10 Minutes With... Border Bows
It's no secret that Border make some of the finest bows in the world, but the bows are not magic'ed ( I know it's not a word .. point is, it should be) out of thin air. So this month we take a quick peek behind the brand and spend 10 minutes with Sid Snr one of the driving forces who has made Brorder Bows one of the most lusted after makes.
1. How long have you been involved in Archery and how did you get started?
I started in 1973 or 74 shooting Bowhunter IFAA shot some of the highest scores in the mid to late 1970's in the World at that time and held 6 course records in Scotland. Before archery my sport was Rugby but a promotion when I was 23 (I had been a design engineer with a Forklift company) had me travelling Africa supporting dealers on the technical side of the product and the trips were 5 weeks away and no way to keep match fit. I was also just married and archery was something that Ann and I could do together when I was home.
2. When did you make your first bow and what was the result?
The first bow I ever made was a crossbow and that was before I got involved in archery. The bow was made but I could not find a string material that would not stretch. At that time I knew nothing of archery. However my search for string material led me to a colleague that worked at the other end of the factory that I worked in and I was introduced to a Quicks catalogue. This guy was an archer and it coincided with the need to find a sport other than running 400 meters during the Summer and Rugby during the winter and he taught both Ann and I to shoot. I think I made my first TD recurve round about 1974/75. After that I read Howard Hill and then followed many years of making longbows (AFB in the UK) of every conceivable shape no two the same searching for recurve performance.
3. What's the one tool in your workshop which you couldn't do without?
Our team of bowyers who make the bows and follow our processes with diligence. The mechanical tools we need all of them. "Teamwork and the recognition of skills and contribution." For example we have a guy with a degree in Chemistry handling cores and the bow weight calculations. Dave has been making Border bows for 40 years!
4. What do you think the next big innovation in bow building will be ?
I don't think you get dramatic breakthroughs in reality that is like waiting for the lottery to come it. It's all about research and development it is progressive hard work and constant that is what brings about change. There is nothing new in trad bow design what is new is that modern materials give you the chance to pass some of the Speed/stability barriers that were there before. It is the reason that we no longer make bows with Glass Fibre. Carbon and other composites are many times more expensive than glass but the performance can be worth 10 lbs in bow weight. In other words a 40lbs bow can perform like a 50lbs and be twice as stable and forgiving to shoot.
6. What is it about your bows or the way you make bows that sets you apart from other bowyers ?
I'm one of 12 people here at Border and so we are not one person. What you get from Border is a combined effort. I think what sets us a part is that we try harder, we push the limits on design on geometry and materials and we push our production processes in order to get these different and difficult elements to come together in a product. We push ourselves on our levels of support after the product has left our workshop and is in the field. For example we offer a 28 day return policy irrespective of the level of custom, Irrespective if the archery tried before he bought or just mail order. We offer this Worldwide! This gives archers a chance not to be stuck with something they don't want after having bought it. It also means that we are held to account for the information that we have given during the buying process. Some companies sell and promote their products with very exaggerated claims on performance etc this 28 day returns policy prevents us from doing that as the product can be returned if it does not live up to expectation. We leave ourselves no where to hide. There are other who mimic our technology levels but none have the freedom of design and process that we have. For example we take steel stock, raw carbon material in diverse and multiple specification not just weave pattern and timber and turn them into our own product all in house. We have full control over every element of production and design. We have computer models that mimic bow performance and can analyse not only speed in each element of the shooting system limb, string, arrows and the weight distribution. We have stress analyses and radius of curvature analysis that enables us to time the roll-over of the recurves. We can vary the torsional stiffness of recurve limbs and as a result we have very different and yet complex bow facings for recurved products or longbows. We have our own CNC milling and turning capability. Our Trad bows are all made by hand with the exception of the metal work that they employ. What we have is a team of people the vast majority of whom are dedicated to the cause of making the very best that we can.
7. Do you still have time to shoot ?
Very much so my shooting is very much a part of me as an individual. I'm not a competitions shooter. Winning tournaments is not vital for me and never has been but being the best is. Well of course there are always some that are better. I have always been competitive very competitive however being 60 now I have come to realise that being the best is transitory and in the vast majority of cases in whatever sports related activity is short lived. How many people do you talk to refer to their European or National victory in 1982 or some other remote date 2004 for example with few further victories. To win a tournament does not in itself make you the best only that others did not turn up on the day or did not shoot to their very best on the day. If the number and quality of the turnout is low then taking first has limited merit.
Having said that winning a high level tournament where a strong turn out has occurred is like having a degree in some study or other indicates the level of competence achieved at one time or another and an historic statement in its self. At Border we have 6 that shoot Ann took 5 NFAS Scottish champ titles four consecutively. Dave Johnston took a European barebow in his time and the other Sid came second in an NFAS champs and 1st at the Scots NFAS all under 18's in his time. Our Field course here we hold monthly shoots and one full International shoot per year. We have over 80 3D targets in 20 acres of woodland and a resident club of just under 50 archers many living over 2 hours drive away.
8. What’s the best shot you ever made ?
Every one that went straight!
9. How many bows do you make a year ?
Between 900 and 1400 depending on many factors. In the recent past that was restricted by the availability of people who actually want to work and have enough pride in themselves to be concerned about the quality of their work. This is also related to the current employment laws that make it very difficult to have a full crew in at any point in time. It makes accurate delivery dates a nightmare as one man down can shrink production by 30% or more. Over 70% of what we make is export mainly Europe but sales into the USA and Canada and beyond and our target ILF limbs sales have mushroomed into Hawaii, Singapore Brazil we now have bows in Russia.
10. What’s the spec on your personal bow of the moment ALSO…….What’s the spec on the arrows you shoot ?. Wood- (POC, Sitka, Pine, other ?)/Carbon/Ally, total weight, fletch size, point weight… etc the full spec.
I make lots of changes to my kit I need to trial as much as I can. I get many emails asking advice Flight, barebow marked distance field, unmarked and 3D. On the other end we have bowhunting seriously big game to small game, carbon arrows with extreme FOC through alloys to wood, Sitka, Pine, HEX, POC etc. Spine questions, tune issue, stabilisers and string walking. The full gambit really and so I need to research each out in order to be in a position to advise. Luckily I have a vast number of talented Border bow users I can tap into. The overall situation is that I need to try and that makes change inevitable. I had been shooting a 60" Ultra 60lbs at 28.75" and heavy high FOC carbon arrows in the 580 grains 100 grain brass inserts and 150 grain points combined with a 6 arrow bow quiver. We have just produced our first flatbow (modern longbow) called the Hawk that is aimed at the North American market 60" to 66" in length it is very stable and the fastest longbow that we have ever made. It is legal in FITA longbow but illegal in NFAS and IFAA having reflexed outer limb sections when at brace height. I'm having one of those 62" and 62lbs at my draw length and I fancy some heavy Douglas Fir shafts for it. In NFAS I'll happily compete in the Hunting tackle section as it will be much faster than most recurves and only a few fps slower than our HEX5 limbs. Our other longbows are all competition legal and designed to operate longer for a shorter draw. The Hawk is designed for high stable performance in shorter overall bow lengths to drawlengths.