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Philosophy

I donít do this for a living Ė in order to pay the bills Iíd have to charge the sort of prices youíd pay a master bowyer for a good journeyman bow.

I have a full time job (sometimes a bit more than full time) as an IT consultant. Making bows and arrows is how I relax. That means I can spend the time to do a good job, but it also means there is a lead time if you want to one. I try to give a realistic ETA, which will depend on the work in hand and how much real life sometimes intrudes into woodworking time. What I always do is make sure you are updated with progress, in pictures, whenever there is a bit of visible progress. And I donít ask for any financial commitment from you until you can see the bow. That takes some of the pressure off both of us.

In general terms my philosophy is very much aligned with the SPTA. I'm a recent member and I'll be getting more involved as and when time permits.

I try to be Ďtraditionalí and make bows as they have been made for centuries. I donít use plastic, fibreglass or carbon fibre. This is where, and in some cases why, I deviate from tradition :

  • I use foreign wood (this is not so untraditional as bowstaves were imported from Italy, in fact they were used as a sort of levy on wool imports). Nowadays European Yew is just to rare and the ash I have seen is over-dried and just not dense enough. The last time I visited the sawmills I found a few pieces of native yew a couple of feet long and very shaky and knotty.
  • I resort to a circular saw to cut the staves from the plank. I could hand saw them but it would add a day to each bow and taking out thin laminations of woods like hickory would be a long process. Other than that I keep the use of power tools to a minimum. Iím considering investing in a band saw for some of the gross shaping. Iíd use it where I kerf and chisel the risers at the moment.
  • I use modern water soluble epoxy glues for laminating and joining wood. Animal glues can be a problem in hot or wet condtions and they are not good at filling space. The also take a long time to develop full strength.
  • I use spirit glues for fletching (although Iím thinking of using animal glue for this if I can find a good source. Thereís no reason why it shouldnít work just as well, it has good affinity with both the wood and quills.) The deciding factor will be the intial tack time and the strength of the set glue.
  • I use modern materials (Dacron and nylon) for strings and make them in endless loop. One day I will take the time to learn Flemish twist but I doubt Iíll use linen thread unless Iím asked for it specifically.
Other than that the techniques are, as far as I know, authentic. So are some of the tools. My small plane, drawknife and spoke shave are anything up to 100 years old and although I donít use them exclusively, they are my favourites especially the small plane (bought at a car boot sale for 4.50GBP).