I’ve spent the last four days – 15th – 18th October 2015 – making my own self yew longbow at þe Longbow Shop under the tutelage of, Canadian Bowyer, Jamie MacDonald of Ravenbeak Natureworks. I’ve been shooting since March this year with the club’s longbow and its lasted me the whole of the summer season but I was getting to the point where I needed my own bow. I think it’s fair to say that the desire to own a self yew bow is the dream of every archer who shoots the longbow, it’s light, it’s powerful, it’s steeped in history and a self yew bow also looks stunning. I wanted one, I need one!
Before the course was announced I’d spent a couple of weeks lusting over the yew longbows on Ravenbeak Natureworks website. The link is here, go and have a look now….. Welcome back, I told you they where stunning. After looking at Jamie’s bows for a few weeks it got to the point where I nearly broke and ordered one direct from him. The longbows direct from Jamie are around $800 Canadian dollars which equates to just over £400, this is an absolute steal. My card was in my hand but then I had a “Bilbo” moment and fate stayed my hand. I started to think of shipping costs and the duty involded in getting a bow from Canada to the UK. So for once I did the sensible thing and decided to have a cooling off period so that I could stop my heart from controlling my head.
The cooling off period lasted pretty much 24hrs as þe Longbow Shop sent me an email that sang to me like the sirens sang to Odysseus. To paraphrase the email it said “give þe Longbow Shop your money and we will provide you with access to Jamie MacDonald. Jamie will impart upon you the secrets of bow making and after four days you will have created a beautiful bow and be a lot lighter in the pocket area due to the close proximity of the shop and all it’s longbow goodies, such as arrows, medieval arrow bags and a bow bag that is covered in teddy bears”. This at least was the gist of the email as I understood it. This time I gave into the longbow sirens, I couldn’t miss the opportunity of meeting the yew bow messiah in person and receiving the gift of his knowledge.
I won’t go into the details of everything that happened on the course but it short it involved a lot of filing. It was also a really fantastic experience as you got to learn the basic skills of bow making as you created and learnt the character of your own bow. I can honestly say that I feel a real link with my bow now that I’ve made it, I know the surface of the wood, the bumps and blemishes, it is something I’ve created and I’m really proud of it. The reason my bow turned out to be a success, and not a total failure, is down to both the skill, knowledge and character of Jamie MacDonald. Like all good teachers he was kind, approachable and very patient, he is a really great bloke and it was an absolute pleasure to spend four days in his company.
If you’re a long-bowman then as far as I see it you have two options to get the bow of your dreams. Option one: get on one of Jamie’s courses, he runs them in Canada. Option 2: pray to the god of archery – who I believe is Robert Hardy – that Jamie comes back to the UK for another set of courses. Option three: order one of Jamie’s bows. Either way you need one, they draw and shoot so smoothly with little, if any, hand shock. They’re something very special and I’m a very lucky boy to have one.
For those interested the bow I made – named þorn (thorn for those who are unaware of the medieval symbol for th is þ and is also called thorn) – is 55# at 27“.