Nick Toy Classic Longbow 64#@30"
I am going to sound like an old codger now ( which of course I am not !!) But..... " in the old days " there was hardly a bowyer to be found making yer English Longbow, partly because there were so few about and partly because you actually had to live next door to one to know where he was.
With the resurgence of the Longbow, both within the main archery organisations and with folk who just want a peek in to our history there are now guys up and down the land producing their own bows in sheds and garages, quite a number too have made the transition from amateur bowyer to professional bowyer, many of these garden bowyers are very happy to make a bow for themselves and a few friends - to be honest having seen more than my fair share of bows a large number of these backyard bowyers produce no more than what I call BSO ( bow shaped object ). A stave is fashioned into a bow shape and a string attached, if it doesn't break it will be no more effective than a paper teacup having virtually no cast... but... it does look like a bow..
There are others though, happily spending huge amounts of time making a bow for their own pleasure because either they want to make something special or just don't trust anyone to do a job as well as they believe they could do it themselves. This is my kind of bowyer !!
When I first started archery it was with the Longbow in mind, it was the romance of developing a real skill, I had this idea that I would strive to be able to use a simple bow and hit any target at any distance - not really for any great purpose or to any end other than the personal satisfaction. There is something quite magical about being able to look at a target no matter how far and "reach out to it".
Being as there was no set up for my kind of archery I was left to learn myself, shooting alone in a field which is ultimately boring and lonely. Before I had gone too far down that road I was side tracked in to target archery. Within a short time I was able to score a lot of points which I mistook as having developed real skill with a bow ( I have to say at this point that I have never put a rubber band on a Longbow - oh the HORROR !!). Then I heard about field shooting and decided I would take my bow and my skill to this new form of archery. It turned out that I could score a lot of points on a fixed 4 foot target set at known distances but my foray into field proved I had barely scratched the surface of developing a skill and was nowhere near my goal of "any target, any distance".
One thing led to another and it was many years until I realised I had been led astray from my original goal, side tracked by points scoring exercises. Despite being fun, the days I enjoy best are when I shoot with a few friends at all manner of targets in all manner of terrain.
Recently I met Nick Toy, an entirely different kind of bowyer. Nick had a similar view but regarding bows as much as the shooting of them. He wanted a bow that harked back to the Medieval style but it must perform properly not just look like a movie prop. Rather than being side tracked he stuck firmly to his plan, spending long hours making bows for himself until he had designed and refined his own particular bow shape based on research, trial and error and how the final article shot.
His 20 year journey with the bow saw him making bows for a few friends but all the while looking to refine and make the best shooting bow he could. When I meet a guy like that I know he is making bows for the love of it and I want him to make me a bow that HE would want to shoot - I recognise the fanaticism in a kindred spirit, because I am like that with arrows.
Nick is less concerned with final finish and aesthetics than he is with a bow that will actually perform at a peak in the way that the folk in medieval times need a bow to perform, having said that when something works right it will also look right. We all talk about bows working through the handle, however when you do this you put enormous strain on the wood, you will certainly gain performance but there is a fair chance you will end up with a broken bow - something that bowyers who need to earn a living don't need, so many will build in a little extra tolerance in the form of reducing performance. Nick is not a man to compromise, his own 100# bow performs a beautiful arc as he draws it out to 32" and it makes short work of his absolutely massive half inch medieval arrows.
From making a few bows for friends and those who seek him out he recently started to produce bows as a hobby business, but with the same ethics he uses to make his own, these are uncompromising medieval style bows that will come full compass and punch arrows out hard and fast, the Longbow was after all a weapon, ultimately it must be measured by it's effectiveness. Nick builds his bow to this criterion.
I had to have one.
I thought long and hard about the weight and finally decided on something around 65#. Nick isn't into join in the handle bows, he prefers to work with a single stave and this one is Ipe backed with Hickory, it has a horn arrow pass and horn nocks but apart from that is unadorned. It is 76"Long and draws 59# at 28" - 62#@30" and 64#@32".
Because the whole bow participates in the draw the smoothness is extraordinary and very very slick. In fact like all good bows it feels far easier to draw than it's marked weight, but it is tight enough so that you know you are loading the spring.
This photo was taken shooting a 65/70# shaft - its always hard to capture an arrow in flight and very pleasing when you do but I was actually surprised how much movement this bow put into such a stiff shaft.
The design is all Nick, the bow looks flatter than most bows but still conforms to the accepted definition that the bows depth should be 5/8 of it's width, it's still D shaped in a squashy way - it seems that most organisations have their own definitions and happily this bow gets a clean bill of health as regards them - I mention this as Nick is somewhat unorthodox in his design and I suspect slightly contrary ( it takes one to know one !). I completely understand where Nick is coming from as I am like this with arrows, my arrows are plain... you can't see the work that has gone into them until you shoot them... so it is with Nicks' bows there is no flashy gold braid or fancy stitched handle, no gleaming mother of pearl or super polished bits it looks nice enough but it gets your respect when you shoot it.
Normally I do a little speed test but Longbows are different to other bows, they are hard enough to shoot well so the speed issue isn't critical, more important will be smoothness and handshock, English Longbows were not designed to be shockless so it is with surprise that I find this bow shooting with less shock than I would expect from a medium heavy bow, I guess it has something to do with the distribution of weight through the bow and the way the limbs work... I say I am guessing because unlike Nick I don't have 20 years bowyer experience behind me and in the end it's the bowyers experience you are paying for.
The real coup when you find a true artisan who does things for love rather than money is that they never understand the true value of what they produce - I told Nick I was taking advantage of him but he is happy with the price he charges - I strongly suspect all that is about to change once the word is out and folks start queuing up for one of these at the ridiculous price of just £210. If you want my advice ( I know you don't but I'll give it anyway ) get in quick before he realises he is way too cheap..
Features & Design
20 years in the making - A truly full compass Longbow that looks and shoot exactly as it would have done in Medieval England. One nice touch was the string with the bowyers knot - don't see many of those about these days !
Smooth to Draw, lovely cast and happy shooting light or heavy arrows.
Value for Money
At £210 I don't think I need to bang on about this... just go check out some other bowyers prices and then get on the phone ..
You only have to look at Nicks face once he starts talking longbows to know that he loves what he does- all that love poured into a bow - I shall have another on order before you read this.