The central tool for any archer or shop to work on bows is the bow press. A quality press can be a great advantage to the bow-tech and a substandard press can not only be hard to work with, but can cause permanent damage to or even destroy bow. This review will take a look at Sootball’s Bow Time Machine which is not only a bow press, but also a draw board.
The Bow Time Machine is a somewhat radical departure from standard presses in a couple of ways. Most notable is the fact that the press is vertical, rather than the standard horizontal press. Second, the press can be configured as a draw board and used as a tool to work on the timing and syncing of bow cams.
Construction of the Bow Time Machine consists mainly of heavy duty square framing tubes with a smaller tube nested into a larger tube to allow the extension of the press. The action of the press is created by rotating a spur gear along a track. A large handle is attached to the spur gear that allows for plenty of leverage to move the track and compress even the highest draw weight bows. At the top and bottom of each arm of the press are two sets of adjustable jaws that can be moved to accommodate any bow limb size.
Placing the bow handle below and across the lower jaws and using a cable and hook on the upper jaws, the press action can be reversed to use the hook and cable to simulate the bow being pulled back. Using the press as a draw board in such away allows the user to observe how the cams are rolling over and if they are timed and synced properly.
Using the Bow Time Machine as a bow press
What makes this spur and track system somewhat unique is the rotating safety block. To open the press before placing the bow in place, the safety block is flipped to the up position where it will ratchet along the track and keep the top nested section of the press from falling down. Once the press is open enough to insert the bow, the safety block is flipped to the down position while the gears are turned to press the bow.
In the down position the safety block keeps the force of compressing the bow limbs from moving the press outward. In this position the user must keep tension on the safety block with a finger as the spur gear is turned to keep the block from flipping out of position. Once the bow is pressed the desired amount, the safety block will stay lodged in the gear without assistance. It takes very little movement to completely press a bow; usually 3-5 clicks of the gear depending on the bow geometry.
Using the Bow Time Machine as a draw board
To use the Bow Time Machine as a draw board requires a minor amount of manipulation of the jaws and it’s ready to go. The lower jaws should be pushed together on one side of the bracket and the upper jaws pushed together on the opposite side of the their bracket. Doing so will help pull the bow more evenly and not let it tip so much. This is necessary because the bow nocking point and the throat of the grip are not inline with each other but rather are offset.
After the jaws are in place, the top arm of the Time Machine is lowered and the included cable and hook are attached around the top jaws. The handle is placed against the bottom of the lower jaws and the hook on the cable is placed through the d-loop or around the string next to the nock set. (Warning! as with any draw board, if not using a d-loop both sides of the hook must be secured in place with nock sets on the string to prevent the hook from sliding up or down the string!)
With everything in place, including the safety block in the up position, the ratchet is rotated to lift the upper arm of the press, effectively pulling the string of the bow back just like an archer would do so. The safety block allows the user to stop pulling the bow at any point and to inspect the bow and cams. At full draw it is easy to see if the cams have rotated properly and are synced together.
My experience with the Bow Time Machine
Now that the basics of how to use the Bow Time Machine have been covered, it’s time to look at how it works for the user and if this design is worth your hard earned dollars. This machine is a radical departure from a standard bow press and I was extremely curious as to how well it would work in the real world. I am constantly working on bows and equipment for reviews, articles, my own work and doing work for friends and family. To impress me, this machine better be safe, work well and be efficient time-wise.
In the past I have worked with many presses with nearly every style of bow and all of these presses had one thing in common: they held the bow horizontally. I’ve used the older style presses that have arms and rods that hold the bow by the riser or by the limbs near the riser and push/pull against the limb near the cams. Also, I’ve used the more recent style that uses fingers that wrapped around the very end of the bow limbs and compress them without need to hold the riser. The Bow Time Machine is of the latter variety.
My first impression is that the machine is made of very few parts. This led me to wonder how can it do so much with so little? The second impression I had is that it is solid, very solid. Everything is steel with well done welds and blue powder coating. I could find no defects or anything that did not look professionally and well made.
After mounting the press to my work bench, I immediately set about familiarizing myself with how the parts move and how everything works. It became apparent very quickly that my mind was still set around how horizontal presses worked and that this was a completely different animal. The biggest issue to overcome was the use of the safety block. Because the press is vertical, gravity comes into play in a much stronger fashion than with a horizontal press! After forgetting to set the safety block once with the top arm extended, I learned very quickly that the arm will fall and the ratchet arm will whip around in a circle very quickly. Gravity: 1 Me: 0 Lesson learned.
