First Naval Artillery Unit

(AKA: The Bow From Hell)

thbowfromhell.jpg thbowupright.jpg thbowside.jpg thbowup2.jpg thammo.jpg
Click on a photo to see it full size
Cutaway plan of GT ballista bolt (64k)

Building the Bow

This is the siege crossbow I built with friends in the Spring of 1997, based on one I had read about in Sir Ralph Payne-Galway's book, The Crossbow (Chapter 3).

"The formidable siege crossbow of about 18 lbs. weight, which was only employed in the attack or defence of a fortress, though it could be supported and aimed by a man of very strong physique, was usually discharged either as it rested on a parapet, or when pivoted on a small tripod."

Since the bow is to be used mainly for SCA combat, I made some adjustments in the dimensions of the tiller (widening it for golftube ammo and beefing it up to take accidental heavy weapons hits) and went with a 57" aluminum prod to recreate one of the larger siege bows, whereas the example Payne-Gallway describes was a 42" steel one.

It has a pull weight of 100 lbs at 23 inches making it 2300 inch pounds. The entire bow (without stand) weighs just under 18 pounds. It will eventually have a small winch to draw the string (which is wound from artificial sinew).

It will also be mounted on a wheeled base, to make moving it easier. The current base was a last minute construction the night before May War in Caid.

Optimum use is with a two man crew, especially if one grabs a shield and blocks incoming fire while the other aims and fires. It takes two people (or one really large Knight) to move the bow when mounted on it's stand.

For ammo, I used old tennisball/golftube crossbow bolts cut off with about an 8 inch shaft, with a full length golftube pushed inside it. The entire tube was stuffed with closed cell pipe insulation foam (boffer foam) and a 3 inch piece of PVC pipe wrapped in duct tape was shoved into the ring end and taped. I found the force of the string when fired has compressed the foam somewhat and pushed the PVC up into the tube to create a flat nock across the opening. (This wasn't planned)

The bolts are wrapped most of the length in yellow duct tape to signify "siege ammo" and the heads are a bright contrasting red duct tape which has had the effect of producing "rabbit in the headlights" freezes in fighters seeing it coming towards them :-). Some later bolts have the yellow tape in two longitudinal stripes down the length of the bolt, mainly because I was running out of yellow tape. (the longitudinally taped bolts aren't as sturdy as the spiral wrapped ones. I discovered that when left out in the sun a longitudinally applied strip of tape will shrink and cause the bolt shaft to warp)

We also experimented with a few plastic-rebar-cap golf tube bolts. (which you'll see as the shorter ones in the photo)

The bow can also fire PVC bolts, which have a much shorter range than the lighter golf tube ones. We currently do not use PVC bolts in Caid.

My thanks to Patrick of Avebury (Patrick Tolen) who designed and drew the stencil for the prod, and constructed the firing mechanism and stand; Lady Kendra Lagerfield (Jennifer Hussey) who cut the prod(s) and helper spring with her mighty jigsaw; Patrick O'Malley (Michael Maley) who cut the tiller on his bandsaw so I could go home with all my fingers; Baron Cameron of Caladoon (Richard Burk) who wouldn't let me near the belt sander (are you detecting a trend here?); and the guys who were at 70th Street Armor night who were suckered, um, I mean kind enough to whack on the prod until it was bent in a reasonably decent shape. (I drew the plans for the tiller, glued up wood, laid out cut lines and spent a total of about 20 hours either sanding wood or aluminum and tung oiling like no tomorrow before it all went together.)

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