Crossbows - Spanning Methods

January 16, 2018

Crossbows - Spanning Methods

Hand spanned crossbows were initially the norm, but as the power of crossbows increased, human ingenuity came up with all manner of devices to span these more powerful crossbows.

From around 1200 onward devices were invented to help span more and more powerful bows for the military and moneyed classes.

The principle ones are shown here.

 

Single or double hook spanning belt

A strong belt is worn around the waist onto which a double or single hook it attached using a strap.

The archer squats slightly, hooks the string and stands to span the bow.

DATES: 1200 onward

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: 1:1, but uses trunk muscles as well as leg muscles

POUNDAGE SPANNED: 300lbs maximum

 

Spanning Belt with Doubler Pulley

A strong belt is worn around the waist onto which a pulley is fitted; this can be done using ropes or leather straps.

The archer squats slightly, hooks the device onto the string and crossbow and stands to span the bow.

 

 

DATES: 1250 onward

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: 2:1, but uses trunk muscles as well as leg muscles

POUNDAGE SPANNED: 450lbs maximum

 

Goats Foot Lever

A lever is placed on the bow that hooks onto the string and is pulled back to span the crossbow.

Once the string is drawn back, the lever is removed.

 

DATES: 1300 onward 

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: constantly changes during the lever movement and dependent on lever design, but up to 30:1

POUNDAGE SPANNED: 500lbs maximum

 

Gaffe lever

A lever is hooked on the front of the crossbow which pushes the string back to the nut to span it.

Once the string is drawn back, the lever is removed.

 

 

DATES: 1500 onward

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: constantly changes during the lever movement and dependent on lever design, but up to 30:1

POUNDAGE SPANNED: 400lbs maximum

 

Windlass

The archer attaches the mechanism onto the crossbow and rotates the handles to span the bow.

Once loaded the windlass is removed.

 

 

DATES: 1400 onward

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: constant advantage through each rotation, but around 160:1 (from hand grips)

POUNDAGE SPANNED: 1250lbs maximum

 

15thC and 16thC Cranequin

The cranequin is slipped over the stock of the bow and the hooks on the rack are latched onto the string.

The crank handle is then rotated to span the crossbow and once spanned, the cranequin is removed.

 

 

 

DATES: 1400 onward

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: constant advantage through each rotation, but around 600:1 (from hand grip)

POUNDAGE SPANNED: 1200lb maximum

 

16thC and 17thC Cranequin

The cranequin is slipped over the stock of the bow and the hooks on the rack are latched onto the string.

The crank handle is then rotated to span the crossbow and once spanned, the cranequin is removed.

 

 

DATES: 1500 onward

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: constant advantage through each rotation, but around 840:1(from hand grip)

POUNDAGE SPANNED: 1200lb maximum

 

Lever Action

An inbuilt lever which houses the trigger is rotated forward to catch the string and pulled back to span the crossbow.

 

 

 

DATES: 1560 onward

MECHANICAL ADVANTAGE: constantly changes during the lever movement and dependent on lever design, but up to 25:1

POUNDAGE SPANNED: 300lb maximum

 

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