Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The sticks are not selected with any great nicety...

Ochre staining the bows
and bow strings
I've been test shooting and ochre staining the Beothuk bows over the past week.  They still need a bit of time to dry, so I'll have to save the final reveal for another day, but they are very nearly finished.  There's a tip from at least one broken chert Beothuk arrowhead embedded in my shed door, which I'm quite proud of, although it does make me want to make a few iron tipped Beothuk arrows for target shooting.

The top bow is shown with its back
up and the lower bow is belly up.
The ochre staining is the final step.  Of the two bows, the one that has been stable as it dries is still stable and the bow that twists as it dries has been twisting less, so hopefully its becoming more stable as well.  As the red stain goes on, I don't want the ochre and oil to be so thick that it obscures all of the details of the wood underneath it.  I purposely left the backs of the bows as rough and unmodified as possible.  For the overall general shape of the bows, I used the photo references found in Howley and this description made by John Cartwright in 1768:
The sticks are not selected with any great nicety, some of them being knotty, and of very rude appearance; but under this simple rustic guise they carry very great perfection; and to those who examine them with due attention admirable skill is shown in their construction. Except in the grasp the inside of them is cut flat... - Lieutenant John Cartwright 1768
It was important to me that there be
knots preserved on the back of the
 bow (top), while the belly (lower)
should look much flatter and
smoother by comparison.
What I wanted was a finished bow that would look like a random stick when viewed from the back, but with a flat, obviously worked belly and a nice even arc when it was drawn.  Not exactly a character bow, but I didn't want to hide the imperfections in the wood either.  I wanted a person viewing the reproduction bows to go through the same stages of understanding as Cartwright from first seeing a very rough stick to arriving at the conclusion that they were holding a carefully crafted instrument upon closer inspection.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

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