Category Archives: traditional#

Lukas Novotny / Saluki Bow

22 May, 2014



Was led to an interesting older article from 2003 about bowyer Lukas Novotny’s attempts to recreate composite bows. He is still handcrafting and selling them, by the looks of it. It features the sort of difficult, pernickity, single-minded attention to detail that never fails to impress me.

The full PDF with lots of pictures is here:

The text only version is here:

Most bows made with dustars and siyahs as single elements are Turkish. To make them, Novotny cuts 76-centimeter (30”) sections of wood and soaks them in cold water for three days. Then he steams the two pieces into curves of some 60 degrees. For bows in which the dustars and siyahs are separate elements, typically known as Persian five-element bows, he steams the dustars into a gentle curve and finds branches growing at the desired angle for the siyahs. To assemble the parts, he tapers both ends of the handle and, if needed, the ends of the siyahs. He then cuts V-shaped splices into the dustars and, after brushing on glue, fits the pieces snugly to form a strong, undetectable joint.

Next comes the horn; Novotny uses water-buffalo horn. He prepares it by shaving off the surface ridges, cutting it roughly to size, then steaming and flattening it. He can now shave the horn until he has twin strips of uniform thickness the width of the wood core. He glues the horn strips onto the bow’s belly so they meet in the center of the handle. Then he winds a rope around the bow using a traditional tool called, in Turkish, a tepelik . Unlike modern clamps, the tepelik creates an even pressure along the curve, squeezing out excess glue. The bow is now left to dry for several weeks with its ends tied to maintain a soft curve….






how a bow is born

19 March, 2014

Found these excellent videos on YouTube about traditional Korean bowmaking, constructing the gungdo (각궁) of bamboo, sinew, horn and various woods. Unfortunately, all the videos are in Korean, the only option is YouTube caption subtitles (click on the little icon below the screen that looks like an addressed envelope, and select ‘on’, ‘Translate Captions’, and then English or whatever language you like). While the captions are great at producing barely comprehensible joys as ‘Longing stroke / the sound of shoes voc robbed’, they do mostly give you the gist of what is going on, and occasionally deliver real insights (the ‘cloven hoof’.) Anyway, get stuck in:

Half a world away, I found this excellent slow and steady series of English longbow making videos from Bickerstaffe Bows, full of explanations, detail, and seriously hot woodworking. Enjoy.

(well, I say half a world away. Did you know that Britain and Korea share a megalithic culture? That you can find the same kind of mysterious late-Neolithic flowerings in Cornwall and Gochang? You do now…)


“I’m good with a bow and arrow”

23 January, 2014

Imagine my joy and surprise on picking up crappy London freesheet newspaper the Metro this morning and finding this headline:



Unfortunately when I got to the actual copy all I got was this:



BOOO! Still Knightley has several bits of form here – she flung some sticks (not in this clip) in King Arthur [2004]

…and also in the made-for-TV ‘Princess Of Thieves‘. Found this clip of an archery competition, which also features Malcolm McDowell doing what he does best, i.e. scenery-chewing ham villainry. Skip to about four minutes in. Good with a bow & arrow? I’ll leave that up to you to decide:



The ‘last archers of Africa’

22 January, 2014




Interesting article on the Hadzabe, the ‘last functioning hunter-gatherers in Africa’. There’s not many people left on this planet for whom the bow is still an essential tool of survival. Only a few thousand years ago, every bow on Earth was exactly that. 

Read it here:

bows from the concrete jungle

29 December, 2013


This has been around for a while, but if you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a look. Korean teenager Dong Woo Jang –  whose previous hobbies included studying spider anatomy – started making bows as a hobby, and gave a brief (8 minute) TED talk on the subject. Watch it here:


screen-shot-2013-02-27-at-2-43-58-pm (1)

His handmade take on a traditional Korean bow shoots pretty well, but the more interesting aspects are unfortunately only glanced upon; the exploration of cultural heritage, the creation-as-escapism from a difficult ‘pressure cooker’ environment, and the hazily interesting idea of a ‘bowtopia’.  But the diagrams are beautiful, and the fetishisation of the axes and blades cheerily worrying. Teenagers, eh? Great stuff.

There’s a good list of more ‘handmade’ TED talk stuff here.


a bigger splash

28 February, 2013


Nice alignment, Lara, but you really shouldn’t tilt your head that much. Full size poster at Leicester Square underground station, London, England. (Photo: me)

arrows pt. 21

18 December, 2012

Poor Folk Bows is the journal of Sam Harper and his quest to build his own bows –  and to teach other people how in the process. There’s lots of goodness here, but I particularly enjoyed his arrow build-along.


His writing is shot through with warmth and humour. I’d like to try some of his builds someday, although my woodworking skills are basically non-existent. I am always, always impressed by people who have the chops to do things like this. Looking forward to more from him at some point.

If you enjoy this kind of woodworking p*rn, there’s a website called TDPRI about Fender Telecaster guitars where they have a competition every year to build a guitar for $210. Some of the build-alongs are absolutely staggering: this one is a particular favourite.