Bowmaking with Joe Dabill

Bowmaking with Joe DabillI had the privilege of taking Joe Dabill’s Bowmaking course at Rabbitstick 2013.  It was a great opportunity for an absolute beginner like myself to actually go through the steps under Joe’s guidance.

We talked at length about Ishi and other influences, wood types, personal preferences, arrow making and more.  It was great to see the fire in his eyes when I brought Ishi up.  If you aren’t familiar with the last Yahi, there will be plenty of info at the bottom of this page.

For those that aren’t familiar with Joe Dabill, he has made record-breaking bows for some of the hottest archers in America.  In California, the First Nations people have brought him in to teach their children these once forgotten primitive skills.  That is good enough for me!

He has also reproduced Ishi’s points, tools, bow, and so much more.  He has built thousands of bows that often perform better than any high end gadget you can find in a modern bow shop.

Joe Dabill is also available to teach other primitive skills like flint knapping, cordage making, pump drills, and more.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to him for group or personal training.

If you are interested in the tools used to manufacture these bows, I have prepared a list below:

  • Hatchet
  • Splitting wedge
  • Shinto Rasp
  • Mora Knife
  • Chainsaw File
  • Sandpaper
  • Bear Grease
  • Shellac Finish
  • Flax Fiber
  • Wax
  • Brain-tanned Buckskin

For those that are not familiar with Ishi, here is a video and a couple books!

Ishi in Two Worlds

Ishi: Last of His Tribe

If you’ve made it this far I challenge you to make your very own stick bow.  I have already started on two Bois d’arc staves as soon as I got back from Idaho.

The hardest thing that I didn’t touch on in the video is getting your Tillering just right.  I’ve got plans of making a tillering board but I wanted to point out that Joe did all tillering by eye because he has done it literally thousands of times.  Watch out for those hinges in your bow.  😉

If you found this page or the Joe Dabill video useful, please share it with your friends and drop me a line in the comments section.  Don’t be shy!'

About Chad

Chad is a Native son of Medicine Lodge, Kansas. A founder of, he spends most of his time in "no man's land," NWOK wilderness!

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7 Responses to Bowmaking with Joe Dabill

    OutdoorEnvy October 16, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    That was really interesting. Makes me want to try it. Thanks for posting it up. Making a bow is something I’ve always wanted to do at some point. Bushcraft “bucket list” if you will. Chad when you have this down we’ll have do an Okie meet up for you to “supervise” 😉

      Chad October 16, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

      I’ve got 6yr down to 2yr bois d’arc that’s been curing in a climate controlled environ…

      We should rough a couple staves out sometime!

      I’m all for an OK meet btw! Just name a time and place man!

  2. Christian October 16, 2013 at 8:11 pm #

    Very cool you got a lesson from Joe, a true master bowyer and primitive technologist. Your bow looked great by the way. Great stuff!

      Chad October 16, 2013 at 8:26 pm #

      Thankee! Yeah he was a great guy and very knowledgeable and helpful! He even gave me a jar of the bear grease which was very awesome of him.

    Bill March 7, 2014 at 8:27 pm #

    Great to see the info out their for everybody to see. I have taken his bow class and with his quick 10 min instruction (because I had to leave early) can also make friction fire. Joe is awesome and it was a privilege to learn from him. Thanks Joe

    Kestrel Dabill March 13, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

    Hi, I am Joe Dabills daughter. Thanks for posting this video of dad he was an amazing teacher. I am just glad to hear his voice and see his face, its so strange that he’s gone and I will never hear his laugh again.

      Chad March 14, 2014 at 12:10 pm #


      I am so sorry for your loss! It’s never easy Dear. You’re Father was a great man. I only had the chance to spend a few days around him at RS and I learned more from him than anyone else there. He quickly took me under his wing and filled my head with enough information to last years.

      If you ever need to talk you can always contact us. We’re here for ya!


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