Author Topic: building wood bows for a living  (Read 6971 times)

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Offline bassman211

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building wood bows for a living
« on: December 08, 2023, 10:30:29 am »
Many of us build bows as a past time. Guys that do it successfully to make a living are to be commended. Weylin Olive, and a few others  comes to mind.

Offline Hamish

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2023, 05:37:21 pm »
Not an easy way to make a living, especially when the average guy thinks they can make one with $5 worth of wood and an hour or two of spare time.

I've seen many people over the years try to do it and stay competitive, and fail after a couple of years. It's definitely not due to lack of talent, or the quality of the bows they produce. Most of the time their prices are too low, for the time, skill, and materials that they have invested.

It means the bow must be expensive and that turns most average buyers away. If you try to keep the price at low levels you get burnt out really quickly.

The successful ones are either very efficient, and or offer a luxury product, a work of art as much as a functional weapon or sporting goods.



Offline bassman211

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2023, 06:23:16 pm »
Well put Hamish.

Offline stuckinthemud

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2023, 06:42:07 pm »
Yes, it is well put, but I would add that to command the premium you also need a reputation and the ability to generate publicity- you have to be good at sales

Offline Hamish

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2023, 12:14:36 am »
Absolutely. The "business" side of many businesses are often lacking. Most of us creative types like to make stuff, we don't necessarily want to do the promotional stuff.

I think the best way to do bowyering is semi professional. A regular normy job, with a serious hobby sideline done at night or on weekends. The trick is you have to charge like a real business, all the overheads, power, shop space, consumables, retail stave prices(even if you cut them from a "free log"). Don't subsidise your selling price with your day job money. Work that pays for your materials is nice for a short time, but you will lose the will to keep going when you are flooded with orders, because you have underquoted a fair price
 Then if you keep getting so many orders and can fill them in a timely manner, you can give up your regular day job.



Offline Kidder

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2023, 12:54:05 am »
Iíd be interested to know the man hours that most, including those who make them for a living and those who donít, have into a bow. Iím a hobbyist and I would say I put in between 20-40 hours per bow. Probably closer to 40 on most of them. But I also spend a lot of time staring at them waiting for them to come to life and inspire my imagination.

Offline Hamish

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2023, 07:02:36 am »
I know some guys that can rough out and tiller a good bow in one day(I can't, or at least it wouldn't be a good bow). They don't normally sand it, and finish it until later. All that sort of stuff, plus putting on a nice grip, arrow pass, flemish string etc can take up a lot of time too. Straightening, heat treating and recurving can add a lot of time to making a good bow.
I'm more of a 40hr guy. I prefer not to rush it. I like to leave a bow for a while, and come back to it with fresh eyes. I believe it makes a better quality bow, less mistakes, but its probably too slow for a business.

Offline Del the cat

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2023, 07:06:45 am »
It's very easy to suck the joy out of a hobby by trying to turn it into a business.
I sell the occasional bow, which pays for tools and the like.
But even then it's for people who will come to visit, or make contact from recommendations.
I just make what interests me... it would be no fun churning out endless 40# ELBs. Not to mention dealing with breakages, shipping, accounting taxes etc.
Be careful what you wish for.
Del
Health warning, these posts may contain traces of nut.

Offline stuckinthemud

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2023, 07:52:28 am »
A few years ago I was made redundant and looked carefully at wood working for a living.  Itís a complex undertaking but many spend only one third of their time actually making stuff. Things like admin, meetings, travel, social media, phone calls, maintenance of tools, premises and vehicles, all soak up a huge amount of time.  A 40 hour bow might take 100 hours.  Will you be able to make and sell 3 bows a month at enough to pay you a living?

Online Eric Krewson

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2023, 10:39:00 am »
I agree with Dell; I loved carving duck decoys, I took art classes to learn how to give them a realistic paint job, after a few years my ducks looked like they could get up and fly away.

At first it was gratifying that someone would want to buy my work, I sold them too cheap but I was in it for the craft, not the money.

Word spread; orders piled in from coast to coast, I was carving ducks after my regular job, on weekends and even had to spend my vacation time carving ducks.

My fun hobby had become drudgery, I grew to hate it. In 86 I thought "that's it" and put down my tools, canceled my huge backlog of orders and never carved another duck.

I keep these shop-worn examples of my unfinished work on a shelf in my shop to remind me to never turn a hobby into a business again.



