Local craftsman on target
Inside a spacious workshop nestled beneath the craggy shadows of the Mission Mountains, a dozen handcrafted archery bows in various stages of production await completion by father-son bowyers Dan and Jared Toelke.
Nearly 20 years ago, Dan an avid outdoorsman, turned his passion for archery into a career by starting Toelke Traditional Archery. Whether it’s the size, power, or choice of wood veneers, the self-taught craftsmen are proud that no two bows are ever the same.
Crafted from woods sourced from all over the world, hunters and recreational archers can choose from several different styles of recurve, long and a hybrid bows. The hybrid bow provides the user with the speed of a recurve and the smooth draw of a longbow.
Dan and his son Jared build roughly 300 custom-made bows per year from their workshop, just east of Ronan. Every bow created begins as several blocks of wood along with thin wood strips. Fiberglass is the only manufactured material ordered in, which is layered among the wood in the limbs. Everything else is cut, ground, sanded, sprayed and assembled in the shop.
“Heat-treated bamboo makes up the working part of the bow,” said Dan. “Bamboo wood is used because of its superior tension weight, strength, and longevity.”
Fashioning a bow starts with gluing together thin strips of exotic woods and fiberglass onto the bamboo blanks. Some bows get as many as nine applications for strength and flexibility.
After the glue cures, the bow is placed in a press.
“Custom designed wooden bow forms and air presses are used for each bow design to give them their initial shape and contour,” Jared said.
Hours of tedious sanding, detail work, and fine-tuning give each Toelke bow a combination of beauty and performance, prized by bow hunters and archers around the globe. Customers choose everything in the model including the length of the bow, the draw weight, and the type of wood used.
“We can handle any situation when it comes to custom orders,” Dan said. “Recently we received a custom bow order from a 6-foot-10 former NBA player.”
Most custom bowyers take an average of six to nine months to complete a special custom order, but this crew can get them done in a fraction of the time. “A guy who dreams up a new toy doesn’t want to wait a year for it,” said Jared. “We keep everything in stock. This allows us to start orders right away. We have a six to eight week time frame.”
The team’s attention to every detail in every bow crafted has paid off. An Internet search for “Toelke Archery” or “Toelke Bows” will produce ringing endorsements for their hand-crafted bows in forums for archers and bow hunters alike. “The finish is superb, and it’s silky smooth,” one comment said. “A fine example of superb workmanship and design,” said another. “Super quiet and pretty fast,” said another customer.