I checked The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible Volume 1 out of my library based on the recommendation of Steve Galea at Steve Galea Outdoors when I posted about making a pvc bow. This post might also help my good buddy Duncan at SmoothingIt.com with his archery problem.
After having read it, and checked out lots of different sources on the net I am committed to making a bow myself. The book itself is quite detailed. It has chapters covering why traditional archery, cutting and seasoning wood, bow design and performance, finishes and handles, and self arrows just to name a few. The book is 324 pages long and is edited by Jim Hamm, with contributions from a variety of traditional bow experts. I will be up front and honest with you, I didn’t read all 324 pages. There were sections of the book that don’t particularly interest me at this point so I skipped them.
The book starts with a short chapter by Jay Massey on why he thinks traditional archery is the only way to go. While I agree with many of his points, I won’t be giving up my compound bow this year, and possibly never. I plan on starting to make bows, and hopefully soon. Maybe if I ever become proficient enough at it use a bow I built while hunting I might change my tune. I can’t imagine the sense of satisfaction of taking a bow from stave or board form and creating a tool with which you could hunt and then using that tool to harvest something that could feed your family. I suppose if I ever experience that it won’t be hard to give up modern archery gear. I guess only time will tell.
The next chapter covers cutting and seasoning wood. From choosing the type of tree to cut down, to how to get the most out of each tree, and then how to get that wood into a usable blank with which to make a bow. I hope at some point to be able to fell a tree from our property, create staves and make a bows with it, maybe even use deer hide and sinew from a deer harvested on our property to finish the handle, but I think I am going to “cheat” and start with a board. That being said, the information in here is extensive and very easy to understand and does cover how to choose a board from a lumber store.
The book next moves on to bow design and performance. It covers all aspects of how design affects performance and what to avoid so that you don’t sabotage your build. Discussed are such topics as arrow speed, accuracy, comfort, durability, suitability, ease of construction, cost, as well as other topics. There is a tremendous amount of information in this chapter. They give estimates on how long different types of bows might take to build for experts and how long that same type of bow might take for a novice. This chapter alone is probably worth buying to book so as to have the information on hand.
The middle chapters of the book talks about different styles of bow, along with glue, splicing, and backing a bow. That takes us to tillering. Tillering is where a bow is truly made. Jim Hamm describes tillering like this, “Take off wood where the limb doesn’t bend enough, and leave alone the areas where it bends too much.” Sounds simple right? From what I have learned, it is anything but simple. It sounds very easy to move too quickly during this process and ruin a bow. So if you decide to build a bow, tiller slowly. This chapter covers topics such as necessary/useful tools for tillering, floor tillering, tiller sticks, tillering trees, long string tillering, and tillering to draw length and draw weight.
The book concludes with chapters on how to finish bows and add handles. The ways to do this is limited only by the bowyer’s imagination. There are obviously some rules to follow in order to build a strong and sturdy bow, but google traditional bow pictures and you will see what I mean. One of the last chapters talks about how to make self arrows. Choice of wood through cutting in nocks is discussed. The making of arrows out of one piece of wood, the definition of self arrows, sounds to me like as much if not more work than actually building a bow. That may make this task one that I put off until later to undertake.
If you have any interest in ever building a bow, or would just like to increase your knowledge base this book is for you. It may end up being one of the books that I first checked out from the library but need to refer back to it so often that it ends up being purchased from Amazon here. There is too much information in it to remember, even if taking notes. Hopefully at some point in the not too distant future I will be posting about my first successful bow build. If not, sometime in the near future I will be posting about the mistakes I made in attempting to build my first bow. Either way it should be fun, right?