THE KIDS GOT IT! 33 NEW SELFBOWS = 1 TO BE SELFBOWYER

Ready for spring 2012, we´ve finished our selfbows we were working from last fall on!!

Wow, I love those kids! 

Since 10 years I´m instructing  kids of the Hans- Thoma– Gymnasium in Lörrach to make selfbows and arrows the traditional way. The lessons take place every Thursday afternoon, 90min., we begin in the first week of October, usually we´re ready at the same time when the first warmer days of  spring are finally happening. That´s a perfect time management. The kids are such excited after having finished the bows and arrows, they want nothing else than to shot. Even me can´t wait to see them bracing their bows, drawing them and releasing the arrows, but there has still some instructions to be done about the handling of the bow, not to forget the safety rules.

The first bracing is done! Ready for the shots!
Some unavoidable posing
They should better look where the arrows will go!
Anyway it is done.

I instruct kids in bowmaking the old way since 19 years, the great thing beside being around with following up generations is the fact, that of every workshop I did there´s at least one guy or girl having found a passion and will stuck for a longer time to selfbowery. Or far better will become a self- employed or part- time self- employed bowyer. I know 2 former disciples of mine being now full time bowyers, about 10 being part- time bowyers, quite a lot of them making bows and selling them via ebay or flee- markets or instructing bow- classes. I´m really proud of that.

Spring, Spring, Spring…………………….

After a short but very cold wintertime, spring is back again!

First outdoor shooting 2012 with my kids- bow-class at the T.Heuss Gymnasium at Schopfheim. The times inside we made new arrows, armguards , we did some maintenance of the bows and strings and some gymnastics focused on the course of motions when shooting a bow.

The  kidswere fit as fiddles, Simeons first shot 2012 was a “kill”, the balloon explodes!

Checking the bows and arrows, dressing the new selfmade armguards
Stephen shooting a bamboo bow
Looking for the arrows, the red balloon is still alive
Simeon( in the middle ) has just "killed" the balloon with a mountain maple selfbow.

Spring has come.

Next bowXplosion is on flightbows again, the retros are ready as well as an interesting tonkin- cane bow with forged limbs.

Endless Summer, bow- classes, family, things to do during summer and a dog!

Maybe you remember the "Great mulberry swindle"- article posted about one year ago? The mulberry has grown, this scene looks somehow so Chinese to me- I´ve never been in China.

Hey, back again, the longest summer ever? It really seems that a lot of time has gone since my last post. But behind the scenes I´ve prepared a lot of articles and even a new home for the bowXplosion which will be called bowXXplosion.

The main reasons for not posting too much are the great summer, a lots of bow- classes, my lovely family, some renovations at our farm( new fences, the extension of a former barn into a living room……), firewood making, the old- age disease of our both horses( they´ re at the age of 26) and my dog( the birthday present of my wife).

That´s a lot, our adult daughter spent 2 weeks here to relax from Berlin, where she lives since 10 years, we did a lot of  hikes in the Black Forest and in the French Vosges. We´ve had a great time.

Since 12 years  I did a bow- shooting project with mentally handicaped kids. We´ve 4 mornings, this time I let them flight- shooting only, no targets. I would never have awaited the kids shooting so thrilled, shooting without the limit of the target, as far as possible, that´s it. They came up with so interesting ideas to make the arrow flying further. I´ve never enjoyed shooting with kids so much! I´ll go further with flight- shooting in my archery- classes.

The US- National Flights at the Salt Flats have taken place from the 2nd – the 4th of September. Due to the bad conditions not to much exciting news, but more interest than ever and a lot of infos: Bede Dwyer of the ATARNET and PALEOPLANET´S Alan Case

Some weeks ago the gliding arrows- debate came up again in PALEOPLANET. This time I´ll take for real what sounds like a fairy- tale or some rumor. So the upcoming bowXplosions will be focused on flightshooting with kids, gliding flight- arrows, my trial on a Bill Folberth- flightbow- design( yes, Bill Folberth, the ingenious guy who invented the first automatic windscreen apparatus was a famous bow- designer too), Volume 2 of Bows of Roses and the final tillering of the prod for a crossbow. Now enjoy my pics of a great summer:

The Todtnau Cascades- Germanys longest cascade. That´s not the point- there´s a trail uphills just beside the cascade, halfways the cascade has built a pool, there´s a rainbow in the downfalling water. Such a strong place, it is called to be one of the holiest places in Europe, even if you don´t believe in it, for sure you´ll feel it. Such a far out place to be!
In the Vosges at the Hirschfelsen- there is a real thrilling trail right in the rock bank. Even it looks dangerous my wife succeded in overcoming her fear of heights.
My daughters posing around for some pics
Yesterday- another hot clear day- my wife doing some garden- work, her favourite. Our garden is becoming more and more a paradise.
That´s my birthday-present: Cristy- the street- dog from Spain. She was 4 month old when I got her, she is a bodugero/ Belgian shepherd-dog mix with a very pronounced herding dog behaviour. She turned out to be highly attentive and studiously. The right dog for a dog- beginner, she´s a real companion.
Cristy´s first hike at the Belchen mountain- a bit to long for her, she was really very tired the next days. For to use a cliche´: isn´t she lovely????
Kids- project at Rheinfelden- first trials with a selfmade bow and arrow
Shooting altogether now- the finish of an exciting week
Rheinfelden warriors summer 2011

