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More Unnecessary Balderdash

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More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby Bender » Thu Feb 16, 2012 1:34 am

A few weeks ago a couple of friends here on POA asked me to read Traditional Bowyer: More Unnecessary Fun by Jack Harrison. Having now read the book I can honestly say, “With friends like that, who needs enemas?” It’s a hefty tome of about 650 pages. It covers a lot of ground. Unfortunately Mr. Harrison’s writing style is whimsically disjointed yet manages to remain delightfully repetitive. I originally didn’t want to look at this using a point by point approach, but it soon became apparent that it would be near impossible to gather what I found into a logical sequential whole. So with that said, lets dive in shall we?

In the publication data page we see that the book was “published” by Wolf Print publishing. His wife. Printing was done by Bang Printing. A large multinational vanity press.

On page VII we find that Harrison’s work was paid for by the now defunct Alaska Science and Technology Foundation. About 10 minutes of online research reveals that the actual research was done by Dr. Thomas Bartlett Quimby of the University of Alaska.

Right from the beginning on the first chapter Harrison informs us that his book is autobiographical. After having made it through the whole book, no doubt about it, it is truly a monument to his greatness and overall superiority. It becomes clear that he is rabidly anti-compound bow, and states that using a release is the same as using a rifle. Funny thing though, he then states that he never objected to what equipment others use. Harrison spends pages 7 – 14 discussing hunting ethics, but then he breaks down and develops his Big Tent philosophy of ethics, if it’s legal, it’s all good. I guess one could say that he sticks to his guns though in that it’s clear that despite the Big Tent philosophy, his way is the only way.

From pages 44 through 50, according to Harrison everything we thought we knew about history is totally wrong. Native Americans didn’t engage in “industrialized killing.” I guess stampeding herds of animals over a cliff doesn’t qualify. Dick Robertson’s Buffalo Bow was the first Reflex/ Deflex longbow. So I guess the examples of Native American bows showing an R/D profile are fakes? Clarence Hickman Jr. Was the father of the laminated recurve. Those crazy Mongols and their silly little horse bows, who did they think they were fooling? And did you know that bowyers work harder than other artists? That’s what Harrison says. Michelangelo, da Vinci, Phidias, Brunelleschi, Rodin, just a bunch of slackers and 3rd rate hacks.

Now we get to the fun part. On pages 61-62 Harrison states, “…I looked for results and the end had to justify the means…I didn’t examine handshock, for example with any particular schedule of scientific investigation…I needed results which would make a difference in the outcome of a bow sale….My path of investigation was not exactly objective by any scientific stretch of the imagination…” Right here Harrison admits abandoning the scientific method in favor of marketing. I almost abandoned the book at this point. But as you’ll see as we go along that these statements are really quite amusing given the lengths to which he goes to provide the book with a semblance of scientific investigation. And I wonder, if the scientific method is to be abandoned, what ever became of the good Dr. Quimby, and his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering?

On page 65 Harrison “threw so-called empirical, scientific objectivity out the window,...” He refers to the famous Dr. Freud, “Freud would have been proud of me.” Unfortunately Harrison often refers to Dr. Freud to support his methods and conclusions. What he doesn’t know about Dr. Freud is that he was an “Empiricist” whose ultimate goal was to find to real physiological evidence to support his theories. Just because a person can cite one of the Greats, that doesn’t actually demonstrate any real knowledge or understanding. Harrison decided to do away with empiricism due to his inability to successfully use a bow shooting machine to gather data on longbows. Fortunately for us folks like Norb Mullaney and Blacky Schwarz proved to be a little more adept. From his failures to successfully use a shooting machine Harrison then concludes that since a compound bow can be shot with a machine it is itself a machine. However since a longbow can’t be shot in that fashion it is distinctly different. What? It’s not a machine also? A longbow is a machine as much as any compound bow is. It’s an excellent example of what would be classically (Traditionally?) defined as a “complex machine.”

On pages 66-67 Harrison demonstrates a failure to understand how draw length is measured and standardized. According to him actual draw length is measured from brace to arrow nock at draw. Rather unfortunate for a person building bows wouldn’t you think? I’m guessing that he felt that there was no point in following the AMO standards that us mere mortals might refer to. And while we’re on draw length, we find out that the “standard” draw length comes to us historically because that was how far bows could be drawn, any further than that and they would invariably break. Good thing the Englishmen at Agincourt and Crecy hadn’t heard of that problem otherwise we may all be speaking French now. And after we wade through that we finally get to the gist of it, changing brace height changes draw length. Again I almost left off, but you know me, a glutton for punishment.

