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Notes on Bow Making
by James M. Challiss
Forest and Stream, June 1913
Part 1 of 3

IN a former article the subject of making self bows from native material was treated in a general way. Such suggestions as were given, and those that will follow, are not advanced as being original or perfect, but are simply the observations of the crudest sort of an amateur, based upon actual experience. It is not proposed that every archer shall make his own bows. The writer does not, for he knows that Duff and Barnes can make an infinitely better bow than he can, and for that reason he habitually carries in the field a bow fashioned by the hands of these master workmen. On a recent hunting trip for big game in British Columbia he carried with him a 65-pound yew of Barnes and a six-foot three-inch 65-pound lance of Duff, both most excellent weapons. But the excellence of the product of the professional bowyer does not militate against the pleasure of using a bow of less merit when fashioned by one's own hands. The making of a self, one-piece bow is comparatively easy, as has been heretofore shown. The chief obstacle is to get a clear piece of material of sufficient length. It is quite easy at times to get a piece of perfect bow wood three feet long and impossible to get one of six feet. This is especially true of yew, and it will be found that most all yew bows are made of two short pieces joined in the handle. This makes what is known as a pieced or grafted bow. I have never been so fortunate as to have a piece of yew to experiment with, and my experience in grafted bows, that is, the making of them, has been confined to mulberry and osage orange with satisfactory results. There is no reason why all bow woods may not be grafted in the same way. There is another reason for the grafted bow, beside scarcity of material. Expert bowyers claim that there is a difference in the quality of the wood in either end of a six-foot stick, and for that reason endorse the grafted bow for that it enables them to have in either limb of the bow wood of identical quality by taking two pieces from the same stick and grafting them together.

Those who are ambitious may make a grafted bow with but little more labor than a one-piece weapon. Secure two pieces of material at least three and one-half feet long. If you are able to make your selection in the woods, you may follow the directions heretofore given for making a one-piece bow. Reduce the sap as described and prepare the butt ends of both pieces which will enable you to square the joint ends to one and a quarter inches at least for a distance of four inches. This squared end be mechanically square and its lines must be parallel with the axis of the stick. If your stick is crooked from back to belly, it is not vital, but if it is crooked from side to side, you had better select another piece. The lines of the squared ends must lie in planes parallel to the plane which cuts through the back and belly.

The joint is what is known as a fish joint and when properly made is as strong or stronger than the original wood. It affords about sixteen square inches of glue joint of advantageous form and when properly reinforced by whipping is practically unbreakable. To mark out the pattern of the joint you should prepare duplicate copies of the lines to be followed on paper, having an original and a carbon. To make this pattern rule two parallel lines three and one-half inches long and as wide apart as the width of your squared ends. Connect the ends with straight lines. This gives you a parallelogram three and one-half inches long by, say, one and a quarter inches wide. Divide one end into two equal parts and the other in three. Draw lines from the corners of the equally divided end to the division points at the opposite end, as well as two lines from the center of the equally divided end to. the same points. Your pattern will then look like this:

Joint for a grafted bow