Thinking about making wood bows

From: Stephen R Tadlock srt@micron.net
Subject: Thinking about making wood bows
Date: 6 Dec 1995 06:24:25 GMT


Hi all,

        A few months ago I started thinking about building my own wood bows.  I have
been reading "The Traditional Bowyers Bible" and this has intrigued me even more.  Do
any of you bowyers out there have any bow wood suggestions for a first timer?  Species? 
Sources?  I am looking for something inexpensive because I do not think that I will end up
with a top quality bow the first time or two.  If it matters, I live in Idaho.
                I have also subscribed to "Primitive Archer" and one of my first issues had
an article on the Penobscot bow.  This bow really peaked my curiosity.  The article
suggests that the bow has a history dating back prior to the arrival of the Vikings' in North
America.  The Penobscot Indians of Main came up with this design which combines a short
bow attached to the back of the main bow to achieve a draw weight lighter than the total
stored energy.  If built correctly, this bow is supposed to be able to throw a 600-700 grain
arrow at 170-180 fps with a draw of 50-60 lbs.  I REALLY want one of these!
        Another issue has an article in which the author made a hickory pick handle bow
prompted by a passing mention of such a thing in "The Traditional Bowyers Bible".  He
used two pick handles as billets and spliced them together.
        Any one have any experience with either of these?
        I would very muck like to start up a dialogue with some of you bowyers either by
email or, if this is of enough interest, on the group.

Stephen R Tadlock


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From: "derek a. zelmer" <zelmeda4@wfu.edu>
Subject: Re: Thinking about making wood bows
Date: Thu, 7 Dec 1995 11:34:48 -0500


For starting out, take Paul Comstock's advice and use white woods, like 
white oak. The staves will season quickly, and you can be working them 
within a month. What I did, which may not seem like a good idea to most, 
is build bows out of tulip poplar. The reason it may not seem like a good 
idea, is that the wood is soft, and the bows will probably not last. I 
used it because it is incredibly easy to work, so you can rough out a bow 
very quickly, and it is extremely sensitive to mistakes. I made three 
bows of this wood...the first two broke before they ever got strung. The 
last one was a "character bow"...it was twisted like a propeller (almost 
90 degrees twist from end to end), and also had a bend to it that made it 
center shot of the side of a 1 1/2" handle. Even with the soft wood, I 
managed to get a working bow out of it...beacuse I had learned so much 
from the previous two. Any error in the construction would result in a 
fret, so I learned much faster than if I had used a more forgiving wood 
like oak or hickory. I eventually broke the last bow on purpose (with 
some difficulty) because it had developed a rather large fret. I had left 
the bark on for backing, and it held unbelievably well. I think I would 
still be shooting it today, had I not decided it might be dangerous. It 
may seem like an exercise in futility, but I feel I learned more from 
those three bows than I would have from 10 or more bows out of a hardwood.

                Derek Zelmer.

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From: bowbuff@aol.com (Bowbuff)
Subject: Re: Thinking about making wood bows
Date: 7 Dec 1995 19:35:12 -0500


Well, I have to disagree with you, Derek.  You're right that white woods
are the material to start with(unless a guy has a backyard full of osage
or yew!)and that making bows from any wood is far better than not making
bows...also that Comstock is the one to follow.  But I think a new bowyer
is well advised to find a nice piece of straight grained hickory or ash
and build a nice wide long flatbow that will shoot and stay together. 
Those destined to be true self bowyers will learn from the splinters as
well as the shooters, but there are very many who need to have success on
the first or second try... ...the best way to do that is with hickory(in
my opinion).

I never trash the old pieces of self bows or even the larger scraps. 
Nothing warms your campfire like tossing in a piece of wood that taught
you something.  Bet we can agree on that!
Regards

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From: Stephen R Tadlock srt@micron.net
Subject: Re: Thinking about making wood bows
Date: 11 Dec 1995 05:32:56 GMT


>   bowbuff@aol.com (Bowbuff) writes:
> 
>  bows...also that Comstock is the one to follow.  But I think a new bowyer
>  is well advised to find a nice piece of straight grained hickory or ash
>  and build a nice wide long flatbow that will shoot and stay together. 
>  Those destined to be true self bowyers will learn from the splinters as
>  well as the shooters, but there are very many who need to have success on
>  the first or second try... ...the best way to do that is with hickory(in
>  my opinion).
>  
>
>  
>>>>
I have to confess that I was hoping for the above statement.  I have read a couple of articles
on hickory bows and I think that I may try this wood first.  While I understand that the
cutting and seasoning of the wood is part of the experience, I do not wish to wait nor do I
have the space (I live in a one bedroom apartment) to store wood for seasoning.  I would
like to do this in the future but for now I want to start creating a pile of shavings.  Any
suggestions for an inexpensive source of seasoned hickory?  Some of what I have read
indicates that I may find suitable wood at a lumber yard or hardware store.  What should I
look for?  Is there a possibility that it may be too dry?  If so, how can I tell?  What would I
expect to pay for a hickory stave from a stave dealer and would it be seasoned already? 
Anybody have good luck with any particular outfit?

I thank everybody for sharing your opinions and experience, PLEASE keep it
coming.

Stephen R Tadlock

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From: cwahlquist@aol.com (CWahlquist)
Subject: Re: Thinking about making wood bows
Date: 11 Dec 1995 08:39:37 -0500


In article
<Pine.HPP.3.91.951207112411.23174D-100000@ac852.wfunet.wfu.edu>, "derek a.
zelmer" <zelmeda4@wfu.edu> writes:

>For starting out, take Paul Comstock's advice and use white woods, like 
>white oak. The staves will season quickly, and you can be working them 
>within a month. What I did, which may not seem like a good idea to most, 
>is build bows out of tulip poplar. The reason it may not seem like a good

>idea, is that the wood is soft, and the bows will probably not last.

I'm one of those who would disagree with your choice of a "soft wood".
There is no reason why your first bow from a better bow wood should'nt
last. Mine did for two years. The advantages are faster bows with lighter
limbs and less set. Attention to detail on the first bow might take longer
but probably not as long as several failed attempts. 

Try "Bows & arrows of the native americans" by Jim Hamm from lyons &
burford, publishers, 31 west 21 street, NY, NY 10010.

enjoy

chuck


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