O.k. that´s history, but a great time to remember, pics of upcoming bowXplosions:

A secretely taken pic of the crossbow- prod- drying time is over soon, final tillering has to be done.
Some bows ready to be finished- 2 flights 137.5, a sinew backed juniper bow, another rowan "Holmegaard"- style shortie...........some more
Giving the mysterious gliding arrows a try

The Great Fibre- Glass Mind Destroyer!!!!

As the BOWXPLOSION has turned out to be one of the most popular blogs focused on the making of PRIMITIVE BOWS and ARROWS ( the term primitive is used proudly) worldwide, I´ll enforce my posting. I´ve persuaded some guys to leave their high- tech archery tackle and to give the primitive way a try.

That´s great!

This year turned out to be the year of wooden bows. Bowyers from all over the world have contributed to enforce  the capablities of wooden bows. Now we´ve got it: wooden bows outperforming fibre- glass bows.The 200f/s bareer has been broken several times.  Thanks to Marc ,St.Louis, Steve Gardner, Alan Case……….for to call a few of these restless guys.

This year turned out to teach much more children and teens for me. My cooperation with schools has heavily increased, I love it. For to make it short: the kids told me that target archery is a mess! I do more and more flight- archery with kids, that´s it! I would go so far to recommend every archery beginner to do flight- archery at first, cause it reqires every capablity needed for accurate shooting without that boring, outmoded kill- pressure. Make your arrow travel as far as possible, kids love it, you´ll love it! Target- archery is a male dominated one-way road.

I´ll post a closer look to flight- shooting kids soon.

Mindful readers of the bowXplosion just have noticed my own growing passion for flight- archery, that´s true, since almost 10 month I´ve not done any target- shooting. I´ve tried to make some great performing wooden flight bows and succeded. It is pure fun to shoot one of my flights 137.5 or one of my double dragons and to think over how to improve them or my flight- shooting style.

This will end up in a new design for the bowXplosion- blog too, more focused on flight- shooting and a closer look behind the scene.

This is an old traditional Hopi kachina- the spirit of the bow- hunter- the first great fibre- glass mind destroyer


Perfect wooden Bow? Vol. 1- speed matters

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flight 137.5 braced at about 4" - made of osage at the top and made of rowan at the bottom
The flights unbraced
The bows backs, at the top there is a simple flight- arrow
That´s the speed for the osage flight 137.5- arrow length is 20", it is weighing 195grs.
That´s the speed for the rowan flight 137.5, same arrow as above

I´m a happy man with that speed and a very satisfied bowyer too. It took me almost 20 years for to make wooden bows performing as fast as hightech- bows- that´s great!!!

Don´t ask me now, why these bow- designs are coming out such fast. It´s some try and errors, I´ll need some time for to realize it. I´m that type of guy following something and not really knowing why.

Above all I was heavily inspired by Marc St. Louis recently posted short elm flightbow, have a look at PALEOPLANET

I just want to do it. I thought about it and come up with some variations. Just have read something about the Golden Angle as a very a well known construction principle in former times(A- frame houses) and in nature(flowers, crystals……). So I gave it a try. Instead of joining the limbs with a tapered finger joint, I attached the well prepared limbs(shaping, steam- bending the angle, heat- treating) to the handle and fixed it with dove tailed wedges, the rowan flight 137.5 is done this way. Don´t be confused about some leftovers of the wedges of a former trial. My first trial went wrong cause I bent the limbs backwards to much while heat treating them. So I cut the limbs of and could use the handle again. The handle is made of mountain- maple, the wedges are made of field- maple as well as the v-spliced in siyahs.

The limbs of the osage flight are v- spliced into the handle which is made of flowery ash and reenforced by small logs of blackthorn at the belly, shaped so for to keep the string as near as possible to the limbs and to allow a comfortable and secure grip.

Length of the osage flight 137.5 is 46″, width is 11/8″ at the handle tapering to about 1/2″ at the tips. The rowan flight 137.5 is measuring 50″ in length, width is tapering from 11/4″ at the handle to 1/4″ at the tips.

Sorry, but I´m still suffering from a badly influenza, so I felt not strong and tough enough for to make the chronos at full draw. At full draw speed will be 200plus f/s.

