Broken a Bow? Failed as a Bowyer? Never Give Up
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Broken a Bow? Failed as a Bowyer? Never Give Up

August 21, 2019


Now I know this is only a modest-sized
channel, but together we’ve created a small but vibrant community. And from you
every day I receive lots and lots of messages – and perhaps the most
thought-provoking and indeed maybe the saddest are those that come from someone,
someone working hard maybe with modest tools, little space,
maybe no help and advice. Someone who’s had a go at making a bow and in their
view has failed I freely admit to a feeling of sadness
when a read of someone who feels they’ve reached the end of their bow making road
have given up on their dream of making bows. The reasons are many but the
outcome is nearly always the same a feeling of failure. It can be their one
and only piece of bow-wood that pushed them over the edge because it quickly became
a broken bow or a disastrous tiller that was impossible to recover. It can even be
a struggle to find wood a seemingly endless and fruitless search for timber
from which to make a bow and there are some who have nowhere, an exasperating
shortage of space in which to craft a bow, yet others who have no tools or
money to afford them and some who have no one to turn to for advice and
guidance no one to lend eyes and hands to the task in hand and there are some
in fact many whose responsibilities to family life and work can’t justify the
selfish and long hours needed to bend war. Faced with obstacles in a busy world
where making a springy a piece of timber into a bow has little place use or
understanding these budding Bowyer’s give up and consider their efforts to
have been in vain, to be a failure. And some write to me in sadness to let me know
This is my 30th month making bows but notice I didn’t say this is my 30th
month as a bowyer because I too have doubts about my abilities maybe I just
got lucky maybe I can’t really make bows maybe I’m a failure
so should I give up making bows? But I say this to myself I was born into a
world that values modern technology which increasingly gives the ordinary
man and woman access to the most amazing opportunities and life skills but in the
process our hands and eyes have forgotten the crafts that they acquired
across millennia the ability to work wood to use tools to accurately gauge
with fingers a constant taper along a bow limb to see weakness and strengths in a bow stave to have the affinity with one of nature’s most awesome products
-wood- has been lost by most of us so for many just rediscovering these abilities
is a life’s work and if we have to self teach our hands and eyes so it seems it
will take much much longer than the time we actually have. So is it really a
puzzle that I still have frustrations with certain aspects of bow making when
in fact I’ve had to learn everything from scratch so is there anything that
we can do about this. First let’s get things in context we’re merely bending
pieces of wood it’s not necessarily a career it’s not necessarily that
important that we’re successful straightaway so in my 30 months making
bows is there anything I’ve learned that can help you if you’re feeling close to
that edge to failure or have already come to the conclusion that you’ve
failed as a bow maker well yes if there’s one thing I figured out in my
sixty plus years it’s this but we can’t all be good at everything
some are gifted some are not and there the struggle begins because we’ve chosen
to pursue the skill the art and the craft of a bower and it doesn’t come
naturally it’s not a gift that we all have it’s not a gift that I’ve got and
there is the problem we’re trying to learn something often
alone often without guidance often without the right tools or wood often
without the right workspace or support and we’ve chosen something that’s
difficult that doesn’t come naturally is it any wonder that occasionally some of
us me included come to the conclusion that we’ve failed as a bowyer so for
many of us making a bow seems like a mysterious craft well beyond our grasp
but there is one thing that is within our grasp and it lies at the heart of
probably the best piece of advice I was ever given in business maybe the best
piece of advice with which to go through life and it’s simple it’s just two words
and they are: KEEP GOING because it’s not just the gifted that great it’s not just
naturals that do amazing things most often the prize is won by those who
have kept going so after 30 months of making and
breaking bows this is what I’ve learned that we’re setting ourselves a challenge
that many of us will find really really difficult to accomplish it requires a
feel for a material that most of us have to learn and learn the hard way it needs
an ability to guide tools that rely entirely on our hands and eyes and this
is not something that comes easy it requires a persistence to find materials
to create even the tiniest space in which to work to juggle life and family
and kids so that somehow there is a bit of time to learn the craft of making
bows and so you might well struggle as I have and still do but there is only one
answer don’t give up keep going keep working at making those bows the answer
is not the wood it’s not the workspace it’s not the tools it’s in here and in
your heart it’s keeping going it’s keeping trying they’ll be anguish
they’ll be fear they’ll be worries they’ll be stress there’ll be problems
breakages failures if you want to call them
that but failure is just the component of success keep going and you will succeed
in making a bow it may be wonky it may not be right but it will be a bow keep
going don’t give up I didn’t and neither should you

Only registered users can comment.

