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Lovely Winter Weather for Archery / Antique Bows

On Saturday I was very tempted to go do some archery, as the weather was warm (10 degrees or so) and a bit foggy. Unfortunately I had chores to do around the home so that was not to be despite the beautiful warm weather on Saturday.

I also have two *new* bows with brand new bowstrings that I want to try out sometime soon.

The two bows are:

A 1949 Bear Grizzly Static (Grayling)

A 1960s Archery Craft Toronto 64" Longbow

(Photos forthcoming.)

I purchased them both back in 2016 but had to wait to get custom made bowstrings for the two bows before I can use them. I strung them up two nights ago to exercise the limbs a little bit.

This is the thing about antique bows. When you buy an antique bow you should not be full drawing them right away. Instead you want to exercise them because they may not have been drawn in a very long time. Exercising them improves their life expectancy.

To exercise a bow you string the bow (preferably using a bowstringer) and then lightly pull on it a few inches. You repeat this process many times and then leave the bow strung for an hour or two.

Then you unstring the bow and leave it alone.

A day later or a few days later, you repeat the process. This time you *might* decide to draw it a bit further, always being cautious to never pull it to full draw.

Only after the bow has been exercised multiple times do you begin full drawing - and this assumes you have a normal draw length. If you any weird noises (pings or clicking sounds) this is a bad sign and you should immediately stop. A loud cracking noise would be really bad.

I feel more confident about exercising the Bear Grizzly Static as the limbs are made with an aluminum core.

The Archery Craft Toronto bow I purchased from a woman in Montreal, so to me that was a case of bringing an antique longbow made in Toronto back to Toronto where it belongs. I am less worried about shooting that bow and more interested in it as a collector's item and museum piece (it is my long term goal to someday open an archery museum).

If you have a really long draw length of 29 inches or more, then you probably should not be purchasing the really old antiques. Bows from the 1970s or 1980s you would probably be okay with, especially if they are compounds or fibreglass recurves, but for people with longer draw lengths you need to be extra careful overdrawing an antique.

I have a few antiques that even now I never full draw them. eg, I have 1942 Ben Pearon lemonwood longbow which still shoots well, but I only pull it to roughly 26 or 27 inches when using it. It may be lemonwood (a very good tropical bow wood), but because it is 75 years old I am super cautious with it.

I also have several antique bows that are meant for children - which are basically decorative and not used at all. Maybe someday I will let younger family members use them. Or maybe they will simply decorate my walls, or likewise a presumptive archery museum.

Buying antique bows there is always a risk you might break the bow. It hasn't happened to me yet, but I did have one bow make weird noises two years ago. It was a 1952 Roy Rogers longbow meant for kids. I drew it back and clearly was drawing it too far when I heard a sharp click sound from the bow limb. That is a bow that is evidently meant to have a short draw length and should never be drawn by anyone who is taller than the bow.

Having been making my own bows for almost 28 years now I should also say you do some of the same things during the tillering process of making a bow. If you hear a click or ping sound when tillering, you need to stop and examine the bow limbs for any signs of cracks or chips in the wood. Last winter I did a bowmaking class here in Toronto and a topic that came up during the class of what to do if a bow makes such a sound during the tillering process.

There was a number of solutions, but the most obvious one was: Don't shoot that bow because it could break. The alternatives were time consuming and didn't guarantee the bow would be safe to shoot. It would be less time consuming and safer just to start from scratch and make a whole new bow.

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