Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Progress... of a sort

We had middling success with our garden last year. With everything happening with my Mom's passing we got a pretty late start on planting things.
I made up an 8' x 4' frame for a raised bed and we filled it with dirt from the road berm, potting soil from Lowe's, and horse corral dirt from next door. Some seedlings got eaten as soon as they sprouted by some unknown vegetarian pest. I finally managed to make a PVC pipe frame and wrapped that with plastic netting to go around the raised bed. That helped for the four footed raiders but we still had a pretty fair crop of horn worms once the tomatos got growing. As it turns out, chickens love horn worms... good to know!
While we have a pretty fair growing season the tomatos never really got a chance to get going before we began to get frosty temperatures. I'm hoping we have better results this year.

Yesterday I put together a frame for another raised bed. The 2" x 12" wood I got from Lowe's was pretty bad with warping, splitting, and cupping, I had a heck of a time getting the ends squared together and bolted. Even then the frame was warped with one corner standing about an inch high from the ground. They just don't make wood like they used to.

Once the frame was carried to the garden site we had to level where it would be sitting. All the land here has a gradual tilt up to the mountains behind us. If we didn't account for that tilt the frame would pool water in the downhill end when we watered the plants.

Not only is the land here tilted but it's also laced with rocks both big and small. In an area 4' wide and 8' long we took out twelve rocks, and that was only digging down less than a foot. Most were under 12" or so but four were pretty large. One was the largest rock I've dug up yet.

I always cringe when the shovel pings against a rock. Right at that moment there is no way to tell if it's a little stone that is easily tossed out or if it's something much larger that is going to try to ruin my back. A Harbor Freight steel pry bar has become a valuable tool to have out here.

As of now, the rocks are removed, the ground is broken, and we've mixed in some old straw with the dirt. I still have to fill the box with all the other stuff before we plant in it. I may get some time to do that in a couple days but for now, I'm tired.

Happy planting!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Check it out: A New Post!

Wow, almost a year has passed since my last blog post. So much has happened in these months... where do I start?

Arrow making wasn't making me enough money to live on so I had to find a real job. I was lucky that a southern California-based hunting and fishing store was expanding to my area with a new store a couple towns over. I applied and was accepted for a sales position in the new store. I had a couple months of long commutes to train at an existing store before the new one opened up in February. We've been doing quite well at the new store and I enjoy working there. Most of the people I work with are younger than I but we all get along well and work together as a good team. Who knew that all the time I spent fishing, hunting, and shooting would someday help me earn a living?

Working at this new job severely cut into the time I had available to make arrows. After trying my best to finish four orders that were in the works when I was hired I finally had to refund everyone's purchase price and admit that I just couldn't do it. Consequently I had to put a hold on my little arrow making business. That was a pretty difficult decision for me. I really enjoy arrow making and frankly, I'm pretty good at it. I haven't given up completely on arrow making yet, but for the time being I have to put it aside.

My mother passed away in April. It was very unexpected. Her husband had died in 2013 and she seemed to have lost some of her vitality with his passing. Dick had been feeling the effects of Alzheimer's and caring for him really kept my mom going day to day. With him gone she suddenly had time to herself, but lacked the will to do much with it.
We would typically speak on the phone at least once a day. Mom had an amazing ability to call during my dinner. It didn't seem to matter if I ate early or late, she managed to call at just the right time. When I hadn't heard from her in a couple days and she didn't return my calls I got in touch with the office at the mobile home park where she lived to have them check on her. They couldn't raise her so the sheriff and paramedics were called to make an entry into her mobile home. I got the news I pretty much expected to get.
It took us about a month and a half total to get her home cleared out and sold. My work was very understanding and gave me whatever time I needed while keeping my position available for me. I can't thank them enough for their support.
We finally had Mom's ashes buried next to her husband's a little over a week ago from this writing. I think I waited so long because I just didn't want to let her go.

I'd inherited Mom's car after she passed away. It's much nicer than my truck so we drove the car to the service. We arrived the day before and got a hotel room so I wouldn't have to worry about getting there in time on the day of her service. As we drove away from lunch at Carl's Jr. a guy in a Hummer ran a stop sign and ruined the driver's side rear door of our car. In a very strange turn of events he ended up buying the car the next day and Fayme's daughter gave us a ride back home. I guess it is somewhat appropriate that the day we say goodbye to my mother we also say goodbye to her car.
What a very strange weekend that was. If it's alright with you I'd rather not repeat it.

