 am

November 11th, 2010, 1:56 am #1

I am planning on making myself a replica (just as soon as I can find some Yew out here) of the Meare Heath bow and came accross this site while researching it. Not sure if this has been posted before or not.

http://www.digitaldigging.co.uk/feature ... vious.html

Anyone know where you can get Yew staves here in Alberta?
Alan
Quote
Like
Share

Legionnaire
Registered User
Legionnaire
Registered User
Joined: January 31st, 2010, 7:15 pm

November 12th, 2010, 2:16 am #2

Thank you Alan its a great link, I especially enjoyed the reconstruction, very cool. now I wanna make my own jeje. What are your specs i may be able to get you a partially dried yew stave.
Check out my website! www.legionnairearchery.com
Quote
Like
Share

Alan H
Registered User
Alan H
Registered User
Joined: August 5th, 2010, 1:30 am

November 12th, 2010, 4:47 am #3

Legionnaire that would be fantastic if you could. I want to make an exact replica of the original, which is why I'm battling to find a stave big enough. I found some in Calgary a few months back but none were suitable. The original appears to have been 75" long x 2 3/4" at its widest. It was a massive bow. I have a dream of making replicas of the ancient European bows and then putting them to the test by hunting with them.
Quote
Like
Share

Legionnaire
Registered User
Legionnaire
Registered User
Joined: January 31st, 2010, 7:15 pm

November 12th, 2010, 5:20 am #4

I think I have one that is that wide and its already dried. ill be going back home on the 24th thats where I have it so ill take pics so you can see it. Pm me you e-mail Ill be happy to email you the pics once I take em.
Check out my website! www.legionnairearchery.com
Quote
Like
Share

gianluca100
Registered User
gianluca100
Registered User
Joined: June 10th, 2005, 3:04 pm

November 12th, 2010, 8:33 am #5

Hello,

great article about the Meare Heath bow. If I read it right the Replica had (only) 42 pounds at 30 inches of draw and propelled a 463 grain arrow with 141 fps.
I did not find any indications about the String used, but perhaps I just overlooked that.
The author is quite enthousiatic about the bow, but I would like to hear from the more expert 'speed-specialists' what they think about these figures, are they good or would a well made flat bow with reasonably tiny tips outshoot this Meare Heath bow?

ciao,
gian-luca
Quote
Like
Share

kfoushr
Registered User
kfoushr
Registered User
Joined: March 12th, 2008, 11:37 pm

November 12th, 2010, 11:57 am #6

I guess that guy made his first bow ;-)

A bow of these dimensions properly made should be stronger. 42 lb for such a long, wide and heavy monster is not very much.

One guy in one of my bowmaking class once made a replica from ash. With original dimensions he couldn´t string it, I guess it was more than 100 pounds. That was a superb ash, which I rarely can say about ash I had....We had to thin it considerably to come to around 70 lb.

As Yew is softer I would expect the original bow having a drawweight around 70 pounds at a 28" draw.
Quote
Like
Share

Holten101
Registered User
Holten101
Registered User
Joined: May 14th, 2010, 8:49 am

November 12th, 2010, 12:24 pm #7

In my opinion the Meare Heath bow just doesnt make sense. I looks wastly overbuild especially considdering the type of wood used. 141 fps for a roughly 10 gpi arrow is what any bowyer could expect from an average flatbow (with a design which roughly corrospond to the wood used)....141 fps would dissapoint me, and im not even close in skill to many on this site.

My initial thought was that the bow is ornamental/cerimonial...primarily build to look good (and its does....more so in its original state I would expect;-)...the width is a great canvass and the bindings (apparently) serve no other purpose than decoration (I think). That the artefact has broken i two in the most unlikly of places (the handle...could it have been done on purpose?), supports this (imo). 

Just thoughts...im by no measn an authority;-)

Cheers
Quote
Like
Share

radius
Registered User
radius
Registered User
Joined: April 24th, 2010, 4:14 pm

November 12th, 2010, 5:48 pm #8

yew in alberta?   well maybe some grows around banff.   But you could always offer me something in trade, and i'll send you a couple billets...i'm in vancouver and have made some guys happy trading my yew on this forum.  pm me.
<br>


Quote
Like
Share

Woodbear
Registered User
Woodbear
Registered User
Joined: June 25th, 2005, 4:30 am

November 12th, 2010, 9:05 pm #9

I think the making of replicas of historic bows is a fascinating and valid way to better understand their capabilities. The Meare Heath replica referred to here has a lot of good points; as in attention to material choice and construction tools. The tiller looks OK, the workmanship good, and authenticity of the bindings and sinew wraps is convincing. However, the article leaves some unanswered questions in my mind, and I do not buy all of the conclusions.

