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posted: 11/12/2015 1:00 AM

Meet the archery buff who makes his own bows and arrows

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  • Video: Passion for bow making

  • Mitch Pietraszek of Elmhurst lines up a shot at the archery range at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville.

      Mitch Pietraszek of Elmhurst lines up a shot at the archery range at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Mitch Pietraszek works on building a bow at his home workshop in Elmhurst. He uses old and new tools to craft his creations in the traditional archery style.

      Mitch Pietraszek works on building a bow at his home workshop in Elmhurst. He uses old and new tools to craft his creations in the traditional archery style.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Mitch Pietraszek of Elmhurst lines up a shot at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. Pietraszek shoots with bows made of wood that he built, and a few that are custom built from professional bow makers. Some of these customs can cost over $800.

      Mitch Pietraszek of Elmhurst lines up a shot at Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville. Pietraszek shoots with bows made of wood that he built, and a few that are custom built from professional bow makers. Some of these customs can cost over $800.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Following a hand-drawn plan, Mitch Pietraszek works on building a bow in his home workshop in Elmhurst. Pietraszek has been building bows for years and loves the challenges of working with wood.

      Following a hand-drawn plan, Mitch Pietraszek works on building a bow in his home workshop in Elmhurst. Pietraszek has been building bows for years and loves the challenges of working with wood.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • When crafting one of his handmade bows, Mitch Pietraszek likes to work with hardwood, such as hickory. Here, he is drawing a handle.

      When crafting one of his handmade bows, Mitch Pietraszek likes to work with hardwood, such as hickory. Here, he is drawing a handle.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

 
 

"I put dents in my mother's refrigerator when I was three," admits Mitch Pietraszek of Elmhurst. Pietraszek's passion for archery started when he was a child.

The passage of time hasn't dulled that interest. Now a retired teacher, Pietraszek has honed the ancient craft by making bows and arrows in the traditional archery style.

Pietraszek recalls his first bow, a gift from an aunt, being made of wood, measuring 24 inches long with a yellow paint job. This toy was just the beginning for him. He has been ever thankful for that gift and the world it has opened up to him.

Pietraszek's interest in archery grew over the years, as he acquired many bows including compound and modern recurve bows. However, Pietraszek's love was always focused on traditional archery.

Traditional archery is the use of handmade long bows and arrows. The bows Pietraszek makes would be recognizable 10,000 years ago, he says.

He spends time with a group called the Blackwell Traditional Archers at Blackwell Forest Preserve near Warrenville. They meet on the third Saturday of every month. Blackwell Forest Preserve in Warrenville offers a free archery range, open year-round, for individuals off all levels.

Pietraszek and others from the club enjoy teaching the fundamentals of traditional archery, and they can even help you build your own bow from scratch.

According to Pietraszek, a typical handmade bow takes around one day to complete, but it can take weeks, depending on how ornate you wish to get. The most common wood for construction is hickory. This is due to the fact it is strong, readily available, and it retains its original shape after flexing. He purchases it from Owl Hardwood Lumber Company.

Pietraszek takes pride in his skill and his craft. He loves the bridge to the past the bows have created for him.

"People that enjoy doing things the way it used to be," is how Pietraszek describes himself and his friends.

And that's the way he wants to keep it.

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