At this point I just start to run into random, often unrelated issues.

Page 71, high string tension results in better cast. The lower the brace height the higher the string tension. What? Anyway, Start dropping your brace height and see for yourself.

Page 72. A “lateral instability” in the limbs will generate “flirting” in arrow flight. Personally I look at my state of tune first before deciding that I need to by a new bow with better lateral stability

“Stacking” in a bow is caused a lack of grain uniformity. So a carbon/foam limb will never stack since it has no grain? Cool! I thought that string angle at the nocks was the single largest contributor to stacking. Somebody better tell all the other bowyers.

On page 110 things begin to get really amusing. Harrison equates mass to elasticity by claiming that removing limb mass increases elasticity. Oops. Elasticity is a material property and is not related to mass. Elasticity is defined as Stress/Strain where Stress = Force applied per unit area, and Strain is the ratio between the change of length of the test object and its original length. He also begins to use the term “coefficient of restitution” here. He wants it to also relate to mass and his own personal definition of elasticity. Too bad the term actually refers to an object undergoing a collision, and is the ratio of the velocities before and after the collision. At this point I began to wonder what the coefficient of restitution of my head and a brick wall was.

On page 119 Harrison decides that a 28” draw length harnesses 90% of a bow’s elasticity. That’s it. Period. No supporting evidence. Nothing. “It was determined long ago.” Whatever, I guess a bowyer can’t make a bow for a draw length other than 28” and achieve good performance.

Harrison admits on page 120 that he has lost count of the number of broken bows returned to him that he decided were overdrawn. Given a failure to understand draw length, brace height, elasticity, I guess we really shouldn’t be surprised should we? So from this we get to page 133 where he begins to advocate that one must short draw a longbow by shooting with a bent bow arm in order to “shoot the bow correctly.” Given the admitted high failure rate of his bows I suspect he advocates this method because he just got tired of handling massive amounts of warranty work.

Let’s see here, page 135, again mass and elasticity are related. Oh and a longbow is a system of levers and springs that store and generate energy. Yeah, lever and spring, but “generator” not even close. All a bow can do is store energy and return that stored energy. Time and again Harrison demonstrates a deep ignorance of classic high school physics. But if we’re going to dump the scientific method, who needs physics anyway, right?

On 141 he talks about using a load cell for testing that was calibrated in pounds per square inch. Hilarious, not only are load cells not calibrated to measure pressure, he even refers us to a picture of the load cell and we can clearly see that its output is calibrated in pounds, a measurement of force.

Oh if only Mr. Harrison could get his story straight. After claiming that a bow is a spring and lever he then states on page 148 that Hooke’s law for determining energy stored by a spring does not apply because a bow is not a spring. Perhaps a better title for the book might have been Traditional Bowyer: Through the Looking Glass.

Now this next bit is rather strange. On page 149, he uses the equation E=mc^2 to represent Kinetic Energy. Technically speaking one can use any symbol to represent any variable in an equation. But there are certain conventions that are followed, such as for example “c” represents the speed of light. All I can figure is that Harrison chose to highjack Einstein’s famous equation in an attempt to provide a semblance of respectability and scientific inquiry to his work. Which makes no sense given his stated desire to dispose of science.

Harrison’s problem’s with equations becomes even more apparent on page 158. Here he “formalizes” his own definition of elasticity.
f=moment or bend in the limb (flexibility/elasticity)
Ignore for a moment that this has no relation to the definition of elasticity, using the rules of elementary algebra, attempt to solve for any other value in the equation. I dare you! What his equation states is basically elasticity is equal to elasticity divided by mass. I think that about here my mind reached its limits of elasticity, and entered the realm of plasticity, that is, permanent deformation.

And now we get a few more pages of incorrect usage of elasticity, coefficient of restitution, and appealing to Freud to support his erroneous conclusions. And now Harrison has the gall to then summarize his work so by claiming that all his results and conclusions have been derived empirically, after having so proudly abandoned empiricism and the scientific method at the beginning of the book. So far the book has proven to be an excellent example of what is meant when people refer to something as being “pseudo-scientific.”

