Links & Sources of Supply

ECE Toothing Irons/Planes and Nicholson Rasps

The Bowyer's Edge™ provides you here sources of supply for several important bowyer’s tools. The first of these is the Nicholson series of pattern maker's rasps, numbers 49 and 50. When I introduced these rasps in The Bowyer's Bible and first touted them, bowyers looked at me sideways because 4-in-1 files and farrier's rasps were in vogue at one fourth the purchase price. These workhorses have proved their value since then and bowyers routinely refer to them now. Their retail price varies widely, however, sometimes exceeding $50. The best buy available on them, around $30, is from Jantz Supply: 1-800-351-8900.

A few years preceding the production of Hunting the Bamboo-Backed Bow, several German plane manufacturers still produced toothing planes and irons, among them E.C.E and the venerable Ulmia Company. To my surprise, by the time HBB came upon the scene, only one source still existed. The plane had a proud history in cabinetry. It had proved invaluable to me in my furniture business, among other services providing groundwork for veneering. James Duff in Bows and Arrrows regarded it as indispensable to the bowyer's craft. Nevertheless, I've been told by its American importer, David Warren, that HBB rescued E.C.E.’s production of this plane and iron. Otherwise, we had seen its end. It's discomforting to see a tool this important to the history of woodwork teetering on the verge of extinction, disappearing like Solingen knives, whose factories, once numbering over four hundred, are a precious few.

You can purchase either the iron or both the plane and iron from David at this contact address: David Warren


Prices for cyanoacrylates vary as widely as the quality. Here is a source for the best I have found (which has ranged from Hot Stuff™ to Loctite™). Priced reasonably, there’s a viscosity available for every need. I use cyanoacrylate for lifted bamboo splinters, checks and cracks in bamboo and wood, and for tip overlays. Have even made touchy repairs to the feathered area of the riser handle and had it hold when no other glue did. It is indispensable to the bowyer’s tool and repair kit. I understand it’s a good item in your boonies first aid kit, too, and since I’d prefer using it to stabbing myself repeatedly with a suturing needle, I have a dual purpose in mind for the silk and glue in my bow repair kit. However, because bow-building has taught me to expect a discrepancy between theory and reality, I also carry a needle/gut sterile-pak.

The folks at Nelson Paint in Michigan manufacture Urac 185, and excepting resorcinol, there is not a stronger slow-setting, gap-filling, waterproof glue for wood to wood bonds or for gluing bamboo to wood. Bows make grueling demands on joints, and the working area where the riser dip feathers into the limb will sort through pretenders with brutal honesty. Pay attention to its special prep requirements, and you can use urac as well for belly patches. Know, too, that it’s a catalyzed glue with a shelf life. Fresh glue lasts over a year before the resin spoils, but more than twice that long when refrigerated.

Bamboo and Sources of Supply

At the end of the Bamboo-Backed Bow video, I've included a "Sources of Supply" list, just as I do when I write how-to articles for publication. I've never had a money interest or accepted freebies of any kind for any source I have ever listed anywhere. The sole criterion I employ for listing a source is that it provides the best, most reliable product I know of relating to the subject I'm concerned with.

So it is with Bamboo and Rattan Works, Inc. You pay more with them, but by my estimation you get a whole lot more. I've dealt with them for 20 years and have never had a piece sent to me that corkscrewed or was scarred beyond the rind. They've never sent me water-spotted or decayed bamboo. They hand-select every piece they send for bow backing, whether it's destined for you or for me. In short, they not only know what they're doing, they know what I'm doing.

Beyond superficial considerations, the variety of bamboo they sell (Maso) is in my estimation superior for bow backings to the inexpensive variety (Moso) which is currently popular and available elsewhere. Maso is stronger, with greater integrity. I have only had two bamboo backings lift splinters from B&RW, and that was early on in my explorations when I inclined toward removing every speck of rind off the back, thereby cutting too deeply into the power fibers. The nodes run closer together here than with the cheaper source, but I'll trade that for strength any day.

Splintering proved endemic with the cheaper variety, occurring in about 1 in 15 bows, regardless of whether I scraped the rind or not. For a while I routinely backed Moso with silk as a prophylactic measure, and even wrote an article detailing the fix for this problem. Since I've gone back to Bamboo and Rattan Works bamboo, employing only moderate scraping and sanding of rind—just enough to absorb a dye—I've had no further lifting of splinters.

The only other variety I have used with great success is Madake, which I've brought back from Australia. It is very thin-walled, but quite excellent, with a tight concentration of power fibers and widely spaced nodes. Have not been able to find it here.

Bamboo variety or power fiber density is of little to no consequence when you are grinding laminations for fiberglassed bows. Cost outweighs other considerations. Not so with bamboo-backed bows. The r/d design and the trapezoidal cross section place greater than average strain on the back. Given the time and effort I put into a bow, I'm willing to pay a few extra bucks for quality materials.

I don't want to discourage experimentation. There must be many fine bamboos that will work for this application. I know of two that have proved themselves long term and one that has proved unsatisfactory. Seems to me, from what I've read and heard, the unsatisfactory one is the current and popular choice among natural materials bowyers.


A source for quality silk, either for backing or for repairs, is The Martha Pullen Company. Either call 800-547-4176 ext 2 (for orders and information), write, or access the website at


This pattern maker's vise is ideal for bows. Padded jaws swivel to accommodate tapered limbs, yet hold your bow firmly for the drawknife or rough rasping. I also employ the stand, which is adjustable for height and permits 360º of rotation, locking in tightly wherever you want it. This is a compact, versatile, heavy-duty unit. A dream to use—quick to adjust, positive in its grip and secure from all directions, never distracting you from the work. The mounting possibilities extend from the workbench, to a bench itself, to the auxiallary stand, or to wherever your imagination wants to build bows. I've had one for over a year and recommend it highly.

Additional Bow-building Information

Paul Comstock's The Bent Stick launched the white wood revolution and remains the bible for building bows of alternative woods. Paul is a neighbor of mine, an all-around good guy and my friend. Think you lack the skills to build your own hunting weapon? Feeling self pity because no osage grows near you? Worried that you don't understand bow-building fundamentals and have no idea where to start? Warning. This book not only answers your questions and allays your fears, this book changes lives.

Cedar Ridge Leather Works

If you can imagine it in leather—sheath, holster, bracer, quiver of any sort or style—Art Vincent will do it with a craftsman's hand and an artist's imagination. I respect his passion and can't say enough about his work, or the man himself. He's as Old School as they come. Take a stroll through Cedar Ridge Leather Works. You will admire his talent and be inspired by his work.