A typical day in the life of a medieval bowyer, also commonly known as a fletcher, would have involved a lot of tedious but important work. The making of bows required a certain level of skill and training and their products were often in high demand, especially in England which...
A typical day in the life of a medieval bowyer, also commonly known as a fletcher, would have involved a lot of tedious but important work. The making of bows required a certain level of skill and training and their products were often in high demand, especially in England which made great use of its archers in battle.
A bowyer typically lived in a town. Like other craftsmen, he probably lived in a simple house with his family located above his workshop and storefront. There were usually other workshops of the same kind on the same street. The bowyer may even have kept some small livestock in the home/workshop such as a few chickens.
On a typical day, a bowyer would awake early, around first light and eat a simple breakfast of hardtack, salted meat or fish, and fresh fruit or vegetables if they were available. He would then head downstairs for work. It was typical for craftsmen to have an apprentice or two. These boys would help the bowyer with the daily tasks in exchange for on the job training. Think of it like an internship. They might even live with the bowyer during their several years of training.
Throughout the day, the bowyer and his apprentices would work to construct bows and perhaps arrows also. They would use tools for cutting and shaping wood for their purposes. A bowyer might spend part of his day finding and purchasing materials at a toolmaker's workshop elsewhere in town or buying raw materials, such as ash, yew, or hickory wood at the town market.
Likely, one of the first jobs of the day for the bowyer (but more likely one of his apprentices) would be to build a fire and set a large cauldron of water to boil over it. Once it was creating a good amount of steam, the bowyer would set an unfinished bow over it to make it playable. It would then be set on a rack to shape it into its final form.
The bowyer might also spend some part of his day taking in work orders from customers. Usually, products were built on demand. He might work on a single high-quality bow for a particular customer, or take in a large order on behalf of a company of archers.
Usually, a bowyer would work throughout the day as long as there was light to see by. He would occasionally have evening meetings with his guild to clear up any issues among the bowyer community or to set standards. A guild was an organization of craftsmen in a certain line of work who would meet to set fair prices, ensure quality control, and provide collective job security.
At the end of the workday, the fires would be extinguished, the apprentices sent on their way, and the workshop closed down until the following morning.