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BAGGRESSiVE forum  |  Long Distance  |  Articles  |  Topic: Herb Smith
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Author Topic: Herb Smith  (Read 5548 times)
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« on: Nov 17, 2005, 10:55 »

How to invent boomerangs

Now you can read about Herbs first boom-encounters:
My interest in boomerangs can be tracedback many years, when as a schoolboy, I tried to make one from a pieceof bent hazel wood. The inspiration for my effort was derived from a schoollesson which featured various weapons of Australian aborigines. I was sointrigued by accounts of the boomerang that I decided to try and make onefor myself. Unfortunately. I had only an illustration of a boomerang towork from. which gave no indication of size and thickness. or the factthat it possessed a certain sectional shape. Furthermore, I didn't knowhow a boomerang was thrown. Consequently, my attempts to get a piece ofbent hazelwood to fly and come back to me, were, to say the least, bothdisappointing and unsuccessful. So I gave up the idea of trying to makeand throw a boomerang. The thought did cross my mind that perhaps boomerangthrowing was an art and skill known only to the aborigines and perhapsthere was something magical in the construction of a boomerang which madeit return. Of course I had no aborigine playmates who could let me intothe secrets of this "magical flying stick," and there were no books availableon the subject to which I could refer. So my interest in boomerangs diedthere, or so I thought. Then a few years ago, after spending best partof my early adult life as an enthusiastic archer, I set out to discoverif I could the secrets of the boomerang and how to throw it.   

  I then spent several months searchingfor information. For a start, I contacted friends with Australian connectionsand searched the libraries for books on the subject. I then wrote to theLibrarian at Australia House in London who kindly supplied me with an assortmentof photo copies of articles on the subject. Sifting through these I cameacross a great deal of useful information which included a short article(author Unknown) on how to throw a boomerang. Finally, I arranged a visitto the Ethnographical Department of the British Museum, where I was ableto view a selection of hunting weapons and boomerangs on display there.My visit was arranged with the Asst. Keeper of the Ethnographical Department,Mr. B. A. L. Cranstone. who in the meantime. had kindly and thoughtfullyselected from the Museum's Library several books which contained articlesand drawings relating to boomerangs. Like the articles from Australia HouseLibrary. most of these were written during the latter part of the lastcentury. but never-the-less, contained useful information which I was ableto note down. and so increase my knowledge on the subject of boomerangs.   

  My visit to the British Museum hadproved most rewarding, for I now had a very good idea of the actual size,shape and thickness of the "Magic Stick." so, armed with this preciousinformation I set about making a replica in birch ply. My first model wasrather large and crude, but never-the-less. you can imagine my excitementon dashing off to the local sports field to try it out, I threw it. andto my utter astonishment it actually "flew" and came back on my first attempt.I then spent several hours throwing, and was most reluctant to leave thefield. only doing so. when it became too dark and dangerous to continue.   

  I have been making and throwing boomerangsever since. I have also taught dozens of others to do the same, and willno doubt go on doing so for the rest of my days. Such is the fascinationof the boomerang for me. 

Long Distance defined be Herb

Another excerpt from Herbs book:

Distance Booms and throwing them

In the past so many contradictory articleshave been published regarding the distance an aborigine could throw a returningboomerang, that the reader has the utmost difficulty in separating factfrom fiction.   

  The majority of these articles appearedin a variety of publications before the turn of the century, and were supposedlyfrom eyewitness accounts by early explorers of Australia. It would appearfrom many reports that the observer was blessed with a vivid imagination.and not adverse to a great deal of colourful exageration.   

  One eye witness reports to have seenan aborigine throw his returning boomerang nearly 200 yards and then waitedseveral minutes for its return "Whereupon it suddenly appeared and landedwith a thud, burying itself deeply into the hard ground a few paces fromthe thrower." A highly dangerous practice, I would say.   

