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A bamboo-backed bow by local bowyer Anton de Witt
Mac Muller recently had the opportunity to test a bamboo-backed longbow made by Anton de Witt. Read on to see the results of his tests and how he experienced shooting an all wooden bow.
- Hickory bamboo-backed bow (one piece)
- Finished and "tillered" to the full specification of the archer, as in this case 30 inches of draw length.
- The nocks are finished with African Black Ivory for durability.
- The bow is equipped with a Dacron D-50 continuous loop string. I opted for a wax cord-wrapped finish around the segmentation of the bamboo.
- Comes with a bow stringer and string keep keeper as standard accessories.
- The bow is finished with "bushman art" drawings (my request) on the belly and guinea fowl feathers on the riser for more "soul".
- These bows vary in price from around R1600 to R2200 for the Hickory bamboo-backed model.
Background on the bowyer
Anton de Wit showed an interest in bows from an early age, especially making his own. First attempts weren't that successful, but after research and perseverance he started producing decent longbows. After researching a book on Howard Hill he was sold on American-styled flat bows. The bow tested in this article represents an end-product of lessons learned and time invested in finding materials that produce consistent results. The objective is to produce a bow that is quick, stable and with very little hand shock.
Hickory and Osage is the preferred wood because it is tough and very stable as a bow wood. Once the bow comes off the tiller-stick it is bound it with wax cord, just as the Japanese do with their Yumi bows. If anything, this enhances the look of the bow and strengthens it.
Anton likes that these bamboo-backed bows resemble something from the Dark Ages, yet function like any modern bow; this adds to their mystique. He utilises modern tools to create bows as well as spoke shaves and scrapers as they did of old. Consequently, his bows have a rustic finish and an authentic approach to the tradition.
If this is the passion and type of archery equipment you prefer it is good to know there is a bowyer in South Africa who provides this. The average bow is 68 inches long and one-and-three-quarter inches wide at the riser, tapering down to a half-inch at the nocks. The draw weight can be anything from 45 to 70 pounds.
Handle: pistol-type grip. Well-shaped and finished in stitched leather. The handle has an arrow shelf cut to centre of the riser. This model includes a fine piece of zebra skin on the shelf to add to the soul of the design.
Brace height: seven inches (from string to throat of grip).
Mass weight: pounds for 68-inch bow.
Finish: Sealed and protected in non-reflective water-based clear varnish and wax cord wrapping for additional strength.
A measured arrow drawn on a Viking Pelouze hanging scale produced the following results at the actual draw length:
Statistics clearly show a well-rounded draw curve up to the tiller and draw length.
Speed testing (finger release with Cordovan TAB)
Speed testing was done using pro-chrono digital chronograph.
I shot a 400-spine Easton Epic carbon arrow with a 145-grain point and five-inch parabolic feathers, more out of curiosity than anything else, as most archers shooting these bows will probably opt for wood because it completes the tradition of this equipment. The carbon arrow totalled 455 grains and averaged 175 feet per second through the chronograph – very impressive figures indeed for an all wooden bow design.
A unique piece of work on first touch. I wanted something traditional that would draw attention and what I held in my hands captured this beautifully. The grip fits perfectly in the hand with the arrow shelf nice and close. The bow is light to hold and not clumsy as you might expect from a bow of this length. The hickory provides good warmth in colour. There is life, or soul in the bow. I chose the name Thunya, which in South Sotho means "to shoot". Her name, as part of her design character, makes her special and I am proud to own this bow. Her design was a joint effort between the bowyer and me and the end result was more than I expected.
Setting it up
No set-up was required as the bow comes as simple and traditional as it gets. I strung the bow and adjusted the brace height and nock point to my own preference. Anton shoots his bows extensively and gives the wood and other materials sufficient time for to settle before sending them to his clients.
Designing a bow with Anton de Wit was a pleasant and memorable experience. He has a passion for these bows and shares his views and knowledge with his clients. You will be updated on a regular basis on the progress and receive photos of your bow as it takes shape. Anton's turnaround time is quick with no delays. Building a bow with him will not only provide a new and unique addition to your collection, but a friend as well.