Wyoming’s Tom Lucas Making Sheep Horn Bows
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Wyoming’s Tom Lucas Making Sheep Horn Bows

August 14, 2019


Every single bow is unique in its own way because every single set of horns comes with its own unique set of problems. And you can’t tell that until you open them up. “Close will work, but close ain’t good enough.” “If it ain’t right, it ain’t right.” You know, way back 40 years ago when I was going to do this, I was going to be smart and go to the library and get a how-to book. Well there weren’t no such thing as a how-to book. You kind of have to think back about to the 1800s. The Native Americans and the way they had lived was so turned upside down. There was no more need for the bow. And in the early nineteen hundreds, tens, twenties and whatnot, the Native Americans learned that they can make some of this stuff as tourists material. But it didn’t have the quality that the old bows were. That information just went away. The time I come along, it was long gone. Nobody had a clue on how to make a horn bow. I think it’s important just because before he figured it all out I think it was pretty much a lost art. I don’t plan on being a bowmaker like he is. I’ve always wanted to build one with his supervision just because I want one. Maybe I might even hunt with it a little bit You’ve got all of this right down in here. All that’s got to come out of there. I’ve cut that and, yes, I used the bandsaw to cut it with. Now if I was like the old Natives, I would have utilized the hot springs. I would soften it up, and carve it with whatever I had, whether it be a stone tool or whatever. You gotta have both horns to make the bow, and you gotta cut the back off. Of course, you got to to work it down. “Sometimes it means riding hell for leather but you gotta ride, you know.” I don’t want horns that are broomed way back. What I call trophy horns, trophy heads. They are no good for bows. You can’t see it from the outside, but when you cut them open, they have real severe cracks in the horn structure. I don’t mean hairline cracks, I mean crack that are anywhere from 1/8th and 3/16th. Sometimes you’ll open up a set of horns and they’ll be absolutely perfect. Other times they have imperfections that you have to deal with. You never know until you get there what you what you got, and then you figure out how you can deal with it. That set that’s on the stove right now, I put them in Sunday evening, and they have been there this will be the fourth day, consecutively non-stop, and they are in that hot water 24/7. And when you put that horn in that water, they’re soft enough, just like your fingernail, you could whittle on them with a sharp piece of obsidian. You can abrade them with a piece of coarse sandstone, tthat kind of stuff. Tthe Native Americans when they utilized, especially the hot springs in Yellowstone Park because that was a sacred place for them. But the thing was, they would have to have been very careful, because if you get one that’s too hot, it will melt the horn instead of just soften it. “When he’s out there on that mountainside, all by itself, you better stay on him. If you come off you better not let go of them reins, because it’s a long walk home”. The horn bow is extremely fast. I don’t know of a single old-fashioned wooden bow, that will even come close to that kind of speed. The thing of it is, if you’re shooting a bow that will shoot at 200 foot per second, there’s no way you’re going to get out of the way of that arrow. I actually felt like I could stand back and catch an arrow off a wooden bow. But when we shot the horn bow, I knew darn good and well, I didn’t want to be anywhere near in front of that thing, because the only thing you would of catched was an arrow stuck in your body. You weren’t going to catch it in your hand. I’ll guarantee you. “I don’t think that’s gonna go down any. No, we have to work it out.” But it was from my granddad that learned how to use my two hands, how to make anything and everything I wanted to make. I still enjoy the challenge because every bow is another set of problems. Every little thing I do, it’s got its own unique challenges, and I’m a man that loves a challenge. I never had any intention of being a bowyer. I just want to see if I can make a horn bow. But then one leads to two and two leads to three, and then somebody wants to buy one, and then somebody wants to buy the next one, and the next one, and you got to pay the bills. So I’ve made over 40 of these things. Unfortunately for me, it got out of hand. “Perfect work” I learned a very hard way, don’t ever dry fire a bow, whether it be a wooden bow or horn bow, because they’ll break. They’ll blow up and break. So I have had a wooden bow blow up and hurt me. I mean when it when it exploded I thought it broke my hand hurts too bad I’m never had a horn bowl well yeah i think that back by jinks my second horn bone and I was dry firing when that thing exploded hit me right between the eyes and blood running down my face snapped in two and walked him right between eyes and split his head open and I was kind of interesting i’m lucky i didn’t lose and I with that one but