I mentioned that I'm not making arrows right now but I am still keeping my hand at part of that activity. A fellow here in southern California shoots English war bows, classic yew longbows of about 80# and higher, and has begun to gather others about him who have the same interests in these beautiful, powerful bows. Heath begged me to make some shafts for him and his group and I couldn't pass up the opportunity because what they're doing is just so cool.
I start with 1/2" poplar dowels that are very carefully chosen for good grain and other desirable characteristics. Using a small hand plane I reduce one end of the shafts to 3/8". A slot is cut to insert a slab of horn to reinforce the nock and another slot is cut to make the nock for the bowstring.
There you go: a proper English warbow shaft.

Actually, it takes me quite a bit of time to do it all right and make it beautiful. The above is a very basic description of the process and ignores some steps as well as a whole lot of handwork. Luckily, Heath is doing the actual arrow making with fletching, tying on the feathers, and fitting the arrow heads. If I had to do more than just make the shafts with nocks I wouldn't be able to do it.

We got six new chickens a few months ago. Good friends Jim and Carol had raised four chickens for us and brought them out when they were big enough. Tragically, a stray dog got into the yard, broke into the chicken coop, and killed all four just a couple days after we got them. I came very close to shooting a dog that day.
We got the six new chickens from the local feed store. We moved the chicken pen closer to the house and reinforced it to avoid future break-ins.
Our chickens are finally old enough that we've begun to get a few eggs from them. Finding that first egg was pretty exciting. We'd gotten to the point where I was just about to have a very stern discussion with the chickens about what we expected of them when the eggs began to show up. Conflict avoided.


It's surprisingly calming and interesting to sit and watch the chickens putter around and interact with one another. I found Rainbow Mealworms in Compton, CA that sells live mealworms and the chickens go absolutely nuts over them. One shipment was dropped off at our mailbox in the heat of the summer and all the mealworms were dead by the time I came home and found the box. Apparently our contract mail delivery person doesn't know what a big fluorescent green lable reading LIVE ANIMALS on the side of the box means. In order to avoid this Rainbow now sends the package to the local post office and I pick them up there, my address isn't even on the box lest mr. delivery dufus should try to deliver it.
Perhaps I should mention that I have the highest respect for USPS mail carriers. Our mail is delivered by a contract employee, not USPS themselves, and I have a somewhat different opinion of him.

I'd intended to apply for a javelina tag for Arizona's January archery-only hunt. With everything going on with Mom's service and all I forgot and missed the application deadline. After the tags are drawn I'll see what's available in leftover tags. If anything looks good I'll see about getting one of those.
Even if I don't get a javelina tag we intend to go to Arizona somewhere around the new year to visit the Quartzsite flea markets. Right around January each year the town of Quartzsite, AZ hosts a number of flea markets and rock and gem shows. Most are held in the open air and I can tell you that they are one heck of a good time. I love wandering about to see what folks have for sale.
While visiting Quartzsite a few years ago I got a couple old roofing hatchets that David Brunetta, artist, knife maker, and red-hot-metal smith extraordinaire, remade into bowmaking hatchets for me.
I think it was the same year that I got a couple hundred pounds of obsidian at a very good price for knapping practice. I hope I can find more of that. My knapping skills are still very much in the beginning stages and I won't get better without breaking a lot more rock.

Ok, if I keep writing this thing is never going to get published.
Suffice to say that I'm still around but life has given me a few changes to work with. I'll see what I can do to keep the blog updated a little more regularly than once a year.

As always... Happy Archery and Thanks for Reading!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Interesting New Project

I recently received an email from a fellow named Allan.
Allan had a Korean bow and was looking for bamboo arrows for it. A Korean arrow maker had quoted him $35 each for arrows but I figured I could do a little better than that.
After quite a number of emails back and forth we settled on what Allan wanted and I got started on his arrows.
I'm using the bamboo shafts I got from China. I have very few of these shafts left and I doubt I'll be re-ordering them. The Chinese manufacturer kept wanting me to order 1,000 shafts or more and become his American distributor. Well, that's not going to happen and when he realized that my orders would be for a couple hundred shafts rather than a couple thousand he lost interest in me and became somewhat difficult to work with. There are other bamboo shafts available from Asia and when I get some free cash I may check into them. But for now I won't be dealing in bamboo shafts when the few I have left are gone.

Luckily I do have shafts available for Allan's project.
The traditional Korean bamboo arrow has a wood nock glued into the end of the shaft. I'd gotten some nock blanks from 3Rivers and this was the perfect time to use them.

