Bow making - guidance please

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bent-stick

Settler
Aug 18, 2006
558
12
69
surrey
www.customarchery.net
The vintage project articles are good but they assume a nice piece of clean white wood (rock maple, hickory etc) doing something with a bit of knotty twisty half seaoned native wood is a different proposition and you need either some help with the first one or to fail a few times.

On the other hand a bit of hazel will make a bow that will last a bit before it doesnlt straigten any more. Two bits of hazel bound in the handle will also work for a while and you'll get a sort of tiller with the thin bits at each end.

Debarking and tempering the wood will make it more resiliant and more brittle.

For an ash bow that is going to end up about 50lbs or so:

Flatbows need a bit of wood about 2x1 the thin end will be 1/2" x 1/16" roughly and at the handle the wood will be about 1./2" with a flare to the full depth for the handle. The handle will be an inch across and an inch deep with fades to transition from the limb to the handle

Longbows need a bit of wood 1" x 1 1/4" tapered to half inch a square the the ends. The belly is then rounded off to a D cross section. No fades, no handle just a tapered pole.

Pyramid bows, possibly the easiest and can take the crappiest wood, can be up to 4" across at the handle tapering down to a point at with an even thickness of about 5/16". The handle will be an inch across and an inch deep.

All measurements are starting measurements you'll have to work with the wood to get an even bend.

The rule of thumb is don't breach any growth rings on the back because the grain will lift. The implication of this is that even if you are making a flat bow the back may be slightly dished outwards. Take wood off any bits that look thick and leave alone any elbows until you get a nice arc.

Pulling the bow up should be progressive with lots of pull up and let down cycles (reverses) with standing back and examining the bend at every stage.

I hope it's clear, it'd be much easier if you could see the sketches I've made on my notebook :)

There are some of my bows from start to finish on

http://groups.msn.com/bowsinprogress.
 
thanks for the links guys :cool:
I have decided I may as well throw myself in at the deep end and crack straight on with an ash flat bow as was suggested. For wood, should I just go to timberworld for some dry timber or is there a better source of wood?

Also what does heat treating (in terms of bows) mean? could n't find it in the links.

cheers woodwalker
 

bent-stick

Settler
Aug 18, 2006
558
12
69
surrey
www.customarchery.net
KIln dried timber can be a bit brittle. Air dried is best if you can find it. Most of what you will get in the diy shops is kiln dried.

I have used kiln dried maple for a couple of self flatbows but it got compression fractures after a year or so.

On bowyersden forum:

http://www.xsorbit4.com/users/buildabow/index.cgi

a lot of people are scorching the bellies of their bows to harden them. I've hardened lots of hazel that way. It stabilises it so it doesn't just bend and stay there. The power after all comes from the straightening and not the bending..

If you are on bowyersden bear in mind that a lot of the woods they can get hold of in the diy stores in the states you'll have to hunt down in specialist yards here. Good red oak and hickory is pretty rare in the UK.

Also bear in mind a lot of the information you get on there is worth exactly what you pay for it.

I'm doing some stuff with decking boards - massarandaruba, ipe and balau. Ipe should make a self bow but I haven't tried it yet. All thise come into the country undried and need keeping for a bit to let the moisture content stabilise.
 

WhichDoctor

Nomad
Aug 12, 2006
384
1
Shropshire
Wow this is interesting. I had a go at making a bow last year out of willow (I know I know it was terrible wood but it was before I found this forum so didn't have anyone to ask). But we've got tuns of willow round here and it wouldn't do any harm cutting a bit off, it was good tillering practice and it worked for about a week before it broke.

I mite have a go with some hazel though, there's quite a bit in my area but I always thought it would be too knotty. How much do you scorch the bow to make it harder without burning it?

I do actually have a 6-ft by 8" section of ash trunk, from when the local counsel helpfully bulldozed a new footpath through a bit of woodland near me, seasoning in the shed but I haven't had the courage to tackle it yet. A bit more practice needed I think.
 

bent-stick

Settler
Aug 18, 2006
558
12
69
surrey
www.customarchery.net
Green hazel tends to stay bent and needs hardening up by seasoning. Cut a 3-4" but now and debark it it will be workable in March if you keep it indoors. You'll find the straightest and least knotty where it has been well shaded.

I'm currently working on a bit that was cut in December last year and has been seasoned in my unheated garage for a year. It's a fairly small diameter, 2" or so but it looks a bit promising.

Elm is my current favourite but not easy to work seasoned. Green elm can be worked to a rough shape and it will season quicker.You might get some longitudinal cracks and if you've worked the wood down it won't be easy to work around them.

As to heat hardening people are taking it to the extreme and blackening the bow bellies. I'm going to do some experimentation on my the hazel when I get back to working on it, which might not be until the easter meet the way things are going. I think a light scorching is about as far as I want to go. I've used it for hardening up and stabilising arrow shafts. The theory is that you are caramelising the sugars in the wood.

Your 8" piece of ash sounds great, I think you should least quarter it to see how it looks. That will cut down the seasoning time.
 

WhichDoctor

Nomad
Aug 12, 2006
384
1
Shropshire
bent-stick said:
Green hazel tends to stay bent and needs hardening up by seasoning. Cut a 3-4" but now and debark it it will be workable in March if you keep it indoors. You'll find the straightest and least knotty where it has been well shaded.

