Currently viable crafts




The making of bows for shooting arrows.


Status Currently viable
Craft category  Wood
Historic area of significance  UK
Area currently practised  UK
Origin in the UK  Neolithic
Minimum no. of craftspeople required  Driven by demand
Current no. of trainees  7
Current no. of skilled craftspeople  45 members of the Guild of Bowyers & Fletchers
Current total no. of craftspeople  51-100



Bow-making is the art of making bows, and fletching the art of making arrows. The main use of bow and arrows has differed throughout time and place, used for fighting, hunting, amusement and sport. The use of bow and arrows in for fighting and hunting have been largely superseded by the introduction of gunpowder and firearms, in western society. Johnes states, “During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the longbow was rendered redundant as a weapon of war by technological developments such as the musket. Yet at the end of the eighteenth century, archery was revived as a fashionable pastime amongst the English aristocracy thanks to nostalgic taste for the gothic and medieval.” Societies popped up around the countries, ‘fashionable for social elite’. In the USA there is now a bow hunting season which differs from the riffle hunting season.



Anatomy of the bow includes, the outer curvature of wood which is referred to as the back, the inner is called the belly, the handheld bit, grip. And the point on the string where the arrow is placed and pulled back before release is called the fistmele. Early bows were made from pliant wood, and the string from animal gut. Composite bows were an advanced bow making technique when they were first used for battle around 1200BC. The bows “use a wood core with horn glued to the interior curve and sinew glued to the exterior curve. Since horn compressed and sprang back into shape and sinew stretched and snapped back into shape, the power derived from a composite bow was much more powerful than most simple wood bows.”


Local forms




Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • Demand for the service
  • Too few young people to follow older ones as they retire
  • Not being able to accept apprentices in the usual commercial manner
  • Shortage and increased prices of quality timber
  • Market prices cannot be charged which provide a living
  • Most craftsmen only working part time on the craft and have other jobs


Support organisations


Craftspeople currently known

A list of bowyers can be found on the website of the Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers & Fletchers.


Other information



  • Challenge of Archery, D. Stamp, A&C. Black 1971
  • Archery, the Modern Approach, E.G.Heath, Faber 1966
  • Bowman’s Handbook, P.Clover, Br. Archer 1950 .
  • History of Target Archery, E.G. Heath, David & Charles 1973
  • The Bowmen of England, D. Featherstone, Jarrolds 1967
  • An Essay on Archery, W.M.Moseley, E.P. Publ: 1974(R:1792) .
  • The English Bowman, T. Roberts, E.P. Publ: 1973(R:1801)
  • Archery, Longman & Walrond, Longmans 1894
  • Archery, its Theory & Practice, H.A.Ford, Llanerch Press (F:1856)
  • The Archer’s Guide, Anon, Tabard Press 1970 (F:1833)
  • Anecdotes of Archery, E.Hargrove, Tabard Press,1970 (F:1792)
  • How to Train in Archery, M W.H.Thompson, Llanerch Press (F:1879) .
  • Pro Aris et Focis, R.O. Mason, Tabard Press 1970 (F:1798)
  • Toxophilus, Roger Ascham, Simon Archery (R:1545)
  • Medieval Warfare, H.W. Koch, Bison Books 1978 .
  • The Royal Company of Archers Ian Hay, Blackwood 1951
  • Archery in the Middle Ages, Milliken, MacMillan 1967
  • The Bow, Notes on its Origin and Development, Gad Rausing, R.Habelt:Bonn 1967 (Acta Archaelogica Lundensia Series No.6)
  • The Bowman’s Glory, Wood, S.R. Publ: (F:1969)
  • English Longbowman, Bartlett, Osprey 1996. .
  • The Art of Archery, E.G.Heath, Kaye & Ward 1978 .
  • Archery – a Military History, E.G.Heath, Osprey 1980
  • The History of Archery, Edmund Burke, Heinemann 1958
  • Encyclopedia of Archery, Paterson, Robt. Hale. 1984
  • The Book of the Bow, Grimley, Trinity Press 1958
  • In Pursuit of Archery, Edwards & Heath, N. Kay 1962
  • The Medieval Archer, Bradbury, Boydell & Brewer.
  • Of Bowmen & Battles, H.D.H.Soar, Bradford
  • The Crooked Stick, H.D.H.Soar, Westholme
  • Secrets of the English Warbow, H.D.H.Soar, Westholme
  • The Romance of Archery, H.D.H.Soar, Westholme
  • Straighten and True, a select history of the Arrow, H.D.Soar, Westholme
  • The Great Warbow, Hardy and Strickland,Sutton