Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Odd Shakespeare Wonderbow X19 and the Early Shakespeare "X" wonderbows

The Odd Shakespeare Wonderbow X19

Shakespeare Archery 1961 magazine insert
The Shakespeare Wonderbow has a unique history. Shakespeare Cooperation had been producing fishing equipment since the 19th century. After World War II, fiberglass became widely available.  Shakespeare saw the potential of fiberglass for fishing rods and became an industry leader in fiberglass applications.  In the early 1950s fiberglass found its way into the archery market. In 1959 Shakespeare acquired Parabow, producers of solid fiberglass bows. They also formed a partnership with archery manufacturer and legend Ernie Root. Their first laminated composite wood and fiberglass bows were the 1959-60 Model 100-600 bows. From 1961-64 Shakespeare began using the "X" designation for their bows. Later in 1964 Shakespeare began producing hunting and target bow with the X designation with a Model name such as the famous Necedah X26.

From 1961 – 1965 Shakespeare was experimenting with materials and designs. Ernie Root’s influence was very obvious in these early bows. After 1960 the “X” designation was being used. Interestingly Ernie Root also used the “X” designation in his own Root bows. Many of the later Shakespeare bows had earlier incarnations during this period. These later bows had very little similarities to the earlier versions.  For example:

  •         The 1961-62 X15 had three versions, 63” 66” 69”. It was designed as a target bow. In 1966 the X15 became the X-15 Titan.

  •         In 1964 X-16 was introduced, in 1966 it became the X16 Supreme.

  •         In 1961 there was the X17 which in 1966 became the X-17 Ocala.

  •        The X18 in 1961-62 was a long AMO of 64”. In 1971 the X18 was completely redesigned as the X18 Sierra 52 AMO.

  •        The X20 1961-62 was unusual because it was ambidextrous and the last Shakespeare bow with a leather wrapped handle, it was very similar to the 1959-60 Model 500 and 600. In 1968 the X-20 became the X20 Manitou which look nothing like its previous version.

  •        The X22 was introduced in 1964 as a dual hunting / target bow, in 1996 it was reintroduce as the X22 Custer.

  •        In 1964 the X24 was designed as a semi-recurve. In 1966 the X24 Yukon was presented as an all-round hunting /target bow

All of these early “X” bow went on to another version, all except for the poor X19 Wonderbow. Why couldn’t the 1968 X-21 Tioga have been the X19 Tioga or the 1971 X23 Pecos have been the X19 Pecos?

The 1961-62 X-19 Wonderbow was different than most of these earlier designs, it had a riser forward design rather than the riser backward like a traditional long bow. The only difference between the two years was the 1961 had white glass back and gray belly and the 1962 was front and back gray glass. Like many of these early X bow, the riser was durable maple wood. What makes this bow an orphan? Perhaps there were plans for another X19 incarnation which never developed. Perhaps Ernie Root merged the qualities of the X19 into later bows. We will never know.

Lewis Kent's unique and scarce Gray 1962 Wonderbow X19
Lewis Kent's Unique 1963 (?) Wonderbow X19

This example of the X19 belongs to my friend Lewis Kent. The X19, like most of these early bows were produced as right hand bow, lefties were special orders. So Lewis, a righty, gets all the fun!  We spotted this gray glass bow on eBay and we were both intrigued. Lewis bid and won it. A few weeks later the green glass and walnut riser X19 was up for auction. It is quite different then the 1961-62 models. The profile is different and it does not have the model number with the logo, the model number is hand written on the riser. Lewis won that bow too.......jealous!!
calf skin arrow rest

The bow was in very good shape but it needed some refinishing. Lewis did an amazing job and even added a calf skin rest identical to the original rest. 

It is distinctly different than other early X bow because of its brief history. It is also unique because of the gray fiberglass. The only other Shakespeare bow to use gray glass was X17.  It is a very beautiful color gray than has a slight green cast to it. Lewis really prefers dark wood risers but he is the first to admit that this is an exceptionally beautiful bow. The color combination of gray glass with the golden maple riser makes for a truly stunning and rare bow!!

Of course there is always something unexpected  when dealing with vintage bows especially Shakespeare. When I first wrote this article 8/24/2013 Lewis Kent and I were confident we had figured out the chronology of this enigmatic bow. The design fit perfectly into the early bows which Ernie Root made for Shakespeare, they were typical of the early 1960s bows. However earlier this year Lewis won a X19. When it arrived he compared both bows and was surprised to find that  the bow had a "Shakespeare Archery Equipment" logo typical of the 1970!
Lewis Kent's odd X19 with 1970s style logo and medallion and leather Root style arrow rest

 This odd X19 also had the raised medal medallion found on bows from the early 1970s. It also has a gray leather arrow rest used by Ernie Root for during the early 1960s.
 We debated why there is such inconsistency in this model. I suggested that this bow may have been resurrected in the 1970s to be used by the US military. The Army used the Shakespeare M24 as a recreational bow for the US troops in Viet Nam. Perhaps Shakespeare was also sending the X19? But Lewis disagrees because of the shiny metal medallion, which he feels is inconsistent with military use which make sense. I have been sitting on this update for quite awhile, trying to research this newer incarnation of the X19. I have found nothing. It leave us scratching our heads!!!