  1. I'd recycle my broken wood bows to make a composite bow handle and core wood (or siyahs) xD
    kinda like going for a sunny side up egg then when I fail I'd shout "we'd be having some scrambled eggs for breakfast"

  2. Very inspiring bud! I think philosophically speaking that drive or ability to keep going is what separates the people in the crowd and the ones that eventually become masters of their art or anything that their striving for. I’ve learned more from broken bows then my successful bows. Although the successful ones are way more fun to shoot 🙂

  3. Very lovely video Mick. Please never give up. You are the best youtuber in my eyes and I will hate to see you leave. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I really needed this Mick! I’ve retreated from my bows for too long and though I’m still learning lots about woods through spoon carving, I need to get back to the big project that set me on this journey.

  5. Spend more time in search of the easiest stave , dont hear the one that speake about " caracter bows"
    yes failure is the base of learning , but if i had to choose among desperate staves and good ones ,no doubt
    bro no doubt, only if i want to try some new wood ,and im not able to find a godd stave i choose the difficult ones and never as a dire but as a necessity , so goes out from your hedgerow and search the best wood you can find ,cut in winter ,if you go for debarking and natural first ring back, as only in winter the plant has completed the develop of the new ring , by bro always a pleasure
    to watch your videos.
    ps. no dire , bow making is not a dire it was a necessity , and dires are not necessity but vanity.
    a hang to you.

  6. Fantastic words of wisdom Mick. It's the failures that we make that teach us where we went wrong. Keep up the good work. Skal!

  7. Hi Mick, turning a living piece of tree into a weapon of war as you said is a labour of love. Being able to see those kinks, hinges and growth rings that wander off in obscure directions takes time and skill. In days gone by a young lad would be tought these things from an early age. We're trying to do it from middle age without a father to guide us. The internet and yourself are a marvellous tool which points us in the right direction, but doing yourself is a whole different ball game. Keep going is one thing, but knowing when too stop also counts. I don't mean stop bow making but when to stop removing wood. Go to your local lumbar yard and buy a plank of wood and turn it into a bow. It's a cheap way of learning how to till. Remove too much and you've got fire wood, but it teaches you when enough is enough. I've just completed a red oak pyramid bow that's drawing 70lb @ 28" and that's the most it'll take without snapping, but it was fun to find out. If you've got the skill in you KEEP GOING if you don't us it you'll loose it.

  8. Absolutely excellent! I cannot determine if you are a better Boyer or Videographer. Hum perhaps both. Always look forward to your projects and vids. Thank You so much for taking us along.

  9. No one is a failure if you learn from your mistakes try again and your next one will be better this is the only way to learn any skill don't give up

  10. Very timely. Thank you Mick. I have made 4 bows that flung 2 to 3 arrows then broke. I have thought about moving on many times. I am a master luthier and that came naturally but this has been a struggle.

  11. Excellent points brother! Great video. To find a workable stave is an achievement on its own. To work it then fail must be heart breaking. The thing that keeps me going in life is the expression. "Don't let it break your stride." At the end of the day…It's easier to say it…Then live it…But with guidance and support from people like you…The "Getting up" is much easier!

  12. Great timing Mick, I want so bad to build a bow, and my discouragement isn't that a bow broke, it is the other things, Space, tools, etc. I was thinking I need to stop talking about it, and trying because I have not even been able to really start. So your message came through loud and clear. I might fail and fail a lot, but I can never succeed if I never try. Thanks Mick!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. This couldn't of came at a better time for me, my last seasoned stave blew on the tiller this morning. Thank you Mick.

  14. Well said Mick, very well said.
    My grandfather once told me that "failure is merely a stepping to success. You learn far more from those failures than if you succeed from the outset." Unforgettable words from an incredibly wise man that spent 30-odd years building a circa 1940's Chris-craft by hand from a set of drawings no bigger than an opened newspaper.

