The Artistry Involved in Crafting Longbows

In this video, Jessica Gerrity talks about the process of crafting longbows that involves three main materials: fiberglass, carbon, and bamboo. It's a detailed process where skilled craftsmen use specific tools, and this happens at certain times of the year.

The complex procedure involved in crafting a bow

Nick: Let's move on to craftsmanship, which I know you love. So can you talk about the craftsmanship of the bows, the long bows. The longest bows, I think, in the world in terms of, obviously length in archery. And I learned that in Japanese, I think it's 7shaku 5 sun, like 2.25 meters long. So that's pretty long.

And yeah, things like temperature will influence the pull force. And I think camp strings are used. But I did know that you have to be a certain Dan before using bamboo or wooden bows, and before that you use carbon fiber. So would you like to touch on that?

Jessica: Yeah, sure. So the bow, the Japanese bow, yumi is very interesting for me, and I take time to research it. And you'll see lots of different posts on social media, about the bow itself. And bow culture in Japan, it's obviously a very long history. They historically have been from very small to very big. So there are many different sizes, depending on the application.

For Kyudo, we use daikyu, which is the long one. And usually, the sizes are over two meters. So the way we choose the length of the bow relates to the length of our arm, which is our drawer length, our arrows are that long, from our neck to their fingertips past a little bit more. And the length that you can draw sort of determines the size of the bow.

So very big boys and big women have longer bows because their height is also a factor, and their arm is also a factor. So I shoot nami sun which is I think, 221 centimeters. And then the materials are just usually three main materials and that is fiberglass bows, which are sort of the entry level. And the standard one that you get when you're a beginner is carbon, which is lighter, a little bit more expensive, the manufacturing process is a little bit different.

And then the one that the craftsman needs to make, which is the takeyumi so that’s a bamboo bow and they’re very labor intensive, the parts that need to be put together like a sandwich to make this bow, some of them have to dry for several years before they can be used.

So I've taken part in cutting bamboos that are going to be used for yumi, and that was a really big learning experience. Having those nodes, making sure they’re at the right length, they carry this huge roller that you put up against the bamboo and it's a specific sort of bamboo.

And then you have to be very careful when you cut it, because even squashing it in the wrong way bruises it. And these kinds of bruises and things come out. After they've taken the time to dry it, they'll get a mark or something on the bamboo and that's not allowed.

So we were joking like, I would have cut something to take time strip it all and split it into four. And this one will be what Jessica's cut for us. It's like really bummed out. And I'm like, yeah. But the whole experience was really fabulous. Even just the cutting, it's done in a certain time of the year. It's done by certain people, the craftsperson is involved in that. And they have very specific things that they look for.

And I was just like, wow, this is so cool, and I cut arrow bamboo as well. And you have four, four arrows, so you need to find four matching pieces of bamboos, which is just like I can't imagine. Anyway, so the bow is made with bamboo with wooden inserts and carbon inside it for some people.

So you have carbon insert bamboo, and you have different slices of wood. And then bamboo in the middle, the type of glue that they use to not separate types of yumi or bow as well. So yeah, the whole process is very labor intensive.