I'm actually quite unimpressed with these nock blanks. The quality control on them is horrendous with the tenons varying in size from one nock to another and few of them cut square on the ends. Some of the tenons were off center to the nock body and I had to put those aside for the fireplace. The next time I do a project like this I'll find a way to make these myself.
Before I glued the nocks to the shafts I cut in the preliminary string slot. I'll refine this later once I have the nock and shaft together but it's easier to do this first cut with them seperate.


Many people advocate taping two or three hacksaw blades together to do the string slot on self nocks. I don't really care for that method so long ago I followed my friend Sal's advice and got one of these tile saws. The blade is round and cuts going forward and backward. The cut width is almost perfect and needs very little enlarging to fit the bowstring properly.

The end of the shaft needs to be drilled to accept the nock blank tenon. I chose a drill bit size that would fit most of the blank tenons but was still small enough to use on the bamboo shaft. Some tenons were pretty loose and some needed to be sanded smaller to fit in the hole. Did I mention the poor quality control on these nock blanks?
When you drill bamboo like this it's important to wrap the end of the shaft with masking tape to help keep it from splitting during the drilling. Equally important is to not force the drill bit. Let it find its own speed down into the end of the shaft. If you're one of those guys who pushes a drill as hard as possible while you're drilling, you're going to have some big problems on this step.


After the hole is drilled and the drilldust tapped out, it's an easy step to glue the tenons down into the hole. I used the same epoxy I use for tips on this step. I know it's a good glue, it's easy to work with, and I have it in big bottles. I rest the shafts with the nock blank down while the glue sets so any glue settling inside the shafts will be up on the nock tenon rather than down in the shaft where it won't be doing anything constructive.

After the glue is dry I used the Woodchuck tool to give a rough shape to the nocks. I'll refine the shape with small files and sandpaper. At this time I'll also refine the string slot with the small files. If you're careful here and take your time you can get just about any nock/string fit you want. Korean arrows are typically somewhat loose on the string so that's what I'll go for.

Sanding will let me fare the nock down into the shaft so there is a pleasing transition from shaft to nock. This area will be wrapped with thread but the profile will still be obvious so there won't be any hiding of shoddy workmanship here.

The large nocks won't let me use my regular gasket lacquer as a finish so I'm using spar varnish in a spray can. The spar varnish is actually a better coating than the gasket lacquer so Allan won't be getting shorted on the arrow finish. The reason I don't normally use spar varnish on arrows is that it just doesn't lend itself to production work.

I got three coats of finish on the shafts before I ran out of it. I had to wait a day before I could get to town and get another can. The instructions say to recoat within 1 1/2 hours. If they can't be recoated within that time then I need to wait 72 hours before adding more finish. I'll work on getting the fletching ready in the meantime.

Korean arrows typically use a very low fletch height. The cut isn't something I can buy pre-made and it doesn't fit into any of the choppers I have. It's time to break out the feather burner.
The feather burner has a wire that gets red hot when the machine is turned on. Rotating the fletched arrow on the tool puts the feathers against this red hot wire and they are burned to the wire's shape.
I got the wire shaped as I wanted and gave the burner a try on a sample bamboo shaft that I've been using to try different techniques and procedures with this project.
Good thing I tested first because there was an issue.
While the bamboo shaft spins well and pretty straight on my spin jig there can be little bumps and whoops along the length of the shaft. If these bumps and whoops are in the area of the fletching they can cause the feathers to go in and out as the feathers rotate into the cutting wire. On the sample arrow I had one perfect cut, one that wasn't that great, and one that was horrible.
Obviously, this wasn't going to work.
Then I had a brilliant idea: I'd tack glue the feathers to a straight wood shaft, burn them to shape, pull them off the wood shaft, clean the base of the feather, and then glue them on the bamboo shafts. Perfect!
But then I had an even better idea: I'll use an aluminum shaft for this preliminary gluing and shaping. Aluminum will release the Duco glue even easier.
Then I had to find a straight aluminum shaft. See, I don't use aluminum arrows. The only shafts I have of that material are some I've picked up in the field to repurpose for arrow finders. Out of the three metal shafts I have in my scrap bucket only one was found to be suitable for this task. But that one shaft is doing a great job.

After some initial fiddling to get the wire right (it expands when it's heated so that needs to be taken into account) I've finally got this step going in the right direction.
Four little dabs of glue are just right to hold the feather on the shaft while it's burned and the feather is easily stripped off afterwards.

