Warranty and Care
Read before using your new bow!
A well-made wooden selfbow is just as dependable as any of its modern relatives; but as with all bows, care must be taken to avoid negligent damage.
Knots, dips, wavy grain, and other inconsistencies are common features that add one-of-a-kind character to your bow. Wooden bows with character are remarkably durable, with lifespans often measured in decades or lifetimes when treated properly.
This care guide is written in great detail to cover many of the FAQs, but it's not meant to be complicated.
When reading through it, think "treat my bow as if it were someone I care about". If you take a break, give your bow a break. You wouldn't leave someone you love in a hot car on a summer day, lying in the open during a downpour, or ask them to live in your damp outdoor tool shed. A little common sense goes far with primitive bows.
STRINGING A SELFBOW:
Before stringing your bow, take a moment each day to inspect the working portion of the limbs. Familiarize yourself with every feature and curve in your bow so that over time, you'll be able to quickly notice anything abnormal.
I prefer stringing with the "step-through method". It's safe, stable, and easy to master.
CLICK HERE to view stringing and unstringing both longbows and shortbows with the step-through method.
You can also use the "push-pull method", but your eyes and face are in greater danger when pulling a bow toward you.
Never bend your bow past the minimum distance needed to brace it (do not brace it with a "slack string") as this causes unnecessary pressure/twist on the limbs, which could potentially break your bow.
Using a commercial stringer will void your warranty. Stringers place too much stress on a wooden selfbow because of the irregularities/character on the bow's back.
Brace height is measured from the thickest part of the handle to the bowstring, on the belly side of the bow. The warranty certificate included with your bow purchase lists its suggested brace height.
Bracing under the minimum heights shown below may cause wrist slap. Bracing above the maximum heights will result in decreased arrow speeds, because you will have shortened the power stroke of the bow.
Longbows should be braced between 5.5 and 6 inches. The sweet spot is usually around 5.75 inches.
Bush Bows should be braced between 5.25 and 5.5 inches.
Plains-Inspired Shortbows should be braced between 4.75 and 5 inches.
SHOOTING YOUR BOW:
NEVER dry-fire your bow! Do not, for any reason, draw back a bow that doesn't have an arrow on the string. Bows store an incredible amount of tension and compression energy and if there’s no arrow to absorb it, the release of this energy could cause an explosive failure of the limbs. This is true with all bows, both modern and primitive; compound and traditional.
For the same reason (energy transfer), shooting lightweight carbon arrows out of a selfbow is not recommended. If the arrows you’re using are too light, each shot will be similar to dry-firing your bow. Lightweight arrows cause increased noise and hand-shock, and significantly decrease the lifespan of your bow.
Don't overdraw your bow! It is carefully crafted for optimal performance using your provided body dimensions. Longbows and Bush Bows are designed for a relaxed and comfortable corner-of-the-mouth anchor point.
People have a natural tendency to "test their might" against longbows by pulling them back as far as they're able. This is counterproductive and actually decreases your bow's power and efficiency because the limbs "stack" as the wood fibers are crushed beyond their capacity.
The power is already built into the bow. You're only doing harm when trying to extract more from it by drawing to your jawbone, ear, etc. (I'm using a massive bow built for a 32" draw for the demonstration below).
Plains-Inspired Shortbows have a maximum draw of 22-24 inches regardless of the archer and must be shot with a floating anchor. Shortbows are pulled back until a natural "wall" of resistance is felt and the arrow is immediately loosed. Listen to the bow. With practice, the string slips from your fingers smoothly and effortlessly. Shorter bows build maximum power from this technique, known as"snap shooting".
Overdrawing your bow by a large enough margin can cause compression fractures in the limbs and will void your replacement warranty. Even modern glass bows’ warranties are void if overdrawn. For the same reason, it's best if you don't let anyone else shoot your bow (especially your tall friends) unless you know for certain their draw length is shorter than yours.
"How long can I leave it strung?"
Feel free to leave your bow strung all day long if you’re hunting or roving. Keep it in the shade when not in use and unstring it when you’re finished for the day. Don't leave your bow strung overnight, and don't leave it strung in the direct sunlight for extended periods of time (this mostly applies to hot days from late spring-early fall). Leaving a strung bow laying in the sun on a hot summer day can cause large amounts of string follow and could potentially lower the bow's performance for the remainder of its life.
