I don’t make one bow at a time, it would take forever. When a week’s orders comes up, I start laying up the risers and selecting the wood for the limbs, getting it ground to specifications based on the weight and length the customer wants. Then basically I go around the shop in a circle from machine to machine, you just make a loop. And when it gets to a certain point, if it’s a recurve, it’s going to get the limbs mounted to the riser and then it’s goes around again. The glue-ups take hours to cure, and spraying the finish on each bow takes a week just to put the finish on because I can only put one coat a day on because I like the finish to cure. So what you’re doing when you take that week’s orders, you’re doing multiple risers, gluing them up, you know, six at a time or three at a time, whatever. I turn-out about three bows a week, somewhere around there, it depends on the bow and how complicated it is. Right now, we’re about eight months out on orders. That’s a little farther than we’d like it to be, but I can only build so many bows and I’m definitely not going to hire anybody.
I built a lot of these tools in here, because you can’t buy them. Brackenbury had similar tools. Jim and I had a mutual friend, and this guy could come up with anything. You’d ask him, you know, I was thinking about doing this and he’d say yeah I got an idea for that. He was just constantly thinking. And so when I started my own shop, I called up Ralph (our friend). I go, we’re going to do this again but we’re going to do it better this time. We had fun doing it. We just kept modifying the tools we’d already made, we came up with a number of different ways to do the things we needed to do. You know, I have tools that most people would probably never think of it.
Probably my favorite step in the process is when they (the bows) go in a box and I’m getting them ready to be shipped. You look at the final product going, and you think wow, that looks good. Some customers pass them on to their kids. I have customers out there that they’ve been shooting their bows long enough now, they’re giving them to their grandkids. Talking to customers is a blast, I’m probably too chatty with them but I like to hear their story or stories. They send us pictures, their hunting pictures and, you know, harvest pictures or whatever, or they say you’re not going to believe what I did, I dropped my bow and you can almost hear them cry, and they have to send it back to get it refinished. It’s like they love those bows. The customer gets to pick-out whatever woods he wants, along with the weight, the length, the draw length, basically every aspect of the bow.
Every piece is different.
I store the wood in my shop long before I use them. I need them to be super dry. You can’t use wet wood. They have to be seasoned or acclimated to my shop before I use them. So I have to keep the shop heated and the humidity down. It’s tough in Portland. You can tell when the humidity goes up, the wood starts getting wet, the finish won’t dry, so on and so forth. When you’re going through the wood and you’re cutting it up and starting the building process, I often think wow, that’s a beautiful piece of wood. Every piece is different. With some of them it’s like man, I want to put that back and save it but I never do.
The most popular wood choice is Cocobolo and Bocote, that combination. You know, it’s probably one of the highest selling materials that I put in a bow. Bolivian Rosewood is real popular and a little harder to get. I use a lot of ebonies; like Macassar and Black Ebony. They’re expensive. And for the limb core, I offer Bamboo, Red Elm, Osage and Yew wood.
We’ll see how it goes.
Right now I’m playing with a shorter recurve. I have a few
of them out there already. Instead of a 60 inch being the shortest, I’m
shortening the riser to accommodate the same limbs which allows me to get the
total length down to 56 and 58 inches. A lot of guys like short bows so they
can hunt out in tree stands and out of ground blinds where it can be tight. I
had some friends beg me to build them one so I did. The big problem is that I
have to retool and change fixtures to accommodate shortened risers. So, it’s
challenging but I’ve made a few and they work really nice. And using
standard-length limbs, you still get the smoothness of long limbs but with a shorter overall
bow. So, we’ll see how it goes.
I still have the first bow I made in the mid-seventies, and I’m still shooting a bow I built in the nineties for hunting.