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Finding time to make a longbow or recurve bow

Finding time to make a bow

Are you struggling to find time to build your own bow? Working all day every day, then coming home to do chores and family activities leaves you exhausted and completely out of time for working in your shop. You make plans to work in your shop on the weekend, but once all of the mowing, wood cutting, weed pulling, house cleaning, cooking, and laundry are done, its already Sunday night and the weekend is over. You’ve dreamed about starting your bow making project, but just can’t find the time to get started. Or maybe you’ve already started working on your bow, but now you seem stuck and can’t find your way back into the shop to get it done. Sound familiar? Well, hopefully this post will help you to get started on your bow project and get BETTER RESULTS.

Over the last few months I’ve made some MAJOR changes to the way I manage my time. This has resulted in less stress, less work, less information overload…and MORE TIME for working on my projects! All of this has come from three simple improvements that you can learn. These simple tweaks have transformed my life and I hope they can do the same for you, too.

1. Make a list of goals and priorities

This may seem a bit off the subject of making bows at first, but stick with me and consider trying this, because I think it will help. Make a list of goals you want to accomplish and put them in priority order. Setting goals and deciding on priorities is a great way to start getting BETTER RESULTS. Your list might be different, but you get the idea. Start out by making a list of general categories.

Start with generalities first, maybe something like this:

  1. Lose 50 pounds.
  2. Get married.
  3. Find a better job.
  4. Build my own bow.
  5. Kill a deer with a bow I’ve made.
  6. Etc…

Next, break down those goals into specific tasks, and be more specific like this:

  1. Clean out the shop by __________ (date).
  2. Make a list of tools for my project by __________ (date).
  3. Borrow or buy the tools by __________ (date).
  4. Order bow blueprints or make new plans by __________ (date).
  5. Order bow laminations, glue, etc. by __________ (date).
  6. Buy riser wood by __________ (date).
  7. Buy materials from the local home building store (make a list).
  8. Build a bow form by __________ (date).
  9. Build a hot box by __________ (date).
  10. Cut out bow parts by __________ (date).
  11. Glue up the bow by __________ (date).
  12. Rough out the bow shape by __________ (date).
  13. Balance and tiller the bow by __________ (date).
  14. Sand the bow by __________ (date).
  15. Seal and spray the bow by __________ (date).
  16. Etc…

Making a list of specific activities and due dates like this will help you see what is needed and help you get things done faster. I am constantly making priority lists and crossing items off when they are done. When I get something accomplished then I cross it off the list. This really helps me stay on task and get more things accomplished. It helps me focus on what is needed. Sometimes it seems like there is a never ending list, but when I look back at the end of a week I can see that many things have been accomplished.

Making a list of goals and priorities like this for every major project in your life will help clear your head so you can worry less about all of the things that need to be done, and start doing the things on your list. It can really help reduce your stress level. I know you can use less stress right now!

2. Cut out distractions

You’ve probably heard this advice too many times from your parents and teachers over the years, but sometimes that’s just what we need to hear. Plus, we’ve all heard about various 80/20 rules, but here’s another one. Consider following a 80/20 rule of time management. It goes like this: 20% of my work gives me 80% of my results. This might also mean that roughly 80% of what we do is not productive. In order to cut out distractions, we need to cut out everything that is not productive and focus on doing what is going to really give us the results we want.

I think we could break this down into a couple of categories as it relates to finding time to work on our bow project. One is identifying the things that are keeping us from getting into the shop, and the other is identifying the things that distract us from being productive once we are actually working in the shop.

Things that keep us from finding time to work in the shop

Try cutting out any and all activities that are less productive: Facebook, Twitter, reading and writing comments at internet forums, researching stuff on the internet, recreational internet “surfing,” watching TV, reading books and magazines, reading the newspaper, watching the news, watching football and basketball games, sitting at the kitchen table, looking out the window, taking a nap, sleeping late on the weekend, falling asleep in the recliner, starting additional new projects before our bow project is finished, etc.

Instead, try to concentrate on doing ONLY the things that are most important. Ask yourself, “What are the most important things I can do right now to get things done?”