I agree with those who say the performance is mediocre. A speed of 141fps at 11gpp (what the stated arrow and draw weight come out to) is quite average. With a bow of that length and shape the draw curve should be quite linear. Consequently the reported speed and arrow weight comes out to an efficiency of around 56%. Fair, but not great. It also sounds to me like the comparison ELB was sub par.

It would be nice if the article gave the dimensions for width and especially thickness that were used in the reconstruction. From the photos is looks like the length and widths should be close to the original, but without any indication if the thickness was replicated, it is impossible to say if the replica is anywhere close to the weight of the original. I agree that for the size of the bow, 42# at 28 seems low.

It is also a pet peeve of mine that no one who has made a replica of the Meare Heath bow has duplicated the setback handle by means of carving it in as is seen in the original. The original has about 1 inch of carved in setback in the handle. This seems to be an open invitation for failure where the rings are so grossly violated at the place where the bending moment the highest, which is, I suppose, why modern bowyers are hesitant to do it. In any case a real faithful replica should have this feature.

The resulting shape would also end up with the belly side of the handle bulging toward the hand of the archer similar to a 1940ish “modern” bow with a glue on separate piece of wood riser. Having had a couple of these 40s bows where the handle riser piece popped off, I find it quite plausible that the Meare Heath bow failed in a similar way, and popped off the belly side of the handle due to shear stress.

Anyway anyone who makes a replica is on to a good thing.

Dave
Quote
Like
Share

Joined: February 18th, 2010, 10:59 pm

November 13th, 2010, 3:02 am #10

" The original has about 1 inch of carved in setback in the handle."

I dont know if the rings were violated or not for sure on the original, but I know it makes sense that it would of just been the stave that had a set back handle. I've made a good number of bows from staves with set back handles simply because it happened that way when I was laying out the bow.
Quote
Like
Share

FlyontheLeaf
Registered User
FlyontheLeaf
Registered User
Joined: September 28th, 2010, 9:30 pm

November 13th, 2010, 4:29 am #11

Alan H wrote: I have a dream of making replicas of the ancient European bows and then putting them to the test by hunting with them.
Ever think of making a Stellmoor bow? Would be interesting to see how it works out. Scotch pine heartwood easier to get in Alberta then yew, for sure
http://paleoplanet69529.yuku.com/topic/17917

I personally think Meare Heath bow design is great. Ceremonial, hunting or warfare, does not matter. Being so overbuilt it would serve well and be reliable in all of these circumstances. Kind of like old mercedes-benz vehicles.

  
Quote
Like
Share

Alan H
Registered User
Alan H
Registered User
Joined: August 5th, 2010, 1:30 am

November 13th, 2010, 4:56 am #12

I personally just love the look of this unusual bow, I suspect it was probably more a ceremonial bow that was made as an offering to the Gods or Ancestors, deliberatly broken as this is what made it "come alive" in the spirt world and then thrown into a bog. But I don't think we'll ever really figure it out and it will remain one of those anomalies that will be debated but never really understood. Thats why I love recreating these sort of things and testing them out for myself.
Quote
Like
Share

Rod
Registered User
Rod
Registered User
Joined: June 17th, 2005, 11:07 pm

November 15th, 2010, 5:42 pm #13

Having spent the better part of a day some years ago examining the Meare Heath artefact, I will say is that actually seeing and handling it gives a strong and slightly different view than just reading about it. When I saw it my first impression was of the elegance of the proportions despite the limb width and the thickness of the crowned cross-section and also by the quality of the workmanship.
This was offset only by concerns about the durability of the back worked "swan necked" handle and the width of the tips as it might affect the efficiency and durability of the bow.

Woodbear is right in saying that most folks don't make their Meare Heath replicas accurately with the correct carved in swan necked handle. It is also the case that a lot of folks make it as a flat bow, which strictly speaking it is not if we take that to mean a flat or almost flat or unworked back.
In more than one respect the bow it most resembles is the South Andaman bow; I have inspected and handled both the Meare Heath and examples of the Andaman.
They are both quite wide and overbuilt in length; they are both worked on both sides with a remarkably similar crowned back and partially keeled belly on the inner limb having a quite pronounced "crowned" lenticular cross section with a central keel in the inner portion of the belly.

