Why the different means of signing the bows?
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Well, when Nels first began making bows for Fred in , he used a sort of branding iron to stamp into the wood his mark "Bear Products by Grumley". Remember that the company was known as Bear Products until , so the "Bear Products by Grumley" bows were obviously made before those marked "Bear Archery by Grumley".
Nels left Bear in when Fred made the decision to begin mass production of bows at the new factory in Grayling. Nels felt strongly that bows should be individually crafted, and not made by machine.
So Nels left, even though Fred tried to convince him to stay with some handsome financial offers, and struck out on his own to make bows. However, his private venture into the bow making business lasted only two years before he took a job in an appliance manufacturer as a model maker. These "Grumley by Grumley" bows are marked with a simple stamped signature "Grumley" either on the limb or on the riser, and are very scarce and excellent collector items.
Not all Bear bows made in these early years were made by Nels.
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There were dozens of other bowyers who made Bear wooden bows, mostly the lower line lemonwood models such as the Ranger. These bows were simply marked "Bear Archery" in a written form. However, in late Bear began using what later became known as the small "Running Bear" decal, and thus some bows built beginning in may have this decal instead of the written brand.
These bows were available primarily in one piece design , but a few were made in 2 piece take-apart and some in 2 piece hinged models. The later Grumleys also can be found in laminated woods as well as self-wood models. A characteristic of Grumley bows is the trapezoidal limb cross section. By this I mean that the face of the limb is wider and tapers down towards the back of the limb giving a cross-sectional view which appears as a trapezoid. Remember also that Bear would take special orders for bows during this time period, and the above models are only the "stock" models.
But whatever the model,and whatever the wood or backing, the quality of the craftsmanship was simply unparalleled. Of the bows which I have seen over the years, the only bowyer who I would put in the same class as Grumley would be James D. The Grumley bow on the left is a Bush Bow, while the bow on the right is the Deerslayer model.
Notice the different length of the brush nocks. Beginning in , Bear Archery moved into a new plant in Grayling, Michigan. Bow sales were now beginning to soar as new archers and bowhunters entered the sport in record numbers due in large part to the successful promotions of Fred Bear.
Fred realized that he could not meet the demand which would come from these new recruits by making bows one at a time like Bear had been doing since it's inception almost 15 years earlier. So he came up with a new method of mass producing bows, finally allowing his company to meet this demand.
But Nels Grumley would not accept that quality bows could be made by any other manner than one-at-a-time, so Nels left the company to go out on his own. Upon Nels departure, Fred moved another employee by the name of Bob Meeker over to supervise the manufacturing of the new bow lines. Even though bows were then largely the result of machine work, Bob came to be considered a fine bowyer in his own right. The Polar and Kodiak were introduced in the following year, These bows of , and early can be recognized by the lamination of aluminum in the limbs. The aluminum lamination on the Kodiak and Grizzly is found only in the inner lamination, surrounded by layers of maple and glass.
However, on the Polar, the aluminum is found both under a layer of maple and glass, and on the outside lamination. In and Bear was using a bi-directional glass on their bows which looks somewhat like a basket weave pattern. Then in Bear began using a new Uni-Directional glass in which the glass fibers all ran lengthwise to the bow limbs. The Grizzly also began production with the aluminum lamination, but very early in the aluminum was dropped due to the high reported breakage problems of these aluminum bows. The Kodiak was introduced in with the bi-directional glass and the aluminum lamination.
Then in early , just as with the Grizzly, the new uni-directional glass was introduced but the aluminum lamination was still present. This glass change apparently occurred around serial number Then in mid, the aluminum lamination was dropped.
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So for you will find Kodiaks with aluminum and bi-directional glass, aluminum with uni-directional glass, and no-aluminum with uni-directional glass. This aluminum laminated caused two problems. First, the bows had quite a bit of handshock when shot, and as a result were not comfortable to shoot. Secondly, the large amount of shock contributed to a large number of bows delaminating. This warranty problem caused a substantial strain on the companies finances, but Fred insisted that all bows be replaced if returned broken. Another popular bow for collectors of Grayling manufactured bows is the Kodiak II of Also known as the Compass Kodiak because of the small, round compass embedded into the riser section, this bow was another good idea which almost caused the company to go under.
