Archive for the ‘Buying Bows’ Category

Meeting the makers and suppliers

So often these days we rely on the internet for information and to do our shopping, but if you’re looking at buying a longbow or wooden arrows there’s nothing like meeting and talking to the makers and suppliers and handling the merchandise yourself.

So it was with great excitement we visited the International Living History Fair near Warwick, with it’s wide array of historic suppliers.

There were several bowyers there on the day, and a huge selection of shafts, piles and flights for arrow making.

First up, hardly through the door and we found Andreas Doebereiner of A Piece of History (who apologised for his website not being fully finished yet!). He had an excellent array of bows on show. From simple hickory unfinished self-bows at £60, which give you the chance to sand and stain or finish the bow to your own requirements, through to some of Steve Stratton’s warbows and his own Yew longbows. Sourcing his Yew from Estonia has enabled him to keep the costs surprisingly reasonable, and the quality really was good, with much straighter grain than any of the other sub £500 Yew bows we’ve come across.

I have to admit, I did let the side down for the English, by drooling over some of his horsebows – with a selection from Toth, Nomad, Kassai and some phenomenal horn and sinew laminated Grozer bows!

Next up was a quick trip to Richard Head, who was happy as ever for us to rifle through his fine selection of arrow shafts (nicking the ones with the straightest grain is one of the benefits of being there in person rather than ordering online!). Most suppliers there had the usual selection of 5/16″ and 11/32, but as one of the foremost retailers of materials for historic longbow equipment they hold some fine 23/64″ ash shafts, spined and ready to go, as well as Chris Boyton’s excellent 1/2″ to 3/8″ bobtailed warbow shafts. Along with a good supply of full-length feathers and piles for a variety of arrow sizes (including some rough and ready 1/2″ points), their stand is always worth a good trawl.

Richard always keeps a couple of bows on his stands, so that you can see the workmanship, but they don’t keep a stock of “off-the-peg” bows as they make the majority of them bespoke for the archer – nothing compares to being measured up for your bow by the bowyer himself.

Further around the fair (via a few distractions like the Wise Woman and Herbalist Jayne Milner who is fantastic!), we found the ever jovial guys from Fairbow, with a fantastic selection of longbows, horsebows and historical curios like their cable-backed bows. Though the bows are mainly imported from their bowyer in the Netherlands, the guys really know their stock and have immense enthusiasm for what they do. They make the majority of their arrows themselves, with some great horn nocked arrow shafts, constructed in the same manner as you would to foot an arrow – seriously nice looking shafts!

Several of the stands had small selections of arrow heads, ranging from simple machined steel piles through to a wide variety of hand-forged points in all shapes and sizes. The best of these had to be those from Hector Cole, who really is the specialist when it comes to archery blacksmithing, with a great range from plate piercing bodkins through to type 16’s, swallowtails and maille piercing points. He also had a great selection of knives and blades on sale for those moments when you need to get a point of of the woodwork!

Hector wasn’t the only one with impressive blacksmithing skills though – The Arbalist had some presentation quality arrow heads on show – you’d almost want to hang them on the wall rather than shoot them! They also had a good selection of longbows on offer, along with their fantastic range of crossbows. I had to drag myself away from those – maybe next year I’ll be able to afford one!

All in all a great (if expensive!) day out, with more than enough shiny toys for anyone of a historical or military persuasion – we’ll see you at the next one in at the end of October.

Longbows on Ebay

We’ve been there and done that – we’ve bought good longbows and bad off Ebay, so we think we have a bit of experience and we’re more than happy to share it with you!

Looking through Ebay you’ll find a whole host of things described as Longbows, with many of them simply being recurves (or even compound bows?!?) which the seller has no clue about and has titled wrongly, so the first thing we’d suggest is that you read around the subject for a while before even considering putting a bid in.

Once you have an idea of what you’re after – look out for a couple of key things:

  • Draw Weight – this is the amount of pull you’ll need to use to draw the string back. Usually measured in pounds (lbs) it is sometimes annotated as “#” – for example 45# @ 28″ – which translates as 45 pounds at 28″. Many people will buy a bow which is too heavy for them to pull, often leading to muscle problems and injuries and sometimes to the point where they cannot even pull the bow – don’t waste your money – check what you can comfortably pull before buying. The average male can pull around 30lbs reasonably comfortably, but most longbows tend to be in the 35-50lb range – don’t risk overbowing yourself – find out what you can handle before buying.
  • Draw Length – this is the distance between the bow hand and the string hand at full draw. The vast majority of Longbows are made for the average draw length of 28″. However – DO NOT presume you are “average”! Longbows are made out of wood and are under tension at all times – when drawing a longbow you are performing a controlled version of what you’d do if you wanted to break a stick, so if you pull a bow further than the draw length stated by the maker you are likely to break it. We’ve seen a few bows dramatically deconstruct themselves and it’s neither pretty nor safe. Buying a bow with the wrong draw length is the simplest way of turning your prized buy into firewood!

Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll need to decide whether you want to buy new or used.

We always recommend that you buy a new bow, but if you really want to buy a second hand longbow on ebay – read on.

    Buying Second-hand Longbows on Ebay:

Longbows are organic items, they deform and mould themselves to the draw of the person who uses them most often. Because of this – most longbow shooters will never let anyone else shoot their bow. Buying a used bow means that you will wind up with a bow which has formed itself to someone else’s style. Though this may not be a huge problem in some cases (a good bow will change over time to suit your draw style), a change in draw style could lead a bow to break.

Though longbows can often be “ambidextrous” as they’re shot over the hand, a left hander will deform the bow in a very different way to a right hander. Also, makers will often use the natural deformities in a “stave” (raw lump of wood from which longbows are made) to suit them to either a right or left hander. If you do buy a used bow – try to make sure the bow has been used by someone who shoots off the same hand as yourself. (If you’re a real beginner – watch out! A right handed bow is one which is held in the left hand – right handed people will draw the string with their right hand – getting this mixed up is a classic mistake!)

If you’re determined that you’ve found a real bargain used bow then be very careful to check all the photos for any problems – the classic one is that the bow has started to “follow the string”, which means that once unstrung and no longer under tension, the bow stays bent. String follow on a good longbow should be no more than around 3″ over it’s whole length. Ensure that there is a picture of the bow unstrung so you can check how much “set” or “follow” it has taken over it’s lifetime.

When you get your bow, be very careful to check for cracks on the inside (belly) of the bow, and lifting laminates or growth rings on the back (flatter side) of the bow. If you have any doubts about the condition of the bow – get it checked by someone who knows their stuff.

    Buying new longbows on Ebay:

There’s a lot of people out there who love the idea of making longbows for a living, and they all seem to advertise their bows on Ebay at some point or another, most of them sinking without trace pretty rapidly. However, there are a good few professional bowyers who will put bows on ebay for a variety of reasons.

Try to find out why they’re selling on Ebay, rather than direct to customers. It may be that they are simply keeping themselves busy making bows when customer orders are low, or that they are testing out new woods or designs, or it may be that Ebay is their favoured marketting tool. Sometimes customers aren’t as good as they should be and once a bowyer has made a bow for a customer order, it hasn’t been paid for, or the customer has decided (for whatever reason) that they’re  not happy with it – these bows can often be a bargain, but be prepared to ask questions – any self-respecting professional bowyer will be more than happy to talk about their trade and give their reasons.

For more information on buying new bows on Ebay, Pete Davidson bowyer of Traditional English Longbows has written an excellent article here: Buying an English Longbow on Ebay.

As with any Ebay buy, often it is research which will prove the key. Look at feedback not only for the positive scores, but for what they got them for – we once bought a pretty terrible longbow from what seemed like an excellent seller (100% positive feedback). If we had only looked a little closer we would have spotted that all of the feedback was for bookshelves he made!

Here’s a couple of professional longbow makers who are on Ebay – they may not have bows on when you click through, but it may be worth checking back every now and again:

  • Kunst-Griff – These guys are actually German (blasphemy we know, but they do make nice bows, including Longbows, Holmegaard bows and some very interesting historical reproductions). You may need to translate a couple of them, but it’s worthwhile. Not cheap if you’re looking at Buy It Now prices, but they occasionally have auction bows, which can be very good buys – we’ve got a couple of excellent flatbows we use often from these guys. (normal website –
  • Irondale – Under the Ebay name Poseidonswake, Chris Mussolini often sells overstock through Ebay, and regularly has staves listed for DIY bowyers. (normal website –
  • Traditional English Longbows – this is Pete Davidson’s Ebay page where he sells experimental bows. We’ve not had a chance to shoot with any of them yet, but we’ve heard good reports. (normal website –
  • Heritage Longbows – Lee Ankers uses Ebay to advertise his custom bows – you buy one then tell him what you want once you’ve won. We’ve not had a chance to shoot any of Lee’s bows yet either, but we’ve spoken to him about them and he’s more than happy for customers to go visit his workshop and test the merchandise.