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Free Online Version of The Book of The Crossbow

The Crossbow   >  Chapter 13   >   Early Appliances for Bending Crossbows   > p.71

Table of Contents List of Illustrations Index Appendix

Early Appliances for Bending Crossbows

III. The stock with its middle part slightly hollowed out, so that the bolt - as may be seen - only rests at its point and at its butt on the stock.

IV. Here the stock is sloped downwards, from a point near the balancing point of the bolt. The bolt leaves the stock, therefore, without much friction against it.

This last system gave a free and easy quittance to the bolt, and is one that is even now applied to some of the modern target crossbows of the Continent, fig. 145, p. 207.

Chapters XIV-XVII describe the methods employed in the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, for bending crossbows with light steel bows or composite ones, which, though of no great strength, were too powerful to be bent by manual power.1 These methods were,

I. The cord and pulley.     III. The screw and handle.
II. The claw and belt.      IV. The goat's-foot lever.

As described in Chapter X, the primitive crossbow, with its bow of one piece of solid wood, was bent by hand without other aid.

It was not long, however, before a stronger bow was fitted to the crossbow, or one that could not be bent without some form of lever, and which was, of course, much more effective than the weaker kind of bow previously used.

It is uncertain when crossbows were commonly made with steel bows, (instead of with wooden ones, or with composite ones of wood and horn,) probably not before the middle of the fourteenth century. See notes on crossbows at Crecy, p. 5.

The windlass, suggested no doubt by its application to the siege engine that cast javelins, was not applied to the crossbow till the latter half of the fourteenth century. Being of great power, the windlass allowed of a far stronger steel bow than was possible previously to the introduction of this kind of winder for drawing the string of a crossbow.

The levers designed for bending the crossbows in use before the perfecting of the windlass, were of no great force ; hence the bows to which these devices were adapted, were only of moderate strength.

As it was an evident advantage to the crossbowman to carry a weapon with as powerful a bow as possible, it was imperative that he should contrive some mechanism for pulling back his bow-string, when his bow had developed into one that was too unyielding for him to bend by hand alone.

1 Though these appliances are not mentioned before the thirteenth century, it is probable that such simple devices as the cord and pulley, or the claw and belt, were used for bending a crossbow shortly after the invention of the weapon.


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