When I started making bows, I made 40 bows before I thought I was good enough to sell one.  I made them when I wanted to, if someone ordered one, I told them it would be 6 months even if I could make the bow in a couple of weeks because I didn't want any deadlines to meet.

I had a good following of people wanting my bows, I turned down a dozen orders a month when I was at my peak, I made bows one at a time and didn't want any backlog orders.

I didn't make any serious money, I just liked making bows. The down side was replacing broken bows no questions asked, I even replaced bows that didn't belong to the original owner.

I gave away far more bows than I sold and quit selling them about 10 years ago, I only do charity donations now.

When I started building flintlock rifles, I remembered my lessons learned and decided to never sell one, or custom make one for someone. Life is simpler that way.

 

Offline Muskyman

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2023, 11:53:10 am »
I also agree with Del and Eric on this. My experience with this comes from making musky fishing lures and not bows though. I use to fish for them a lot and lures for muskies are not cheap. Custom lures can cost $100 bucks and up. I thought to myself, I could make them, so I did. Before long people started asking me to make them one. Of course before long I was making way more than I wanted to and finally decided to quit because it took all the fun out of it for me. Like Eric and his ducks I rarely made a lure anymore. When I do make one itís a gift for that person and I make sure thatís understood and that I donít sell them. For anyone that wants to do that for a living and can make money at it, thatís great. Just not for me.

Offline SLIMBOB

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2023, 12:43:39 pm »
I love making art. That outlet has come in different forms over my life with bow making being the longest lasting. I made my first bow in the early-mid 90ís. I have sold a number of bows over those decades, and given away and traded others. Only a few were ďcustom ordersĒ. All the fun was sucked completely out of it for me, on those few, and I canít foresee doing any others that way. I have a room full of bows. Come over and see if you like one. If so, we can figure out a price. Iím happy with that arrangement.
Liberty, In God We Trust, E Pluribus Unum.  Distinctly American Values.

Offline superdav95

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2023, 01:29:00 pm »
Iím also more of a 40hr guy.  I love details.  So for me building bows and putting my energy and creativity into them is an outlet that checks a lot of boxes for me.  I sell bows too but only word of mouth.  I havenít had any warranty issues yet fingers crossed but when it happens Iíll take the approach that Eric does.  I can rough out a bow and brace in a solid full day depending on the style but its far from done and all the finish work in the details are what take the time.  I do much like kidder in that Iíll stare at them to be inspired as to what to do to finish them up.  Itís funny Iíll have like 5-6 bows on the go all floor tillered and some fully tillered for quite some time and crap one and start on finishing it as I got an idea on how to finish it up.  My ordered are all custom bows and all different.  This is where I find joy in the labour of bow building.  To make it a full time business for me would take that away for me and make this a chore.  I learned my lesson too with making knives for 11 years.  I got so into it and at first loved it even obsessed over it.  I got so many orders though that it killed it and now I only make the occasional knife.  The last blade I made was a custom proper chefs blade with feather Damascus.  It took me a week to build this knife and although I enjoyed aspects of the build I was glad when it was done. It was a $1000 knife that I let go for $750.  The only reason I agreed to the build was for a work buddy of mine spouse birthday gift.  If I absolutely had to I could make a decent living making knives.  Even just custom chef blades.  The same for bows I believe.  Iím fortunate in that I donít need to and for me itís more then just the money I can get for my bows.  I like doing word of mouth sales for friends of family or the like.  What I get from building bows is priceless. 
Sticks and stones and other poky stabby things.

superdav95@gmail.com

Offline Selfbowman

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #13 on: December 09, 2023, 07:28:25 pm »
Ok for me itís a hobby that sometimes help pay its way. I only spend about 25-30 hrs on one normally. Is that why I only charge $900. 🤠🤠 The guys like Weylin  earns there money. Itís hard running any business but these guys hopefully are living there dream while making a living for their families. Good bows donít come cheap.
Well I'll say!!  Osage is king!!

Offline bassman211

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Re: building wood bows for a living
« Reply #14 on: December 09, 2023, 08:20:42 pm »
 I sold a sinew backed plains Osage native horse bow with a red fox quiver, and knapped heads with home made shafts, and turkey feathers. I hung it in a bow shop, and it sold in 3 days. A women bought it for her husband's man cave. I made less than 5 bucks an hour with that bow. Sold it for 400 bucks, and 30% of the money went to the shop I sold it out of. To much energy building bows at the time, and dumber than a sled track.