I think I'll put the point tapers on these arrows next. I frequently glue on the points as the last step in making the arrows but this seems like a good time to do the tapers.
Bamboo shafts have a hollow center but it's easier to work with the point taper if the bamboo is solid.
So we'll make it solid.
I drilled out the end of the shafts for an inch or so and glued in bamboo bbq skewers. These come in different diameters so choose a drill bit suitable for the skewers you use. You can also use hardwood dowels from the hardware store. I just use regular wood glue for this step. Be sure to wrap the end of the shafts with masking tape before drilling them. There is a little bit of variation in the diameter of the bbq skewers so while they all went into the hole far enough, some went in further than others. I'll trim the ends before tapering for the field point.

Here's how the tip taper looks if you don't fill in the bamboo with a skewer or dowel.

While this is a bit of an extreme example you can easily see why the shaft will be easier to work with when the center of the bamboo is filled.

Once the glue is set the ends of the shafts are tapered for the field points on the Woodchuck taper tool. With bamboo you need to use a sanding-type taper tool. The pencil sharpener style of taper tool won't work on bamboo.

Because there is variation in the diameters of bamboo shafts the field points won't all fit on the shafts the same. Some will be fine and some will seem a little large for the shaft. We just need to accept that and put them on the best we can. I find epoxy easier to work with than hot melt glue since it's easy to adjust the tip to ensure it's on straight. You can use hot melt if you want to. Whatever glue you use for the tips be sure to clean the inside of the tips of any oil or grease from the manufacturing process. No matter what glue you use, if the tip is oily the glue will not stick and you'll lose tips in the targets.

These arrows will be shot off the hand. The bow doesn't have a shelf to rest the arrow upon so the archer's hand takes that place.
Consequently, it's a good idea to treat the front of the feathers in a special manner so they don't cut the archer's hand as they rush off the bow. For applications like this I like to wrap the front end of the feathers with some thread. Luckily, this fits with the asthetic of the Korean arrows, too. While I'm at it I'll also wrap some thread back on the nock and catch the back end of the feather. While I don't think it will be needed on these arrows wrapping thread on the wood nock will strengthen it and help keep it from splitting from the pressure of the bowstring.

Here's what the thread looks like with a bit of finish and some gold trim.
Remember how I said the tips will fit on each shaft a little different? Here's a good example of one just a little large for the shaft diameter.
With the thread wrapped, finished, and trimmed, and the tips glued on, these arrows are all done!
This has really been an interesting project. I've learned a lot and had a great time making them. If I do another set like this I'll do a couple things differently, but not much. I'm quite happy with how these have turned out. I hope Allan is just as pleased with them.
Thanks for reading this long post.
As always...
Happy archery!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Act of Kindness

A friend took me to lunch today at Nic's Pizza in Apple Valley. I'd been helping her move some stuff around in her garage. She decided we were both hungry so off we went.
The waitress in Nic's seated us, took our drink order, and began to walk away when my friend called her back. I thought she wanted to change her iced tea to something else.
"I want the check for that table," she told the waitress, pointing to a table with two men sitting at it over by the windows.
I glanced over and it was a Marine Staff Sergeant and a Lance Corporal having lunch.
Although my friend tried to pay for their lunch anonymously the men found out who had done it and came to our table to thank her. In turn, she thanked them for the job they are doing and told them to be careful.
I got a little choked up.
Thank you to the Marines for doing what they do.
Thank you to my friend for an unselfish act of kindness.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

No, no, no... this isn't good

So, close upon the heels of yesterday's post regarding the little scorpion that stung my foot the other night...

Jim and Carol, a wonderful couple, are bringing me their old bed frame and such tomorrow. They got a new bed and asked me if I could use the old frame and headboard. Yup, I sure can.
Today I was cleaning some things in the bedroom so we'd be able to get in there easily to work on the bed. I still have some bags of clothes my mother gave me from her recently passed husband that I haven't had a chance to go through yet and they were piled at the foot of the bed. I stacked the bags in the closet and got a few other things that were at the foot of the bed. I turned back to the area and just about had a fit. There, sitting on the carpet nonchalantly, was a very large scorpion. I called Fayme so she could see it too and went into the kitchen for something to put over it. A plastic tub served to trap him and he never moved until I slipped a piece of card stock under the container so I could lift it up with the scorpion inside. Fayme brought me a large glass jar and we transfered him into that.