The section of buckskin that's folded under the wrap is the bottom of the handle. Arrows should pass over the dark spot just above the first crease at the top of the handle wrap. Position your hand so your knuckles create a "shelf" for the arrows to pass in this location.
WOODEN ARROWS WITH GLUE-ON POINTS:
Every archer who regularly shoots wooden arrows into targets and stumps has accepted that they'll lose glue-on points occasionally. Fortunately, it's easy to manage and nothing more than a minor inconvenience.
Points loosen when wooden shafts adjust to changes in humidity. If your arrows were crafted in a region or season where the humidity is lower or higher than where you live, the wood will shrink or swell to reach equilibrium once they reach their final destination.
It's perfectly normal for some of the points to become loose as they travel from my shop in the Midwest to their new home, or as you travel across the country for archery events and hunts.
Test the points on your new arrows before shooting them for the first time. Grab each point and give it a strong tug - straight back. If they hold tight, you're good to go!
If one pops off - apply a generous coat of superglue or hot-melt glue to the taper of the arrow shaft, roll the point a little to evenly distribute the glue, and firmly push it back on. I use this method any time one pops off, or when traveling to a different climate with my arrows.
I recommend carrying spare target points. They're inexpensive, and you'll definitely have one from time to time that gets stuck too deep in the target/terrain to recover. I always have spare points and "Blue Bohning Ferr-L-Tite" glue with me when I'm shooting away from home.
Organic Archery arrows are equipped with "145 grain glue on field points". At the time of writing this, field points are about $8 per dozen on eBay and 3 Rivers Archery. You can also use 125 grain points, but anything lighter than 125 grains might affect arrow flight.
IF USING CARBON ARROWS:
(Skip to Moisture Management if N/A)
Choose a heavy carbon shaft meant for hunting. Aim for a finished arrow weight of 9 to 10 grains per pound of draw weight.
Example : For a 50# bow -- 450 grains is 9 gpp and 500 grains is 10 gpp.
Shooting arrows with a finished weight under 8 grains per pound will void your warranty.
Modern carbon arrow shafts have the weight - in grains per inch (gpi) - written on them. You can calculate the finished arrow weight by multiplying the number on the shaft by the length of the arrow; then add the weight of the point, feathers, and insert.
Here is an example using Easton Traditional Only Carbon Shafts with a weight of 10.0 grains per inch, an imaginary length of 30.5 inches, and 145g field points. The same method can be applied to all carbon arrows.
Length 30.5 (inches)
Shaft weight 305 (grains)
Point weight 145 (grains)
Feathers 10 (grains)
Insert 15 (grains)
Finished weight 475 grains
You can also find heavyweight points, broadheads, and inserts for increasing total finished arrow weight at archery shops or online. However, adding too much weight to the front of an arrow that isn't spined accordingly will make it fly poorly.
MOISTURE MANAGEMENT & STORAGE:
Always store your bow either laying horizontally (if stored on a surface) or hanging on a wall above the ground. Both horizontal and vertical are fine if it's hanging. Do not store it leaning upright in a corner or against a wall for an extended period. This will eventually weaken whichever limb is resting on the floor and negatively affect the tiller and shooting characteristics of the bow.
My favorite storage method is a simple bow rack with wooden pegs. It easily attaches to a wall and can be customized to fit any number of bows. If you build one of these racks, use wooden pegs. Metal hangers will dent and scratch your bows over time.
Your bow is sealed with 6 coats of natural tung oil and one coat of 50/50 tallow and beeswax. I’ve found this combination to be very effective in keeping the wood's internal moisture content down, even on foggy/rainy days. You may notice a “tacky” feel on the exterior of your bow. That's just the beeswax, and you'll be happy it's there when you see how well water beads up in wet weather!
Some care must still be taken with an all-wood bow to ensure the internal moisture content doesn't get too low or too high. Too low (too dry) and the bow could break; too high (too wet) and the bow won’t break but will shoot sluggishly and take more string-follow than normal.
Whenever possible, it is best to store your bow in a dry room on an aboveground level of your home. Do not store your bow in overly damp places (bathroom/kitchen) or in belowground rooms (basement/cellar/etc.) that do not have a dehumidifier.
DO NOT store your bow in an extremely hot/dry place such as a vehicle with closed windows, direct sunlight on a hot summer day, near a heat source such as a furnace, vent, or stove, or in the sunlight of a window. An overly hot/dry condition could lead to a catastrophic failure of the limbs.
