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1/3/14 1:11 p.m.

This is a great walkthrough. One of the best I've seen and I've read many. Getting ready to start my 3rd board bow can't wait to use your backing/trapping method and your tip ideas! Oh and where to find walnut?

DSnell None
1/3/14 4:06 p.m.

Hi there,

Thanks for your build-along and all of the accompanying info! This has been very helpful to my Dad and I as we contemplate building our own long-bows. We have been thinking about getting into bow-hunting, and realized that we didn't really want to spend a ton of money on buying either longbows or traditional recurve bows. Since Dad has been in business restoring antique furniture for the last 24 years, and I've been working with him off and on for the last 6 years and full time for the last year, we figured we probably had the basic skills necessary to build our own longbows. So I started to look around and stumbled across your build-along (among a couple others), and have read it start to finish over the past two or three days. And I just have to say, beautiful bows! You've done some great work!

So, now to my questions... We're planning to build our bows with Hickory Backings and Ipe Bellies. We'll most likely do some sort of slight riser out of Birds-eye Maple or Cherry since it seems to help people with consistency to have a slight pistol grip. So... My question is, how do you decide how thick to make the backing on your bows? I know with your Walnut and Hickory bow you made an 1/8th inch backing, and then trapped it. I figure because of the strength of the Ipe we probably won't have to do any trapping... is that right?

Next question... How did you decide on your brace height? is 5-6 inches just standard? Or is that your personal preference? And did you figure out your string length based on your brace height?

I also had a thought about the leather handle/wood rot issue. Do you know if the person whose handle broke had been consistently treating the leather with some sort of oil or equally waterproofing treatment like Leather Honey? Just thought it might help to keep it from soaking all of the sweat in, and transferring the sweat to the wood.

Anyways, we have ordered the 4 Bowyers Bibles, and since I'm laid out on the couch with a broken leg, I'll be reading through those and we'll get started on the bows once I'm off the crutches, some time next month. Thanks again for your build-along!

Rufledt SuperDork
1/4/14 2:05 a.m.
bravo331 wrote: This is a great walkthrough. One of the best I've seen and I've read many. Getting ready to start my 3rd board bow can't wait to use your backing/trapping method and your tip ideas! Oh and where to find walnut?

I'm glad you like it! Remember the trapping isn't always needed, it just worked in my case because of the strength difference between walnut and hickory.

Walnut should be available at any good lumberyard. It's a popular furniture making wood these days, so it should be accessible. On the other hand, it is also more expensive than many domestic woods for that reason. Not as pricey as imported woods like ipe or zebrawood, but it's pricier than, say, sugar maple, another great bow wood.

Rufledt SuperDork
1/4/14 2:23 a.m.
Thanks for your build-along and all of the accompanying info! This has been very helpful to my Dad and I as we contemplate building our own long-bows. We have been thinking about getting into bow-hunting, and realized that we didn't really want to spend a ton of money on buying either longbows or traditional recurve bows. Since Dad has been in business restoring antique furniture for the last 24 years, and I've been working with him off and on for the last 6 years and full time for the last year, we figured we probably had the basic skills necessary to build our own longbows. So I started to look around and stumbled across your build-along (among a couple others), and have read it start to finish over the past two or three days. And I just have to say, beautiful bows! You've done some great work!

I'm glad you like it! If you and your dad have furniture making or restoring experience, then you have far more skill than I did when I started, and probably most of the necessary tools. That's good, you can save money.

For ipe and hickory you probably won't need to trap it. Ipe is extremely dense and strong in compression, so it is well matched to hickory and even bamboo backing, which has crazy tension strength. One area of concern, however, is that ipe's density can make gluing difficult.

For the riser, I'm not sure a pistol grip will help everyone, but it certainly feels more comfy to me. Just remember comfort is an individual thing. Howard hill used flat grip longbows, and he was pretty amazing. I have other problems myself. I broke my left thumb pretty bad in a bicycle crash as a teenager, like had to be put under and the bones pinned back together bad, so I have trouble with a variety of grips. The walnut bow in this build along is actually quite uncomfortable for me now. I haven't decided what to do about that yet.