When I was comfortable with the workings of the press, it was time to stick a bow in it and put it to work. My first victim was my Bowtech Destroyer 350 which has thin limbs and massive cams. After setting the jaws to the proper distance apart, I set the bow into the press and lowered the top arm just enough so that the top jaws came into contact with the limb. At this point I inspected everything to make sure that all was lined up and that everything was in place.
Then I ratcheted down just 3 or 4 clicks and voila! The bow was pressed and the strings limp; however, because the Destroyer has the Flx Guard, I had to ratchet down a few more clicks to relax the cable guard and get the cables limp. Next I made sure that I could removed the strings, rotate the cams, and get at all the screws, modules and axles. It seemed a little awkward working on the bow in the vertical position, but I quickly grew accustomed to it and it felt very natural to have the bow in its shooting position rather than on its side.
After I was done playing with the Destroyer, I moved on to a couple of split limb Hoyts with both tradition style and parallel limbs with no issue with them as well. Next in line was an Elite Envy and I found my first issue. Because the Envy has large draw stops that hit the limb at full draw, they were in the way of the fingers sitting properly on the limb. To press such bows, the draw stops must be removed and placed back into the cam after the pressing is done. Fortunately there are now different fingers available that have a different geometry that can be used with the draw stops in place. I’ll bet getting a set of these and report back on how they work.
Next up was to try using the Bow Time Machine as a draw board. I needed to change the strings on my Hoyt UltraElite and when doing sync the cams properly. I pressed the bow in the vertical position, changed the string and cables with ease, then set the machine up in draw board mode. It was easy to hold the bow by the string, position the handle, place the hook through the d-loop and put a little tension on the string. Once the bow was firmly in place I ratcheted it up to full draw.
With the bow at full draw it was obvious the cams were not synced properly and that I’d need to put a twist or two into the control cable. Normally I would do this by taking the bow out of the press, getting my draw board out (which I don’t normally have mounted on my bench since it takes up a huge amount of space) and going back and forth between the two tools, eventually finishing and having to put the draw board back up again.
The Bow Time Machine is wonderful in the respect that not only does it take up little desktop space because it is vertical, but it also eliminates the need of a ginormous draw board! There is one drawback though: to go from press to draw board the fingers have to be moved into different positions. This is a small sacrifice to make for the large benefit of two in one tools. Once I was used to moving the fingers with a t-handle hex wrench and one hand, it became a small matter to swap back and forth. A couple adjustments later and my bow was timed and ready for the next steps of setup.
Having a bow in the vertical position was particularly nice for install peeps, tying in nock sets, installing d-loops and setting a new sight up. At first it was very unnatural to work on a bow in its natural position (weird phenomena!) but it was easy to adapt to and now feels like this is the way bows were meant to be worked on.
Summary of the Bow Time Machine
The Bow Time Machine is beautiful in it’s simplicity and versatility. For me the greatest selling point is that it can be used as both a bow press and a draw board; two tools that are indispensable to be able to setup, tune and work with a bow. Construction is excellent and it’s easy to use, once you learn the ins and outs of its operation. My version fit every bow I threw at it with the only caveat that some bows with draw stops will have to have the stops removed and replaced to press them. However, this issue is being worked out and new versions will have this issue remedied.
There is one improvement that I think could be made to make the press easier and safer to use. The safety block is ingenious and works great; however, at times it can be a bit tricky to flip it and it can be easy to forget to get it in the correct place and let go of the crank (like I did at first) which results in the crank whipping around and the top arm falling. It would be nice to make the block easier to operate and have some kind of safety catch in case you don’t get the block flipped and when removing the bow from the press.
Overall I really like the Bow Time Machine and will readily recommend it to anyone looking for a great tool that will press and draw their bows. Working in the vertical fashion is great once you get use to it and seems more natural over all.
At the time of this writing the Bow Time Machine can be bought for $475 and includes the press, extended bench mount and four standard fingers. To order the press you can message “Sootballs” through this thread on Archery Talk: “Introducing the Bow Time Machine.”
Other posts you may enjoy:
- 2013 Mathews Creed vs. Heli-M
- How to: properly align a peep sight in the bowstring
- Bowtech Destroyer 350 Review Part I: the Preview
- 2012 Elite Bows – Answer and the return of the Pulse, Pure, Hunter and Tour
- The Ultimate Archery Workbench