The design is combining ancient designs like the Angular bows of the Egyptians, the Scythian bows, a lot of the insights of Marc St. Louis, Tim Baker, Steve Gardner, Alan Case, the ATARNET- and PALEOPLANET- members, Adam Karpovicz´ ideas and work on “low stack bow- designs”. Last but not least it is a result of the www and the networks, so this is a kind of global bow.

Next volume is updating the chronos and tells the making of the flights 137.5





Making bows of green wood Vol. 2- A very helpful jig

Another advantage of using green wood for to make selfbows is the possibility to shape it while drying. Vol. 1 was focused on working  a green bowstave a bit longer, wider and thicker than the final dimensions will be. So drying will help us again in making working easier.

But for to draw the drying wood into a shape a jig is needed, a kind of “shaper”. Don´t expect to much what is possible to get. I recommend slight deflex, reflex or recurve. For more curvature I reommend steam- bending( there will be an article about it soon). Anyway I´m not a friend of highly reflexed or recurved bows, maybe they are somehow looking wild or fast, but their performance is often quite disappointing compared with the challenge of making and shooting them.

The jig: as a mindful reader of the bowXplosion you still know it. It´s one of these multi- jigs I prefer so much, it could be used for heat- treating too. And its easy to do.

the jig- sideview, it´s 60" in length

It is made of a squared timber of douglas fir(2″ x 4″ in cross- section). Be generous and choose a real stable timber, maybe some found beech would be a better choice.  The curvature is suited for to get a slightly deflexed bow with long slightly reflexed tips. Usually bowyers have more jigs with different curves: more or no deflex, reflex all over the complete length, more reflex or even some more recurved tips. Anyway it is a good idea to have more than one of such jigs avaible, when a bow made of green wood is drying you can´t use the jig for heat- treating.

.......take care of the right angle.......

The most important thing is to get a right angle all over the length, otherwise you´ll end up with a twisted bow.

Draw parallel lines on the jig- at intervals of about 1/2"

The parallel lines are indicating a center- line for to fix the bow straight.

......the jig could also be used as a ruler for to check the straightness of a bow

Sorry this pic is not to good, but you see the string of this is running just at the edge of the handle:  the bow should be fixed at the jig  so, that the string is running a bit more towards the center of the handle. Heat- treating is so genius, it is possible to correct twists, to add deflex or reflex and at the same time drawweight is increasing!

Heat- treating or drying- jig without curves

Anyway it is possible to use a squared timber without sawing any curves, just straight and stable enough, the shaping could be done by using blocks of wood or cork  as displayed above.

Next volume is dealing with tillering the dried bow.



bow staves Vol.3- chosing, splitting, ……….picture heavy!

The bow stave is half the work to do a good reliable selfbow. To go out cutting wood is the beginning, to grade the staves and to assign them to a design and to the purpose of a bow is the 2nd step. If you want to make a great performing flightbow, the wood has to withstand heavy tension and compression- forces choose the best stave you´ve, if you´ll do a kid´s bow take the smaller staves. Keep in mind: the handle- area of a selfbow does usually not bend, if there is a knot don´t care to much about it, but it´s a matter of your evaluation. As a rule of thumb you´ll get by if a knot´s cross-section is not more than about 1/3 of the handle´s cross- section.

To debark or not to debark is another question. I do usually debark the woods with shorter fibers( rowan, maple, birch, whitebeam, cherry, plum………..)cause they trend to rotten soon if  humidity can´t escape. I left the bark on the long fiber- woods(black locust, osage, elm………..), if they dry to fast they´ll split.

Super bow- woods like hawthorn, blackthorn, euonymus(spindlewood) are told to split soon and heavily while drying. That´s cause of their usually small diameter cross- section. I cut them roughly to a bow´s shape while green and force them with clamps into the chosen design, not any problem working them this way! Look for “Bow staves Vol.2- making a bow of green wood”.

I post a lots of pics of handling bow staves, the stave is 50% of the bow:

split failed, cause of a big knot

This rowan is dedicated to become a deflex/reflexflightbow, the deflex is naturally grown, the reflex at its ends will be enforced by heat- treating. For to succesfully split a smaller stave, debark it and mark the splitting line. Go for enough material: handle thickness about 11/2″, limbs thickness at least 3/4″. If the split will fail, stop it and use the bandsaw.

let´s try it again at the other end
progress in splitting- such great colours are coming up!
dangerrr- the split will cross the red line!
for to end up succesfully I´ve used the bandsaw to finish the split

Usually a twisted tree is easy to recognize, but some trees like rowan hide their growing. Lately while splitting them you´ll see what´s up. Trees with a thicker and rough bark like elm, black locust, osage, hawthorn, blackthorn tell you soon if they are twisted. Maple, cherry, whitebeam, rowan and plum are less kind, almost no signs of twist in their thinner bark.

missed splitting- this stave has twisted fibers
the twisted stave- firewood!

