A new old friend

#archery #diy

Here’s a restoration project I’ve been planning to tackle for a long time now. I’ve had this bow for more than a decade, but for the past few years it’s been lying in a basement, neglected and abandoned (but mercifully dry).

Of all my bows, this one has always been closest to my heart. It’s the one I have the most fond memories of. I went stumping with friends with this bow the most. I won one of my other bows in a tournament with this bow. In all the time since I first picked up one of these simple, elegant weapons, this is the one I experienced the highest highs with.

But we take the good with the bad, and sometimes the highest highs are followed by the lowest lows, and for a while I just couldn’t shoot anymore. The joy had turned to frustration, and for years I abandoned the sport entirely. I packed my bows and arrows in a bag, stuck the bag in a dark corner, and focused my attention on my other hobbies.

But now I’m back! For the past year I’ve been shooting again, daily at times, and I remembered why I fell in love with archery in the first place. I regret the years I missed due to what I now see were not good enough reasons, but it’s always better late then never.

So it was high time that my old friend came out of retirement to join me on some new adventures. But first it needed some love and care, because it still bore the marks of all those old adventures we were on together:

I started by sanding down the riser with 80 grit sandpaper. I continued with finer and finer grits all the way up to 600, and for the last two grits (400 and 600) I switched to wet sanding. I was planning to use my orbital sander for this step, but I was worried I might accidentally end up taking too much wood off, so in the end I did it all by hand.

When the riser was velvety smooth, I applied twelve very thin layers of Birchwood Casey Tru-Oil, which is a mixture of linseed oil, Polyurethane, and drying agents. It’s a very popular finish with gunsmiths and luthiers especially, but a lot of bowyers swear by it too. Despite the oil in the name, it’s not a true oil finish; it doesn’t penetrate deep into the wood, and successive layers build up on each other rather than mixing.

I thinned the Tru-Oil with mineral spirits (1:1 to 1:2 ratio, I didn’t measure exactly), and I waited 4-5 hours between each layer for the first few layers, then the full 24 hours that Birchwood Casey recommend for each successive layer.

I then did a final, gentle wet sanding with 1000 grit sandpaper to remove small imperfections, then I applied five more layers of Tru-Oil, again waiting a full day between each layer.

And that’s it. I hung the riser to cure for a full month before setting it up for shooting. I bought a new pair of limbs, made a new leather handle, braided a new string, and ordered a nice custom quiver from Philip in Germany (whom I highly recommend!)

The result isn’t perfect. Here and there I can still feel a couple of imperfections, and I can see some sandpaper marks where I wasn’t thorough enough with the high grits, but I think it came out really cool, and I’ve already started shooting it exclusively again. Here is the final result:

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