For the backing, 1/8" is the thickness of the backing as I got it from 3rivers. Thicker isn't necessary, as I said most of the tension work is done by the surface wood and the wood just under the surface. Any more than 3/16 is probably not necessary in any circumstance, but don't quote me on that.

Brace height at 5-6" is fairly standard. Around there is the best compromise of speed, accuracy, and not whacking your hand every time you shoot. The first bowyers bible book has a section in the design and performance chapter that can sum it up much better than I can here.

For string length I make all of mine adjustable. Once it's stretched in a decent amount, I cut off the extra from the knotend, leaving only a couple inches. Again, the sting chapter in the bowyers bible book 2 I think is amazing. Actually, any chapter written by that author is pretty great.

I'm not sure if the leather in that case was treated, but I know the bow was shot almost daily for years before that happened. The wood under the leather had a modern, fairly water resistant finish, too, but no finishes are waterproof, only resistant. Unfortunately that means the wood, once wet, takes forever to dry back out again since the moisture can't pass through the finish easily.

Those bowyers bible books are by far the best money spent for bow making. You'll enjoy them I hope. Extremely informative. Just remember a couple things in the first books design and performance chapter are wrong, specifically hysteresis and maybe other stuff. It's corrected in the design and performance chapter in book 4.

Everybody should be posting pictures of their work!

bravo331 New Reader
1/4/14 4:57 a.m.

Oh btw how do we post pictures here?

DSnell New Reader
1/4/14 7:44 a.m.

Thanks! We're looking forward to getting started!

Major bummer about your Walnut bow not being comfortable... Hope you can find a way to fix it!

The Bowyers Bibles are supposed to come Monday, so we're just preparing for the plunge into the info at this point.

Thanks again for your thorough response!

Rufledt SuperDork
1/4/14 8:28 p.m.

In reply to bravo331:

On this forum all pics have to be hot linked. You will have to host the pics on some other website like picasa (linked to google accounts I think) or photobucket or something, then copy the image URL, click the camera above the text box here, and past the URL. It should then show up, though you may have to start typing in the text box before he photo comes up.

Rufledt SuperDork
1/4/14 8:32 p.m.

In reply to DSnell:

Yeah I'm kinda bummed about that, but it isn't the bow really. Like I said I broke my hand so a lot of bows are uncomfortable, especially if the draw weight is higher. That quick oak bow from a few pages back is a lighter draw, but has a more uncomfortable handle. That bow doesn't hurt my hand at all since it's so much lighter. It also has no hand shock from the skinny tips and more elliptical tiller, so that helps.

Get ready for the plunge, you may want to take notes on any chapter written by Tim something. I can't remember his last name but he wrote the design chapter. Maybe reread it a bit, too, it can be kindof dense, but he explains stuff well.

backtothebush New Reader
1/10/14 2:09 p.m.

I just came across your blog today and now I have a new winter project! Building a longbow! I would like to share with you a picture with a description. I shot a compound bow once when I was 17. Shot 3 arrows. Hit the target. Got interested in the sport recently and bought my first compound. This is 21 years later. Having never shot again since that time I was 17, how would you rate my skill? Im looking for the opinion of a pro as to how well I did. I am considering joining a competitive club if you think I may have the skill with more practice. I shot from 20 yards. <img src="Image and video hosting by TinyPic" />

Rufledt SuperDork
1/11/14 11:56 a.m.

Not being a pro, I couldn't rate your stooting! The rule of thumb that i've heard for traditional shooting (i.e. wooden self bow, no sights) is a grouping the size of a fist at 20 yards for hunting, but compounds are probably different. I haven't shot one since I was a kid myself, and then it was only a few shots. I will say, however, that joining a competitive club is a great way to improve. You'll be in contact with people who can offer suggestions, help your technique, and so on, so you should do it no matter what your experience level.

chgrundude New Reader
3/8/14 12:17 a.m.

I've found these posts to be very inspiring. I've been obsessing over doing things myself I thought it would be nice to learn how to build what m shooting with. Anyways I have a very old bow of my grandpas and I have been wondering about making high powered long bows. I am curious if you have tips on making working my way up to war bow strength bows. I'm only starting so I am definitely expecting it to take a while, but I am eager to start bow making.