I yeah so don’t know never dry fire anybody but yeah not blew up and running smack me good no daylight between her and that’s what I’m looking forward to see where you know I know sometimes you didn’t have been actually left with / clamp-on like an almost like a clamping down when you get ready to put the horses together you have to make your own hide glue i like to take a piece of ELQ I’d but you can use anything in other words you can use mountain sheet you can you dear you can use Buffalo you’re al-qaeda buffalo hide and even up a cow hide her or are substantially thicker and so you can take a piece about Oh 10 12 inches in diameter and you know you want and when you put it in the water starts boiling it it just dissolves it just melts right down now when the first time I ever did and i wondered how do I know when I have glue well as it got boiled down and hide got less and less i finally got brave enough and stuck my finger in there very carefully because it’s hot and come out sticky so I i learned that about the consistency of Carol syrup or liquid honey and you’ve got to glue that that’s gonna film and we’re going for that off not the relation miss three-time and and it is let them take 8 10 12 hours we may not have hide you until tomorrow it’s nothing but protein your horns protein and so they’re very compatible and they work very well together everybody’s always saying that you can’t take the bows out and like it was raining there was a bunch of nonsense let me tell you you have to remember one thing now horn by itself will not hold up if you tried to make a hormone was just the horn alone it was crystallized and break it would not hold very long and it would not make that strong of a bow when you add to send you to the bow and that is what produces your drawing weight and that’s also what produces to speed well send you comes up and all parts of the body now one of you being a human being or an animal as a for example you talking about the basketball player or a football player tearing up musically standing well that’s the one in the heel I don’t like that 10 and a lot of a lot of the lawyers and whatnot may like it but I don’t short is hard to work i prefer to take machine you right out of the back right now just rip on each side of the backbone and I prefer to cut that out in the following year when i go hunting and I clean it very thoroughly shrimp on the meat and fat off the war shit real group and dry it and then I put in the wave and that’s when I used to seeing you back my bows and also the wrap and wrap the handle wrap the ends not nice to see you i prefer the most unexpected to come back with a fist full of excuses expect you to come back with the job done that carries over every facet of your life tillering the bow is one of the slowest most painstaking parts of the whole process tillering is just simply balancing the bow limbs getting them to where they’ll both bend evenly and invariably no matter how careful you are one side will be bending more than the other wellness I’d that’s not bending as much has to be filed down scrape down work down and tell it’s even with me other side and this process can take a very long time the thing of it is if you’re getting a big hurry into tillering process and you try to take a whole bunch off then what’s gonna happen is you’re going to take too much off and so then you’re going to be on the other side trying to get it to even up and if you do that often enough jumping back for furnishing you’ve ruined your bow so I say you tell her a little bit and shoot your bow a lot you have that send you a chance to work a chance to catch up and I always make sure i get hooked over Mike what and and get a good hold here oh man I’ll warm it up i’ll string up and I never pull it to full draw i’ll take that blow out and I’ll shoot it and half draw until that kind of warms up loosens up and then eventually i’ll take it all the way to full drama you have given a little consideration if it hasn’t been shot for quite a while otherwise you might also break or damage your mo you also have to learn how to shoot it how the handling the do’s and the don’ts because one wrong mistake like stringing it backwards will break it not under stringing that will destroy it and then where you can string up and go all day that’s fine but in the evening time you better unstring it and let that sin you go back to a relaxed position if you don’t just like taking the rubber band and putting it around a big bundle of mail and leaving it indefinitely it destroys the rubber band well that’s what happens to the sinew if you do not unstring that bow and let it go back into a relaxed position shouldn’t you will destroy the shinu circuit that right yeah I kind of relive the past a little while I’m moving into the future which I don’t like too much mustard and I’m just promise nostalgic is a lot of the people that I just happen to have one advantage and and his I i got to live out my dreams and throwing up but I had to be a cowboy and I’ve been out in them Hills I’ve been cold i’m in hard I’ve been frozen and yet I’ve had to join in the satisfaction and making these things without the past where would I be

