Bow from only bamboo?

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TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
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703
Vantaa, Finland
With self bows the theory simplifies a lot ...

With bamboo's density something like sandwich cross section probably would be closer to optimum.
 

Cikoun

New Member
Feb 22, 2021
3
0
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Czech republic
Hello and welcome to the forum.

Ignore Erbswurst ;)

While there are some archers and bowyers here, I think you will make more progress with a dedicated archery forum. There was recently a thread that talked quite a lot about bow making and information resources.

There are links to some really good dedicated bow forums in the thread above.

Wayne, one of the other moderators here teaches building bows from bamboo at our summer Moot gathering. Another Mod put together an article for his Blog - building a bhutanese bow

You can get away with a lot of board imperfections if you glue a backing material to the wood. One of the best is linen in its raw fibre form, but you can use linen cloth. You can find threads about linen backing board bows. You can use other things to back bows, like rawhide, and bamboo, although bamboo is so strong in tension that it can cause the belly wood side to crush, so not recommended just yet.
Thank you very much for the help, I really appreciate it a lot
 

C_Claycomb

Mod
Mod
Oct 6, 2003
6,377
1,344
Bedfordshire
And yet we made very serviceable and fun bamboo bows when we were kids in North Africa without any of the theory. I'm talking real bamboo mind, more like small tree trunks than canes (50mm to 75mm diameter). No science, no modulus of elasticity, no worries about stress or strain - just have a go and enjoy it. It's horrible stuff to work though and we had loads of cuts from the edges.

OK, to be fair we were shown how to do it by the Arab kids, who no doubt learnt it from their fathers, but there was no 'exactness' to it and they were very useable bows. There are loads of Youtube videos that will show you a variety of ways - from the simple to the complex. It's not at all difficult to get a 20lb+ bow with the right material though the faster ones were usually heat treated.

Edit: I should confess, I haven't made a bamboo bow for a very long time mind; we just can't get that quality of material here.
Do you know where the bamboo came from and what it was used for? It isn't something I associate with North Africa.

I have had a 70mm bamboo log, about six feet long, split in half, in a corner of my shed for about 12 years. It was bought from a garden centre with the intention of using as backing with some hickory I bought. Never got around to it. I love wood work, and enjoy bow building, but the splintery nature of bamboo kind of put me off. I have never seen material that size for sale again. I know that Wayne buys his specially from somewhere that imports it themselves. Material scarcity always makes me cautious about jumping in without a detailed plan.

What do folk think about the other question, buying boards unseen and hoping they are bow suitable? I have always been able to pick my boards and have it in mind that this is important. Maybe if the aim is just 30lb and one can back and/or go wider it isn't so much of a risk? Thoughts?
 

Broch

Full Member
Jan 18, 2009
4,530
3,804
Mid Wales
Do you know where the bamboo came from and what it was used for? It isn't something I associate with North Africa.

I have had a 70mm bamboo log, about six feet long, split in half, in a corner of my shed for about 12 years. It was bought from a garden centre with the intention of using as backing with some hickory I bought. Never got around to it. I love wood work, and enjoy bow building, but the splintery nature of bamboo kind of put me off. I have never seen material that size for sale again. I know that Wayne buys his specially from somewhere that imports it themselves. Material scarcity always makes me cautious about jumping in without a detailed plan.

What do folk think about the other question, buying boards unseen and hoping they are bow suitable? I have always been able to pick my boards and have it in mind that this is important. Maybe if the aim is just 30lb and one can back and/or go wider it isn't so much of a risk? Thoughts?

Oh it was very definitely native! It grew along dried stream beds and field edges. The locals used it as fuel as well as making mats and baskets from the leaves.

We would cut it green and strip the outer layers off (a bit like taking the outer skin off a spring onion) then let them dry before splitting them by battoning through. All bamboo I have found in the UK has been too dry and feels brittle. Just picking it up tells me it's not up to the job because it's too light. We were told not to split the green bamboo because where the splinters entered and any cuts would get infected. I have no way of knowing if that was a story or true. The splinters were truly frightening - they could be inches long, go from a needle sharp point at one end to a centimetre wide at the other, and go straight through the skin between your thumb and finger, or even slice straight along and under the skin of the palm of your hand - the pain of taking them out was even worse. Actually, thinking about, I may have psychological reasons for not making bamboo bows these days :)
 

bobnewboy

Native
Jul 2, 2014
1,022
464
North West Somerset
Do you know where the bamboo came from and what it was used for? It isn't something I associate with North Africa.

I have had a 70mm bamboo log, about six feet long, split in half, in a corner of my shed for about 12 years. It was bought from a garden centre with the intention of using as backing with some hickory I bought. Never got around to it. I love wood work, and enjoy bow building, but the splintery nature of bamboo kind of put me off. I have never seen material that size for sale again. I know that Wayne buys his specially from somewhere that imports it themselves. Material scarcity always makes me cautious about jumping in without a detailed plan.

What do folk think about the other question, buying boards unseen and hoping they are bow suitable? I have always been able to pick my boards and have it in mind that this is important. Maybe if the aim is just 30lb and one can back and/or go wider it isn't so much of a risk? Thoughts?
In the case of bamboo bows made in the Bhutanese style, the draw weight is nearly completely determined by the bamboo wall thickness. The bow that I made was 25-30lb @28” after a light heat treatment, and that was around a quarter inch thick wall and an inch and a half at its widest point. If your pieces are thicker and sound you should easily make a 30lb bow.

I agree that bamboo is a little tricky to work with, and you have to be especially careful with the edges as the splinters can be nasty. But it is very tough, particularly in tension, which is why it makes a good backing for laminated bows. In those bows you do need to match it to a very hard/resilient belly wood. But this is getting away from all-bamboo bows :)

The best bamboo for all-bamboo bows is the thickest and widest (largest diameter) poles you can find.

edit: just noticed the other question. You can buy wood for bows unseen, but since most timber suppliers have no idea what you’re really after, you will generally end up with one useable piece out of a dozen, I.e more by luck than judgement. If you can afford that, or have other jobs for the unsuitable pieces, crack on. Really though, you want to see the timber before buying.....
 
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TLM

Native
Nov 16, 2019
1,604
703
Vantaa, Finland
Hmm ... must be getting old, only remembered these after a few days. I have 5 bamboo slats waiting for some kind of inspiration to build some bows. Just now I have little idea what kind.

A friend has a genuine Bhutanese bow he brought back some ten years ago, must visit him and take some pics and measures.
 
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