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Bow Making — How To Make American Double-Curve Bows


American style double-curve bows are a traditional Indian weapon and Ed Scott is considered a master bowyer, or bow maker. An early starter Ed, who now lives in Grants, New Mexico, made his first bow at the age of nine after an uncle taught him the craft. However, after a career in the U.S. Navy and, later, as a tree surgeon, then as a missionary in Botswana, Scott did not return to the craft until about seven years ago when he made a bow for his grandson. After getting into bowmaking again there was no turning back.

In this video Ed explains how he uses and shapes billets of juniper and mesquite, which he then glues sinew, such as elk sinew, to add tensile strength. In making bows, Scott's process is traditional and everything is done by hand. He explains the importance of tensile strength in the functioning of a good bow. According to Mr Scott, once heated and bent to shape these woods can get up to 10 times more tensile strength than in the wood alone if sinew is glued to the back of the bow.

Once the sinew has been applied, Ed shapes the bow using drawknives, rasps and files until it is the right shape. Each of these wooden bows can take anywhere from about 30 to 60 hours to make, and are usually done over a six or seven month period, whereas horn bows can take up to 120 hours to make over about a year and a half.

These sinew-backed bows are called 'five-curve' or 'double-curve' bows. Unlike traditional English longbows, they are shorter and can be used on horseback -- similar to the bows developed in the Middle East. The sinew takes some of the workload off the wood of the bow, and helps to provide tensile strength disproportionate to the size of the bow, therefore giving it much more power, than it otherwise would have had.

In the video Ed also explains the importance of the tillering process, where its essential to have a sense of ratio and proportion. This is where the bowyer's artistry comes into focus. It doesn't matter how good you are as a woodworker, if you don't have an acute sense of ratio and proportion you will never gain complete mastery of the craft. Ed also pointed out that horse bows range in length from 40 to 56 inches and pull 40 to 80 pounds, and have been used by plains Indians for hundreds of years.

Recently Ed spent part of his summer teaching bow-making skills to the Lakota tribe of South Dakota. Ironically, this branch of the Sioux Nation had been comprised of legendary bow hunters when buffalo still roamed the plains, but in the past 130 years or so their bow-making skills had faded after all of the buffalo had been decimated by white pioneers and soldiers.

During the week-long course, Ed taught the group of teachers and novices some of the finer points of the art of bow-making. The students learned how to make their own sinew-backed bows from several bowyers from not only New Mexico, but Illinois, South Dakota, Missouri and Maryland. In addition to Scott, New Mexico was represented Ernie Mackal who is the president of the Zuni School Board.

It should be noted that Osage Orange is also considered as a choice wood amongst bow makers, as it has excellent compressive as well as tensile strength, and has similar properties to English Yew.
Video Rating: 4 / five

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27 Responses to Bow Making — How To Make American Double-Curve Bows

  1. khkiller123 on December 11, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Are you able to make a bow for me? I don’t have the materials yet though.

  2. Emulsionproductionss on December 11, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    That’s a beautiful skill he has. Incredible how he started doing it just based on circumstance.

  3. huntermark1160 on December 11, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Does Ed sell any of the bows he makes? Where or how can I buy one?

  4. kmearly02 on December 11, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    It’s really cool and interesting to see how he makes all of these bows. I love that it was a part of his past as a child and how he used the skill in hunting rabbits. The artwork in his bows is truly beautiful and the time and effort put into them amazes me!

  5. Flamingdragonarse on December 11, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    This is tight

  6. Jinkinater on December 12, 2010 at 12:49 am

    Those bows are really beautiful. I never knew that it was such an extensive process. It takes a lot of hard work

  7. anneyone on December 12, 2010 at 1:37 am

    This is so neat. Its really amazing just how much dedication and precision goes into making a single bow. I also like the way in which he explains the means of acomplishsing anything of a skillful nature as “intelligence guided by experience”.

  8. sgarduno2010 on December 12, 2010 at 1:57 am

    Wow it was really cool and interesting getting to see what goes into making a bow.

  9. SamuelAggie89 on December 12, 2010 at 2:37 am

    This has always interested me because of the bow being such an elemental and primitive weapon yet, at the same time, so useful.

  10. earlmccreight on December 12, 2010 at 2:42 am

    So no-one has answered yet. Can I buy a bow off this guy?

    • Admin on December 20, 2010 at 5:16 am

      Yes, contact him via the link on the YouTube page

  11. HARLEYTRASHY on December 12, 2010 at 3:38 am

    The idea of someone making handcrafted items is almost non-existent, in this day and age so, I find this video very interesting.

  12. 47065360 on December 12, 2010 at 4:04 am

    I would like say hello to Ed personally and tell him, how I admire and respect him

  13. childofivar on December 12, 2010 at 4:32 am

    I love the bows that he makes and I wonder how he started in his bow making?

  14. godkingzulu on December 12, 2010 at 4:46 am

    It’s cool to see that this stuf is still being done. Congratulations Ed!.

  15. arch4811 on December 12, 2010 at 5:01 am

    Wow seems like a lot of work just to make one bow, but I guess if you were making several at a time it would work out OK……I have never used one so don’t really get it, but im glad he found passion.

  16. and01whut on December 12, 2010 at 5:37 am

    This was nice to see. I didn’t really know that much about bows so I’m glad I got see what happens when one is made. Thanks for posting!!

  17. nicksynnz on December 12, 2010 at 6:07 am

    The bow is nice but, despite what he says, it is possible to copy it exactly. The part where he talks about what is right and what is innate knowledge is humbug. I agree that there could be something artistic about it, but overall bow making is science and not art.

  18. pab6100 on December 12, 2010 at 7:05 am

    just brill, how and where is the next workshop. how can i contact ed to buy one of his bows? can it be done? pab.

  19. Tashar25 on December 12, 2010 at 7:40 am

    This was interesting to watch and the sound affects added a great insight, but they were a bit loud.

  20. 1989rosales on December 12, 2010 at 7:54 am

    nice stuff. good work

  21. 1989rosales on December 12, 2010 at 8:50 am

    where can i viset you in this shopless. do you have contac addres

  22. MAL0p3z on December 12, 2010 at 9:33 am

    I thought this was so interesting and insightful. I also liked the advice that Ed gave at the end of the video. He seems like a very smart man.

  23. TheCasias1 on December 12, 2010 at 10:12 am

    I like to try out new things as most of my family is into hunting in one form or another. One of my sisters favorite hunts is Bow.

  24. momtips4life on December 12, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Great information! I never knew you could make a bow from animal horns.

  25. ThePonyJackJack on December 12, 2010 at 10:55 am

    I have to say that this is a pretty awesome video. I never would have imagined that there is that much work in just making a bow. I think its particularly interesting that he learned how to start making bows out of necessity.

  26. jon on June 27, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    can u plz make me one as i go hunting and i broke my bow

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