How I Got Into Making Traditional Bows

by James Greenway, Bowyer

Sundown 1

Back in the 1980’s I was out deer hunting (with a rifle), in Monterey County, California foothills. This was my fifth year in a row hunting the same general area. Brought home a deer every other year and figured I would this year too…and I did.

My father-in-law and I were driving back to camp when I noticed two men taking a break in the shade of an oak tree We pulled over to say ‘Hi‘. They didn’t have rifles leaning against the tree. They had bows. Compound bows. I did a little shooting with traditional bows in my preteens and early teens, but these compound bows had sights and wheels and cables and a contraption to hook the string so you could draw it without your fingers. Wow! I’ve got to get me one of these!

I finished the season with my rifle, and that winter bought a compound bow with all the bells and whistles. I found out real quick that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I got myself a Chuck Adams book and learned.

My first year hunting, I didn’t get a deer, but I had a couple of close calls. And man, did I have fun. My second year hunting I did better. I had lots of close calls and late in the season, I shot a little buck at less than 10 feet.

After lots of dedication and practice, I was a pretty good shot. On a good day, I could shoot my compound bow better at 50 yards than my rifle. It only took a couple of years until I was getting tired of tinkering with compounds. They were changing fast, and I couldn’t keep up with all the gizmos and gadgets.

I started thinking about traditional again. I was pretty good with my recurve in my younger years. So, I went to our local archery shop and he had a little #45 52” recurve. It was used and in pretty rough shape, but it was only $100. I bought it and drove to the bow club to try it out. My first shot hit the ground in front of the 20’ bales. I was surprised to see how bad I was. After lots of practice, I was still really bad. It couldn’t be me, it had to be the bow.

I looked through some of my archery hunting magazines to see what was available. I got a few brochures. Wow, there was some beautiful bows out there. Some companies just sent me a photo. It looked like they were working out of their garage.

Huh. I have a garage and I’ve always been handy with woodworking. I’m gonna make my own bow.

I had a catalog that had lots of “how to build your own laminated bow“ kits. So I bought all of them. I studied for several months, got everything I needed, made myself an oven and a form. I was ready.

I chose to keep it simple for my first time. I made a straight limb 68” longbow. What a difference. I could shoot it way better than the 52” recurve right off.

I was hooked. I love making and shooting my own bows. Over the years, through a lot of trial and error, I’ve settled on a few designs that perform and feel great.

After working for someone else for 30 years, I decided I want to work for myself.  My wife Sherry and I started Diamondback Archery.  Got a website going and started selling bows around the world.  I love designing and making bows.  And now I get to do it for a living.