If you have sought out this site, then chances are you already know what a Longbow is or at least what it means to you, there are many types of Longbow and many ways to make one. We specialise in making the English Longbow, essentially a Victorian recreational and sporting bow, a bow once used by Archers in the Olympics. This is the type of equipment we will be concentrating on, though we cover many time periods and bows throughout the range of our instructional videos, so you will be able to glean a good taster of many disciplines. A very popular pastime and sport in the Victorian era, the Longbow was also popular with ladies, one of the few sports at the time where woman could compete and take part in the same events as the men. Often an elegant and beautiful item of sporting equipment, handles made with elaborate materials and designs, if you get a chance to see some original Victorian bows then do. The following videos show nice close ups of the finished product, the completed English Longbow, take a look.
So, you have a nice cut out stave (a stave is a piece of wood cut to the correct tapers/measurements for making a bow) now you need to change that squared potential bow into a `D` section. Put simply, this means rounding the corners of the back and removing wood from the belly side until it curves evenly from one side to the other, here is a picture of the `D` section shape taken from a bow cut in half, cutting bows in half is not something we recommend!...though you may feel like doing that at times, stay strong and TAKE YOUR TIME. You will need some basic tools, a spoke shave, a rasp and a cabinet scraper always comes in handy. Now watch the video.
For many, its the most interesting and challenging part of any type of bow making. For those that understand, its the art form that makes bow making what it is, separating the halcyon days as a child bending a stick in your local woods, tying on a string an calling it a bow, from the realisation that this is a skill that takes years to learn and a lifetime to perfect. Tillering is changing the will of a piece of wood, once in a tree, to do the bidding of man, making it bend evenly and true, bit by bit, the creation of its stored power, the very job of the Longbow to shoot an arrow is all born out of this stage, get this right and the rest is easy. Again, go slowly with this stage, you can do a llot of the wood removal with a rasp and scraper. We have returned to this part of bow making many times in our videos, for good reason, have a look and take it all in.
Now you have roughed out the stave and Tillered it you pretty much have a completed bow, its capable of shooting an arrow. But, the thin tip areas where your Tillering grooves are can easily be damaged and the grooves themselves can easily ware away over time, particularly Yew bows, Yew is very soft. If you watch any Archers at a shoot or just practicing its quite common to see them chatting between shots, resting the end of their bow in the ground, not only would this damage any unprotected wood it will also no doubt get dirt and wetness onto the string. By gluing on some horn nocks you can avoid these problems and make a for a more durable bow, also providing opportunity for some artistic flare. Also practicality, the way the nocks are designed, based on the Victorian pattern, means you can still use a stringer (a simple cord to help brace the bow, we show the bracing process in videos down the page) without the need for 2 sets of grooves. Take a look at these next videos on how to attach the nocks and how to carve them.
If you are now happy with Tiller and in to the finishing stages, sanding/varnishing etc, one more thing needs to be added, an Arrow Plate. Sometimes called an Arrow Pass, because, put simply, its where the arrow passes the bow as you loose (let go of the string) which can eventually ware a mark or depression into the wood at that point. By putting in a material of higher density and hardness you can give your bow an added lifespan, also help keep its looks. Various materials can be used, the examples above are Mother of Pearl, some people use horn or even metals. We were once asked to insert a gold Arrow Plate which had real diamonds set into it, the customer inherited his mothers wedding ring and had it melted down into the form of an Arrow Plate so he could continue to use it himself. The Arrow Plate is one of the areas of bow making that allow for some `artistic flair`, much of the bow making process is guided by what the wood will allow you to do, the nocks, handle and Arrow Plate are the few adornments that you can personalise and make the bow your own and differentiate your work from other Bowyers.
Follow along with the video below to learn how to insert an Arrow Plate.
At some point in your bow making career, or indeed as an archer, you will experience either a completely broken bow or some minor damage. Over the years we have seen many ways in which people have accidentally damaged their bow, the common ways are crushing the limbs or breaking the horn nock in the door of a car when transporting it to and from shoots, leaving it on top of the car and driving off! Other common ways include letting other people use your bow, bows and like clothes, they are designed to fit you and may not fit someone else, maybe their style of drawing the bow is very different to you, they may be much taller/have longer arms and over draw the bow. Many times people have found their equipment broken by people who simply didn't know how to brace it properly and have braced it back to front, been using it upside down and making marks on the bow because the arrow plate is on a different side. An old or frayed string breaking can damage a bow!!! Leaving the bow in a very hot car or indeed putting the bow away wet into the bag and not looking at it for weeks!
Common sense will tell you if the bow is beyond repair i.e. if its in 1000 pieces then, sorry, its beyond repair. Small things like bumps and scrapes can be dealt with, water damage, a broken nock etc are all small things that can be dealt with if you catch them early. Checking your bow regularly will help you spot things early, a common repairable issue are `lifts`, small pieces of wood raising up from the rest of the bow, usually on the back, these can be the beginning of a break/crack, on the belly you may find a `crysal` a compression fracture, these look like small horizontal lines going across the bow. Again, a lift and a crysal can be repaired, IF, you catch it early enough.
Repairing lifts in the backing of a bow can be achieved by completely removing the back layer of the back and gluing on a new one and re-tillering the bow, this is time consuming and you wont end up with the same bow, it could loose weight or indeed gain weight depending on how much re-tillering you need to do. Repairing or removing compression fractures from the belly can be achieved by using a `bloom`, cutting out the affected are and putting in a new piece of wood and again re-tillering the bow. The following videos show you these types of repair.