The Penobscot style bows are considered to be fairly new inventions, as the most sources claim the only known such weapons come from the turn of the 20th century. Their name comes from the tribe that was using them. Penobscot bows were being built from two separate sticks. The smaller one was attached with strings on the back of the larger bow and joined at the handle.
There are multiple potential reasons to apply such a bow design and among bowyers opinions are divided as to the main purpose. The most popular theory says that Penobscot bows were meant to be a solution for the poor material quality, as joining two bows together let make more powerful bows without over stressing the wood. Such a design may allow people without proper wood species to make durable and long-lasting weapons.
Moreover, Penobscot bows by many are considered more efficient than similar regular bows. Such a construction let the archer adjust the draw weight by stringing and unstringing the smaller bow. Also, they can be dismounted into two separate sticks. On the other hand they are much tougher to build, requiring far more hours to complete such a project. More advanced construction is coming with more potential points of failure, too. It’s not exactly what we expect from a good weapon, that is meant to be reliable at the first place
Ok, but let’s get into my build. It’s my second Penobscot style bow, this time I decided to raise the bar and build a triple one. Moreover, each stick is made from different wood species. The smallest one is from yew wood (as I have only thin pieces), the mid one from ash (a short leftover piece), and the main bow is from black locust. The combination of three woods with different colors and look make the whole thing even more mesmerizing.
My goal was to make it slightly more powerful than my usual builds, and I managed to tiller it (with all bows strung up) to over 65lb at 26”. What’s interesting, the bow took no set at all, whereas using black locust alone it wouldn’t be possible to get as much from the single piece. Making this bow was exciting but also very time-consuming experience. Tillering 3 bows separately to make it into the one build was slightly tiring. I joined them permanently using a hide glue and clamping the whole thing. Then I wrapped it tightly with flax twine and again used hot hide glue to seal the wrapping. To prevent melting the glue, I sealed the handle as well as the whole bow with a few layers of water based varnish.
When it comes to conclusions – Penobscot bows are for sure exceptional and unique weapons, but personally I prefer much simpler solutions. A simple longbow or recurve is much more handy and versatile in my opinion. What is your opinion on Penobscot bows?
See how my triple bow was built here:
All the best guys!