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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Tim Baker Interview With A Master Bowyer

Tim Baker
Master Bowyer
By: Alan Halcon & Dude Mclean

“Always interested in anthropology, read the Ishi books… how can you not want to make something after reading that. I took a couple of years trying to make arrowheads. I thought I was the only person in the world, like a lot of other guys who thought they were the only ones. I got where I could make a half way decent arrowhead. Then, of course, you have to have an arrow to put it on. Then, you have to have a bow. Man o man! The first bow I made, something clicked… I was instantly addicted. Then, you have to make every kind of bow.

Someone told me about Jay Massey's book… Shame on me I called him and started grilling him about bows. He was the most generous and gracious guy. He told me about Jim Hamm. The most important thing to me was being told about Paul Comstock's book “The Bent Stick.” He was the main person who provoked into doing bow tests.”

For Tim it was always fun figuring out what had to be figured out. Keeping stats of all the bows, then you study those stats and that's how you learn things about the individual bows. Tim emphasizes that you just can't retain all the information. It's important to keep records.

“bow number 720 had this quality and that quality. You just can't remember all of that. You can lay all the information out like a spread sheet, compare one bow with another and why this one did that and why.”

His first year was spent trying to get osage and yew, because those were the only woods you could make a bow out of. When tim met Paul Comstock, Comstock was making bows out of other woods. Tim said that for the first three months of their conversations it was arguments and Tim telling Comstock he was getting better results out of the other woods because he was a better bow maker.

“You're doing something different. Everyone knows that osage and yew are the best woods.”

Tim was an Osage and yew guy. Tim states that Comstock got sick of him and in exasperation he said “Look you don't know what you're talking about. Have you made any bows from the other woods.”

Tim laughs and say's “Know I didn't”

So Tim started making bows out of other woods and big surprise, if they were made the right way, the lighter woods are made wider and they were out shooting the yew and osage bows. Tim kept keeping detailed records of the woods and the bows.

The Bowyers Bibles

John Strunk and Jay Massey suggested that Tim go the Michigan Long Bow Association meet, where he set up a work bench and started making bows. All of those guys were glass bow guys. Massey, Strunk, Hamm and Baker had a bunch of staves. Like bees to honey, by the third day over thirty guys, with what ever crude tools they could lay their hands on were making bows.

By this time all the testing was pretty far advanced. Tim had amassed a lot of real and good information. Jim Hamm and Tim got together and decided to write the “Bowyers Bible.” Tim credits Hamm with coming up with the plan.

“Here's something that probably has never been talked about. I doubt if anyone else in the world had any of the four or five perfectly matched qualities that would have allowed the “Bowyers Bible” to come into existence. Jim Has a Bill Gates attitude, a wild Indian aspect, he has the diplomatic skills to put up with primadonnas like, well especially me, who has to do everything their own way, alpha males, I'm right, it's gotta be this way, that's it or else I'm walking. Somehow Jim could put up with that and make it all work. He had the writing and editing skills and all the patience. I can't imagine any other human being having all of those qualities and added to that an absolute love of archery.”

So, the “Bowyers Bible” was born. And with these authors, Jim Hamm, Tim Baker, Al Herrin, G. Fred Asbell, Paul Comstock, Dr. Bert Grayson, and Jay Massey, has set the standard for the bow makers of the world.

This book spawned the great debates about osage and yew versus everything else.

“The good happy news is that there is just hundreds of woods that make perfectly good bows. If one is just one percent faster than the other, what difference does it really make?”

Tim Baker is a master bowyer and a complicated man, who loves the bow and all that it encompasses with a passion. He stands by his theories and has proven them time and time again. He doesn't like to be called an expert because he is still learning.

“Making bows will probably never be out of your life once you're in it. Anytime anyone wants to learn how to make bows I am happy to show them.”

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