  15. Trying to make a 100 pound bow brings it to a new level. In a place where war bows isn't the holy grail, the pressure of bigger is better takes some of the pressure off of us.

  16. My father once told me "a man that hasn't done anything wrong hasn't done anything" your mistakes are such a great teacher.

  17. Maxim 70:
    Failure is not an option. It's mandatory.
    The option is whether or not to let failure be the last thing you do.

    -from the Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries, by Howard Tayler, of the Schlock Mercenary webcomic.

  18. thanks Mick I'm by no means a boyer and have failed more at making a bow then succeeded but when I do get it right … the success is all the more sweet! 😋

  19. Thanks Mick. You are absolutely right. Keep going. Keep doing it. Dont give up. Just do it.
    Thanks and thumbs up. 👍

  20. I am very lucky as I have great guidance from a top class chap that I know I can turn to at any time on making bows ,l have turned to your videos many times to help me make my first longbow .Ok it was a eBay bow from Irondale longbows I am now on this great journey ,I have a hazel and yew stave that has been curing for 12 months now and look forward to making a bow from scratch and I will yet again turn to you for help .I thank you for this help and your name will always be mentioned when I talk about bow making ,also have shared your videos as a friend has made a crossbow . Big thank you from me

  21. Hell, if you give up you'll also give up the opportunity to scratch that itch of curiosity, the what if…. 😉

  22. I've been told that making tomato stakes is part of bow making. 😜 As is eliminating non productive bow wood. 😉

  23. Honestly this channel helped me the most in succeeding in my first bow. I probably would have had several failures if I hadn’t watched his videos. Let’s see how the next one turns out

  24. Thanks Mick.. Good or bad, (mostly bad) its the crafting that keeps me going.. Having information isnt learning.. I have gained little from information I gather without a fight to the end with the reality. Besides i cant stop I have to many bloody staves of wierd experimental wood. Now blanked and shaped and curing… 3 Hiccory Wattle, 2 silver birch, 2 Dryland Sheoak species uknown. 2 Crepe Myrtle. 1 Ash?.. Coming soon a couple of Pecan. Should keep me in firewood for a while 😀

  25. Hi Mick !😀😀😀
    You know my opinion about breaking bows …
    Keep going making bows my friend !!!!😁😁😁
    And keep making wonderful videos like this one !
    Thanks mate for sharing !!!
    Sorin the bowman / ROUMANIA

  26. Always good to hear your words of wisdom mate. I have tried to supply my share of the same encouragement to you, and whether I did or not, I see that you are doing so for me and others. Gratitude for the attitude my friend, I hope someday to visit and share a pint with you, or at least a good cuppa. You’ve improved my life in so many ways. Keep up the good work.

  27. I’ve taken a short break because its too hot to be working at the moment, and because I need a break otherwise I’ll get frustrated when it starts to take too long. But I do know I can do it. The second one I made from a board only broke because I made the brace waaay too high, almost 7-8 inches. At a normal 3 inch brace it pulled just fine. Then I pulled it hard at the high brace and it broke. I’m not giving up, just preparing for the next session.

  28. Really well spoken and edited motivational video Mick. Shame I didn't see something like this in my bowyer's beginnings as I too struggled at that time with constant failure. There was a time where I failed at least 5 bows in a row. I took months long pause and took my revenge when I made a successful bow, breaking the spell of failure. It wasn't particularly a great bow, but it was something.
    Btw, interesting thing is that my failure period came a year after I started making bows. So my first bows were all successes and then fate decided that that is enough of beginners luck haha.

  29. ciao , sono Marco da Roma.Anche io come te amo fare archi da autodidatta , questo è il video che sognavo da molto , perchè finalmente spiega che colui che ci insegna , è colui che ha imparato da un autodidatta….strano ma vero . sei e rimani il mio guru

  30. Hello! do you also make fiction films ?:D I have a a short film I would like to share with you; you could look for "PLANETA ZEME" on our channel or maybe send me a message to give you the link, Thanks !!