  Others have attributed to the boomerangalmost supernatural powers by stating to have seen them "Climb heavenwardsto a height of several hundred feet and circle freely about the sky asif unwilling to return to earth" and then, miraculously . . . "drop atthe throwers feet." Now these accounts of a boomerangs performance in thehands of the aborigine would make exciting reading were they to be writtenfor a school boys comic or novel, but unfortunately, (with all due respectsto the aborigines skill) they are not altogether true. In the opinion ofmany other more serious enthusiasts of the boomerang who have spent yearsliving amongst the aborigines and learning their culture and various skills.The more accurate and less romantic accounts of the returning boomerangstrue performance, both in distance and flight duration have recorded itas having an average outward range of 40 yards, with duration of flightaveraging 10 seconds. From my own limited experience and observations,these latter figures are much more realistic.   

  It is possible that some of the earlierobservers have somehow confused the returning boomerangs performance withthat of the non-returning hunting boomerangs which I understand, couldbe thrown to greater distances, by throwing them, as the aborigines did,across, and slightly down wind. If on the other hand, the writer was referringto the overall flight distance of the returning boomerang, as being nearly200 yards (and not the distance it travelled outwards) then this wouldhave been a very fair estimate for a boomerang, travelling as it does,on a near circular orbit, particularly if the boomerang in question hadperformed a series of "pendulum swings" or possibly, as some do, a secondsmaller circle, before returning to the thrower. However, this explanationdoesn't answer the question of the long flight durations which one eyewitnessrecorded in minutes.   

  Possibly, from the point of viewof someone observing for the first time a boomerang in flight it wouldappear to be airborne for a long time, performing its various manoeuvresin the air, but this is only a "mental time illusion" and the observerwould probably be surprised to learn that he had just witnessed a flightwhich could be timed in seconds only. Some of my own long distance boomerangs,which have a flight path of approximately 300 yards, have been consistantlytimed in flight at only 10 - 12 seconds from the moment they leave thehand to the time they return back to the throwing mark. 

Making boomerangs for distance throwing

Almost all the boomerangs available commerciallyare of the type which have an outward range of between 15 and 35 yards.It is rare to find one that will exceed the latter distance by more thana dozen yards. These could be described as "short distance models'' asalso could the "Gem," "Sycamore" and "Traditional", which appear in Chapter2. There are many present day claims for long distance throws of up to100 yards, but it would seem that the type of boomerang used was of a designand weight not available commercially, and further more, on closer investigationmany of these 100 yard claims were for outward distance only with onlypartial return. With this fact in mind, I have included this final chapterfor the benefit of the enthusiast who is interested in making long distancemodels, capable of reaching 100 yards or more and which will return completelyback to the throwing mark. I have personally proved this by making a worldrecord throw of 108 yards. This distance was achieved in the presence ofofficial witnesses at the Littlehampton Sports Field in Sussex, on 17thJune, 1972. Details and a flight plan of this record throw are shown onthe inside back cover. The throw is also featured in the Guinness Bookof Records. The boomerang used for this throw was a large birch ply "Gem"shaped model, ballasted with several small metal weights (a technique whichI discovered after several months of experimental work, the details ofwhich have never before been published).   

This is the world record boom he usedin 1972. Distance: 108 Yards (=98.8m)

My first distance attempts

When I first started to make boomerangs afew years ago, using birch ply as a basic material, I had difficulty inreaching distances in excess of 40 yards. I did however, manage to improvethis range by making much heavier models from alloy and fibre glass, butthese were more difficult to shape and furthermore. required a great dealof physical effort to throw successfully. I then hit upon the idea of ballastingmy original birch ply models with small metal weights in an endeavour toincrease their distance potential without appreciably increasing theiroverall weight in the hand.   

  My initial experiments with ballastwere carried out, by simply strapping thin discs of lead to the bladesof the boomerang, by means of adhesive tape, moving the discs to variouspositions after each throw, and noting down their effect on the boomerangsflight. I was quite amazed after a short time, to discover that it onlyrequired a small amount of ballast, set at the right position on the blades,to improve the boomerangs outward range by over 50 per cent, without affectingits return ability. After more tests, and using heavier weights, I foundthe best possible position for ballasting, was at a point on the blades,approximately one inch from the tips and a small amount set at the "elbow"to give a more horizontal return.   

