Sunday, September 9, 2012

Bows & Arrows: a primal passion for primitively propelled projectiles

I think there's a primal connection that many of us feel toward archery... a simple bow and arrow... one of the earliest technological advances that empowered man to take down large prey at a distance. The first potential arrow heads that are known date back to a little over 60,000 years ago. They were found in a cave in South Africa, and either the innovation spread like wildfire or it arose independently in many different areas around the world. It seems bows and arrows are pretty pervasive as early weapons... and a significant part of our collective history as human beings.

Despite many advances in modern weaponry (namely those involving gunpowder), the archer remains a mystical character in our popular culture. It's not hard to find the mystique of the bow and arrow in many recent movies- The Hunger Games, Snow White and the Huntsman, The Avengers, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and of course we can't forget Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I think Legolas the Elf might be the most incredible of those films' archers, but they all accomplish feats with a bow and arrow that far exceed the realities of the primitive weapons which they wield.

The reality is that even the most modern of compound bows is still quite primitive when compared to a high-powered semi-automatic rifle. There is no such thing as semi-automatic archery even though Legolas and The Avengers' Hawkeye make it look so easy on the silver screen.

I imagine I'm not the only one who really enjoys the archers of the movies, even though they seem quite ridiculous at times... and I'm probably not alone in sensing the urge to go shoot a bow after watching one of these films... and then I think about shooting a bow and arrow, and I'm transported to a place both primal and juvenile. A place where I am both the great primitive hunter and Robin Hood at the same time.

The reality of me shooting a bow and arrow is that I'm not really that good at it. I've shot both compound bows and long bows, but I've never really spent much time practicing my archery skills. I hope to change that with my recent restoration of an old long bow that I literally found in the trash. It's certainly not much, but I hope to find a connection to bows and arrows again with this little piece of wood.

When I first found the old bow, the three layers of wood at the grip had delaminated and were held together by only a deteriorating old leather wrap. My first order of business was to remove all of that old leather and glue the wood back together. After I finished that, I did a bit of sanding and removed most of the old varnish that was loose and flaking off. I decided to give the dry old wood some new life by refinishing it with Danish oil. I would highly recommend this or a similar penetrating oil finish when working with any sort of potentially brittle antique woods.


One arm of the bow had a minor crack just below the string nock, and I repaired it as any do-it-yourselfer fisherman probably would have. I super-glued it, and then I wrapped it just like I would wrap a guide onto a rod... although I did use heavier thread. I clear coated the thread with Sally Hansen's "Hard as Nails", but I wish I had some "Flex Coat" to use instead.

The little dark line between the wrap and the bowstring is a crack.

I wrapped the opposite end to match, and I figured it wouldn't hurt to have a little reinforcement.



In addition to my fisherman inspired repair above, I decided to wrap the grip with some old worn out fly line. I think it turned out pretty well.



I ordered my bowstring from Victorious Archery Company, "sticknstring_73" on eBay. If you need a custom bowstring for a long bow or recurve, I would highly recommend this maker.

Excellent product, good price, quick turnaround and shipping

I can report that the bow, and my little repairs, have held up well to my first attempt to shoot. During that brief little session in the backyard, I also discovered that I really need some practice.

Maybe I'll get out one evening this week and shoot around a bit.

I'll be imagining I'm Robin Hood or Legolas...

until reality sets in... just after I let that first arrow fly.

12 comments:

  1. Very cool post! I look forward to hearing more about how the bow works out in the future.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by. I'll probably do an archery follow up after I knock out those other posts that are already in the works.

      Delete
  2. I dig this! And may the power of Legolas be with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Erin. I'll do my best to channel the Elf of the Woodland Realm the next time I go target shooting. I'll need all the help I can get.

      Delete
  3. Nice!! I like the way you incorporated some of your old fly fishing materials in the restoration. Looks like it'd be fun to play around with in the backyard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is fun, and hopefully will be more so after a little practice. Glad you liked the fisherman's touch.

      Delete
  4. Love it. I'm really into bows, for someone who doesn't own one!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's that "primal connection" I mentioned in the very first sentence. You can't help it, and I totally understand. We've got over 60,000 years of human history with bows and arrows... I'd say that's a pretty strong connection.

      Delete
  5. I'm a little jealous you found this in the trash... and that you have a yard big enough you can shoot a bow and not take your neighbor's eye out. You did a nice job bringing it back to shooting condition.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can be jealous of the find if you like, but there are all sorts of goodies in the neighbors' trash if you just take the time to notice. The backyard on the other hand gives no reason to be jealous... it's tiny. I never said how far, or close, I was shooting.

      Delete
  6. Very nice! I grew up with bows and love especially those of wood or wood/glass laminate. I love fletching as oppossed to vanes. I love cedar arrows. You have a good thing going!

    Gregg

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gregg, sorry I didn't notice your comment when you posted it. I would have to agree, fletched cedar arrows would be far more fitting for a classic wooden bow. Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete