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Pardon the length of this thread. But, I thought that the story About Bill Stewart to be important enough to repeat it here. His contributions to traditional archery are the things that legends are made of, yet he is the Unknown Bowyer.

By Dan Bihary

Most of those that hunt with a bow and many that haven't know of Fred Bear. He is one of archery's legends and is responsible for making it affordable and available to everyone. He helped bring archery from the Pope and Young era, to present day technology and popularity. There have been others like Howard Hill, Ben Pearson and Glenn St Charles, along with some present day individuals, which have helped mold archery and bow hunting into what is today. Many are gone, but their passion for bows and the legacy they've left, lives on through the aid of many who worked behind the scenes to help make these individuals into who they are.

Another unknown bowyer that helped shape archery into what it is today, is Bill Stewart. He's one who worked behind the scenes with Fred Bear and many others to innovate, engineer and redesign the bow manufacturing processes of today. Bill Stewart became not only a friend of Fred Bear but was sought out by and worked for him many years. Bill not only redesigned Fred's manufacturing plant in Michigan, but also most of his bows. He made them more accurate and easier to shoot. He did the same for other bowyer's like Damon Howatt [his bows now made by Martin Archery], Duke Savora, and Bob Lee of Bob Lee Archery [then Wing Archery]. Bill is a master skilled craftsman, developer and innovator, working over70 years in the trade. Now 83, he still makes bows at his home shop in Yakima, Washington. Bill stated that Fred did more for bows and hunting than anyone ever has. He is a humble man who gives credit to and has helped many others to become some of archery's great hero's.

Born William R. Stewart on March 9.1920 in Hanesville, Louisiana, he was raised by a southern "mammy" until 4 years old. His family then moved to Texas where he helped his father for 7 years and learned many of his skills. In 1937 they relocated to Yakima where he continued to work for his dad who was a building contractor. At 13, he made his first bow, and in 1937 at 17 he met Damon Howatt. Howatt introduced Stewart to Pop Prouty from Portland, Oregon who was a fine bowyer and archer that had his own business. Pop explained to Bill, how to make a self long bow and re-curve. Bill bought his first pair of yew wood billets and later turned them into finished bows that he continued to shoot for many years to come.

He then attended welding school and got a job on an air base in Ketchikan, Alaska where he ran a welding shop. During WWII, he joined the service and worked in a special shop battalion assembling LCM's [amphibious landing craft].

Returning home to Yakima after the war, he worked another 4 years welding and was hired by Damon Howatt for 7 years. Bill saw where he could help him make the bow process simpler and more efficient. He redesigned Damon's plant and bow manufacturing equipment. Building new bow presses, his pneumatic strip-heated design was his own, an industry innovation and a standard for today's traditional machines. While with Howatt, Bill designed the Eldorado, Diablo and Howatt Hunter bows for Damon. Martin Archery in Walla Walla, Washington Walla Walla, Washington is still manufacturing some of Bill's creations.

Bill was then hired by Fred Bear and worked for him 14 years. Together they co-designed many long bows, re-curve bows and compounds. Bill worked in research and development at Bear Archery with Bob Remich, brother of Margaret St Charles [wife of Glenn St Charles]. Bill said, " Bob was the genius who was responsible for many of Fred's innovations developing the first compound bow cam's." Together in the 1960's, Stewart and Remich developed the 'Delta V', an innovative compound that shot a blistering 230 feet per second which was quite a feet for that time. It was made of a one-piece die-cast magnesium riser initially costing $270,000 to form. Bill said, "it was not only one of the most expensive, but also noisiest bows ever made, making a sound like a beaver slapping it's tail on the water when released." Bill and Bob won a design award from American Metal Magazine in "81 for their achievement in injection molding a one-piece riser that was displayed at Bear Archery. Bill Stewart also designed the Bear Magnum, which was Fred's lightest bow. Weighing an amazing 14 ounces, it shot very well and was made for the traveling archer; Bill won another award for this bow. Bob Remich told a story where Fred had a group meeting about a problem he was having with a wood riser [handle] for one of his compounds. Bill worked tirelessly over a weekend, and in less than two days came to the following Mondays meeting with 6 distinctively different risers that were works of art. Bob claims that "Stewart was the real genius"!

Bill also designed two new bows for Bear, the Tamerlane, a target re-curve and the Hunter, which Fred used on his hunts to Africa. Another of Bill's achievements was the co-design of the Fred Bear take down re-curve hunting bow. It had a latching limb device that was Fred's, but the bow was Bill's. It was a work of art that included a commemorative wooden matching set, with 24 karat gold hardware on the bow and case. At that time this collector's piece sold for $1000 and Bill received the original #1. Another #1 was created for sale to the public, but Bill still retains his.

After 7 years, Stewart left Bear Archery for a job with Bob Lee, then of Wing Archery. He was bow designer and production specialist who also redesigned some of Bob Lee's bows and manufacturing processes. Bill co-designed the Red Wing Hunter, White Wing and Presentation II, a target take down bow. Bob Remich said, "wherever Bill went, good things happened. He was always a pleasure to be around and everyone loved working with him." Bob Remich told me where Bill could easily turn things around in his mind and understand the most complicated problems completely. He would immediately go to work on them, solving what would take an above average person days or even weeks to accomplish. He said, "Bill was amazing and there was nothing he couldn't do."

