Using The Bowyer's Edge™

©Dean Torges/The Bowyer's Edge™

The Bowyer's Edge™ comes with an adjustable jig for honing the blade, a handled burnishing steel for burnishing and rolling its edge, and a complete and easy-to-follow set of sharpening instructions (available online in English or Deutsch). The wooden handles of the tool may be refined beyond their current shape, and a traceable pattern for doing this is included with the instructions, but the tool body is pre-sanded and fully functional as-is and most people leave it that way. The Bowyer's Edge™ is the premiere tillering tool available to the wood bowyer. Additionally,  because it cuts smoothly and precisely regardless of wood grain direction, you can use it to taper arrow shafts or to manipulate arrow spine.

The tool works as is after you sharpen the blade. Then again, I have had some people use it for a year or two without even sharpening the blade, using it just as it comes off the grinding wheel. They still liked the tool. Makes me wince, though. It's like leaving the violin bow in its case and using a flat pick on your Stradivarius. Plectrum works to make music, but it's not quite what the creator had in mind.

There are several blade sharpening options that come detailed within the instructions, from filing like a broadhead, to honing, burnishing and rolling the 45° edge. One will suit your temperament, but the one that plays the sweetest music requires you to use a flat, clean abrasive stone prior to burnishing. You can buy a good India stone for this purpose from Woodcraft Supply for around 20 bucks.

Some people have trouble using the Bowyer's Edge™ even after it is set up correctly. They put pressure on the heel of the tool rather than the toe, causing it to bump and chatter. Keep light tool pressure forward. This tool is different from others in that the amount of pressure you exert upon it determines the depth of cut. A finesse curl, a light pass. Hog curl, bear down.

Sometimes I push the tool, sometimes I pull it. Mostly the latter. Sometimes really squirrely grain will cut better from one direction than another. I do use the tool one-handed a great deal, rotating the bow in one hand and wiping the Bowyer's Edge™ along the belly with the other hand where the play of light and shadows point to troublesome areas. It removes the finest of clean shavings, cutting rather than scraping, and therefore clean-up does not require you to remove additional wood and thereby jeopardize the tiller.

The blade is ground at 45° degrees, so - unlike a cabinet scraper - you use only one edge. I cut the blades out with diamond wheels from Sandvik spring steel scraper blades, the standard of the industry. Kit includes a sharpening jig and a burnisher with the directions, so you really can't screw it up. Well, then again…

A cabinet scraper itself will washboard a surface in ring porous wood, chopping off the feather tips of late wood as it troughs out the porous early wood. Because the Bowyer's Edge™ blade rides over a polished brass sole, this wash-boarding is minimized greatly when you come down the dips, and almost eliminated altogether along the length of the limbs. Plus the brass sole glides effortlessly across the wood.

Yes, sometimes I change the angle and even the direction of the draw, though the cutting is almost always best done at a skew angle, which additionally helps minimize washboarding. The cut is always clean, regardless of grain direction, because unlike a spokeshave, the cutting principle is altogether different. And remember, the Bowyer's Edge™ cuts, genuinely cuts; it doesn't scrape like a knife blade would, compressing fibers as it tears.

Some fletchers value the Bowyer's Edge™ only for its use on arrow shafting. Because it cuts cleanly regardless of wood grain direction, you can barrel taper, full length taper, nock taper, or manipulate and accurately match spine in any manner or combination that suits your purpose. With a simple vee jig, detailed in the instructions which come with the tool, you can precisely taper a dozen shafts as accurately as any commercially available to you. Your second dozen will have paid for the tool over the price of purchased tapered shafting. The techniques for accomplishing the various tapers are also explained in the instructions.