The Crossbow Stock (Body)
A Crossbow stock is the wooden center piece of the crossbow, which holds the bow bolts and trigger mechanism.
Western European Stocks
Generally western stocks are relatively narrow and flat-sided. They usually use the plainest roller-nut release and push their bolts down the stock in a plain groove in the top (table) of the stock (lined with bone or horn in better-quality pieces). They will be spanned by the goatsfoot (gaffle or gafa) cocking lever, or perhaps by the “English” windlass, or long “Spanish” ramequin. Many western bows fastened the prod with the stirrup and wedges of the “bow iron” mounting system, which is less common on central European bows. Though stock shapes vary, the sides are usually more or less parallel from the head to a bit behind the lock, and the stock will be taller about the prod mounting and usually at the lock as well. There are western stocks that taper in width from lock to head and are not taller at the lock. Some western bows bear ornate, usually geometric inlays on the stock.
Spanish bows are usually straight, plain and slender. Italian bows often show a strong Spanish influence.
Central European Stocks
Central and Eastern European crossbows commonly feature a round or oval cross-section. They usually show few unbeveled edges and the sides of the stock are typically rounded like a barrel, though very wide half bows often had a substantial flat on top and bottom. It is common for central bows to be widest at the lock, and taper gently both fore and aft, though this is more pronounced in bows that use the cranequin for spanning.
A large proportion of Central European bows were topped with bone or horn and commonly replaced the quarrel groove of the western bow with a simple bolt rest at the very head of the stock. On plain bows this rest was carved from the stuff of the top of the stock, but on gentlemen’s bows it was often dovetailed into the stock, and adjustable right-left. As on western bows, the roller nut release was usually of stag horn, but in western bows the nut ran free without any axle or pin (at most, a small one to prevent the nut’s falling out) in its cylindrical socket. The central bow used a tight cord bridle through the center of the nut to keep it in place and to prevent it from oscillating or chattering in its slightly over- sized cylindrical socket. Often the front and rear edges of the socket were reinforced with horn in both central and western bows.
The stock of a crossbow was always cut from some hard tough wood, such as beech or oak, with close and straight grain. The grain should be running lengthways with the stock to give it strength.
Groove Vs. rest
Many better quality medieval crossbow ‘s covered the top of the stock with horn, bone, or metal, or at least lined the quarrel groove with one of these low friction surfaces. By the 14th century many central European bows dispensed with the quarrel groove entirely, and shot their quarrels off a low bone or horn rest. The rest was permanently placed in cheap bows and adjustable (in a dovetailed slot) for windage in expensive bows.
Groove is a little more secure and shows a bit less tendency to misfire than the rest. On the other hand, the rest is subject to more fine-tuning than the groove, so may give slightly better accuracy.
The quarrel groove or rest should be well centered in the top of the stock, slick, straight, and not too deep or wide. Some medieval and Renaissance sporting bows had movable quarrel rests. Moveable rests made it possible to do fine adjustments for windage or minor flaws in the geometry of the stock. On the other hand, bows with moveable rests may show erratic behavior if the rest is too tall (quarrel will porpoise) or if the rest is off center (quarrel will fishtail or whirligig). Fishtailing can also be caused by the pulling of the string, off center, when spanning the bow. To avoid this problem, mark the center of the string and be certain to pull the string evenly and simultaneously from both sides of the stock when spanning.
The advantages of the bolt rest are that it can be moved, will increase pointblank range a bit, and can be made of a low-friction material quite easily.
Advantages of the groove are that the quarrel is more securely held in place, and these bows have less minor teething problems, such as misfire, porpoising, and fishtailing.
The Nut Socket
The nut socket is usually 3/5 to 2/3 of a cylinder, cut into the stock. The roller nut runs in this socket and fits closely, but turns easily. More powerful bows will usually have the front and back edges of the socket reinforced with horn or metal blocks. Central European bows often had the nut and socket made separately and the socket glued and pinned into a rectangular mortise cut into the top of the stock.
Some western bows mortised their locks from the top, but others had the socket cut through the side of the stock. Strong metal side plates, fitted with small metal pins, reinforced the socket’s sides and kept the nut in place.
In central European bows, the fit of the nut was not quite so close, and the nut was held in place by a heavy cord binding (nussfaden) that prevented the nut from oscillating or hopping out after release. It is often difficult, from first appearances, to tell if a bow is made with the side-cut or top-mortised lock, since side plates of metal or horn were commonly used on both types of bow.
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