Bear Grizzly Recurve
The compass required a significant amount of wood to be removed from the riser in order to be inlaid, and as a result caused the riser sections on many of these bows to fail. Again, Fred insisted that the warranty on these bows be honored and all returns were replaced with another bow. If the riser section of your K-II is very dark, then you have a walnut model. Conversely, if the riser of your K-II is a light colored wood, then you have a maple model. The walnut bows were made only for the first months of , before being replaced by maple in mid-year. There were also many different lengths available in each of the different kinds of wood.
The structural strength of this design was the main reason for it's discontinuance, and many years later the bows that survive are too valuable as collectors items to risk breaking another. Finally, in August the famous Bear Take-Down recurve went into production. Note - Although introduced in August , the Take Down model bow did not appear in the Bear catalogs until This new model bow was manufactured in 3 different riser lengths, which were known as the "A", "B", and "C" risers.
The "A" riser was the shortest, and the "C" the longest, with the "B" being in the middle.
Bear Grizzly Recurve
In this manner, the archer could mix and match riser styles with various length limbs to allow the bowhunter to pick the bow which best fit his or her desires. Note - Although officially discontinued in , several parts for these bows remained on the shelves at Bear, and a few "A" and "B" models were assembled in and These later assemblies can be recognized by their white serial numbers.
How many Bear Take-Downs were actually made? In the three years of production, there were "A" models made, "B" models made, and only "C" models. Then why is the "C" the least valuable of the lot even though it is actually the rarest of the Take-Downs? Apparently this is because it is thought of as a target bow rather than a hunting bow by collectors. Some collectors place significance on the year of the manufacture of the take-down relative to the value of the bow.
Actually, more than year, the collector should be referring to Type. Note - The serial numbers of all the Take-Downs begin with a letter which designates the riser style. For example, and "A" handle will have a serial number which begins with an "A", a "B" handle will have a serial number which begins with a "B", etc. Note - An option from the factory on the Bear Take-Down was the Bear Premier Hunting sight, only listed in the catalog for the "B" handles, and for the second and third years of production.
This sight was factory installed in the sight window of the bow. The Bear Take-Down could be ordered in one of three different limb lengths. Matching these various limbs with the different risers allowed the buyer to choose a bow length all the way from 56" to 70". These limbs can be found with both a white overlay in the limb tip, and with a red overlay. The white overlays were made before the change to the red overlays. A very common question from beginning Bear bow collectors is how to determine the age of a bow.
There are many features and changes applied by Bear over the years which will help you in determining your bows model year. Note - A great deal of the credit for the following information is due to Mr. Al has studied Bear Archery for many, many years and is considered by everyone as the King of Information regarding Bear Archery collecting. First, if your bow is all wood, meaning that there is no laminations of any kind, then your bow had to be made before the mass production beginning in If your all wood bow has a stamp which says "Bear Products" in some form, then it had to be before the early-mid forties.
If your all-wood bow says "Bear Archery", then it had to be manufactured after the early-mid forties and before Wooden bows with a small "Running Bear" decal can be dated to Another way is to look for a leather grip. In , the Kodiak Special dropped the leather grip, and in the Kodiak followed suit. The Grizzly kept the leather grip until Yet another way to help determine the age of your bow is to look for a coin type medallion in the riser. Beginning in , all Bear bows had a coin medallion of one type or another. The coin was copper in , then changed to Aluminum in , and Pewter in Brass coins were used in , and nickel-silver in The coins were all flush with the wood until Then in late it was raised above the surface of the bow.
These raised medallions came in both gold and chrome covered plastic and are still used in todays Bear bows. Note - Using the medallions for dating bows is not an absolute rule with Bear bows, as sometimes the plant would just throw medallions in a bin and the bow maker would reach in and grab medallions which may have been from a year or two earlier. In , a strike at the Bear plant in Grayling, MI forced a move of all manufacturing and offices to Gainesville, Florida.
If your bow says Gainesville on it, then you know that it was made after this move. All Bear bows from until have the " Canadian Patent" date on them. This patent covered the working recurve limb. This is the date of the patent only, and does nothing to date the bow itself. The Patent date which appears on all Bear bows from until is simply the date of the patent for a working recurve limb and has nothing to do with the actual model year.
The small Running Bear decal was first used in , and was replaced by the large Standing Bear decal in mid The large Standing Bear decal was used until when it was replaced with the improved methods of silk-screening the identification on the bows. The silk-screening appeared on all bows by the model year.