Elm wood transformed into medieval longbows

Woodpecker Tree Care is all about preservation, but when we do have to cut a tree down we do our best to repurpose the wood (if it’s good quality). Sometimes the property owner is delighted to keep it for their furnace or share it with their neighbours, or John will happily take it home for his beloved wood stove and fire pit. One of the more interesting places our wood has ended up is in Jake Fenwick’s workshop, a local homesteader and bowyer (bow-maker) in Sackville NB. 

Jake Fenwick works on a bow.

Jake has made historic medieval English longbows since he was in high school, which are shot by bow and arrow enthusiasts around the world. He produces them from his workshop on his homestead, where he trains quality timber to bend using pulleys and patience. He learned how to manipulate wood helping his father in his furniture shop, but grew into his bow-making practice during his apprenticeship in England as a young man. 

Jake draws an arrow over a cliff.

After England, Jake travelled and lived all over the world, including New Zealand, the United States, and Iceland (where he met his wife, Jill). He spent many nomadic years as a young adult, making and shooting bows recreationally and competitively. After Jake and Jill settled in their homestead in Sackville, Jake needed to find local high-quality wood for his longbows, so he called Kevin (Woodpecker Tree Care). Kevin was happy to introduce him to the elm, a tree that was once ubiquitous in the Maritimes. 

Three American Elm trees stand in a field.
Healthy elms in Minudie, NS.

Elm trees are dying off in the Maritimes, and around the world, thanks to the highly contagious and super deadly Dutch Elm Disease. Woodpecker Tree Care heads the Maritime Elm Protection Initiative, which protects the remaining elms with DutchTrig in the springtime. Sadly, many trees remain unprotected in this area or have already been exposed, so there isn’t much we can do after they are infected except take them down. We are often called to remove these large trees after the disease has claimed them, and they produce a lot of logs! It’s sad to see an elm come down, especially since they usually live for over one hundred years and are dying off more and more often, but we were happy to provide Jake with a few logs so he could transform them into beautiful historic bows. 

Arrows, a bow, and a breastplate leaning on a hay bale.

Jake’s shop is busy these days, apparently everyone wanted to learn how to shoot an arrow during the pandemic! He has a waiting list for those interested, but the wait is well worth it. You might even end up with a Woodpecker bow! Nowadays Jake and Jill are preparing to slow down and stay closer to home as they are expecting their first child in the new year, so Jake is ready to dive into research and painstaking historical replicas (another passion of his). 

Jake Fenwick draws an arrow.

To see Jake’s work, you can take a look at his Instagram page or watch this CTV coverage of his early days. You can also read more about the Maritime Elm Protection Initiative and the importance of elm trees here. We are collecting donations to protect heritage elm trees in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick this spring.