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.
I did attend one bow making workshop with John Strunk of Tilamook Oregon a few years ago at the North American Longbow Safari in Comox, B.C. It was a great opportunity to spend some time with a man who has been doing this a lot longer than I have and I was all eyes and ears to pick up as may of his techniques as I could. I can still remember one tool of his that I adopted and have used on basically every bow to date. It was to use a long string with weights on both ends to run a straight line down the stave. I had always struggled about how to establish a straight line on a wiggly stick and he had this simple, wonderful solution.
When I first started teaching my bow making workshops, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that others were interested and passionate about these bows as well! All of a sudden my bow making journey did not seem so lonely. I have been fortunate enough to meet nearly 400 great people during my workshops and it has been wonderful to connect with others who share this passion for wooden bows. There have been a number of workshop attendees who do have some bow making experience under their belts, but for the most part it has been me passing on my skills and processes to help others create their own first bow. I must admit that I have learned far more teaching these workshops than I ever could have through building only my own bows.
There are a few wooden bow get togethers in the United states that I have always wanted to attend, but the long driving times as well as a busy young family and business it has just never come together. One day I will do a road trip down to the Tennessee classic and Mojam to get a chance to work alongside some of the fine bowyers from Primitive Archer but for the meantime I have always felt there must been space in Canada to run a similar event. We had this gathering on our schedule last year but as the summer filled up we it didn't feel like we had the time or energy to dedicate to it and so it was dropped. This year Jenna put together the events website and we have made the commitment to try and make it happen. It will be called the Ravenbeak Rendezvous and we are hoping to make it an annual event with your help!
Our vision for the Ravenbeak Rendezvous is to open it up to all past workshop participants (nearly 400 strong) as well as any others who share the passion for wooden bows. The gathering is a weekend get together at a beautiful lakeside campground on Comox Lake just outside of Cumberland B.C. It will be a mostly unstructured weekend where we encouraging sharing and offering support among participants. We are hoping to come together to celebrate the art of wooden bow making, so bring any completed bows you would like to show off and also projects you are currently working on. The campground is in a lovely location and there are many large mature yew trees within a short walking distance. We will have an arrow station set up to build arrows for a small materials fee. We will also bring some character yew staves as well. So bring your tools and staves and let's make some shavings together!
There will be some targets set up on site to practice your aim and try out any new bows. We are hoping to do some aerial shooting known as bow birds as well, where discs are thrown into the air and stray arrows end up in the lake to be collected after via a canoe. We all shoot wooden arrows anyways so the arrows float.
This get together of bowyers has been a dream of mine for many years and I am very excited that it will all come together soon. So if you can make it, we would love to see you there and work on our projects together.