The Various Contrivances Employed for Bending
the Bows of Crossbows (continued)
The Screw and Handle
As the crossbowman gradually increased the strength of his bow, with
a view to acquiring a longer range and the use of a heavier missile, he,
in course of time, required for drawing his bow-string some contrivance
which was of more power than the cord and pulley or the belt claw.
For this purpose, he devised a rough form of screw-jack, of metal, that
he could attach to the stock of his weapon when he wished to bend its bow.
This apparatus, though of clumsy mechanism and tedious manipulation, was
far more powerful than any system of leverage previously applied to a crossbow.
Representations of the screw and its handle are very rare in illuminated
manuscripts of mediaeval times, though crossbows that were bent in this
manner, and which had steel bows, are frequently mentioned in the latter
half of the fourteenth century.
Fig. 39. - Crossbowmen.
This screw and handle bender for crossbows, must not be confused with
the rack introduced in the fifteenth century, known as a ' Cranequin.'
It is probable, however, that the screw here described suggested the much
more convenient 'Cranequin' that succeeded it.
Fig. 39 is from a Froissart manuscript of the early part of the fifteenth
century, and shows a crossbowman bending his bow with a screw. He is kneeling
on the ground, and is engaged in turning the handle that draws back the
metal rod which stretches his bow-string.