But I just keep on learning. On page 164 we find that “Mass is the volume of material in a given shape.” So mass =volume, eh? I think I’m losing it.

Starting on page 165 Harrison goes a little into what he knows about bowstrings. Flemish Twist strings absorb energy. He provides nothing to support that and there are no other studies to prove that. Also Flemish Twist strings “defeat limb design.” Hard to see how, unless they physically alter the construction of the bow. And they increase arrow paradox. And how exactly did he measure that? Flemish twist strings also supposedly increase handshock, give brace height and nock placement problems, stretch more and result in lost cast. Did I mention that they are also illegal, immoral, and fattening? And this why he says using a Flemish Twist string on his bows will void his warranty. Oh and Flemish Twist strings aren’t even traditional, except on Hill style bows. This despite the fact that they have been traced back to ancient Japanese Kyudo archery.

One thing Harrison does do is supply us with lots of pictures. On page 171 we get to see a picture of some of his handwritten notes concerning calculating bow efficiencies. Cool because here we get to see an actual picture of his inability to handle math or physics. He refers to a “constant” that is adjusted to reflect changes in how energy is “generated.” If it gets adjusted then it ain’t a constant. Go goes further to state that when the “constant” gets to “1” then the bow is operating at 100% efficiency. Using this “method” of a variable constant, plus not even actually calculating efficiency by dividing delivered kinetic energy by stored energy, the industry standard method, he manages to get bows that are operating at up 197.3% efficiency! Holy Crap! Forget being a bowyer! He’s discovered perpetual motion and over unity power generation!

When we finally get around to actually attempting to building a bow, around page 247, we learn that tip wedges are a waste because they destroy the “moment” of the limb. Whatever that means, it remains unexplained. And we get this despite his claims at the beginning of the book that static recurves are fantastic bows, identical to compounds. Also we know now that actually tip wedges can improve torsional stability. Oh and for all you serious bowyers out there, your bow forms can be off by as much as 1/8” any ol’ which way. You guys out there trying to build nice forms, you’re just wasting your time. It doesn’t matter. It can’t affect the bow. Harrison says so.

Here’s an odd one for you. Did you know that Barge Cement can only be sold to people with a business license? I hope I don’t get arrested the next time I buy a tube at the hardware store!

Ah yes, some more on strings. We’re told Endless Loop strings are always 8-10 fps faster than Flemish Twist. Too bad there’s no evidence anywhere to support that. And when building an Endless Loop string set the jig up 2” shorter than the desired string length. No wonder his bows keep breaking.

On page 612 I read something rather disturbing. Harrison admits to purposefully mismarking his bows. For example taking a 50# draw weight and marking it as 60# or 60# and marking it at 70#. Supposedly he did this to satisfy customers who wanted to brag about shooting high draw weights. All I can say that all those folks who claim their Harrison bow is so incredibly smooth drawing it feels like its 10# lighter maybe ought to actually put their bow on a scale and measure it. Even if it were done per customer request, purposefully mismarking a product in order to make a sale is questionable business ethics, at best.

From pages 606 to 614 Harrison discusses how to shoot a bow. Its one of the better parts of the book as he manages to go 8 pages without actually saying anything. He stays out of trouble by not attempting to actually convey any information, real or imagined.

Beginning on page 629 Harrison begins discussing Kinetic Pulse. It was an attempt to quantify penetration of a ballistic projectile invented by James Hall in 2000. Do a search on it. You’ll find about 3 entries in the whole internet. All by Mr. Hall. His whole concept boils down to the idea that Force = momentum/time. Massive fail because Force = mass x acceleration. Nobody but nobody even uses this concept or Hall’s equations because the whole thing is utter nonsense. Only natural that Harrison would seize upon it.

Now to be honest pages 202 to 347 seem decent, containing some good information on building a bow and how to do the lay up for a laminated bow. I have no idea where it came from, Perhaps it what he took from Dr. Quimby. But you know that’s only about 22% of the whole book. I do wonder what happened with Dr. Quimby. Did he even read the book once it was written? I hope not. The idea that it might have met with his approval is disturbing. I know I would be ashamed to have my name associated with the production of this mess.

