The crossbow is a weapon that survived over centuries. Only careful manufacture, maintenance and the steady hand and eye of the bowperson can combine to provide the best outcome and make this beautiful, but dangerous, tool a real passion.
When using a crossbow it’s important to remember safety. Carelessness may lead to injury, as the weapon may go off on its own.
The observations below have been made over the years, by crossbow aficionados.
Good, sturdy wood is basic for any crossbow. It’s worth to invest a little more money and, instead of popular, soft woods, buy something more expensive, such as oak, elm, walnut, ash, pear tree or tough maple. As for the finish, Teflon or polyurethane are commonly used nowadays. It’s good to use veneer on the stock, it will help keep the bow in great condition.
Waxing the groove:
The type of groove-waxing material depends on atmospheric conditions. On hot days it’s best to use beeswax. Note that the wax layer should be thin. When cold, use non-alcohol veneer. Remember to polish the groove regularly, and not to wax the central part of the bowstring nor the bolt ends.
In the olden days, fibers were used to produce bowstrings, such as: hemp, flax or cotton. The foremost material used nowadays is definitely Dacron B-50, safer and more resilient than the old materials. It’s best to purchase at least 30 of this type of fibers for a crossbow with a draw of about 70 kg.
Central part plait:
Crossbows keep getting frayed and need constant maintenance. In medieval crossbows the correct plait was three-layered, with every layer plaited separately. This was in case one layer got damaged, so that two other layers still remained to prevent against damage to crossbow.
Until 1450 it was made of wood for the more delicate crossbow. There was also the composite, using tendons, horn and wood. This took a long time, because the glue had to dry. In 15th century, steel was introduced to bow manufacture. Even to this day, steel bows are highly considered. The only drawback of this kind of bow is that at low temperatures they might break. Steel bows require maintenance and regular greasing. The alternative is also glass fiber, though it’s behavior is unsteady under temperature changes, or aluminum – cheap, but highly breakable.
If your crossbow has this element, remember that every hole is meant for different length, weight or shooting distance.
Bridle and fittings:
The bridle is the rope that secures the bow to the stock, it should be made of thick plait. In the past, hempen or flaxen ropes were used for this purpose, nowadays they were replaced by nylon. It look s similar and is much safer and more weather-resistant. As for fittings, it’s worth to use iron with wedges for fitting the bow. They are expensive but make it easy to secure the bow quickly or dismantle.
In medieval ages, tallow and fat were used for this purpose. As this was not very hygienic, nowadays powdered graphite is used for the rotating breech. Oils and greases are not recommended, as they cause wood to swell.
The crossbow may be a dangerous, but also beautiful weapon. This might be achieved by carvings and inlays, such as brass studs.
It’s not recommended to put anything on bolt ends. Plastic, metal or grease might cause slips. It’s recommended to make a small notch in the bolt end or use sandpaper on it. Longer bolts mean better accuracy.
The nut materials:
Bone was used in the past. Nowadays also wood, aluminum, steel, nylon, brass or iron are used.
Way better than brass rods, often used as triggers, are triggers made of iron – safe and resilient.
Evolved over the millennia, dependent on region and religion. Roman crossbows were characterized above all by rich fittings, but those manufactured in the 17th century, mainly by Belgians, were so beautiful that they could easily compete with modern Olympic stocks.
First they were made of horn. They were astonishingly pretty. But improvements in steelworks caused steel to become the leading material for clamps. It was cheaper and definitely more resilient to breaks.
No such thing exists. The crossbow requires constant improvement, work and experimentation, to keep chasing the ideal. It is this variety of possibilities that this apparently simple weapon offers, that makes it so powerful. Despite the passage of time the crossbow still has its following, who keep fixing it, finding new ways to improve it and new manufacture technologies.