As for the question of it being broken deliberately or in a failure at the handle we will probably never know and will probably only shed light on this aspect by making and forensically breaking some precise replicas. But I will say two things.
The break is not located where I would expect a failure in the swan necked handle, nor it is of the character that I might expect in a tension failure, since it looks like a fairly clean snap with a transverse "notch" as the possible cause.
Set against this is the question of whether an offering would be broken before being cast into the mere or buried.
We know that iron age weapons that had been captured in battle were often rendered unusable before being buried and ringed fenced, but it would be interesting to know if this was typically the case with offerings of individual weapons of the period which were not battlefield trophies. 

And yes, it is a relatively slow shooting bow, but not excessively overlength. But on the face of it appears to have been quite durable despite the dubious design of the "swan necked" handle.

I have on file a picture of Andrew Hall at the Tox with his exact replica and will post it here if and when I get the file copied into a suitable format.

Rod.
Last edited by Rod on November 16th, 2010, 9:56 am, edited 1 time in total.
It's meant to be simple, not easy.
Quote
Like
Share

Mark in England
Registered User
Mark in England
Registered User
Joined: June 13th, 2005, 11:39 pm

November 16th, 2010, 8:07 pm #14

Like Rod I was lucky enough to spend some time with the Meare Heath bow a few years ago. I would agree that the vast majority of bows made as "meare heaths" really aren't. A lot written about the bow in books makes me think that some of the authors haven't actually seen and handled the bow. The decoration on the bow is what seems to take people's attention, when in fact the relation of length, width and cross section, quality of wood and workmanship and relatively light weight is what the bow shouts out when you hold it in your hand

The wood used was flawless, as was the workmanship.

At first glance a lot of the bow doesn't make sense. A thin handle of low cross section with a very clear sudden break going cleanly across it with no visible damage of any kind to have made that break! Even if you hit a bow with an axe or sledge hammer there would be some crushing or damage to the wood to break a bow like that. A flat grainy "belly" to the thin handle which suddenly transforms into a carefully shaped complex "fade" which seems massive and stiff in comparison to the broken handle area. The limb stays stiff until close to the limb tip, which is still quite wide and relatively deep. The bow would surely have been whip tillered if it worked at all instead of simply folding at the handle. If this had happened I would have expected to see a much more gradual and jagged break in the handle rather than such a clean quick snap.

It's only a theory, but this is mine.

I think the bow had a deep narrow handle. I think it was a powerful bow that was used effectively. As it was such a unique piece of wood and made so well I think it may well have belonged to someone special and thus have had symbolic significnace but I saw no evidence at all that it had been broken deliberately. In fact I would say that though it was broken, the break itself shouts out broken in use. I think that the handle was made narrow and deep for the same reasons we do this now on some bows. I think that the fades were failry long with a keeled transition into the working limb and that this keeled section was a working part of the limb. I think that though the piece of wood used was almost unique and flawless, though the craftsmanship was very very good just a bit too much wood was taken away (something some of us still do now!).

I think that perhaps the handle was just a bit too narrow, the keeled section left a bit too strong, the transition within the depth of the handle a bit too long, the back of the bow carved away a bit too much to give a graceful swan shape. All very nice but putting a lot of strain within the grain of the handle, which under the compression stress imposed by the draw weight popped off (as still happens today sometimes!).

This would result in the handle section parting from the rest of the bow, leaving the full force applied within the now narrow and very shallow remainder of the handle which under this extreme and sudden pressure snapped cleanly across leaving the clean break and the oddly flat section on the belly of what is left of the handle.

Why the bow limb is decorated as it is I do not know, but it is odd that there is no evidence of decoration or binding close to the handle where you might think this sensible.
Quote
Like
Share

Rod
Registered User
Rod
Registered User
Joined: June 17th, 2005, 11:07 pm

November 17th, 2010, 1:42 pm #15

Interesting to see how the reaction to actually seeing and handling it seems to be so consistent.
It certainly come across at first sight as being big but elegant.

On the dimensionally accurate examples that I have seen, I wouldn't characterise the tiller as whip ended. In fact looking at the partially drawn original of Mr.Lilley in plate V of the Proceedings I would say that the tiller, like that in Andrew's example is pretty well distributed.
And the keeled section, if it works at all, is working so little that it is not really noticeable as such.

