Chek-Mate Traditional Bows by Pete Ward
The Idea of a Bow-Blank from Chek-Mate is new, and this is also a new design from Marc, the Owner and Bowyer of Chek-Mate bows. The new “Beaver Creek” D/R longbow was conceived at the longbow Safari a couple years ago in Alberta when several of us were sitting in camp, discussing what was good, bad and evil in the bow designs of today and yesterday. Its origin came from a prototype Marc had built several years before that we all thought had great potential.
Three years later Marc became the owner of Chek-Mate and the Beaver Creek was born. This blank is the first ever from Chek-Mate and one of the first bows to come off the new form. The Beaver Creek is a winner, and sure to become one of the top selling Chek-Mate bows.
Last week I looked at and shot the first prototype, a 58″ 57# model that was finished by Marc. It shoots very nice. This was after I had completed this Blank, so I was also able to compare my work to Marc’s. His experience was apparent; however I am completely satisfied with my results.
This is the first time I have worked with a bow blank. In fact this is the first time I have worked with a Glass bow as far as the building process is concerned. I have to say I was apprehensive when we discussed this project, and I was even more apprehensive when Marc sent me the blank to complete.
I have made a few self and Board bows so I do have limited experience in shaping a grip and tillering a wood bow. I soon discovered that completing the blank was not all that different.
The blank I received is a light weight blank that is one of the first bows of this new design, “Beaver creek”, from Chek-Mate.
It arrived in the bare basic glue up form, nothing other than band sawing the limb profile was done to it. All of the riser and tip overlays were glued on in square form.
The riser wood is figured purple heart, with grey action wood and figured purple heart and phenolic overlays. The tip overlays are the same with an added phenolic reinforcing on both sides. The limbs have beautiful yew veneers on both sides.
Because the bow was a light weight, I decided to make it a left hand for my granddaughter. It will be her first full size custom bow. This was my motivation to do a good job.
I had planned to do this as a build along, but got carried away and was in too deep when I realized I was not taking photos as I went. The build took shape quicker than I expected.
belt sander, band saw, Nicholson #49 and #50 rasps, ferriers rasp, round file for nocks, flat smooth files, sanding blocks, strips of emery cloth, #0000 steel wool, brown “Scotch Brite” pads.
Finish is a rattle can of “Krylon” clear satin acrylic enamel.
The first thing to do was finding the center of the grip and lay out the grip and shelf. A cloth measuring tape is easy for this.
The next step was to lightly sand the limb edges to remove the glass splinters from it being cut on the band saw.
Next was to use the belt sander and start the fading of the overlays into the limbs. This went very fast with a 36-grit belt. Next I made a trip to the band saw and cut out the shelf/ sight window.
From here in it was some rough sanding with 36 grit on the belt sander to rough shape the grip, then making it smaller and more defined with the #49 and 50 rasps. Now that it started to look like a bow I filed in the nocks and began to check the tiller. A few quick passes over the belt sander and the limbs were pulling even. I only took material from the sides and took care to make sure the limbs remained even and centered.
Because I was making this bow for an 8-year-old girl I made the limbs thinner and the tips narrower than Marc had cut them. I like small limb tips for their looks, and these turned out great looking, and very stable.
At this point I had a shooting bow, it is very quiet, and seems to have good speed. It was also very rough looking, and now the time consuming part takes place. Sanding out the rasp marks and making the overlays flow into the limbs and riser takes time and patience. It is not difficult, just tedious if you want a professional looking bow.
To make it as shooter friendly and clean looking it takes time to file in a shelf and side plate radius, then to get rid of all those small saw marks and rasp marks. When you think it looks great, and feels great, wet it down and see all the scratches you missed. This also raises the grain and lets you remove the fuzzy stuff.
I did this several times, and each time it became better, smoother, and fewer scratches remained. You see a lot of defects as your sanding becomes finer. At this stage I was using #220 sandpaper, then I used the Scotch bright pads to polish the wood and remove the final scratches. A final #600 sanding and I was ready to put the finish on the riser.
This just left some prep work on the limbs to have them ready for the finish. With #220 I lightly sanded both faces, and rounded the edges.
I wanted to do a true oil finish but I could not find any, so I used Krylon acrylic enamel.
This dries very fast and could be handled in a couple minutes. Because it dries fast it is resistant to runs also. Edges are the hardest to get coverage on, so it is best to stripe the edges, and tight spots like the shelf/ side plate corner with a first coat. Let this flash off and then spray with long even strokes the rest of the bow. If it looks like you missed a spot, wait a few minutes and apply a second coat. Don’t get over anxious, and put on too much, even Krylon can run.
In the end I spent about 10 hours total to take the blank from rough and square to a finished bow that I am delighted with. A band saw for the shelf/ sight window was a time saver as was the belt grinder. Hand tools can produce the same results, but it will take much longer.
Marc will be doing some more of the work on these blanks in the future for you before you receive them. He will be cutting in the sight window, and tillering the limbs for you as well as cutting in the nocks. For those that want to do as much as possible Blanks will be available like the one I used. These will be better suited for those with some bowering experience, or the more adventurous. I thought that I bit off more than I could chew at first, and soon realized all I had to do was take my time, think about what the goal was and do it.
Placing a bow nearby that you want to use as a reference while shaping is a good idea. At least a good photo or two would be a help. I promise to have a photo tutorial for the next one I do.
If you have wanted to take the next step in building a bow, a blank is a great place to start before laying out a lot of money and time building one from scratch, only to discover you don’t like it. I learned a lot doing this project, and had fun too. The hardest part was making a left hand grip. I shoot right hand, and it was a constant struggle remembering to test feel it and shape it left handed.
I also now have a greater appreciation for the bowyers and the fine bows they produce.
Perhaps I was being too picky, but Emily my granddaughter deserves the best I can do.