  31. The difference between a professional bowyer and amateur is the ability to keep making despite getting it wrong time after time after time.
    Its also a true addiction ( isn’t it Mick😉)

  32. I'm grateful for your blog and all the videos you post. they are all very interesting. I have always loved the bow that has a particular and suggestive magic on me. I write from Italy, from Lucca exactly. I've been following you for a year and a half and during this time I had a lot of fun making bows with many different woods. the most powerful bow I've made so far is 70-pound wood. this winter I could not stretch it in full, now I feel the need for a more powerful bow. I've already recovered 3 big yew branches that I'm ready to work with. your advice will support me. thank you. Stefano

  33. That was very thought provoking Mick. AND, IT STRUCK A CORD. As the saying goes '' If at first you don't succeed, try and try again''.

  34. I only began to make bows for myself because I was reluctant to buy something that I would probably like better if I had made it myself. If I live to be a hundred I will not claim to be a bowyer and tend to take most claims to be one with a pinch of salt.
    An acknowledged master once said "Any damn fool can string a stick that will shoot an arrow…"
    I have been loosing arrows since before I could read and I'm left after more than sixty years with an abiding interest in the practice of instinctive archery using self-bows and wooden arrows.
    I have no more than a pragmatic interest in my bows and from time to time, some attachment to a current favourite.
    But talk is cheap and an honest arrow is the only witness that counts.
    All prizes are illusory, the value where it exists has been in the journey. The failures have been lessons along the way, even the ones that were foolishly dismissed.
    But how many bows do we need to make (unless opening a shop) before realising the value of building a less imperfect archer?

  35. Mick, once again, I saved the very best video on YouTube for the very end of my week. In my deservedly humble opinion, this is your most inspiring video yet. Quite aside from your mastery of the arts of lighting, camera angle, depth of field, etc. (i.e. "making videos"), this time you've used what I feel to be your greatest, and nearly incomparable talent – narration – to deliver a message of inspiration that transcends bow making, and applies to all of life. For reasons I won't bore the YouTube community with here, I assure you that I needed this message right now. Thank you, Mick!

  36. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! You are amazing, you, your videos and your bows. So pleased you did this video to remind us all that anything we do has its trials and joys. Thankyou again 🙂 🙂 🙂

  37. If u aint breakin you aint makin… Make flatbows, longbows are so 2017!!!! 🙂 Get rid of those ruddy callipers and use them fingers! Never use that tiller tree again….I feel a motivational book coming from this channel. I feel healed already, must keep going RAR!!! 🙂

  38. Thanks Mick. My latest bow (a Russian Olive gull shaped branch bow) is giving me fits. One good thing is I am going for a light weight practice bow (25-30 lbs) but even that is challenging as balancing the limbs keeps wobbling back and forth as I try to reduce power. A real character bow, as well. My local woods include black locust, ash, and hop hornbeam. I also have some Pacific yew. Even harder than bows? Arrows!

  39. Yesterday I saw a hazel branch and thought to myself is this wood good for a bow. So of course I googled it and found your channel and your hazel bow series. You inspired me and today I went to get that branch it was even long enough for two peaces so if I fail on first I can try again. Currently the wood is drying as you said ,here in Croatia is very hot right now so idk it may speed up the drying process ,wish me luck 🙂

  40. Awesome video sir, thank you deeply for your kind a encouraging words. Yesterday i broke a bow on tiller as well and as such i still bear the fresh feeling of emptiness after spending the time waiting for the wood to dry, carefully shaping it and slowly bedning it…. The show must go on and sure it will! Many thanks right from my heart, may your message encourages as many archery enthusiasts as possible….!

  41. im trying to make a bow with little space but the problem is wood….. where to find proper wood in my area……. i made 2 board bows… one broke the secon i dont like much ….

  42. Hi ! I understand you're on vacation. I wish you had only clear days !!! We were expecting you with great interest. You missed us !!!

  43. Well Mike if bowyer isnt for you then try inspirational speaking! Great video and thank you for the encouragement! It can be applied to more than just bow making! Thank you!

  44. Mick,
    The road to success is paved with failures from which we learn from.
    Bow making is no exception.
    Most Bowyers subscribe to a saying “ if you’re not breaking you’re not making”
    None the less it’s always sad to see one explode after putting in the time and energy. You become one with the bow along the way. There is a sense of loss. It makes the next one that much more special!!
    Having a coil of reflex and deflex fire wood in the fireplace adds some special effects too!!
    Thanks for the inspiration!!

