When I started first building yew selfbows over 10 years ago I was motivated entirely by my own interests in the yew tree and my desire to create a hunting bow using local natural materials. I set a personal goal to build my own gear and eventually harvest a deer with it, which still to date remains incomplete. At the time I did not know anyone else interested in this form of natural archery and my first teachers were the authors of the first volume of the Traditional Bowyers Bible (TBB). I read the book cover to cover and sucked up as much info and wisdom as I could. Over time I met two other local guys who were also playing around with yew wood bows and we we were happy to share our secrets around what has worked for us and what has not. Those get togethers were where I first tried out the farriers rasp, which changed my whole perspective on wood removal and I also picked up the tricks to the Flemish twist bow string. Looking back, they were my only in person teachers as I got started. I also picked up a lot of knowledge through the strong community support on the Primitive Archer forum boards, as well as the the 4 volumes of the Bowyers Bibles. All of my other techniques and theories have been hard earned through trial and error, with nearly as much error as trial.
Just finished off a great week with 5 great folks. Here's the video showing the bows. 3 flatbows & 2 longbows in the batch..
Last year we were contacted by the good folks at the Longbow Shop in England, Graham Higgs and Jason Powell about our business and the yew bows, after several back and forths we were very excited to name them as our UK distributor and have our bows on display and for sale in England. It felt like a big step for a small town Canadian bowyer.
As the 600 year anniversary came closer we began to connect the dots between the Yew bow making workshops and the importance of the longbow within Englands History. We hatched a plan to run two workshops in England and focus on building true self yew longbows on English soil, and after some research we learned that there is really nothing else quite like this going on there.
The Longbow shop just recently opened a new Archery Events centre within the same business district they currently operate from, so we had the ideal location to run the workshops. Next was packaging up 22 pacific yew staves and shipping them across the Atlantic, and the last piece to be sorted was an extra suitcase on the airplane stuffed full of bow making tools.
We ran two workshops each consisting of 4 days and 7 eager participants. Normally most of our workshops are 3 days long, but I added an extra day as were adding true horn caps to our longbows.
Started by meeting everyone and getting a good sense of the bow they were hoping to build. We talked about the tools we would be using and the safety involved. Once they all had their staves we started to draw out the bow profiles and then get to work with hatchets and spokeshaves to start removing some wood and getting the sticks to look like bows.
A very busy day all around of roughing out the bows to oversized dimensions and trying to get a bit of bend starting. We spent a good amount of time re measuring our dimension and making sure everything was feeling proportionate. Also starting to clean the bows up with rasps and spokeshaves. We also started to take a look at building the flemish twist string, as we would need strings and shooting strings for all of the bows.
This was the day that we focused on getting our horn caps fit and installed on the bows. I brought the pieces of water buffalo horn from Canada and they were all predrilled with a tapered drill bit. This is always a bit of a finicky process to make sure that we get a good fit with lots of contact area before we glue. After gluing the horns were cut down and string grooves cut into the horn. Then onto the tiller stick to get them bending to our draw length and weight
Again was very busy, we focused on getting all of the bows tillered out and shooting some arrows. We then decide which is the upper and lower limb based on the shape of the bend. Once happy that the bows are shooting nicely we set an arrow pass with powdered stone set in with glue. Then a few coats of oil.
The time at workshops always goes very quickly and this often gets discussed. It often feels like I just put my head down to draw a line on a bow and it's time for lunch. Before I knew it our time was up and we were done.
The workshops were a huge success and all the bows turned out lovely. The feedback from the participants was very appreciative and enthusiastic as is often the case, and it really felt like folks didn't want to leave at the end of our time. I take this as a real compliment.
The question was raised several times about when I would be coming back to do this again. Before the trip it felt like this might be something that we do every couple of years, but after feeling the excitement and interest in making yew bows in England we have decided to re book for next year and run two more courses next October. Once again hosted by the Longbow Shop. Registration is already open and I have heard that it is filling up already.
Just finished up our November bow immersion. 4 folks - from Vancouver Island, Cortes, lower mainland and Pennsylvania. Great group - lots of work in the shop (during and after shop - hours!). I think they slept on the last night, but I'm not sure...
Here's a look at the bows they went home with.
A group of wonderful folks joined us for 8 days. They left with beautiful bows and arrows and we all have some great memories. Thanks Al, Andrew, Erica, Nathan, Ruth, & Sol for joining our family and for all the laughs!
Here's a look at the two bows and some arrows that were built this week during the bow immersion class. (There's a bow and a bunch of arrows that were a bit camera shy!)
Nicely done Curtis & Stephen. It was great spending the week with you (and Angie too). Look forward to seeing what emerges out of the staves you brought home.
We're having a great time in Alberta, meeting lots of great folks and finding out there's a lot of interest in the workshops! We've filled up the Edmonton and Calgary workshops, and if we'd brought more wood we'd be running a couple more.
We've also added anothe Bow Immersion week - August 17th - 24th and all ready there's only 2 spots left...For those who don't know, this 8 day course is the whole deal. You'll get out in the bush and learn about the famous yew tree, you'll build the bow of your dreams (any kind you want: longbow, flatbow, paddlebow), build a dozen arrows, learn how to harvest shafting, and learn about instinctive shooting in the alley right by the shop. We also have a class September 15-22 with a few spots left. Register here to hold your spot, they are sure to fill up.
We're headed to Alberta in March! We have two wooden bow workshops & arrow workshops in both Edmonton (March 8-10; 11) and Calgary (March 28; 29-31). We're excited to get to teach in a new province. We're receiving lots of interest, which is encouraging. Please register now to hold your place: http://www.ravenbeak.com/registration.html.
We were invited onto the traditional land of the Klahoose to Au' puk' wum (Forbes Bay) in Desolation Sound.
We brought 13 staves, thinking folks could have their pick - but we ended up using them all! A couple people left early, but we managed to get 8 bows done in 2 days. These folks worked harder on their bows then any other group we've had.
They made a good range of bows, from a 20lb. paddle bow to a 65lb. flatbow. We were fed, invited to morning dips in a beautiful river, and our little one made a friend (thanks Darien). We've never taught a workshop in such a beautiful setting and we've marked the calendar for next year, in the hopes that we are invited back.
Here's a link to the write up from Johnny Hanuse: http://www.klahoose.com/go381a/The_Forbes