Sunday, March 23, 2014

Moving With the Times - Battledore and Shuttlecock, Part 2

As promised, here's our experiences in creating a pair of battledores and shuttlecocks, following the instructions provided in The Boy's Own Toy-maker, published in 1854. I provided the full text in my previous post, available here.

The first step was to create the hooped top. 

The instructions called for lance-wood, a tough, heavy, elastic, straight-grained wood obtained from several different trees of the custard-apple family (Annonaceae). True lancewood, Oxandra lanceolata, of the West Indies and Guianas, furnishes most of the lancewood of commerce in the form of boat spars. Lancewood was formerly used by carriage builders for shafts. The smaller wood is used for whip handles, for the tops of fishing rods  and for various minor purposes where ever an even grained, elastic wood was desired.

We used pine, in the provided dimensions, and started by marking off the "nicks" to be cut, which allow the curve.



We discovered that it is necessary to leave an un-nicked section in the center, to prevent breakage.


First we soaked the pine strip in the tub, for about a half hour, to start the softening process:


Which then allowed us to bend it enough to fit in my largest stock pot. We allowed it to boil for 8-10 minutes.


Prior to starting, we had cut a form in our desired shape and size, again from pine. Working quickly, we removed the strip from the boiling water, lightly nailed to the form in the center and gently bent it to shape, clamping it in place.



This is what it looked like after it had dried overnight:


Next the handle was glued in place - no picture, sorry!

Then it was time to cover the hooped area in parchment - true parchment, not parchment paper.The term parchment refers to any animal skin, particularly goat, sheep, or cow, that has been scraped or dried under tension. Sourcing the parchment was the most difficult part of this whole project; I found it on eBay for $10 for a 7" x 10" sheet - the pair of battledores required for sheets.

Covering the hoops is much like covering the lid of a bandbox:


Except the the parchment should be dampened first.


I used a modern, artist product - Golden's Gel Medium to glue the parchment, but hide-glue would have been a more period adhesive.




I did one side at a time, allowing them to dry in between applying each side. Once dry, the parchment shrinks, providing a drum like tension. I then finished the edges with blue velvet ribbon and bound the handle top with black cord.


On to the shuttlecocks - a champagne cork is an excellent starting point, requiring only a bit of reshaping.

We did not have any grey goose feathers - we found a source, but they had a minimum purchase of one pound of feathers! Far more than we needed, so we substituted packaged feathers available from most craft stores. Try to pick feathers as close in size to each other as possibly for better aerodynamics.


The last step is to weight the shuttle-cock - we used a common tack, the instructions call for a short brass-headed nail. This step is very important, the shuttlecock will not fly properly without it.


One thing the period reference does not mention, is the sound produced by the shuttlecock hitting the battledore - the 2117 hits mentioned in the previous post would have driven me crazy!

Overall, these are really not at all difficult to create - the provided directions actually work, unlike some of the projects in Godey's and I anticipate them being a great deal of fun at events this summer, as well as a really good way to interact with the public.

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