When you arrive at the Tennessee Classic, near Clarksville, Tennessee, you drive down into a beautiful wooded valley with ample camping space, three sets of 3-D targets, vendors with archery equipment, and a rather amazing central core of workshops. For myself, the extensive workshop area for making bows and flintknapping was the main reason I came to the event.

I had never been to an archery event where the primary focus was building selfbows, laminated natural-wood bows, and flintknapping. Generally, bow building and flintknapping have been relatively small components of events I’ve attended. That’s fairly common. At the Tennessee Classic, though, bow building and flintknapping were primary features, in addition to the tournament for traditional-primitive archers.

While I was quite impressed at seeing so many participants making bows and flintknapping, I was even more impressed at the quality and number of bowyers willing to share and pass on their knowledge. In fact, I was, as the saying goes, blown away. The friendly atmosphere and people meant no one felt like a stranger for long. Allow me to share the history of this event and how all this began.

The Bowyers

“Pappy,” a.k.a. Mark Baggett, loved making and shooting selfbows, and he built a workshop on his farm near Clarksville. He ended up spending most of his weekends there. His workshop attracted local bowyers and flintknappers, who also began using the workshop. You could show up ready to work on bows and usually others were there doing the same.

Meanwhile, Gary Davis from Michigan, had developed a method of introducing students to later stages of bow making, meaning that they started with a previouslydeveloped bow blank made with a caul and went through the tillering stages in a workshop. Gary has been presenting classes like that at a number of events. He and Pappy met in Cloverdale, Indiana, became fast friends, and Pappy invited Gary to join the Tennessee Classic as another instructor. The rest is history.

During any year now at the Tennessee Classic, there are approximately eight instructors: Pappy and the local bowyers as well as bowyers from all over the United States.

The Event

When I saw the scene for the first time in Tennessee, it looked like cooperative bedlam. The scene resolved into an interaction between students and instructors, one of questions and answers, demonstrations, and bow building. It was a beautiful interaction of giving and sharing, a companionship among a large number of students and a large number of instructors—a sense of enjoyable peace focused into a concerted effort in a family atmosphere. And the workshop was busy from dawn to long after dusk, each day. At the end of the event, students could take their new bows and compete for scores on the excellent 3-D targets set up in the surrounding hills. It was a remarkable bow making and shooting event.

The Boy/Girl Scout Students

Before the event, Pappy was dealt a difficult situation: the only time a group of boy/girl scouts could participate was on the Saturday of the event, a time when the normally registered students were still there. But the instructors handled it. All the scouts made bows, in a whirlwind, in one day. As the saying goes, the system worked.

Breaking Rock—The Flintknappers

Another major scene of the event was the flintknappers. There were several of them making beautiful objects from flint, obsidian, and other materials, with students working alongside. I understand that the flintknappers tend to wander from event to event, helping others. At the Tennessee Classic, the flintknappers had a major presence, with people coming and going throughout the day. Again, the scene was of quiet concentration, with help always available.

A Hatchet Bow Demonstration

A demonstration of how to make a bow using a hatchet in a half hour, was given by Stim Wilcox (your erstwhile writer). I began by showing how if you are in a survival situation, you don’t actually have
to make a bow per se as long as you have a bowstring (like your shoelaces). A cured, but unworked, serviceberry branch shot an arrow quite well. Then I used a hatchet on a cured hickory branch, ending up with a 45 lb bow at 28", and shot it.

The Sponsors

Primitive Archer Magazine was a major sponsor for the Tennessee Classic.

The General Scene

There were excellent 3D targets in the hills by the camp and good food, showers, etc., available. On Saturday evening, there was a potluck dinner, with excellent attendance, plus some pickin’ and grinnin’ after the delicious meal.

A number of vendors and instructors were at the event including bowyers, blacksmiths, and those selling woodworking devices, wood, and a variety of general archery equipment. Again, the scene was of cooperation and enjoyment and learning, an unusual event in our world. The 2012 Tennessee Classic will be held May 4–6, 2012. You can contact the organizers on the internet at www.TwinOaksBowhunters.com (see ad on page 57).

About the Author: Stim Wilcox sells selfbows and teaches classes in making them in his workshop on the coast of Maine. He is the author of the book The Art Of Making Selfbows and has a website at www.wilcoxbows.com (see ad on page 64).

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