Rufledt SuperDork
3/13/14 10:22 a.m.

Hello! Sorry I missed your post earlier, I was stuck in a hospital for a week. You can work up to war bow strength by starting light, shooting a lot, and increasing bow strength by about 5 LBS at a time. I'm just going from memory here, but I remember a method something like this:

Start small, if you are a man, 30# will probably work, women might want to start at 20# draw. Adjust accordingly if you are kinda skinny, or if you already shoot, just start with what you're shooting now. Shoot a bit and record the number of shots, but don't go over 36 arrows or so (6 rounds of 6 arrows). Every week do this a few times (like monday, wednesday, and friday, for examle) and rest the other days. Starting the second week, add a round every time you shoot. So the 2nd week day 1 will be 7 rounds of 6 arrows, then 8 rounds of 6 arrows, etc...

When you get up around 180 arrows a day, increase your bow weight 5# (i.e. start using a stronger bow). Mass produced bows are usually sold in 5# increments, so this works out. If you are making your own, you may want to use mass produced ones for this because zeroing in on a weight exactly 5# above your last bow multiple times in a row can be difficult if you aren't good at making them. When you take this 5# heavier bow and start shooting, don't shoot 180 arrows, drop back maybe 60 (10 rounds of 6), and then work up in the same manner to 180 shots (20 rounds of 6). And so on until you reach your desired draw weight.

This kind of building up can help people who only want to shoot lighter bows, too, so everyone should keep that in mind. Also keep in mind, shooting super heavy bows doesn't serve much purpose anymore beyond maybe bragging rights. Modern bows are efficient enough that 60# will kill literally anything in North America with a good shot and adequate arrow mass/the right tip. If you aren't interested in hunting, many target competitors use a 35# bow. If you just want to see how heavy you can work up to, then by all means have fun and try to break 100#, but don't rush it. If you rush, you'll get injured, which will set you back and make you take even longer to work up. It's just like weight lifting.

Also, try to use the same kind of bow every step of the way (stick with recurve or stick with longbow, don't flip flop) because recurves of the same draw weight require more muscle in the early draw lengths, so they will feel harder to pull. In fact, you might want to just use recurves for muscle building, but other people may have different opinions.

Rufledt SuperDork
6/2/14 8:42 p.m.

Zombie build thread revival!

I haven't done anything here for a long time, and this may be the last post for another while, but I just wanted to go ahead and start another project before finishing any of the other ones, obviously. I'll get to finishing these bows eventually. At least I have an excuse to take time off from the barely started van project, i ordered that buffer as a b-day gift to myself and it hasn't come in yet

Here is what i'm working with as a work shop:

There's a major issue here. A very large rotary powered blue object is always in the way, and a big brown rust bucket is often in the way of moving the blue thing. I'm a bit too lazy to reshuffle 2 cars just to work on a bow. More on that later.

the wood:

This is all of that black locust wood i split last spring.

There is an end grain shot. You'll see 4 main layers- yellowish heartwood, then white sapwood, then yellow 'phloem', then bark (dead phloem).

Some wood, like yew, uses the white sapwood as a natural backing for a cool two tone look. Not black locust. The sapwood is pretty crappy. I'm going to have to remove the bark AND all of the sapwood. Then i'll have to do something called chasing a ring, where I scrape everything down to a single growth ring, unbroken, for the back. This is the old school method, and it's pretty strong. This came from a tree large enough that a single growth ring won't be very arched, so the tension stress will be spread out. Black locust, however, is more prone to compression fractures than anything. It actually is considered a very educational wood for this reason. If you screw something up, it will chrysal (get compression fractures) immediately. It won't be like my red oak double bow thing that worked great for the first few hundred shots and THEN started failing.

Black locust is very dense, so very powerful bows can be made from it without making them crazy wide. It also resists rot and mold better than most woods around, so it can be a great outdoor furniture wood, though it can be harder to find at lumberyards. It's somewhat considered an invasive kind of tree without a great deal of beauty, so they don't get the same attention as walnut or white oak or cherry, etc...

