E N Curtis Woodworks

Handcrafted, Functional Art in Wood

A week of making self-bows

This week at CFC was spent with Brian Persico, a furniture maker and bowyer from Brooklyn, NY. Brian's been making furniture for a few years after graduating with a degree in industrial design, but about two years ago ventured into bow making and now, I think, can be considered a full-fledged bowyer (the proper title of a bow-maker). And some of his bows are the kind of thing that makes you want to become a bowyer yourself. 

When I think of bows, I think of all the classic things a little boy thinks of. Cowboys and Indians. Mongols. Robin Hood. Elvish warfare. There's something romantic about bows and bow-making that's akin to longswords, camp fires, and roasted mutton. And, having partaken in this week-long class and made a longbow myself, I can say that the process of making the bow was exciting, and almost as fun as shooting it. But it's entirely different from furniture making—rather it's more akin to carving, in that you are always reducing, trying to form the overall picture, before you hone in on the details; of course, this is specifically to self-bows and does not include laminates and compound bows. The major difference in bow-making is that once you reach a certain point in the process, you make a small adjustment, and take the bow outside to shoot, get a sense of what you want it to shoot like, and adjust accordingly, repeating the process until it functions in the desired manner. This only makes the process so much more fun because you get to constantly go shoot your bow as you're working on it. 

The process itself was surprisingly elemntary—split the stave, get the back face to one growth ring, and shape to needed width and thickness. That's really the basic process in a nutshell, and you can make many different styles with those three steps. You can, of course, get fancy by adding recurves, stylized nocks of horn or antler, arrow rests and strike plates, handles, or sinew and horn to the limbs to make it more powerful. Brian's done all of these things—I added a recurve, a little horn arrow rest, and a leather handle. But I had loads of fun doing it. And if anyone is interested, you can visit Brian's website to see some of his work. In the meanwhile, enjoy some of the pictures from the week past, including our end of the week archery tournament.