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  1. Great video. very informative. Liked and subscribed. One question, how much do you charge for one?

  2. 200 fps?……that's pretty d**n good.
    never had a horn and tendon bow, best bow i ever had was a mechbow what makes one of those worth having is energy-over-time restitution, expressed as e/t.
    the higher the ratio, the faster the arrow flies.
    i had to use clothyard shafts because anything less would snap on release.

  3. I have a basic store-bought recurve bow and thoroughly enjoy target shooting with it. This type of craftsmanship is awesome to see.

  4. I hope the wyoming arts council offered his teaching skills to any tribes nearby who want to learn. this would only be fair

  5. Watching this great man doing just a fantastic job and his son making this video is awe inspiring.Fantastic

  6. thought he was talking like a meme until it showed his face and was like, nah he just got character lol

  7. This man is a well of knowledge and a spring of wisdom. Thoroughly enjoyed the video, and will be forever thankful for what was passed through this. Thank you.

  8. I learned to build custom tube amps by offering ,and becoming the shop steward .. Bedore long I was in charge of a amp shop in Seattle while the owner toured ..
    I wonder if this fella would need a shop guy for a while ? I sure dont want this art to die ..
    Best regards old timer.

  9. Kudos to you, sir. You are a man of exceptional character. You taught yourself very well and it shows greatly. G-d bless you and yours

  10. YOU ARE AN ARTIST SIR.
    I wish i could afford one of em but im sure i cant.
    And shame on your boy for not taking advantage of your knowledge & not wanting to continue your beutiful trade.

  11. If I could, How do I acquire a bow made by you Tom, and how much. I agree with most of these posts, your knowledge should be shared. either by teaching or by a weeks worth of video's step by step, which I would not only watch every second, I would buy a copy to have and learn and pass on.

  12. I wanna see it as a recurve bow, have wood in the middle, metal bolts. If he REALLY WAS A COWBOY, he’d know that ways have to change

  13. Truly, Sir. You are a Wizard. I hope you have a long life and are able to pass the treasure trove of lost art knowledge you posses onto others so that these precious skills aren't lost again. Thank you!

  14. I love the workmanship. I watched a different video of another great horn bow maker. I hope you watch it. https://youtu.be/RVUWuySzQ10

  15. Very cool video, really enjoyed the learning process with this man. Patient, and soft-spoken his son seems quite a lot like him. He should learn his father's trade and continue to pass it forward to future generations. Great post!

  16. This was amazing to watch thank you…I love old lost arts/technology he is so correct.
    After years of not passing down generation to generation, secrets to skills become lost.

  17. I'am only 50 but I never bought a bow are expected one as a gift I always made them ,grampa showed me how to make a few of them an the arrows . Started at 10 years old an made every one of mine. You learn by doing an storing knowledge of all the best materials for what task they work best with . Thank y'all for the video I learned a lot took notes an watched a few times .

  18. This is the stuff that needs to be carried on. We could be back in the Stone Age as soon as the electricity is cut off.

  19. this makes me sad. A white guy thinking he knows how natives made bows. While he claims he lives in the past he uses gas to heat and boil the horn.

  20. The perfect version of horn bows are still made in Mongolia. Their so called brought back technique is wrong and not correct.

  21. interesting i never knew native americans used a horn bows

    and only using the horn as a bow as i can see is that they didn't had a good wood to use a bow i guess?

    very different than the Mongolian and Korean horn bows that is interesting

  22. The one question running through my mind for most of this: How much it cost to get one, cause that sounds like an amazing bow to have.

  23. the famous korean bows also use horn and sinue, but they ad a woden layer, bamboo, between the two and the layers are alot thinner.
    the korean bows are nearly twice as large and have the highest drawweight of all asian laminated bows.
    traditional korean archers practice at 170 m !!!! they are longrange specialists and also they are ranked 1 in the disciplin of olympic archery

  24. Imagine the Native Indians taking all that time to make their bows and their really intricate arrows they made, then the Europeans turn up with gunpowder and fuck you up.

  25. Tell it once
    Tell it good
    Tell it like it is.

    Pretty much sums this old boy up. They’re a dying breed.

  26. There are some very interesting people out there. This was a dying art but I think he sparked a fire in alot of people.

  27. I love how these people think they β€œfound a lost art”, they’ve been making these bows since before you were born, lost art lmao. Typical American thinking he came up with something he didn’t. Lmao

  28. Thank you for this video that records for posterity this ancient art. Not many people today know the satisfaction and joys of doing things in the old ways and living simply, taking from nature the things we need, while being good, responsible custodians of the earth. Two thumbs up.

  29. Great video on this lost art. Since Indians passed things down father to son or some other elder to the young I can only imagine the trial and error you had to do.. Thank you for sharing.

  30. I've studied and built several types of bows and I've always wanted to try my hand at building a horn bow. This man uses a different technique than I've ever seen but it looks to be quite effective. I would say he is a true Pioneer in the way he taught himself. Good job sir, you are an artisan.

  31. This is a lot of work to make a horn bow. We lost a tribal elder who made them for our tribe. We are fortunate that his children learned because very few tribal people know this process.

  32. Do's and don'ts…Do show us how to make a horn bow. Don't keep sitting in front of the camera as a talking head. This ruined a pretty good instructional video. My finger got tired of touching the fast forward button.

  33. Stumbled across this video quite by chance. Clicked out of curiosity. Watched the entire video β€” spellbound. As others commented, could've sat through couple of hours. Thank you for this rare opportunity to experience a first-person connection with history.

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