05 Oct Round Up: The Art of Function: Custom Bowmakers
With a nod to tradition, innovation, and craftsmanship, custom bowmakers (or bowyers) create classic archery equipment — recurves and longbows in one-piece or take-down models — adding their own unique touches and artful designs. Customers may choose from a long list of hardwoods, from the exotic to the local, and then add intricate embellishments. Here’s a look at three Montana-based custom bowyers, all with a reputation for creations that are as beautiful as they are functional.
Dick Robertson of Robertson Stykbow
Forest Grove, MT | robertsonstykbow.com
Dick Robertson guesses that he’s turned out around 5,000 bows since he started in 1978, originally making them for his own use. “When the compound bow came out and got popular, I wanted to go the exact opposite way and started building bows that are all wood construction,” he says. “Bowhunting and archery to me was something that was challenging, and there was the romance of it and the history.”
Robertson’s most popular models tend to change with new innovations, but “The Wolfer” (a two-piece, take-down recurve) is a current bestseller. Clients can choose from a list of exotic woods that includes black and white ebony, and the native mountain juniper he collects himself. “My trademark has been innovation as far as different bow designs, both in how they shoot and how they take down,” he says.
Dave Windauer of Schafer Silvertip
Columbia Falls, MT | schafersilvertipbows.com
Dave Windauer builds around 80 bows per year using a technique he inherited from his mentor, Paul Schafer. Schafer (who perfected his bow design in 1977) named his business after the first silvertip grizzly he shot back in 1974. Windauer started working for Schafer when he was in high school, and bought the business when Schafer passed away more than 21 years ago.
Windauer’s clients gravitate toward exotic woods from Central America and Africa, and from there they can choose their features. “We have a base price bow,” Windauer says, “and then people build the bow that they want: picking risers, wood in the handle, custom veneers, and limbs and tips made from various horn and antler.”
Chester Floyd of RER Traditional bows
Bozeman, MT | rerbows.com
Chester Floyd grew up woodworking and hunting, and those two passions came together when a Wisconsin-based mentor taught him about building bows. After moving to Bozeman a few years ago for the hunting and fishing opportunities, he started his bow-making business. “I knew it was a great place for a young entrepreneur in the outdoor industry,” Floyd says. “We’re definitely busy, expanding, and growing.”
Known for his custom static-tip recurve in either a take-down or one-piece model, Floyd makes sure to first understand the client’s body type, their “wingspan,” and their planned usage — for hunting or target shooting. “We pick the model, and then I have almost too many hardwoods to choose from, light to dark.”