In summary I found that Kustom King has this book for sale for about $60. If you’re looking to spend that kind of money, dollar for dollar you would get better value if you went out and got a cheap hooker. More bang for your buck.
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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby Feral Donkey » Thu Feb 16, 2012 3:59 am

Wow. I'm about 3 inches into your post. I have to go back to work. Good review so far. :D
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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby Yohon » Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:12 am

Bender...your the man!!!!

That was something and glad you took the time to do a post like that although I kinda feel bad for you that you wasted all that time on such a book!!
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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby mike robin » Thu Feb 16, 2012 5:47 am

boy it must be catchin"!! even the review was wordy!!! ;)
[hard to believe you read it all-i just looked at the pictures!!]

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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby Lee Vivian » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:13 am

Too many freaks, not enough circuses....
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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby Howattman » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:37 am

But did you like it????

:lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby KCummings » Thu Feb 16, 2012 8:46 am

Other than that Mrs. Kennedy, did you enjoy the parade?

:D :mrgreen: :D

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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby topcamp » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:09 am

sooooooo.......... i guess you're nixing it for the monthly book of the next hard about club meeting........ :o :?: :?:
the more we know about the " how " and the " why " of..........the less we see and notice about the " now " of the " when "...
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on that wake up and never more what was .......will ever be again.
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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby marc » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:49 am

I had a hard enough time just reading the whole review, not to mention the book. I feel sorry for you but I am thankfull that I didn't have to read it.
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Re: More Unnecessary Balderdash

Postby LBR » Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:59 am I.Q. dropped just reading the review.....great review btw--thanks! I don't think I could have stood to read it--just the idiocy about strings was almost more than I could bear.....

Of course you know you now qualify to get your nose rubbed in the dirt, and you'll most likely get talked about on other sites by people who can in no way dispute the facts you presented.

Is the grant he got mentioned in the book? The $285,000 the state of Alaska gave him? From a book review by Rik Hinton :

Alaskans are a different breed. They hunt a little harder, live a little larger, and they certainly don’t follow the herd. That’s why they choose to live in Alaska! Such is the case with Jack Harrison, one of traditional archery’s foremost bowyers, whose latest book, “Traditional Bowyer, More Unnecessary Fun” takes the art of bowmaking to a new high.

With 744 pages, over 1,000 photographs, and weighing in at six pounds, “Traditional Bowyer” explains in detail how to design and build exceptional longbows, with 14 in-depth, extensively illustrated chapters on bowmaking theory and construction, plus other equally well illustrated chapters on:

Setting up a new shop
Making bow forms
Bowstring construction
Arrow art
Professionally applying high-quality snakeskin backings
The most extensive and useful arrow ballistic charts I have seen in print
Bowhunting strategies
And more.

Much of the book’s extensive information covering bow design and performance results from a $285,000 archery research grant provided to the author by the State of Alaska. This funding allowed Jack to employ physics professors and engineers from the University of Alaska to study and improve longbow design, manufacturing techniques, and construction. The results of their studied input and professional research directly dispute and contradict many long-held, often-published myths about bow design and performance. Jack’s scientific approach and clear writing style make the information he presents easy to follow and understand.

It's refreshing to read the work of an author who, in addition to answering questions, actually asks them. What a concept! The book is filled with information and examples that will educate and inform bowyers and bowhunters interested in learning all they can about bows and bowhunting. However, “Traditional Bowyer” is far more than an extensive resource and reference book for bowyers, it is also an eye-opening, interesting book to read for anyone who enjoys traditional archery and bowhunting.

If you make bows, or just love to hunt with them, “Traditional Bowyer” will definitely make you stop and think about what you do, and how or why you do it.

Early in the book, Jack states “The goal I kept in mind during the development of my bows was to meet the challenge of building a longbow which drew 60 pounds at 28 inches, and shot a 540-grain arrow 200 feet-per-second (fps) or faster. Early in 1991, I was able to reach this goal, and by the time I began writing this book. . .”

If that quote intrigues you, this book is a must-have for your archery library. If you love to bowhunt big game in North America, and want to learn more about bow design, performance, and bowhunting, this book is even more of a must-have for your library.

Listed below are two sample pages from the book to show you the level of detail you will find in the photos and illustrations, and below that is the table of contents. I think you’ll like what you see.


— Rik Hinton


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