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To our friends

This is an uncomfortaable, and overdue, explanation of our banner, "Often Imitated, Never Duplicated"

I started seriously researching "period" crossbow well over a decade ago, and for most of that decade shared what I had found with my friends and with people on this and other discussion lists. Unfortunately, a few years back, I (inevitably) started running into people who would happily take my research and work and art and turn around and "sell" it as their own, sometimes blatantly, sometimes by the sin of omission (states something is based on research of period sources, doesn't say they were the one who did the research).

"Hi, I'm selling crossbows. People think your "X" style is really cool and I want to copy it and sell dozens of them. Please send me enough information on how you documented style "X" so I can claim it was based on research?!"

Unfortunately, that is barely exagerating

It's not just the period examples that get lifted. The first time it really happened was when Surefoot and I invented and perfected the "Electric Pencil Sharpener" that could taper a UHMW blunt down perfectly in 20 seconds flat. This was so COOL we wanted other archers here to be able to build their units the new arrow designs... posted some photos on our website but both had the same experience at (exactly, literally) the same time. When telling a couple of people about it at Estrella (who had big archery units) because they were stressing about how to equip their archers, they both blurted out "Wow, we could make one and then sell thousands of blunts!". The photos came down as soon as I walked in the door from the event, and haven't spoken about it in over 8 years.

I have continued trying to help archers get outfitted and have given out a lot of info on making xbow prods, building arrows and bolts and discussing materials, but then, again, I started running into more people whose concept of "based on research" (or who's research) was a little fuzzy.

I've given much advice on the public and private discussion lists on materials, tips, safe designs or fixes to problems. For friends, I've even sent materials and instructions how to use it; even unto letting one or two trace one of my bows to illustrate an engineering point (they went on to make multiple bows for their own units, not for sale) It's just the one or two people who spoil it for everyone else.

So more and more, I kept hiding my work, removing webpages (someone even lifted my webpages and was using the text), editting my answers to people looking for help... until I end up having to remove information I've put up to help MY customers choose and purchase a crossbow from me, because it was too easy for someone to just come in and lift my bow designs and start passing them off as their own.

If some guy emails me and asks about the research on, say, the "X" style bow I make, because he makes bows and someone asked him if that style was period... gets an answer from me (and maybe others), goes ahead and designs his own version that includes the general design elements that make it the supposed "X" style but still his own vision... great for him (that's a true example, and he built a really nice little xbow... and it doesn't look like my, Surefoot's, or Kaz's, or Iolo's, or even the "Bad Tourist Trap crossbow" Iolo mentions as an idea source in his catalog.. which is the same one I found on eBay many years past)

A different guy asks me about bows, then later is selling a bow that looks EXACTLY like my Flemish arbalest like he traced his tiller from photos I've post of the flat sides of my tiller designs (so customers could pick the one they liked). Then he advertises that (the) design decreases the amount of wear on the string, because HE'S USING THE "SWOOP" ELEMENT I designed to decrease string drag when using a flat prod.

Our Flemish bow is one I MIXED elements of several period bows to design that tiller, along with wholly modern engineering. You can't find a period xbow that would make you shape one EXACTLY like ours.

Another is a type of the "X" bow mentioned above, although I've seen it reproduced with little florish thrown in under the head. Still, I only know two people in the SCA who ever researched that design, and every other has based it on one of those two, afaik (and I don't think he apprentised). Neither appear to be included as a source information in the "based on " statements.

People complement him on his beautiful historically based crossbows.

I hate to tell anyone who may be copying, considering copying them or basing their work on my designs (or buying a bow from someone who does) . My xbows aren't period. The tiller design isn't period, either. Neither is the application of the trigger/release mechanism.

Or rather, they're ALL researched, documented and based on period examples (and modern solutions in engineering) when *I* do it, but not when someone copies my reconstruction/redaction of period sources.

Kind of like, an SCA feast may serve roast ostrich from period recipies, but since it's hugely expensive, hard to get, and you can't get an entire ostrich and roast it and serve it as feast with the feathers back on (at least, easily do so) so they use sliced ostrich meat and serve it as a sort of stew in the (period) sauce that was supposed to be served with the roast bird. Then someone who was at the feast cooks for an event and serves "period ostrich stew" and claims it's based on (research) a period recipe.

Or like if someone uses someone else's technology to reconstruct dinosaur DNA to build a theme park...?

Anyway... there's the long and short of it, and that's all I can do.

Everything else is up to my attorney; because being depressed about the lack of integerity blahblah blah of this or that person in the SCA is not a solution to a problem taking places in the real world. My research and my business take place in the real world. My reputation and my creations exist in the real world. If someone trys to publish my research as their own, it falls under real world laws. If someone copies my designs... and if a copy is immediately recognizable as based, in whole or part, on someone elses original work (it's no longer based on percentages of likeness), it falls under real world laws infringing on my intellectual property rights; and must be vigorously pursued in order to protect those and future rights.

Be nice, play well with others, and don't rip off other people's art, 'kay? ~m

Fellwalker Boltwrights is launching their new website in September! Check back for new bows, new combat and marshaling equipment, new merch, new books, online orders, and more.

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last updated 07/04/06 ...webbed by