  45. 60+ years!?! bugger off mick you look not a day over 55. Thank you for this video it came at a time when i needed it most, and thank you for just being you. You are such an inspiration not just a bowyer but as a person if i can be half the man you are in my life id be over the moon!

  46. This is probably THE most motivational video I've ever seen, and I don't even make bows, myself.
    You're an excellent speaker.

  47. Thanks for a very timely video.The only time when you are a failure is when you give up. Im about 2 hours north of Brisbane Australia I watch your videos. And they are great. You use different camera angles. And your voice over is clear and easily understood. The problem problem is what woods works out here. I have made a bow out of a fence paling (broke) A bamboo flooring. shoots with no life. The next was Tasmanian oak. A bit soft but I intended to back it on both sides with Fibreglass. Tillered nicely Broke when coming to a full draw. I have heard that you can get Ossage and that it grows here. There is a local boyer. near here. But everyone is like merlin. Keep the secret to themselves. Im in my late 60's. I had to give up archery for the family. So Im on my own now so I can spend the time. I have space and the tools. Trying to find suitable woods is the hardest. I look forward to your videos. I sometimes laugh, because I see me there sometimes. Looking forward to more. Its amazing what you can do when you retired.

  48. I've had an on and off love affair with the bow and arrow since I was ten years old. Christmas of 1964 I received a youth sized lemon wood bow. I started "trying" to make bows in my late 30's – self taught. When a person begins such an endeavor he starts to learn as much about himself as he does the craft. Like you I have had my successes and failures. And like you I learned determination. You have a great video blog. We may be separated by 6 time zones, but we are of one heart.

  49. Hi mate. You were right. Making my 2nd bow. Wonky😭have spent many an hour just staring at it and pondering. Any idea thickness for a hazel bow at tips and handle for a 40lb bow. Thanks

  50. When u want to know if youre a bowyer than dont count your successes… how many bows you have build… count the times you failed… but still went on. Youre absolutly right Mick, thanks for that vid it reminded me on the findings i almost forgot. The broken ones made the difference! Greets from Germany

  51. Just remember that no matter how slow you are at the learning process, you are still way ahead of the one that tried and gave up or the one that isn't even trying!

  52. A lovely motivational speech. thank you for the lovely video mick, all of your videos have helped me a lot. ive been making bows since may and so far gone through at least 10 bows so far and broken all of them. ive been working on my latest bow since September, only able to put hours a week into it sadly but so far its turning out to be my best yet. decided this time to go with a pyramid flatbow and so far I like its shape the best, hopefully it works out im shooting for 45 to 50 pounds. should know by spring if it turns out lol.

  53. My first bow is just a stick but yet over the years i accumulated skills and money to make a sucseeful bow.Never give up if your stike broke,like mine

  54. Mate…I can’t believe I found this video of yours tonight!! 2 days, 2 broken bows!! I’m only starting out and was pretty stoked when my first bow worked great! I got cocky…nice to be reminded though that it’s all about the journey and learning along the way!! You’re the David Attenborough of bow-making to me!! Thanks for all your advice!! …by the way, I’ve found She Oak and spotted gum to be the best woods so far here in Oz. Cheers mate

  55. I remember breaking a first piece of seasoned mountain Ash when I let my buddy draw it. But I also remember shooting my first rough grouse with a piece of juniper I made. It's so very gratifying when it all comes together. Just remember that struggle is nature's way of building strength.

  56. Yea, persistence is the only quality for the amateur bow maker. I've broken three, one is too light on draw weight, the other is badly tillered and can't be fixed. My current project is going well- slowly does it. Flaxen Saxon

  57. Aanii, (greetings) i just subscribed to your channel,after watching a few videos,i'm a first nations archer from canada ,i to have tried my hand at crafting a longbow, 3up-3down,broke them all,so i bought 2 ,one a hickory/bamboo backed 72",and the other a 60"slick stik by bodnik bows,i've been practicing archery since i can remember and i'm in my sixties now,it just never grows old, archery is addictive, i love it.shakyjake out. Awesome videos by the way.

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