In article <1992Apr24.031918.9...
I've been to looking into this myself. Acquiring the materials in some
cases is easy, hard in others. Making a stringboard, for example, is simple
as pie, and getting the twining thread is easy. On the other hand, suppliers
for Spanish Yew staves, or osage orange are a bit harder to find.
Welll... I guess you've inspired me to go ahead and get started. Might as
well share what I know about it so far -- which is not anywhere near enough
not to make a mess of things without finding out more. Please add anything
you know to what follows.
First of all...
There's a 176 page hardbound book by Jay Massey, available from Bowhunter's
Discount Warehouse for $16.95 titled The Boyer's Craft. That's really not
that bad a price for a hardbound book, although I can't comment on the
contents, having not read the book. I offer this only as a possibility,
but would be interested on any comments others might have concerning this
and other books on the subject as well.
The catalog description is fairly detailed, and reads as per the following:
"[...] describes how to make laminated recurved bows and longbows, old English
longbows [Yes, there is a difference between traditional and modern longbows;
a BIG difference -- SB] sinewbacked [American] Indian style bows, and Turkish
style horn-wood-sinew composite bows. Includes sections on making your own
broadheads, flint knapping and arrow making. Also includes chapters on hunt-
ing with the bow and arrow."
The book is inexpensive looking enough for what the description seems to say
you get, but ordering it from BDW is going to cost you an extra six bucks for
land mail postal delivery, and even more for 2nd day air. So, unless you're
going to order tackle, bows or arrows and piggyback this in, it's hardly worth
it. We've got a couple of good bookstores next to where I work. It's a nice
day. Think I'll take a break and go over and see if they'll special order
this for me. I'll keep you posted, but it'll be at least a week or two.
I have some online notes from another reference which caught my eye while I
was in one of the libraries here on campus.
You might try to locate a book called, Encyclopedia of Archery by W.F.
Patterson, which contains a ten paragraph section on pps. 74 and 75 of the
1984 first edition concerning an overview of how to construct an English
Longbow (the author is very very British). I won't do Mr. Patterson the
disservice of plagiarising his work in this forum (or any other, for that
matter) so I can't offer anything more than my fragmented paraphrases
from this entry in his encyclopedia. The paraphrases I'm taking from
Patterson will appear as regular text below, while comments original with me
will appear in brackets as per convention. Although the ideas are Patterson's,
they are written as if I were speaking to "you" conversationally, from memory,
in direct address... because, in fact, I am.
1) Start with Dagame staves -- they're easier to work with than Yew or Osage
[I fully intend to follow this advice, because this will be my first
attempt at crafting a bow.]
Let's assume we have a 6' x 1" x 1" stave, as Patterson does in his
[Remember, this is a "stick bow," not a recurve. There are no curves at
all in the unstrung bow. That's important for understading some of the
2) Accomplish the formation of the traditionally shaped longbow in the manner
of the letter "D" by removing wood from the belly side of the stave, never
from the back side.
[For those who don't know, I include the following, for those who do,
forgive my assuming any lack of knowledge on your part. The "back" of
any bow faces downrange away from the string, and (hopefully) away from
the archer, while the "belly" faces the string and the archer's side of
the bow. So the "traditional D" shape to which Patterson refers is not
to the profile of the the strung, but undrawn bow, but instead to the
cross section of the handle riser at its thickest points, as if by some
awful occurrence the bow had been sawn in half at the grip.]
3) The 1" x 1" dimensions of the bow are reduced from that size at the grip to
1/2" x 1/2" at each end. String and tiller the bow [in this the final
part of the limb forming stage] with the use of a tiller, removing small
amounts of wood so that the bow finally takes on the traditional, curved,
[Once again we see that semi-circular, "D" shape in the bow, but this time
in its strung profile shape, rotated 90 degrees away from the old D shape
in the previous plane. I can provide a full description of the tillering
process for those who would like one, but I know that having never done it,
I will not be able to tell you all that may be involved. I would note,
that tillering an English longbow is holds only remote sim- larity to the
process of tillering a modern day compound, which I've done many times.]
Nocks can be formed from horn if tradition is to be fully observed, and
attached by glue to the tips or, what are called "self nocks" can be cut
directly into the near finished bow stave.
[Typically, if the latter "self nock" method is used, the nock on the top
limb is sharp, while the bottom limb nock is rounded, at each respective
tip when following modern conventions. At least that is the case with
my Martin DL10 modern (NOT ENGLISH!) longbow.]
5) As you approach the last stages of making the bow,a handle needs to be
made from a separate piece of wood, and added to the grip area on the belly
side of the bow. After the handle is in place [I assume it is glued] the
bow may be hand finished with the usual materials -- [with varying grades
of very light sandpaper, and as Patterson suggests, with] steel wool. [I
might also apply a stain at this point, but that remains to be seen.]
[This is important. Remember that because no wood was removed from the
belly, it presents a flat, planar surface to the bow hand, and makes a
bad, even useless, grip to an archer. This piece has a tapered, semi-oval
shape and is glued in place, and then is often covered in traditional
style with a thin piece of cowhide or deer hide, held in place with laces
cinched tightly on the back side of the bow's grip so that the laces face
away from the all important palm of the archer's bow hand. Often buckskin
is used for this in order to allow the boyer to water shrink the cover.
If this method is used, care should be taken to see that the lace holes are
strongly reinforced so that the laces will not tear through the cover as
the leather shrinks while drying. Afterwards, softening agents should be
avoided in order that they not undo shrinking. Oils from the archers hand
will accomplish that soon enough, but over a period of time, leaving the
cover pretty much in its original shape.]
To all concerned. Please take the above for what it is, and nothing more. It
is only a preliminary investigation into building a near-traditional English
longbow. I haven't done it before, and have never seen it done. The advice
above are based on some of the ideas of an expert archer. I personally, hunt
with my bows, and am not a boyer. Use the notions above only as a starting
place for you investigations and efforts to build a bow, for that is the spirit
in which they offered.
I do have further information on the following: (1) How to build a string board
to form and infinite skein with the twining thread from which bowstrings are
made. This I have done, and seen done. This takes a little practice, and
I'm not very good at it yet, but conceptually, it's quite simple. (2) Serving
a bowstring -- ditto; this is a very common, and basic skill for any serious
archer. (3) Fletching and tipping arrows -- another very basic skill, and
really quite simple with modern fletching jigs. (4) As mentioned above, I know
the concepts behind, but have never tillered a traditional bow of any sort,
not stick, composite nor recurve. Nor have I seen this done. I have tillered
my compounds many times, and can assure you the processes (as mentioned above)
bare only the vaguest of similarities.
Good luck. Let me know if I can offer any help on the above. Please keep me
posted on anything else "ya'll" (hey, I AM from Texas, y'all) find out. I can
use all the help I can get on this one. It'd be great if the first traditional
bow I scraped on actually worked.
Right distance and good lines on the shot to all...
"Toxophily, and carry a bent stick!"