  The amount of lead ballast whichI used, depended on the original weight of the unballasted boomerang, butgenerally. an amount of ballast equal in total weight to a quarter of theweight of the boomerang was sufficient to more than double the boomerangsoutward distance. The boomerang I used for my world record. weighed sixounces before ballasting. To this I added just a fraction over two ouncesof lead. which was divided into two equal amounts, and set permanentlyinto the blade tips. To do this. I formed the lead into cylinder shapedplugs, each measuring 1/2 inch in diameter, drilled holes in both bladetips and then gently tapped the plugs into position until they were flushwith the surface of the boomerang. This was a simple operation and is themethod I now use to ballast most of my distance boomerangs.

Positions for ballast and methods of weighting

The question now arises. How much ballastshould be added to a boomerang in order to gain the maximum distance, withoutaffecting its return qualities? The answer to this question is. to a certainextent, a matter of trial and error. Heavy boomerangs wont require as muchballast as lighter models of the same shape. However, as a simple guide,a weight of ballast equal to one third of the boomerangs original weight,should not be exceeded otherwise the boomerang will be "overweight" andwill not return successfully, unless thrown in a very strong wind, whichin any case will reduce its outward distance and thus defeat the objectof ballasting in the first place. Furthermore, should you get the boomerangback, it will probably have climbed high in the air and return on a steepdownward flight path, which is both dangerous and undesirable.   

  Another question now comes to mindregarding the shape of boomerang best suited to ballasting, (some shapesare more successful than others). I have always found that the most successfulresults are achieved with ballasted models of the "Gem'' and "Sycamore"and other boomerangs with parallel blades. I have never had a great dealof success with weighted versions of the ''Traditional" shape. Perhapsthere are aerodynamic reasons for this. However, like the aborigine, blesshim, I am blissfully ignorant of the reasons a boomerang will perform ina certain way when changes are made to its balance, shape, section andsize (of which there are dozens of combinations). Nevertheless, by trialand error, I have gained a useful working knowledge which has enabled meto make successful returning boomerangs in numerous shapes and sizes. Furthermore,I have also discovered a method of increasing a boomerang's range by weightballasting and am more than pleased to be able to pass on this knowledgeto other interested enthusiasts. I am also fully confident that the readerof this modest little book will not only be in a position to make and throwhis own boomerangs successfully, but will no doubt be able to improve onmy own humble achievements.

Some designs

And some others here.

My contact with the master

I had the luck of having an interesting writtenexchange short before his death. It wasn't really an exchange as he knew alot more than I could gasp. Here some samples of his caligraphic artwork:


Two chapters of this page are directly importedfrom Herbs book "Boomerangs". Ted Bailey made the task of scanning thebook on his computer. If you want to obtain the whole book (which is certainlyworth it, as it is out of print) get in contact with Ted. Check out thenote as it contains important copyright information.


This "boomerang book on software" is broughtto you as a service of the "Boomerang News" newsletter. This document isonly one of many shareware documents available through "Boomerang News"in a variety of computer software formats. For a complete listing of documents,databases and miscellaneous software, call Ted Bailey at (313)-971-2970or write to: Ted Bailey; P. O. Box 6076; Ann Arbor, MI 48106-6076. Alternately,you can send an email request to:tbailey@ic.net   

  This document is distributed withthe permission of Mrs. Anim Smith, in memory of her departed husband Herb.This document can be freely distributed to others, provided this noticeremains attached. This software cannot be sold or sections used in commercialventures without the express consent of Mrs. Anim Smith. A small fee forshareware distribution is, however, permitted. To obtain permission forreplication and distribution, you can call Mrs. Anim Smith at 0903 723721or write to her at: 15 Malin Road; Beaumont Park; Littlehampton; West SussexBN17 6NN; United Kingdom.

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