The intricacy of the assembly and creation of a circa 1600 English crossbow are shown in precise detail during the fabrication of a replica made by the artisan George W. Jones in his book appropriately titled, 17th Century Crossbow: Made in the 21st Century.
George W. Jones is renowned for his work creating replicas and miniatures of historical importance both in weaponry and other artifacts. His many accolades in the movie industry and his permanent display in no less than six museums have brought worldwide recognition of his skills as being the best in his craft. In his other book, one in his series of books on his work, he takes the reader upon an intimate tour of the detail within the creation of his David Tunkl Crossbow, an English 17th century replica made for the collector David Tunkl. This book reveals the full scale, operational crossbow of the same era made with a removable cranequin; a rather complex device used to apply mechanical leverage to draw back the string.
As an analogy, the face of a watch can be admired for its design beauty, while the unseen mechanism of the inner workings becomes an engineering feat not often appreciated. George W. Jones awakens the reader to the intricate detail and mechanical integrity of a device made within the crossbow of extraordinary ancient technology. Having the modern electric drills, lathes, and hand tools such as a Dremel, one would think the creation of a replica would be a rather easy task nowadays. However this is not true . The choices of materials, the hand working of metal and wood, the symmetrical balance of lethal forces of energy, and the artisan’s skill to embellish the work with pride by wire-inletting and decorative detail all are as difficult today as were centuries ago. This is revealed in the words of George W. Jones as he narrated his photographs with captions explaining in detail the challenges faced in such a daunting task.
The assembly of the shaft, along with the immensely difficult fabrication of the cranequin and the fitting of handmade parts throughout the final assembly bring to vision the skill of the author in fulfilling his artful craft. The mechanical dexterity for an artisan to work in so many mediums, with such patience and with such engineering excellence brings the crossbow as a proper challenge to demonstrate the skill level of the author. A documentary film crew would be an overkill of interference in the small garage shop used to make these replicas, so in order to display to the public George W. Jones professionally photographs production milestones, a sort of “How To Build an Antique Crossbow” if you will. Sequentially presenting the pictures chronologically along with his captions in his book enables the reader to grasp with full appreciation the amount of effort that goes into the making of such functioning art. Laden with photographs, the reader has the unhurried time to see, analyze and absorb the process, gain insight and thus a unique appreciation. Expertly captioned with humble narration, George W. Jones takes you on a personal tour of his work as he would a friend invited into his home. The crossbow, once completed, has the patina on the metal, and the finishes on the shaft making it look authentically like a device aged nearly half a millennium.
There is no better way to come to understand the art, the work, the detail and the brilliance of George W. Jones’ skill than to collect the series of coffee-table quality books. Each possessing the visual impact of seeing things one likely has never known prior, and witnessing the endangered craft and art, in the creation of historical sculptures with lethal capabilities.