LONG TERM CARE:
Wooden selfbows require very little maintenance. Besides the previously mentioned care information, the only thing needed to keep your bow in top shape is an occasional coat of primitive sealer. You can use purified lard or tallow, which can be found at most supermarkets for around $2.00 per pound. Mixing purified lard with beeswax in a 50/50 ratio will improve moisture protection considerably.
At room temperature, the mixture has the consistency of cold butter. A little goes a long way, so use sparingly. You can apply it with your bare hands since it's natural, safe, and melts with very little heat. Rub until the 50/50 mix or lard liquifies and work it into the entire bow, including the handle wrap. Once thoroughly covered, use a cotton cloth to wipe off some of the excess. Leaving behind a thin coat makes an excellent moisture barrier; but leaving a thick coat attracts grass, twigs and dust.
-If shooting regularly: apply a fresh coat whenever your bow feels dry (sealer wore off/wood absorbed it) or before any outing where inclement weather is a possibility.
-If shooting less often: apply a fresh coat before long term storage, and another when taking your bow out for the first time after an extended break.
The 50/50 mixture can also be used to wax your string anytime it looks fuzzy.
DOs & DON'Ts
~String with the step-through method.
~Brace longbows at 5.75 inches.
~Brace shortbows at 5 inches.
~Draw longbows to a relaxed corner-of-the-mouth anchor point.
~Wax your entire bow whenever it feels dry.
~Wax your entire bow before hunting trips.
~Wax your bowstring when it looks fuzzy.
~Keep your bow in the shade on warm days.
~Unstring your bow when you’re done for the day.
~Store your bow hanging (both vertically and horizontally is ok).
~If placing on a surface or the ground, lay the bow down horizontally.
~Overdraw your bow.
~String your bow with a commercial stringer.
~Pull your bow's limbs farther than necessary when stringing.
~Pull your bow back for any reason without an arrow on the string.
~Shoot arrows under 8 grains per pound of draw weight.
~Leave your bow laying strung in direct sunlight for an extended time.
~Let your friends shoot your bow unsupervised.
~Store in a hot car, window, attic, or near a heat source.
~Store in a belowground room without a dehumidifier.
~Store in a damp place such as a bathroom or shed.
~Store your bow leaning upright in a corner.
It's exceptionally rare for a properly tillered and shot-in selfbow to break after delivery, but there's always a small chance with natural materials. Each build is followed from standing tree to finished product. The wood is seasoned indoors, under controlled conditions, and regularly inspected. Although very uncommon, the living tree itself can have hidden internal imperfections or fungi that go unseen.
Don't worry! If anything happens to your bow under normal shooting or hunting conditions, I've got you covered.
All Bows Made Before 10/02/2023:
(From Date of Completion)
2-Year Replacement Warranty against irreparable breakage related to craftsmanship.
Lifetime Tiller Adjustments for the original owner. Sometimes a wooden bow can fall slightly out of tiller over time. This is perfectly natural and nothing to worry about. If it happens, just send it in and I'll tune it up!
Lifetime Replacement of Wrapped Nocks - applies to some historical replicas.
Fatal cracks, splinters, and catastrophic limb failures are covered under proper use.
If your bow breaks within the warranty period due to a defect in the wood under normal use, it will be replaced hassle-free with a bow of the same tree species as quickly as I am able.
Negligent use (defined as any use/treatment that goes against the Warranty & Care guide) and damage caused by another person are not covered. If you follow this care guide, it’s almost impossible for a negligent break to happen.
Quivers: 2-year warranty.
Wooden arrows: not warranted.
Bow strings: not warranted.
Bows crafted by students in Workshops: not warranted.
Giveaways and Trades crafted after 10/02/2023: not warranted.
I put my heart and soul into every facet of your new bow’s creation; from carefully selecting the tree, to splitting the log, seasoning the stave, and uncovering the beauty that lies beneath its bark. Every stave of wood has unique challenges and character, and every bow coaxed through this primordial process is truly one-of-a-kind.
A wooden bow carries within it the energy of a living tree. With faithful practice, it becomes an extension of you; a calming meditation; a trustworthy companion. It's a unity no artificial material could ever hope to replicate. May your bow serve you well and strengthen your ties to this beautiful Earth and all its creatures.