Archive for the ‘archery’ Tag

More bows

Three bows

Top left: Short red elm. 25#@21″.
Top right: Red elm ELB style. 30#@26″.
Bottom: Bamboo-backed American oak with cumaru core. 40#@26″


Hawthorn bow

This was from a piece of hawthorn I cut from a canal cutting when we were on a narrowboat holiday last year. It split quite badly during the drying process and I was forced to cut it very thin in the handle section to avoid two of the worst offenders. The remainder of the shaping and tillering process was spent compensating for the resulting weak sections where the handle met each limb.

53 inches, nock to nock. 27lb at 26 inches. ‘D’-shaped cross section. Finished with beeswax and an elk hide handle wrap.

Ash bow

I finished this bow a little while ago. It’s 57 inches nock to nock. I haven’t had a chance to measure the draw weight yet, but I would guess it weighs in at between 45 and 50 pounds.

The bow is backed with linen and painted using earth pigments in a hide glue medium. The overlaid nocks are horn, the fur dampeners are rabbit and the handle wrap wool. The string is three-ply cordage I made from waxed linen.

Bamboo composite arrows

Here are some arrows I’ve just finished working on, after what seems like an age. They’re not wrong when they say building a bow is easy compared with a crafting a bespoke arrow.

They are a composite of bamboo shafts with holly foreshafts and nocks, and bone arrowheads. Despite bamboo growing relatively straight, it invariably changes direction slightly at the nodes, so after thinning the shafts to spine them, they did need a little heat straightening. I selected holly for the nocks and foreshafts because it is dense and strong in compression; they used to use it for the hubs of cart wheels.

The arrowheads are fixed to the foreshafts using hide glue rather than pine pitch, as I wanted to keep the clean look. Therefore I carved the foreshafts in such a way as to not impede the entry of the arrow into its target.

To go with these arrows I also made a new crocheted quiver.

Bow update

In taking the photos for the crocheted quiver, I realised I hadn’t shown the most recent handle grip I put on my bow in the autumn (the last one was brown). This one is made from black leather, sewn up with a baseball stitch. I prefer the black as it complements the tips.

I made these arrows in the autumn too. They’re not authentic primitive arrows as they use brass points, plastic nocks and machined shafts, but they were good practice in fletching and they make very good practice arrows (not a good idea to use broadheads if you want the thing you’re practice-shooting to last more than five minutes!).

Crocheted quivers and things

Here are some of the things I have been crocheting lately.

I crocheted this quiver last summer soon after I made my bow, but have now just finished the bow quiver to go along with it and a small bag to keep my wrist guard and things in.

Crocheting is the craft of knot tying using a hook. It’s usually associated with delicate lacy creations, but can also be used to create a hardwearing material perfect for insulating outer garments and sturdy bags. It’s quite a slow process, but with practice you can achieve a reasonable speed – I created the little bag in about an hour using a larger hook.

The wool I’ve used here is untreated natural wool from traditional heritage-breed sheep from the British Isles. I will get round to drop spindle spinning at some point but for now I bought this ready spun.

Wool is a fantastic material in that, unlike most modern fabrics, it will retain up to seventy per cent of its insulating properties even when soaking wet. Moreover, the natural greases in untreated wool help shed water faster than bleached wool or acrylic.

I’m going to create some more of these little bags as they are quick to produce and handy for storing and carrying all manner of things.

I’m also going to have a go a creating my own oversized hook and crocheting a fishing net from my own nettle cordage.

Horn wrist guard

This is a horn and leather wrist guard I’ve just finished (for shooting bows). The horn is from longhorn highland cattle and the toggle fastening is bone. It’s fixed with sinew and hide glue.

This wrist guard is based on one I saw at the British Museum made from walrus ivory with a similarly shaped leather strap and antler fastening.

Warriors of the Plains

On Friday I went to see the Warriors of the Plains exhibition at the British Museum. The exhibition focuses on the material culture of Native North American Indians of the Plains between 1800 and the present, and the importance of the objects in a social and ceremonial context.

Highlights for me were the buffalo skin robe at the entrance to the exhibition, decorated with scenes of warfare and the exploits of the owner/maker, such as horse stealing. The stylistic rendering of the human figures and horses was beautifully simple and evocative and I made a few sketches to influence my own creations.

I’m planning to make a ‘coup stick’, a couple of which were on display in the exhibition. These are short clubs that were used to touch enemies without harming them. To do this without getting caught was a deed of great skill and honour. It reminded me of some of the games we played on Native Skills 1 and 2.

I also viewed the permanent displays of Native American artefacts and was impressed by the delicacy of some of the coil baskets and clay pots and the simplicity and effectiveness of their designs. I was drawn to the creations of some of the Northern-most peoples, including walrus ivory wrist guards, bow drill bows, harpoons and composite bows.

Lots of inspiration and ideas for my next creations! I would recommend the Warriors of the Plains exhibition to anyone who happens to be in London. It runs from 7 January to 5 April 2010 in the exhibition space on level 4.


We went to see Avatar in 3D on Wednesday. It’s the story of the human colonisation of the fictional planet of Pandora, and the resistance of the native population of Na’vi (The People). The humans attempt to usurp the Na’vi on a number of fronts, including militarily and diplomatically. They genetically create Na’vi bodies (or avatars), which trained specialists can upload their consciousness to, in order to negotiate with the Na’vi and attempt to ‘educate’ them in human values and language.

Pandora is a breathtakingly beautiful planet, and rendered in high-definition 3D it’s pretty awe-inspiring. The Na’vi enjoy a close bond with their land and can access a kind of ancestral consciousness through forest network. They are experts in tracking, hunting, healing, caretaking and honourable relationship. The barbarity of the colonising attitude is at the fore throughout, but for once things don’t always go the usurpers’ way.

Avatar is well worth a view and hopefully I’ll be going back to see the IMAX 3D version before it leaves the cinemas.


This week I finished the arrow I started on Native Skills 2. Arrowmaking is a demanding subject requiring the same patience and care as bowmaking… if not more. The difficulty, and art of it, comes in persuading a naturally deviating piece of wood into a uniform straightness, a nearly impossible task that reminded me a lot about the importance of being guided by nature rather than expecting it to yield to our human ideals.

The shaft of the arrow was one I harvested from the riverbank near where I live. I was not familiar with the tree from which it came, and nor could the instructors at the Native Awareness school immediately identify it. After further discussion and research we think it could be a variety of privet, seeded from a nearby garden hedge. Whatever it is, it makes a wonderfully stiff arrow shaft, so much so that one of the mistakes I made in creating this arrow was that I could have got away with making it a lot thinner. As it is, I would say that the arrow is spined for a much stronger bow than mine, perhaps 60lbs.

I had already begun to straighten the shaft during the seasoning process, which I sped up by keeping it on the dashboard of my car. Around the campfire I stripped the bark and heated the shaft to bend out some of the final kinks, before sanding it and cutting the notches. The arrowhead was cut and filed from cow bone, bevelled to the centreline and notched in the side-barb style. Once home, it was hafted onto the shaft using the pine pitch I made last week, and secured in place with deer sinew. The fletchings are of turkey feather and secured to the shaft with sinew.