How to Back a Bow with Snake Skin


hey this is Weylin from Swiftwood
bows and I’m going to show you my method for applying snake skins to the
back of the bow. There’s lots of ways to skin a bow and I’m going to show you
what works for me. It’s important to have everything set up ahead of time because
once you get started the project is a bit time-sensitive. I’ve got my hide glue all
set up and a little makeshift double boiler ready to go. I’m going to be
gluing down some rattlesnake skins today. I got these from Cipriano Rivera,
and you can see I’ve already notched the ends to fit right up alongside the tip
overlays. Back at the end of the table there I just have a cloth wrap that I’ll
use later on to wrap the skins tight once they’re glued down. To prepare the
bow I wiped the back down with some denatured alcohol just get rid of any
residual oil or grime that might be on there that would keep the glue from
adhering and then I sized the back of the bow with some hide glue so that when
I go to glue down the skins on the wood’s not going to drink up all the glue and
make the bond fail next I’m going to soak the skins in
water here they’ll need to set I don’t know maybe 10 or 15 minutes just to make
sure that they’re thoroughly soaked and pliable. Gonna stick a rock here on top
just to make sure that they’re all immersed and then we’ll just let them
sit. Don’t tell my wife I’m using your mixing bowl for this. I don’t show it
here in the video but after I soak the skins, I gently wash them with Dawn dish
detergent and rinse them thoroughly just as a precautionary degreasing measure it
should be fine without it but can’t hurt once the skins are done soaking I’m
going to blot them dry on the towel just to get rid of any excess water got my high glue all warmed up and I’ve
got the snakeskin rolled up here I’m going to start with the tip overlay I
need to get the snakeskin lined up where I cut that notch and then I’m going to
go from the tip work my way down to the handle I don’t want to put all the hide
glue on the bow at once because it’s going to start to gel and dry out before I can
get the skin on there so I’m going to kind of do it as I go along here pays to be finicky at this point and get
it right now and you won’t have to mess with it later when the glues drying don’t be shy with the glue better to
have too much than too little pay attention to how the skin lines up
with this rattlesnake-skin there’s the diamondback pattern on it and I’m
careful to make sure that it’s running exactly down the center of the bow as I
go along it’ll look funny if it goes off to one side I’m stretching the skin down tight as I
go to both sides and looking for air bubbles pushing them off to the side if I see them making sure everything’s lined up just
right before I start to wrap it up now I’m going to wrap it up tight here
till the glue sets using a cloth strip that’s cut from a an old t-shirt I like
this for one because it’s cheap but it’s also breathable and it doesn’t have a
strong texture like an ace bandage that can leave an imprint on things like
rawhide doesn’t matter so much for the snakeskin here but this is what I use so
I just get it started on one end and keep it fairly tight you have to be
careful when you’re putting a wrap on that you’re not shifting the skin over
and getting it out of alignment so I kind of use my hands to hold it in place
while I’m while I’m wrapping starts to get twisted up on me here so I
have to kind of work to untwist it as I’m wrapping it I don’t want to get all
bundled up I want it to stay flat so it’s providing some even pressure on the
skin I like to wait about a half-hour or so
before I unwrap it I don’t want the glue to be set all the way because I need to
be able to check and make sure that there’s not alignment issues or air
bubbles so I want the glue to be somewhat still pliable so I can play
around with a little bit before it dries all the way now’s your chance to get all
those air bubbles out so take your time and really search them out push them off
to the side it’s easy to take care of them now it’s it’s a pain to take care
of them later I’ve done both sides now here she is
with all her skins on and ready to dry I usually end up going through and making
sure that there’s enough glue along the edge I kind of futz with it a little bit
more squeeze a little bit more glue in where it needs to be
make sure everything’s lined up and then on this one I just wrapped it all back
up in the cloth and set it overnight to dry all right here she is the next
afternoon she’s been sitting out in the Sun drying the most of the day there’s
still some parts of the skin that are a little bit soft and tacky but I’m just
going to get in there right now with a utility knife and kind of roughly trim
off the excess skin especially because these skins are still
a little bit soft in certain places I’m going to go extra slow and careful here
with the knife if you go too fast it can tear the skin and it might tear down
into the area that I want to keep on the bow I’m actually still debating on this
skin whether I want it to go all the way down to the bottom edge of the belly
or whether I want it to just be on the back so for now I’m just going to trim
as if I’m going to have it wrap around the edge of the bow I’m leaving a little
little bit sticking off I don’t want to take it right down to the spot that I
ultimately want it right now I’ll wait till the skin completely dries and I
like to use a really fine file to do that part of the knife’s too risky in my
opinion I’ve slipped down further than I’d like in the past and I don’t want to
repeat that mistake alright now I’m going to use my mill
file here to just take off the rough edge of the skin where I’d cut it with a
knife it pays to go slow and careful no matter what tool you’re using snake
skins are really thin and they tear easily I tried to do short perpendicular
cuts with the file I found that if I run the file along the edge of the skin that
it can grab it and tear it the next step is going to be removing
the scales there’s a lot of different techniques for doing this but I’m going
to use some 0000 steel wool I’m always rubbing with the scales not
against them if you go against then it can lift up the little flaps of skin and
damage it well after picking at it for a little
bit I decided that I’m going to take off the skin that’s on the side of the bow I
said before that I hadn’t decided whether I wanted to have the skin wrap
around the edge or just stop at the back and I decided I’m gonna have it stop at
the back so I’m taking my mill file here and scraping off the skin that’s on
the side of the bow when I’m using the file at this stage I’m being
conservative about where the leading edge of the skin is I’m not taking it to
its final place yet I’m going to save that for the sanding block the last step is cleaning up the edge
with a sanding block I’m going to start with some 150 grit it’s fine enough that
it’s not going to cause a lot of extra work for me later when I’m cleaning
things up but its aggressive enough that I can quickly establish the the line
that I want and get rid of the roughness and the tool marks that were left over
from the file I’m going to come back after this with some 220 on a sanding
block and really polish up the edge a lot better but this will get get us
really close well here’s the skin all finished up ready for the next stages of
the finish work for the bow I hope this video was helpful to you if you have any
questions feel free to leave them in the comments if you have any tips or tricks
I’d love to hear those too I’m always learning myself

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