I have to say that I am not at all happy about this one.
That first little scorpion was kind of cute but this one is a whole lot larger and it was in my bedroom. No, I am not at all pleased.
We'll be getting a blacklight in the next couple of days and we'll be checking closely for more of these buggers. Scorpions fluoresce under a blacklight so it should be easy to see any when the light hits them.
So it's rarely boring out here... but sometimes it does get a little too exciting. ?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fun Times

It's been interesting out here in our new home.
As I like to tell people, there may not be a lot to do but it's rarely boring.

A pretty good thunderstorm came through last week. We were returning home from the store and were getting a few drops of rain as we got closer to home. The rain got heavier as we drove up the hill from the highway and by the time we were within a mile of home it was coming down like wild. Thunder and lightning, too. One bolt we saw while we were still a ways from home looked like it may have landed right in our front yard. I got soaked getting the gate open to drive in.

Later in the afternoon, after the rain had stopped, I went outside and glanced toward the mountains behind us. Imagine my surprise when I saw a small brushfire on the side of the mountain!
There was already a helicopter surveying the fire and a short while later it was replaced by a CalFire forward air control plane. Not long after that a couple fire retardant planes came in and made drops
to encircle the fire with retardant. Those pilots were incredible. They came into the drop from the peak of the mountain ridge and followed the ground profile downhill to the fire where they dropped
the retardant and pulled out of the dive. It was amazing to watch.
The retardant slowed the fire's progress and the day's rain and high humidity also helped. We could see the fire all night but it didn't get much larger. The next day two ground crews hiked into the site and spent the day putting out hot spots and marking areas for a water dropping helicopter that worked with them.
The incident web page said there were about twenty lightning strike fires in the area. Most were very small. Some were just one dead tree. We've got more thunderstorms forecast this week but so far they
haven't showed up.

A couple nights ago I took a quick shower before bed. As I was walking to the bedroom I had a horrible sudden sharp pain on the outside of my left foot. I felt my foot for broken glass or something similar but didn't find any. On Fayme's advice I got a flashlight and looked closely at the floor. Sure enough, scorpion. First one we've seen.
Little bastard got me in the foot.
I caught him and put him in a jar in case he needs to be identified if I started convulsing or foaming at the mouth or something equally worrisome. I felt fine after icing the sting site and went to bed. By the following morning I couldn't even tell where it got me.
Apparently I'll survive the experience. The scorpion is still in the jar and I think he'll be less likely to survive.

I headed out yesterday morning to town to get some stuff and stopped to chat with our neighbor at her front gate:
"Hi, Mary. Guess who got stung by a scorpion last night?"
"Oh, no! Not Fayme!!"
"Nope, I got it."
"Oh, good!!"

Her: "Well, you'll handle that a lot better than she would."

Too true. After an initial quick look on the internet to see scorpion sting symptoms and first aid I was fine. There is a very dangerous one in California but he's over by the Colorado River. The rest appear to be simply painful.

Happy archery, and watch where you put your feet!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hello, everybody!
As has become normal, I apologize for not posting more often. This dial-up internet access severely limits what I can do on the internet. For instance, when we had DSL in Anaheim I used to visit about a half dozen news sites each morning and was able to keep fairly well informed about what was happening in the world (nothing good, I can assure you). Now I can only get one site to load and when I click on an article to go deeper than just the title and teaser blurb it will not load. I am woefully uninformed now.
Oh well, I'm still loving where I live, regardless of internet challenges.  
I did an interesting set of arrows recently. A fellow had been getting his arrows made by another arrowsmith who passed away last year. He decided to give me a try to see if I can fulfill his requirements.
No word yet on how he likes the arrows but I thought you'd like to see one aspect of them.
Some states require that the hunter's name be on the arrows he uses. Here is how that was done on this gentleman's previous arrows: 
Now, my calligraphy with a Sharpie marker surely leaves something to be desired so here is what I did on the new arrows (I've blocked out a portion of the gentleman's name to protect his privacy):

 In addition to the owner's name I also put down the spine of the particular arrow and the total weight of the arrow. Forgive me for boasting but I think it came out pretty good.
Something else on these arrows...
Different arrowsmiths have different artistic styles. That's what makes all this interesting and fun: no two people make them the same. The fellow who made the earlier arrows really liked cresting with lots of lines, many more so than I typically use. The customer wanted to reproduce the cresting on his new arrows because the pattern has come to be associated with him with his friends and at the local shoots he attends.
Well, that was just too bad for me. I can assure you that after making two dozen arrows plus two flu-flus, totaling 676 little black lines, I am heartily sick of little black lines!

If you want little black lines on your arrows... don't worry, I'll get over it and be happy to make more.

Happy archery!