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About Bows of Wood and the history of Native American Bow use and ancient archery

bows of wood were also called self bows... this was the primary type for Eastern Native American Bow and Arrows

What Kind of Arrows can be used with a self bow?

Arrows are a very crucial partner for any self bow. It is imperitive that they are spined correctly to match the bow. Use only wood arrows. For these bows I also strongly encourage the use of feathers rather than plastic vanes, the difference being that the vanes will deflect more than natural feathers.

After four years of making bows and arrows, I have come to realise that in order to make arrows true to archaelology and offer them at a competitive price with other less traditional products, I ended up working slave wages. Hence, they have been discontinued.

I now recommend arrows similar to those offered by Rose City Archery.

What's my draw weight?

A common question for beginners is "what is my draw weight?"

This is by all means up to you're personal preference and physic. But general guidlines from my experience are:

Male archery: 40 - 50 lb bow
Female archery: 30-40 lb bow
Bow hunting: 45 -55 lb bow
Youth archery: Greatly varies. Use your best judgement.

Archaeoligically, my mentor Errett Callihan said there were two types of bows, 50 pounds for hunting, and 60 pounds for war. Note that he was referring to stone age bows. In medieval times, bows were much heavier simply because they were using heavier arrows to penetrate armour from as far away as possible.

What bow should I get?"

This is a very personal choice, but please see what bows we have for sale

Traditional Archery vs. Primitive Archery

"Traditional Archery" encompasses Primitive archery, also includes all modern bows that have bending limbs... as opposed to compound bows which use pulley's and leverage. Archery is estimated to be at least 20,000 years old.

Our bows are made in the old fashion way, in that each piece of wood is cut, seasoned and individually shaped by a master bowyer, and the outer layer on the back of the bow follows one growth ring. These fall into the category of "primitive bows", but please, throw away all modern connotations associated with the word primitive. I assure you they are quite effective, as 20,000 years of providing human sustenance has demonstrated very well.

Modern traditional bows (and why I have no interest in them)

Wood laminants, Fiberglass long bows, and Recurve's

Wood laminants,Fiberglass long bows, and Recurves are the main types of bows available to archers for traditional archery. Once a template of the bow is formed, several are made exactly alike. While man made materials are superior in some ways, such as being relatively impervious to humidity, they are also much heavier and louder. It takes away some of the fun in dealing with character wood as well as the connection with my natural heritage, which I relish.

Primitive bows

Wooden bows, board bows, self bows, and primitive composite bows.

Self bows are defined as being made of entirely one piece of wood and fall into two categories; bows made following one growth layer on the back of the bow, and bows made from boards. A well made self bow is a deadly hunting weapon that continues a tradition of 20,000 years.(before that, atlatls were used for hunting big game)

They are elegant, light in the hand, and sturdy in the pull with a very gentle and strong pull. Some self bows are made from hardwood boards, but board bows are usually backed with canvas, hence falling into the category of a "composite bow" Older-style bows are made from the long, split-out portions of a tree. The split out portion is called a "stave". The trees must be split right away with white woods, then the staves are seasoned for 6 months or longer. Bows made from staves have more character, and are require more hand tools to make than board bows, which can be made for the most part with a table saw. Dealing with character in the wood requires more skill on the craftsman's part.

A wooden bow will change with humidity from heavier to lighter. In the dryer weather they will become heavier by a few pounds. The good thing, is that arrows do as well, so a matched set will not deviate.

Composite bows are bows made of combinations of wood, sinew horn, or plant fiber in a laminated fashion.

In dry areas, many primitive bows were made from a combination of sinew, fish glue, horn, bone, wood, bamboo, and antler. These bows are by far, the most time consuming and laborious to make. They are not totally useful in wetter areas, but in dry climates have far superior performance.

Finger positions in primitive archery

Finger positions varied into several categories: Pinch grip's, thumb-ring's, & hook grips. This reflects that to ancient people, archery was a culture unto itself, with thousands of variances.

Making a self bow

Gifted bow makers were once important members to clans, tribes, and nations. It was by their skill, their patience, and their spirit that they crafted these sacred tools as both an artist and an engineer.

Before the primitive bow people used thrown projectiles for the same purposes, such as bolas, boomerangs, throwing sticks, atlatl darts, rocks, etc. In essence, atlatls were more effective for primitive people who were hunting, as one large atlatl dart could take down bigger game.

Bows in Warfare

The commonly thought reason that bows took over from equally effective atlatl's, was because in war people who could only carry 5 or 6 atlatl darts were at a disadvantage to people who could carry 20 to 30 arrows. In those times, protection was part of survival on a personal level, and though skirmishes were less severe, they happened regularly. The only continent with out bows and arrows was Australia, and several islands besides, which should attest to their more peaceful life ways.

On this note, it should be noted that a bow in the hands of a skilled archer was far more deadly than any musket, and were eventually replaced in the hands of natives by repeater rifles. The only benefit of a musket, was the shorter time period required to master the weapon. Arrows had faster rate of succession, as well as armour piercing ability when used with hard wood arrows (being heavy)

Stringing a self bow

Use a bow stringer for better safety for you and your bow. Putting too much torque on one limb will strain the fibers well past their limit; remember, a bow must bend evenly with no one part taking too much strain. A very effective method is the step through method, however, it is also a very effective way to ruin a good bow if done improperly (such as having the legs brace one limb more than the other)

bow stringing video demonstrating the step through method

Bow Strings

Primitive strings were generally made from animals, such as twisted rawhide thongs, reverse wrapped sinew, and stretched gut from large carnivores.

In wetter areas, where animal strings are prone to stretching too much, vegetation was used. Cane strips,and twisted cordage from the bark of various pithy stalked plants were used.

The strings that are made for the bows here at North Wood Traditional Archery LLC are made from waxed Nylon, which is called dacron. However, to keep as close with ancient tradition as possible, it is twisted in three ply method, rather than bundled as with most modern bows.

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