Black locust is one of the woods with long fibers, grown straight and knotfree it is a pleasure to split, a few blows and it is done…………………..

easy to split black locust- first split along the core
very straight black locust trunks- so easy to split
checking straightness of a stave- string a chord over it as a construction line

The string of a bow has more or less to cross the handle- section. The best case is the string lays towards the side where the arrow is shot off. So for to check the  straightness of  a bow stave use a chord and string it over the back- side of the stave. It is possible to make a bow with both limbs pointing in an opposite direction, the main thing is, that the string crosses the handle.

again checking construction line

There is the rowan from above again. I found this stave just cutted by the forest- ranger for to thin out a hiking trail. It has been rainy, the thicker end of the stave was covered with leaves and some other cutted smaller woods, great conditons for a rottening.

the rowan- there is a deflex/reflex- design inside
rottening has just begun- cause of water

I debarked the stave soon, splitted it, stored it at a breezy and dry place, rottening can´t cause any further damage. The bow will be made as a skinny tip design(holmegaard, mollegabet), so I´ll get by with this stave.

rottened- view at the cross- section

There is a whitebeam to split, a part of a real big tree. One side is to knotty, the other side is knotfree but somehow snaky, anyway a delicious to do bow. But due to the capablities of whitebeam as a bow wood and its beauty it´s very worth to do it.

splitting a whitebeam
progress in splitting the whitebeam
let´s go further.............
for the split the knotty end some blows from the other side are necessary
whitebeam splitted- one half is a deliciousn to do bow stave- the other half is firewood or will become a part of a new stairrail

One of the best rowan staves I´ve ever come across, one straight half,  so easy to split.

splitting of a rowan
splitted rowan- one half is a great knot free stave- the other half is firewood
where is the bow?

The bow within this rowan sapling is in its knotfree slightly reflexed half, cause it is of a small diameter, I´ll not split it. The only knot is just in the center, at the bows belly- side at the handle, there is no bending.

finished- it took me an afternoon to get 1 whitebeam-, 3 rowan- and 9 black locust- staves

Bow staves Vol. 4 will be focused again on making bows of green wood.

Bow staves Vol. 2- making bows of green wood

Remember this pic of  “Bow staves Vol.1…….” :

where is the bow?

The more bow- designs you know, you´ve done, the more bows you´ll be able to imagine in a tree, a branch, a sapling. It´ s very important to have a lots of  bow- designs saved.

At the left I´m just beginning with the splitting, it was hard, I almost missed to get a stave thick enough allover its length.

the rowan stave(the one in the middle)- at the left almost to thin, but it´ll work

Cause the rowan trunk was thick, the stave turned out to become very wide- about 4″. I just had to cut it smaller, while removing wood from the sides for to get the thicker inner part of the stave.

the rowan stave- look at its belly- allover width is 2"
the rowan stave- allover width is now 21/2"
sideview of the rowan stave

Since some time I´ve in mind to do a flightbow with a deflexed handle area and very slight small recurves. The stave is matching more or less this design. It´s still not to symmetrical. Its length is 62″, so 50lbs at 23″ should be no problem.

I debarked the stave, an easy job to do when its still green. I cut it with the axe and the drawknife to its shape, worked out the handle and an allover thickness of  1/2″ in the limbs.

working the green rowan
yesterday was a great day- fall is just beginning, really hot outside since some days, cold nights anyway. I could work outside, just beside my workshop, a great day!

Notice the jig on the pic above( beside the bows limb at the right). I always cut patterns of the bows I´m doing. I make them of thin flexible plywood for to get by with the natural curves of a stave, you can reuse them again.

Finally the bow is “shaped” by using a straight stable squared wood, clamps and small wooden logs at different thicknesses.

"shaping" of the green stave
"shaping" of the bow- note the marks at its back, serving as an indication for to get a symmetrical design

As usual in bowery, waiting time now!  2 weeks at least, every 2 or 3 days I´ll check what happens. Rowan doesn´t split to easy while drying, I find it very suited for to do bows of green wood.

I´m becoming more and more a “green wood” bowyer. I did very good experience above all with plum, hawthorn, euonymus and blackthorn, all badly reputated for splitting while drying. Since I worked them being green, no split at all. Almost every bow I do for customers or my own is actually done of green woods. But for the bow- classes I do all the year round with kids and adults I use the long proven air- drying. I´ve always about 50 staves in stock, seasoned for at least 2 years in our barn: a dry and breezy place. Just about 2 weeks before a class, I pick up the staves I need , for to be acclimatized. I don´t use any hot boxes or other methods for to dry bow- staves.

Bow staves Vol. 3 will be dealing with some more samples.