Later Bill went back to Bear for 7 more years. Bill was a good friend of Fred and they hunted together in Grouse Haven, Michigan for white tailed deer. While at Bear Archery, Bill re-designed the Grizzly, Kodiak Super Magnum, Alaskan, Polar Bear and other compounds. Fred then sold Bear Archery and Bill moved back to Yakima where he worked for Duke Savora for a year. Bill Stewart's genius has helped so many bow makers become successful, yet he has remained virtually unknown by the archery community.

With his vast bow making knowledge and achievements, Bill decided it was time to make his own creations. He set out making his patented trade mark of unique individual design, the Bill Stewart "Multi-Cam" signature bows. This was another beautiful self-composition of wood, fiber glass and resin which has his patented 'wavy-limb' design. It is what sets his work apart from all other bowyers. Fred Bear told Bill that this bow would never sell, but little did he know that his multi-cam bow is one of the best-kept secrets around.

Bill states, "the multi-cam limbs are smoother, more stable, faster and far superior than traditional limbs." He also says "they don't stack, they eliminate recoil and limb twist which damages most bows."

Norb Mullaney, bow technician and writer for BOWHUNTING WORLD magazine, wrote a report in the June '98 edition on Bill's Slim-Line multi-cam take-down bow. Norb said, "the bow tested rivals a good re-curve when it comes to recoil shock". The bow shot 192.8 feet per second was 56 pounds at 28 inches of draw length and 62 inches long.

Bill's creations range from 52 to 70 inches long, depending on the riser [handle] and type of bow. In my opinion, his bows shoot as smooth as silk and are astounding works of art. Once you've shot one, you're other bows will tend to gather dust. I personally prefer his take down models for two reasons. One can purchase an additional set of limbs and save the cost buying two bows by 1/3. I practice with 50# limbs where I can sling many arrows with little muscle fatigue, while not sacrificing form. Then I can change to heavier hunting weight limbs after my muscles have had time to build. This is a tremendous advantage for older bodies that have succumbed to repeated injury. His risers are cut for complete center shot, where the handle is cut past center of the bow string, to allow for arrow shaft and vane clearance.

I had the good fortune of winning one of Bill's creations in a raffle drawing. Bill has continued to be very gracious over the years donating in support of the bow hunting community. During the '97 late archery season, I made Bill's acquaintance through a chance encounter while he was traveling past my hunting camp. I was in the process of cooking dinner when he decided to turn around due to icy road conditions. He backed his van up and called out the window asking if I had done any good? I replied, I wished. While talking at some distance I decided to ask him to join me for dinner. He stated his wife would be sore if he did. After a few minutes I asked his name with him replying "Bill Stewart". Do you by any chance make bows? He said he'd made a couple. Astonished, I replied, I won one of your bows, and we stood in the middle of the icy road, talking about bows and hunting, while the sun set and my dinner overcooked. I was very impressed by this real down-to-earth gentleman who showed me his wares, like a traveling salesman. Later Bill invited me to his home in Yakima to tour his bow making facility.

The last day of the season, I resolved it a bust and headed for the grand tour. I met him at the door and he showed me around his shop while we drank coffee and talked about his bow making past. I found he had designed and built most of the machines he used. It was a small garage turned into a working shop that was full of his past and present creations. One of the tools was a lamination sander that milled thin wood slivers to within one thousandth of an inch. He also made handle sanders, his bow presses along with many other machines. It was quite a sight to see everything worked so tightly into a small one-man shop. I have learned of his immeasurable accomplishments through his acquaintances and friends.

Bill's personal preferences are long bows and re-curves, due to the need for experience and hand-work. He feels that compounds have been good for archery. "I don't believe we would have as many archers today if it hadn't been for compound bows. However, many of those compound shooters are going back traditional equipment, which is a healthy sign." Compounds are much more adaptable to high production, larger plants and expensive equipment on a production line.

I asked him what he thought were the best innovations to come along in the last 30 years to help bow makers? He answered, "fiberglass, epoxy glue, new string material and better bow designs." I also asked what was one of the greatest problems facing archery today and what the future would look like? He said, "anti groups are trying to stop all hunting and I feel that all archers [traditional and compound shooters] must stick together. After all it's all archery!"

Bill Stewart is the one of the select few, ultimate inventor-craftsmen and master of many trades. He had had a wonderful life with little acclaim and few rewards. Mr. Stewart died last month at the age of 83. With him died the artistry that produced his Bill Stewart Multicam T/D recurves and longbows, and contributed to so many other designs.


916 Posts
Good Man

I agree, Bill was a big asset to the industry. One of my big disappointments is when I was making plans to go to meet him in Yakima, WA I didn't make the journey soon enough. At least I had the privelage to talk shop with him before he passed on.

Good thread Wildman catch you over with the "gang" later.:)

Have fun
Out for now

1,036 Posts
Bill, thanks alot for the great bio!! Frankly I never heard of Bill Stewart before (I am only one year into archery) but I love reading about these little known geniuses who work so hard and do so much. It seems every area of endeavor has these guys who are all unsung hard working types who shun the spotlight in favor of just doing more and better.

You have really made my day with this contribution. I am saving the entire thread so that I can reference it later. Once again, thanks.... :cool:
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