Here's a shot where I used a draw knife to shave the side smooth. You can see when the wood is freshly exposed, it looks quite light in color, and ages to the darker color when exposed to the air for a while. This means it won't be as easy to spot when the sapwood is shaved off because it won't change color as starkly as, say, yew, which isn't a wood where you remove the sapwood anyway. Stupid irony.

Deeper in the bark I found a potential issue:

That's not a knot, but it is weird looking. I wonder if it's a healed branch? No idea. if it is a big knot, i'll get to show what to do in that case (read: i'll try not to ruin it, but i've never had to deal with a big knot before. Potential carnage will ensue).

Hadi New Reader
7/25/14 9:10 a.m.

Hey, how's it going? Make any cool bows recently? I don't know if you remember me, I posted here last November with a few questions. It's been a long time, but I finally managed to get hold of a board and I'm done with exams for this year. It's made of oak, though I'm not sure of which species. I had a friend of my dad, who is a carpenter, cut it for me after I showed him a picture of a finished bow I found on the web. Anyway, he cut it before I even had a chance to look at it. It has a mark(maybe a blemish?) near the middle.

I checked the dimensions and turns out it's too wide and thick (almost 3.5 inches wide and 1 inch thick) so I can cut that part off =) . It looks like it's the end of a knot, seeing as on the other side it doesn't show. Anyway, I think the rest of the board is all good, expect for maybe this one spot near where the tips will be: This is on the other side of the board. The right side of the pencil mark will be cut off. Do you think that blemish/grain pattern will cause any problems? The part where the pencil mark is at the end of the board, where the tips will be.

Would you please check these pictures and tell me what you think? https://www.flickr.com/photos/95103646@N07/ The first three pictures are of what I plan to be the belly, and the right side will be cut off, while the last three pictures show the other side, the back, so it's the left side that will be cut off.

I'll be taking my time with this project if the board is good enough, which I hope it is, because I don't have any arrows, or any materials to make a string, or string wax, or anything else I might need. And all these things will take a few weeks to arrive once I manage to order them. I do, however, have a few tools at my disposal (a jack plane, a rasp, a chisel, even a few power tools). I want to make sure that the board is fine before I start working, since I don't know if I could get another one. My parents aren't really enthusiastic about this.

Thanks in advance.

EDIT: If the pictures don't show, right click on the little icon where they should be and select view image.

Also, I'm having a hard time selecting nocks, feathers, arrow tips, and I'm not sure what spine I should select for the shafts or what size the nocks should be, or how much grain the tips should have. Here's a pic of my shopping cart: Am I missing anything? I got dacron for the string, two types of string servings (I'll only get one, but I'm not sure which yet), string wax, nocking pliers and string nocks, port orford cedar shafts 5/16 25#-30# (do they sell these in batches of 12 or individually?), 24 green feathers and 12 orange ones, all left wing, and brass screw on bullet points 5/16 100g". I'm not sure what type of nock to get, Pin nocks or fit-over nocks. Which did you use? By the way, the site is merlinarchery.co.uk. Any tips would be appreciated. As I understand, feather length is not that important? I'll be trying to get the bow at a #30-ish draw weight. Should the spine be around the same? Thanks.

Rufledt SuperDork
7/27/14 8:43 p.m.

I do remember you! also I haven't made anything cool lately

If I had to guess, I would say that's red oak, the same as what I used for a bunch of bows. If you are in the UK, though, it might be different. I'm not sure what kinds of woods you have available there, but red oak is crazy common in the states. It literally grows all over the place. European oak might be different, but i'm fairly sure a bow can be made out of any oak.

Those blemishes may cause problems if you can't get rid of them. Knots like that are tricky work if you have an old school split bow stave, but a board stave makes them much more dangerous, since the extra wood put there by the tree for reinforcement gets cut off by the saw. Lucky for you the board is too big. I would argue there is no such thing as too big, since you can always cut away extra, but you can't add more. Well, you can, but that's a bit tricky.

I can't really see pencil marks clearly in the pictures, but I would say you should cut away as many problem areas as you can find, even if it means a slightly narrower and thus lighter bow than you planned. aiming for 30# and ending with 20# is far better than aiming for 30 and ending with a splintery pile of firewood.

