This is a curious time in history. We have the most advanced system for learning, sharing and teaching skills in the history of mankind, however it seems that we as a society are doing less and less for ourselves. We are allowing others to do so many of the things that were commonplace for folks to tackle on their own. Pride in workmanship has been replaced by "cheap" and "easy". Becoming a traditional archer may help you on the quest for hands-on skills that will spill into many other places in your life
My journey into traditional archery began several years ago. I am not a long time participant of the sport by any means, was unsure of where to start and felt that my local shops didn't have the things that would appease me in my quest to shoot a longbow. As a tradesman who worked with metal on a daily basis, I longed to use simple tools and work with wood. To me it feels so much more organic than the heavy machinery and noise needed to force metal to comply with what we needed it to do. By slowly striping thin layers from a piece of wood, we are asking it to work with us. If one works too fast or with no care the wood will fail, the bow will break. As I set a goal to hunt with a longbow, I decided to jump down the rabbit hole and build my own. With a fierce consumption of blogs and books I was able to build a bow over several weeks during the winter, slowly thinning the belly of the maple board that I purchased at the lumberyard, catching the curls on a sheet in my living room. My skills and knowledge grew immensely in that short period of time. Learning the tools of the trade and the jargon of the bowyers was 90 percent of it. I didn't even know the difference between a belly and a back!
Moving forward from the first bow, I knew that this hobby was for me. I took the workshop with Ravenbeak Nature Works, which refined the skills I had previously gleaned and made more of the jargon and techniques clear. It was more in-depth than what I had previously tackled because of using a split stave of yew. I made a bow that was hunting weight and durable. Also during this workshop I learned to make arrows, my first exposure to the art. I also became enthralled with finding wood. I am now a little obsessed with not just Yew, but the other local bow quality woods and natural arrow shafts. I have self taught, or been directed by friends on many species that before just blended in with the green of the forest. My knowledge of the natural world has expanded because of my fascination with Primitive archery, knowledge that I can teach to others, including my wife and children.
Since the infancy of my learning about the skills in the trade of making archery tackle, I realize just how much of the tackle we can make for ourselves, if we were just willing to let go of the fear of screwing up and make it happen! I had never worked with leather before, and I made an armguard that I really like. I have made dozens of arrows, and several bows. Some have been successful, some have not. The fear of failure disappeared from my mind and was replaced with one of curiosity and challenge. To see if I could do something. Sure I could just go to the store or online and order something, but to me that is not so much fun. I was also not flush with spare cash, I have more time than money, so spending quality time learning a skill and having a new hobby that doesn't have to upset the families bottom line is important. Not sure one could say that about a new spacebow shooter!
I recommend that all trad archers learn a few skills in making their own equipment. Build a Flemish twist string, buy some wood shafts and finish them yourselves, create a back quiver out of leather or willow branches, make a tab from some thrift store leather, even just putting a new serving on a string you already have. Easy things to do. Some require more tools than others, and if you are not prepared to lay out the capital to purchase, maybe ask around and see if you could borrow someone's. Barter goes a long way in this community. Eventually you may be drawn to building a bow of your own. This is a more involved project for sure. Be it a self bow or a fiberglass one, they all have their own nuances that are both frustrating and so rewarding at the same time. Regardless of what you can accomplish with your skill level, time or interest, following the ancient pathways of our ancestors who used primitive skills to get us to where we are now. We have advantages with the internet, steel tools and books to inform us and to share ideas.