Author Topic: Info on Cherokee bows  (Read 15147 times)

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Offline skeaterbait

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Info on Cherokee bows
« on: May 12, 2008, 08:22:39 am »
Hey all,

I am looking for information on building a Cherokee style bow and was in hopes of bunch of knowledge crawling out of the woodwork (punn intended). I am not a big reader so I hate to go out and buy books just to build a particular bow, can anyone offer any specs and info on these bows?

Thanks much.

Offline shamus

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2008, 08:42:12 am »
I would advise reading Al Herrin's "Cherokee Bows and Arrows", and the Traditional Bowyer's Bible (Vol.2, I think) has Cherokee bow specs
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Offline Hillbilly

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2008, 11:18:06 am »
The typical Cherokee bow is a black locust, 55-70" long, about 1" to 1 3/8" wide Eastern Woodlands-style flat-bellied D-bow that bends slightly through the handle. Usually diamond nocks on both ends. The limbs don't taper in width much throughout their length, usually winding up nearly 3/4" wide or so at the nocks. Dingleberry posted one a couple months ago here that is very true to the design, and shoots great, too. I live right across the mountain from the Eastern Cherokee reservation, and there are still some guys over there making nice bows. At the risk of getting flogged, I don't put a lot of stock in Al Herrin's writing since I read his quote about the Cherokee having never using two-fletched arrows. Almost every example of old Cherokee arrows I have seen was fletched with the Eastern Woodlands two-fletch style. The Cherokee near me still use that style of fletching.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2008, 11:23:00 am by Hillbilly »
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Offline skeaterbait

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2008, 12:47:58 pm »
Thanks HB. On the taper, is that a straight taper from the handle or does it stay parralell for a bit? How much handle do they have?

I took a look a the one that Dingleberry posted and got a pretty good idea but he didn't post any pics of the back or belly of the bow.

Offline billy

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2008, 04:26:05 pm »
Hey Skeater,

I went to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. this past February and got to view 2 cherokee bows and several arrows.  There were from North Carolina.  The two bows I saw were both made of black Locust.  One was 62 1/2" long, the other was 58 1/2" long.  The longer bow had diamond shaped nocks on both ends and a 4 or possibly 6 ply string.  I believe the string was some type of vegetable fiber.  It was very supple and very expertly made.  But I know it definitely wasn't sinew. 

The shorter bow had a diamond shaped nock on one end, and a nock that was assymetrical on the other, very similar to the Lenape bows illustrated in the book Native American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers, Vol. 1 by Steve Allely and Jim Hamm.  This bow had no string.

Both bows were bend in the handle "D" bows.  Their cross section was a flat rectangle throughout their length, with no visible thickening at the handle.  They were about 1 1/2"-1 5/8" wide at the grip, and about 3/4 to 1" wide just below the nocks. 

All the Cherokee arrows I saw were made of split hickory, except for two that were made from shoots.  I believe the two shoot arrows were made from sourwood because they had a small pith in the center.  The arrows were quite long, between 33-38", but were kinda skinny for their length.  All the arrows had the tips sharpened to a steep point; none I saw had bone, metal, or stone points.  The fletch was wild turkey wing feathers, cut in the distinctive eastern style 2-feather fletch.  The fletch was not large, but trimmed quite close to the quill, about 1/2" in height at its highest.  The nocks were very shallow.

If you want to get a real good look at what they looked like, I would suggest getting the NAtive American Bows, Arrows, and Quivers book that I mentioned above.  It has very detailed drawings that are identical to the ones I saw at the Smithsonian.  I know the illustrator Steve and he is a real stickler for accuracy when he draws, so you know what you are seeing in the book is the real deal. 

Anyway, hope that helps!!

Billy
Marietta, Georgia

Offline benjamin

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2008, 04:47:34 pm »
I've really been wanting to replicate a cherokee style bow but I worry that the wide tips will slow the arrow down substantially and add hand shock. My draw is only 25'' so I guess I suffer from draw envy since everyone else seems to draw 28'' or more. Does having 3/4'' to 1'' wide tips adversly affect anyone here's cast or hand shock?

Offline Hillbilly

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2008, 05:47:29 pm »
Benjamin, not in this design, the Eastern woodland stuyle bows usually shoot pretty smoothly. They are quite thin at the tips, not as thick as most of our typical flatbows. And I would wager that there are more of us on here with 26" draws than 28". Skeater, like our bows, most of them varied a bit to the taste of the individual bowyer, but like Billy said, most are parallel much of the way down, at least to midlimb or even all the way to the nocks in the case of some of the narrower ones. Bear gut was the traditional string material when available, and some of the locust bows have a sapwood back.
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Offline 1/2primitive

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2008, 05:59:34 pm »
Looks like you got your info 'crawling out of the woodwork'.  ;D
    Sean
« Last Edit: May 12, 2008, 07:07:55 pm by 1/2primitive »
Dallas/Fort Worth Tx.

Offline Dano

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2008, 06:04:39 pm »
You guy's are going to have to show ol' Skeaterbait pictures he is from Kansas, I think his wife has ta read this back to him. You know I'm kidding, right Lonnie  ;D  ::)
"If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy."


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Offline skeaterbait

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #9 on: May 13, 2008, 06:57:01 am »
Hey Dano,

My wife tells me you're pickin on me, that's ok I can take it. However, I am from the Missouri side of KC which you all know is the "Show Me" state so pics would be great. The info is fantastic guys, thanks a ton.

I tend to lean more towards the ELB style bows for my own taste but my new father in laws is quite proud of his Cherokee lineage so I thought I might make him a bow for his birthday (or Christmas at the rate I complete bows).

Offline skeaterbait

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2008, 07:17:19 am »
Oh yeah, I guess the next thing will be finding some black locust. I have lots of osage and hickory but no locust, anyone know a good source for a cured stave or two?

Offline DirtyDan

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #11 on: May 13, 2008, 10:59:09 am »
Hey, Skeater,

I happen to have built a pretty good replica of the Cherokee bow that is pictured in the Encyclopedia of North American Bows and Arrows by Jim Hamm and Steve Allely.  I have included the page in the pictures so you can see the dimensions.  I am surprised that Billy did not mention it in his post, because he has seen it.  At any rate, I made the bow from a forty-year old locust fence rail that my friend Curt Ousley and I scavenged from his dad's lumber pile in Manchester, GA.  It does not have hand shock, and you can see that it has no handle, decoration, and not much taper.  It bends completely--not slightly--through the handle. It is rectangular throughout.  It pulls 47 pounds at 26 inches.  It broke the original gut string, so I replaced it with B-50.  It was fun to make.  It has a knot about midway down one of the limbs, but it is sound.  You can shoot it right or left-handed or upside down.  Just pick it up and shoot!

Dan

Offline DirtyDan

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2008, 11:03:00 am »
Another picture of the Cherokee bow

Offline DirtyDan

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2008, 11:04:49 am »
Page from Encycl. of N Am. Bows and Arrows

Offline 1/2primitive

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Re: Info on Cherokee bows
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2008, 05:29:17 pm »
If you don't have any Black Locust, they also employed Osage, so an Osage Cherokee bow would be historically sound.
   Sean
Dallas/Fort Worth Tx.