As for the shopping cart, you have quite a few good tools there, but much of that can be purchased later. Making strings, for example, is a great way to save money IF you plan on making a bunch of them. If you only need one or 2, buying strings instead of dacron and serving material can save you money in the short run. You will still want the string wax either way, though. To be honest, I STILL don't have nocking pliers, and I've made quite a few strings. I just use normal pliers. I also used to just tightly wrap a wad of dental floss where I wanted the nock. It held up ok (not great) and allowed me to slide it up and down a little for adjustments. Now I use actual nocks. Many purchased strings also don't come with nocks, since location will depend on the bow design, so either way you'll have to keep that in mind. Like I said, nocking with wrapped floss works if you are on a budget. Serving with more dacron (or nothing at all) can work if the string is thick enough for the arrow to hold. Many ancient bows didn't have arrow nocks that clicked to the string, forcing the archer to hold the arrow against the string while drawing the bow. I'm not saying you should do that (I certainly don't!), i'm just saying you don't need to dive in and buy a bunch of stuff right away if you can save money.

As for tools, the rasp will be your best friend. Or not. It really depends on the rasp. There are a lot of different tools called rasps, and all of them can be used for bow making. A jack plane can help you with shaping the board, smoothing the back probably, and maybe rounding the back edges if you don't have another way to do it, but not tillering. I'd stay away from power tools if possible. I still haven't used anything powered other than a random orbit sander on bows. As James May said on Man Lab, a power tool is designed to ruin projects more quickly.

For spine weight on arrows, that's a bit trickier. A general rule of thumb is that #30 arrows work for #30 bows, but some people suggest slightly lighter arrows for longbows (like 25# for a 30# bow). That also depends on draw length, brace height, and tip weight. Heavier tips means you need stiffer arrows for the same bow. If there is an archery store around you, they might have a set of arrows of different spine weights for you to try out. I purchased my own set of tester arrows (instead of a dozen identical ones, there are 2 of each spine weight range), but again, that is an unnecessary purchase for a beginner. Same goes for making arrows. It's hard. I'd suggest you buy a set of them at first, maybe from the shop that has different spined arrows for you to try. If there is no such place, just go with the weight that is similar to your bow.

Have I ever made a post about tuning a bow? If not, I probably should. That's a way to make sure you don't have the wrong nock point or brace height or arrow spine, etc...

You're right about feather length/height, it doesn't really matter. Larger feathers in general can fix an arrow flopping around as it leaves the bow, but if you have good form and the right arrows (and nock placement and a few other little adjustable things) the arrows shouldn't flop around anyway.

Arrows, even purchased ones, should come with nocks. If you are going to make the arrows, the nocks you get are determined by how you plan to attach them. I don't use pin or fit-over nocks, I use taper nocks, mainly because I have a nock taper tool (it looks like a pencil sharpener) to taper the end of the arrow shaft.

That Merlin Archery website seems pretty nice, though it's odd they sell individual arrows. this one: http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/standard-spruce-arrow-no-1.html should take the guess work out of figuring out which lenght/spine/tip weight, etc... to use. Unless you are kinda tall with freakishly long arms, those should be long enough. It looks like that's price per arrow, which isn't too bad. Usual archery shoots are 6 shots, then retrieve arrows and go again, so you don't need a full dozen. Maybe 8 or 9 (6 with a couple spare in case of breakage/loss) to save money since they sell individually.

Lastly, not to be a buzz kill, but if your parents aren't super excited about this, maybe you should talk it over with them and make sure they're ok with this before you get into it. While I have personally not gotten hurt in bow making, nor has anyone I know, there is always a possibility for risk whenever you step into a work shop. That risk increases exponentially whenever you use power tools, but you don't need those for bows. On the other hand, wood working is a useful skill, and bow making can always get another kid off the couch and away from computer games. Your parents may not need to help, but their support can go a long way if something breaks and you get discouraged.