Shakespeare Wonderbow X19 1961 & 62 (1970?)

  • 63 inch AMO
  • Draw weights: 20- 50 lbs.
  • Riser- Maple
  • calf skin arrow rest
  • Maple tip overlay
  • Glass: Ivory White back, Steel Gray belly -1961, Steel Gray back and belly 1962. 1963 - Green glass walnut riser
  • 6 inch sight window
  • Brace height- 6 ¾
  • Right hand, left hand was special ordered.
  • Wonderbow logo
  • 1970-? Shakespeare Archery Equipment Logo and raised metal medallion

if anyone has information on the X19 please share.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Dick Wilson, Archery Great, President of Shakespeare Archery, dies

I have some very sad news. Archery has lost another great from the Golden age. In 2012 began looking for Dick Wilson, President of Shakespeare Archery in the 1960’s. I had posted in forums and blogs with little luck. In late July his niece contacted me. Dick’s granddaughter was interested in learning archery. She did a search on her Grandfather and discovered my blog article on Dick Wilson. His niece said Dick was excited about sharing his experiences with Shakespeare and his friendship with Ernie Root. Unfortunately Dick was hospitalized within days of us finding each other. He died Friday. I will be rewriting the blog post with the help of Dick Wilson's family.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

THE WAMBAW Model X5, X12

Shakespeare Wambaw Model X5, X12

Shakespeare hunting bows are named after famous Hunting regions and National Forests; THE WAMBAW is named for Wambaw Creek Wilderness in South Carolina. The word Wambaw may be a combination of an extinct Native American dialect with an African language and refers to “dark water”

Wambaw Model X5 (year unknown), X12 1975.
  • AMO 58”
  • Brace Height: 8-9 inch
  • Riser pistol grip style- X12 has five piece wood lamination, X5 one piece of exotic hardwood.
  • Tips - X12 wood overlay, X5 no overlays 
  • Riser window 5 inch
  • Limbs:  1 3/4 inch in Black Glass
  • Weights: 40lb, 45lb, 50lb, 55lb
  • X 12 Stabilizer insert, X5 no insert
  • Arrow speed for X12: 12 shots average, 410 grain arrow 45lb bow-173.62 FPS

My 45# Wambaw X12

Wambaw X5
Researching this bow has been extremely frustration. Since the demise of, there is precious little that can be found online about this bow.
I do own a 1975 Catalog and found the X12 listed. I have managed to piece together some information from chat rooms, blogs and auction sites. There are two models, X5 and X12. Not much is known about the X5 it may be a 1976 model. I have never found a 1976 catalog and in 1976 Shakespeare Archery closed . The X5  is similar in shape but there are no lamination. it has no stabilizer insert, and there are no tip overlays. The 1975 catalog description mentions that X12 isn't a new design, The X5 has the the newer Buck logo and a Shakespeare Archery Equipment logo, and has a sticker found on 1970s bows. I believe the X5 was a 1976 bow.  
my Left Hand Wambaw X12 with Lewis Kent's Right Hand Wambaw X5

nock comparison between an X5 and X12
I have never actually held a X5. I have only seen two at auctions and one of them my friend Lewis Kent won. I photographed his right hand bow with his left hand bow to compare the differences in these two models. The nocks on the models are quite different. The X5 has no tip overlays but X12 does, and X12 has a string grove.
X5 can't be a mid-1960s bow because the marking are from the 1970s
 I had thought that the X5 was a mid-1960s model that had been resurrected. But now, looking at Lewie's bow it is obvious that the X5 is from the same time period, maybe it is from 1976 and one of the last of the Shakespeare bows??
The really interesting thing is that this bow even has different 
serial numbers. I studied the serial numbers of the most popular Shakespeare models, not much came from my efforts but one constant trait was that every model had a string of numbers and letters and each model ended in an identical letter, but these end in "T" and "C"..("T" was used for the Sierra X18 bows)..weird. The X5 is an odd ball, it is a rare bow, it does not appear in any catalogs and if it is one of the last of the Shakespeare bow, why the heck did they number it X5??? 
Virtually every reference to this bow is a positive review, most call it “a greatly underrated bow” I can’t find any advertising material on the bow either. It is a bit fancier than other Shakespeare of the same period. It has multiple laminate woods in the riser and it has wood overlay tips similar to The Necedah. In auctions it can go from $50 - $200 for RH and even higher for LH but value depends on the condition of the bow. Like many recurve bows if may have suffered the same fate as most recurves – the introduction of the compound bow. Recurves quickly fell out of fashion or, in the case of Shakespeare Archery, the manufacturers went out of business. Shakespeare closed its archery division in 1976.  Personally I was very surprised by this bow. I paid more than I wanted to for my bow but the lefty bows are hard to come by so I bit the bullet. Since there wasn’t much information on the bow I thought it might not be worth what I paid….I was wrong. I tested it against my #45 Bear Kodiak Magnum. The #45 Wambaw is just as smooth and accurate. It is becoming one of my favorite bows.
The moral of the story is.. Don’t trust the hype- Bears are great bows but you can buy an equally fine shooting bow by Shakespeare for half the price. 
It was true in the 1960-70 and it is still true in the 21st century.