Mancos craftsman produces handmade wood bows, arrows

Garrick Roberts shaves a bow on a bowyer's bench in his garage on Monday afternoon. Roberts owns Garrick's Primitive Archery in Mancos and makes all kinds of custom bows and arrows. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Garrick Roberts shaves a bow on a bowyer's bench in his garage on Monday afternoon. Roberts owns Garrick's Primitive Archery in Mancos and makes all kinds of custom bows and arrows.

For longtime hunter Garrick Roberts, a bow and arrow posed a much greater challenge than hunting with any firearm.

With a gun if you can see an animal, you can kill it. With a bow and arrow, you have to get really close and personal, he said.

"It teaches you to really hunt," he said.

Roberts, who owns Garrick's Primitive Archery in Mancos, estimates he has made over 500 custom bows since he started 10 years ago.

He was attracted to archery initially because of the 28-day season that starts at the end of August and because you can buy a tag over the counter.

But once he started making bows and arrows, he was intrigued by arrows that flew straight even though they shouldn't have, and the unique feel of a handmade bow.

"If I saw I bow I sold, I could tell if I made it. They are like my kids," he said.

Roberts travels the country as a mechanic for Union Pacific Railroad. Along the way he harvests all kinds of logs for his hobby business.

He has experimented with all kinds of wood including eucalyptus for bows and river cane for arrows. Osage orange and hickory work best because a hardwood bow can handle "stretching its back and crushing its belly," he said.

Many modern bows are laminated with fiberglass, which has almost eliminated the art of making wood bows. But Roberts prefers traditional wood bows, in part because of their instrumental part in human history.

As a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, Roberts has helped re-enact medieval life, carving bows on a bowyer's bench at renaissance fairs. His bow strings are hand-braided and coated with wax.

He can also back a bow with sinew, as Native Americans did.

His arrows are also handmade. Although each wooden dowel rod is the same length and diameter, they must be sorted for stiffness to match a bow and archer. Some archers prefer real feathers, and if this is the case, all the feathers on a single arrow must come from either the right side or the left side of a birds wing for it to fly correctly.

"Arrows are made for the bow and the shooter that shoots it," he said.

John Chagnovich, a faithful customer and friend of Roberts, has been shooting for about 50 years and shoots about 100 arrows a day.

A compound bow takes less time to master, and can be more efficient, but Chagnovich owns only traditional bows.

"Once traditional shooting is in your blood, you don't lose it," he said.

Roberts replaced Wildcat Canyon Traditional Achery supplies as the only bowyer in the area a few years ago, and Chagnovich appreciates his work.

"He's a master at making the bows," he said.

Bows made of all kinds of wood hang from the ceiling in Garrick Roberts' garage. Roberts owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos and makes all kinds of custom bows and arrows. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Bows made of all kinds of wood hang from the ceiling in Garrick Roberts' garage. Roberts owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos and makes all kinds of custom bows and arrows.

Garrick Roberts braids a bow string using a vice to hold the ends together. Roberts owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos and makes all kinds of custom bows and arrows. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Garrick Roberts braids a bow string using a vice to hold the ends together. Roberts owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos and makes all kinds of custom bows and arrows.

Garrick Roberts demonstrates a bow and arrow he made himself outside his house on Grand Avenue Monday.  Roberts, who owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos, estimates he has made over 500 bows since he started 10 years ago. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Garrick Roberts demonstrates a bow and arrow he made himself outside his house on Grand Avenue Monday. Roberts, who owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos, estimates he has made over 500 bows since he started 10 years ago.

Garrick Roberts demonstrates a bow and arrow he made himself outside his house on Grand Avenue Monday.  Roberts, who owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos, estimates he has made over 500 bows since he started 10 years ago. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Garrick Roberts demonstrates a bow and arrow he made himself outside his house on Grand Avenue Monday. Roberts, who owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos, estimates he has made over 500 bows since he started 10 years ago.

Garrick Roberts demonstrates a bow and arrow he made himself outside his house on Grand Avenue Monday.  Roberts, who owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos, estimates he has made over 500 bows since he started 10 years ago. Enlargephoto

Mary Shinn/The Mancos Times

Garrick Roberts demonstrates a bow and arrow he made himself outside his house on Grand Avenue Monday. Roberts, who owns GarrickÝs Primitive Archery in Mancos, estimates he has made over 500 bows since he started 10 years ago.