I know that we can’t take all of these things completely out of our schedules, but when we really want to be productive and GET THINGS DONE, then cutting them out completely might be just what is needed. Sometimes, we just need to focus on doing only what gives us the best results. If you know you will only have one hour per day to work on your project, try making a list of the specific tasks that will be the most effective in moving your project forward, then focus on only performing those tasks.

Things that keep us from being productive in the shop

OK, so getting into the shop is not the problem? Maybe you are spending time working in your shop, but you are getting distracted once you are there. For example, when you went to the shop, you wanted to cut out a riser for your new bow project, but you noticed that the workbench was covered with tools so you decided to clean it off. Then you saw that there were wood scraps and dust in the way so you got the vacuum and cleaned that up. So now you finally started working on your bow riser, but your band saw blade was dull so you stopped to change it, but then you had to set up the new blade and realign the table. Then you got the riser block cut out, but when you got ready to sand it, you noticed the switch was loose on the sander so you decided to tighten that up. While doing that, you also noticed a frayed wire so you replaced it with a new one. Then to make matters worse, while you were using the sander you noticed another unfinished bow you’ve been wanting to sand, so you sanded it and got it ready to spray. And before you knew it, it was late and you didn’t get your riser finished. Does this sound familiar? This is when making a list and doing only those things on the list can help.

I’m sure there are some folks who will argue with this, but I have found it very effective to “clean as you go”…cleaning each machine after I use it and sweeping up the floor at the end of each work session. Cleaning as you go might seem less productive at first, but over time I think you’ll find that you are getting more work accomplished because you won’t have to spend an entire weekend cleaning.

On the other hand, I think it is a good idea to consider holding off on “retooling” projects until you are done with the current project. Making new bow forms, hot boxes, and new jigs takes a LOT OF TIME. Try putting them off until the current project is done. When you notice something is needed, write it down on a “Do List”, then come back to it later. Try scheduling a retooling day when you can make all of these repairs at one time. I like to think of retooling jobs and new jigs and forms as “projects.”

3. Implement systems to be more productive

Systems are useful in everyday life activities as well as in the shop. I have to admit that I am a very systematic person. My wife says that I do things the same way every time. While this is true, it also helps me get a lot of things done. Thinking of ways to systemize everything in your life will speed up EVERYTHING that you do. This will lead to more time for working on your bow project.

Also, one of the best ways to increase productivity in the shop is by implementing SYSTEMS for doing repetitive tasks. For example, if you are planning to do the same cutting and grinding process on two or more bow pieces, it is often more effective to make a jig for the process. Making jigs takes time, but often the time saved during production is worth it. In addition, being able to duplicate bow parts can improve the quality and consistency of your bows.

Think about the sequence of your bow making and look for ways to save time. Grinding laminations for the limbs while the riser glue is curing is a good example. Try to overlap processes so you never have to wait on a part. Try cutting out all of the riser stripe laminations and limb laminations at the same time, then take them to the sander and grind them all to finished thickness at the same time. If you are making several bows at the same time, try cutting and grinding all of the parts at the same time. Implementing these types of systems can really make your time in the shop more productive.

In review, making a list of goals and priorities, cutting out distractions, and implementing systems can help you find more time in your busy lifestyle to work on your bow project. Life is important, so try to make each moment count. Effective time management can help you accomplish more and get better results, both in life and in the shop!

I hope this post has been useful in helping you find more time to build your own bow!

Please feel free to share with your friends and make a comment. 

With his creative, yet down-to-earth writing style, Jim Thorne has inspired thousands of traditional archers and helped many bowyers learn to “build their own bow.”

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Thank you so much for writing this article, it really helped me! I thought I was the only one who was struggling to find quality bow shop time.

    1. yes, just surfing the web looking for wood ideas. I have a custom woodshop and have built many bows. Found this article very interesting to read. Made me laugh quite a bit. Been there and done that 🙂

    2. Cool I build a few myself . I use alot of epe with bamboo and hickory for backers . I do the reflex deflex , english long bows , penobscott Ill have a few at the skunk river knappin , Ill let u try them out.

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