The Border Experience
On TV recently there have been some adverts for a well known Sofa store, you know the one, it's the place where you couldn't pay full price even if you wanted to as there seems to be a permanent half price sale... well this ad does my head in, you see, they show pictures of an old boy in a white coat with glasses and the smallest hammer in the world, he peers over the top of his glasses in a "craftsman like" manner whilst tapping ineffectually at the arm rest on a a sofa. Honestly, I ask you, is anyone going to be taken in by this nonsense ? and how the heck do they get away with such blatent rubbish - we all know they are probably nocked together by some convict in a far off land or some poor labourer being paid thruppence farthing a fortnight. In any case the colours are horrible and they all look like they have been beamed out of 1974.
OK, rant over, but what has this to do with Border bows you ask . Both Sid and Sid the younger welcome visitors to their workshops, in fact they positively encourage it, neither of them are shrinking violets and whereas some manufacturers might produce flashy websites and glossy photos, Border would rather put a bow in your hand and say " there, try that !".
We have had some friends pay a visit to Border whilst in the area and Andy and I were only too pleased to be invited to see where the fabled bows originate. As a day trip it is a little extravagant but as a fantasy day out it would be hard to beat.
A flight from Standstead, hire car at Edinburgh and by 10:30am we were driving through the beautiful green and verdant hills of the Scottish Border country. The second you walk into the workshops you know this is no ordinary "bow factory", machinery is running and the place smells of sawdust and glue - in fact the machinery that is making all the noise is the same as the tools in mine or any other workshop, nothing fancy, just bandsaws, linishers, sanders and a profusion of gauges, saws and large quantities of sandpaper - the guys doing all the work are wearing woodworkers aprons and they are filing out arrow shelves, sanding limbs and cutting risers from blocks that had been glued together - the very scene that the sofa manufacturers are trying to kid us happens in their factory !
The Sids are nothing less than welcoming and we are treated to a full tour - our treatment however isn't a one off. If you turn up there you will be shown the full works, right from the lumps of wood which are skilfully cut and glued to form those trademark Border risers through to where each bow is hand cut, hand finished and where every shelf has been filed and cut. Every single bow is tillered by hand and every limb tested by the expert craftsmen that created them. It's an astonishing experience. The place puts me in mind of the Indian railway system, if you have ever used it you will marvel at how you can book a seat in one small town for a train ride that commences in a different state in several weeks time. There won't be a computer in sight, just a chap with a pencil. When you turn up to board your train you will find a little piece of paper attached to your seat with your name and even what you have ordered for dinner. It's one of the biggest enterprises in the world in terms of logistics yet it functions superbly efficiently against all the odds. At Border there are little paper tickets with all the details of a particular customers order, right down to small custom changes that have been requested, we are shown a riser that was hand carved by one customer - he wanted it replicated for his bow. Because each bow is itself a custom order it is possible to do this.
Passion is something that Border have in abundance and you will find yourself swept along on a crazy archery ride by each of the Sid's as they can't wait to show you and tell you all about bows and the archery experience they are trying to achieve, the guys are committed, they love what they do and they want to share it with everyone, they are archery nutters..... !! .......and this from a couple of guys who got up at 3:30am to fly to Scotland for the day just to look at some bows !!
It is inevitable that you will find yourself wanting to be part of the Border Experience.
The passion shines through when you have finished the tour because they will want to show you their course and the woodland it occupies - there is a permanent course laid out with 80 3D's - you heard me right - I said 80. Their rules are simple, you shoot one arrow at each target, if you hit or kill it you claim the score, if you miss then you don't get a second chance - what a great woodland and a superbly laid course, as we are guided around you will see the same sparkle in Sids' ( the elder) eyes that he gets when he talks about Border bows - these guys love archery, if they were only interested in selling bows they wouldn't bother with all the other stuff, if they only wanted to make money there are easier ways. For these guys there is only archery and the chance to produce a truly special product that is beautiful, functional and that will deliver staggering performance - We will be looking forward to reviewing some of the great bows that Border produce.