I'm currently working on a bit that was cut in December last year and has been seasoned in my unheated garage for a year. It's a fairly small diameter, 2" or so but it looks a bit promising.

Elm is my current favourite but not easy to work seasoned. Green elm can be worked to a rough shape and it will season quicker.You might get some longitudinal cracks and if you've worked the wood down it won't be easy to work around them.

As to heat hardening people are taking it to the extreme and blackening the bow bellies. I'm going to do some experimentation on my the hazel when I get back to working on it, which might not be until the easter meet the way things are going. I think a light scorching is about as far as I want to go. I've used it for hardening up and stabilising arrow shafts. The theory is that you are caramelising the sugars in the wood.

Your 8" piece of ash sounds great, I think you should least quarter it to see how it looks. That will cut down the seasoning time.

Thanks for that explanation.

I've just remembered that I have some pieces of hazel hanging around the garden which are left over from making a bender, they were cut winter 2005 so they should be nice and seasoned. I'll have a go with some of those bits some time soon.

I must admit Elm isn't a tree I'm familiar with, i don't know whether we've got any round here.

As for the ash log, its been in a unheated shed for months, I sealed the ends with wax because I read that it would stop it splitting. I thought I should get 4 staves out of it as well but I don't have any experience of splitting long bits and wasn't really shore how to go about it.

thanks for your help
 

Exbomz

Full Member
Oct 19, 2004
198
0
East Sussex
Splitting wedges are needed. Look for where the staves will be in the wood and whack a wedge into the end grain across the pith. If the wood has grown straight up, the pith should be central. If not the tension wood will be thinner. Ash splits easily and gradually open the split, leap-frogging the wedges as you go. Once split down to halves, you repeat the process to get staves (with an 8" log, I reckon on 4 staves).

Tension wood is better than compression wood so that is hopefully where the best staves are. Also, once split into halves, it may be easier to start the next split in the centre of the piece, rather than an end, as this can help stop the split running off to the side. Also try to remember to keep even amounts of wood either side of the split - uneven thicknesses of wood make it more likely to run off to the side.

I am sure there are tips others can offer but hope that is a start.
 

WhichDoctor

Nomad
Aug 12, 2006
384
1
Shropshire
Thanks thats grate :You_Rock_ .

Just one thing, what do you mean when you say Tension wood and compression wood. I presume that you mean where the rings on one side are closer together than on the other side, but which ones which?

P.S. So sorry about hijacking your thread woodwalker :eek: .
 

Exbomz

Full Member
Oct 19, 2004
198
0
East Sussex
If a tree leans (or a branch sticking out), the top side is under tension, the bottom under compression, and the rings will be thicker on the compression side.

My own experience (others, please shoot me down if your own findings are different) is that as long as there is not too much difference (in the trunk wood, not branches), you can get away with using either part of the tree. But if it is severe, you may do well to use the tension wood only.

As to buying dried wood, use the local Yellow pages or equivalent; they will have wood merchants. There are many around. Some will accommodate you. As long as you can select, it should be OK, and many have good, air dried timber.

I bought a yew plank at a woodshow this summer and reckon I will get 3 bows out of it - for £18 of plank (I was lucky and would not want to guarantee I could find similar again :lmao: !)
 
J

JimJam

Guest
hi

ive recieved a copy of the bowyers bible today and after reading a chapter that extensevily covered cutting and drying your own wood i worked out that kiln dried wood is not necesarily bad, aslong as you have a moisture meature then you should be able to tell wether the wood is brittle( below 5%) if it is then it is possible(if in a humid place) to re apply moisture to the wood

thx hope it helps :)

JimJam

;)
 
J

JimJam

Guest
Hi

Has anyone got any ideas on where to get staves that have already been chopped from the trees, ive bin lookng on traditional materials for them and have found the wood but i am not sure what the wood is meant for e.g staves or furniture

thx for your help

JimJam
 

stovie

Need to contact Admin...
Oct 12, 2005
1,658
20
57
Balcombes Copse
A couple of points

1. there is nothing wrong with kiln dried wood, as long as the grain is straight and you follow all the other basic rules of tillering (I have made two kiln dried oak longbows, and one kiln dried AFB).

2. I harvested two great staves of yew today, which I have painted the ends and will dry over the coming year and tiller in the winter months....seems like a long way off, but what with work, building a roundhouse and brewing 55 gallons of cider I'm sure it will come around soon enough...Oh! and all the activities to do with the 100th anniversary of scouting..... ;)

PS. dont get hung up on technicalities, just make shavings and watch the wood bend...it's not as difficult as some would have you believe.....
 

chrisanson

Nomad
Apr 12, 2006
390
7
58
Dudley
stovie said:
A couple of points

1. there is nothing wrong with kiln dried wood, as long as the grain is straight and you follow all the other basic rules of tillering (I have made two kiln dried oak longbows, and one kiln dried AFB).

2. I harvested two great staves of yew today, which I have painted the ends and will dry over the coming year and tiller in the winter months....seems like a long way off, but what with work, building a roundhouse and brewing 55 gallons of cider I'm sure it will come around soon enough...Oh! and all the activities to do with the 100th anniversary of scouting..... ;)

PS. dont get hung up on technicalities, just make shavings and watch the wood bend...it's not as difficult as some would have you believe.....


roundhouse? ROUNDHOUSE???
chris
 

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