As to the break, I think it is the small transverse feature on the back edge of the break that leads to the opinion that it was deliberately cut or damaged in some way.
But I think not; this mark is not inconsistent with an ordinary clean snap.
Whether this was a deliberate breakage or not is I think always likely to be a matter of opinion.

The doubt arises I think from the fact that the bow appears to have been sufficiently overbuilt that the draw weight would not be too great and the place that one would expect a break in tension is where the back grain is violated in the swan necked transition from handle to fades.
It is this apparent contradiction I think that also leads to the supposition that the break was deliberate.
True the handle proportions do appear to be on the verge of marginal in so large a bow, but not I think so small as to threaten the bow if the draw weight is not too high.

The speculation about ownership I think again somewhat echoes the S.Andaman "display" bow.
Big man, big looking bow, but not necessarily big man, strong bow.
You might care to ask Hilary about the draw-weight of her example. I can only note that Andrew seemed to find his easy enough to draw when I saw him shooting it at the Tox.

The bindings do appear to fall more into the decorative realm than the functional, I see them as no more than a token gesture in the direction of function with a clearly intended function as decoration.  
Last edited by Rod on November 19th, 2010, 9:45 am, edited 2 times in total.
It's meant to be simple, not easy.
Quote
Like
Share

Alan H
Registered User
Alan H
Registered User
Joined: August 5th, 2010, 1:30 am

November 18th, 2010, 1:57 am #16

Rod and Mark, you guys are extremely fortunate to have been able to handle this bow personally! thanks for your input. Does the swan necked handle follow the natural shape of the stave it was carved from or did the maker violate the rings on the back to carve in the handle that shape? Rod if you could post the picture of your friends reproduction I'd really appreciate it.

Alan
Quote
Like
Share

Mark in England
Registered User
Mark in England
Registered User
Joined: June 13th, 2005, 11:39 pm

November 18th, 2010, 8:29 am #17

Alan,

I think it would be true to say that the rings are violated everywhere on the bow. The sapwood is removed from the back and from my memory I think it was done in a way to create a very smooth surface but not one that followed the growth rings. The handle section was cut back through the rings in an even more pronounced manner.

Mark
Quote
Like
Share

Holten101
Registered User
Holten101
Registered User
Joined: May 14th, 2010, 8:49 am

November 18th, 2010, 9:01 am #18

To be fair...yew can handle gross violation of rings. And removing sap wood indiscriminatly (almost entirely) even on unbacked bows is not unusuall (iirc). One of my best, and most effecient short recurves was decrowned to make the back smooth and to decrease strain by increasing the area....I ingnored rings entirely, and its still shooting fast and hard.

My point is...I wouldnt put too much emphasis on ring violations on unbacked yew bows. The, slim, carved swan-neck handle on the other hand...thats just asking for disaster (imo).
Quote
Like
Share

Rod
Registered User
Rod
Registered User
Joined: June 17th, 2005, 11:07 pm

November 18th, 2010, 2:19 pm #19

We're not talking about trivial departures within the general line of the wood on the back fine-grained yew sapwood, which is an entirely different matter, consisting as a rule of shallow and minor variations and is very rarely a cause for concern.
I doubt that any yew bow would survive such a departure as we see in the Meare Heath heartwood if it were in the middle of the working limb.
On the Meare Heath the "swan neck" consists of the back dropping through the fades into the handle quite substantially, by something in the order of slightly more than half an inch from top of fade to mid handle.
Even though the bow should be stiff here, and so it is by the look of Mr.E.C. Lilley's partially drawn and dimensionally accurate reproduction in the Proceedings (plate V), it is probably rather a large departure in a yew bow which is not sapwood backed.
It does not perhaps look too extreme in a small scale drawing of the profile, but it certainly raises an eyebrow when you first have it in your hand.
That it survives in the handle speaks only of the quality of the workmanship and, I think, an element of good fortune with regard to a chancy design feature.

Rod.

PS. I will post the picture of Andrew and his bow when I manage to get the file transfered from Zip to another file medium.

PPS. While I was there they found the Ashcott Heath and showed it to me. In size I thought it looked like half of a kid's or a ladies bow, rather than a man's bow.
    
Last edited by Rod on November 20th, 2010, 3:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
It's meant to be simple, not easy.
Quote
Like
Share

Alan H
Registered User
Alan H
Registered User
Joined: August 5th, 2010, 1:30 am

November 18th, 2010, 5:18 pm #20

Thank guys your in put is much appreciated.
Quote
Like
Share