I suppose I should ask how old you are? I was a teenager when I started making bows, but late teens. I don't remember exactly but I do know I had a car, so at least 16 (i don't know driving age where you are, laws are probably different). I may have been 18, making me legally an adult at the time, but my parents still supported me in this hobby. It helps that my mom used to do archery, but hey, bows aren't as bad as guns! Again, this is America, laws are different lol.

let me know if you have more questions and post pics here as you go!

Hadi New Reader
7/29/14 8:56 a.m.

Hey, thanks for the response. Maybe I'll just get ready arrows and be done with it. The only reason I wanted to make my own was because I'm afraid they won't get through customs, but I'm not sure about that. I have absolutely no idea where to look, though I do remember a guy from a club say he imported a bow once, so it shouldn't be too much trouble I hope. The nearest archery shop is in the club that is 30 minutes away, and when I went there last year all they had were compounds and recurves, and no wooden arrows at all. I just checked their site, and every time I click on a product it just gives me a 404 error, but I still can't see any wooden arrows. Also, bows here are extremely expensive compared to what I find online. A Samick Polaris recurve costs between 1100-1300 NIS, which is $320-$380. Here http://www.lancasterarchery.com/samick-polaris-66-takedown-recurve-bow.html it's $125. That is double the price, and I doubt it'd be that expensive, even with shipping and customs, if I import it on my own. I'm dead set on at least trying to making my own, though :) About the string, what you say makes sense. I saw a few sellers on eBay a while back making custom strings, and there's a custom string service on Merlin Archery as well. Will 7 feet be OK for tillering?

When I said my parents aren't really enthusiastic about this, I wasn't talking about me making my own bow, it was about archery in general. I won't be using any power tools unless I really have to, and even then I can get either my dad or his friend to do it for me. It's just these arguments they used at first to try to get me to pick another hobby like: there's nowhere to practice (there's plenty of space in our yard, though, even if it is narrow, and it's like 10-15meters by 3 meters, there's a 1 story high wall on one side, and our house on the other, and it's really hard to imagine how I can hurt someone in these circumstances.), there's no one to teach you, what if you hurt someone, why don't you play soccer or basketball instead, etc... It can get pretty annoying, but they finally accepted it. I bet they'll be more interested when they see the bow in action :)

I live in Israel, and I'm 17. I think you have to be 16 or 16 and a half to start taking driving lessons, and after you finish you have to spend a few months with an adult who has a license stay with you every time you drive. I'm hoping to start taking lessons soon, but I can't find the time.

I'll post again once all my stuff arrives, but the site still hasn't responded to me about shipping costs. I can't make an order unless I contact the staff and they place it for me because for some reason the site can't automatically calculate shipping to my area. I'll send them another email today or tomorrow and I'll keep you posted once I start working.

Rufledt SuperDork
7/29/14 7:57 p.m.

Customs is an area I have no experience dealing with. The craziest thing I've ever ordered internationally was a big scottish sword for a costume I wore for a renaissance faire. Yes, I used to be one on THOSE people, though to be clear I never worked there, I only went there and had good friends who worked there . It was U.K. to USA, and it was called a 'theatre prop' on the box, which was accurate I guess, except I wasn't on stage. Much. Weaponry could be problematic, but I'm not sure archery equipment counts in the same way as guns. I could be wrong, though, and i'm sure it depends on the country.

I would suggest checking out the shop anyway if you have the ability to get there. Most places here don't carry wood bows or wooden type arrows either, not because there is no market (there is plenty of demand) but because they are very specific to the buyer. These places usually order on demand, rather than stock tons of bows in all different sizes/colors/draw weights just so the one guy who came in and needed a 55# @26" left handed reflex/deflex longbow in desert camo with a collapsible arrow shelf and built in sight didn't have to order it.

A 3meter by 10-15 meter area is plenty large enough for archery practice. The standard indoor range around here has a maximum length of 20 meters, I have yet to find one larger. Outdoor ranges are different. I would suggest shooting only a couple meters away from the target at first. Work on technique and form, don't worry so much about bulls eyes, just get your form correct and consistent. Then slowly back up. If you are new to shooting, you may want to get some instruction to start with at that archery club.

Another thing you should look into is local law. I don't know what it's like in Isreal, but I know most cities here have laws that can be used to stop archery outdoors, even if it's practiced in 'safe' ways for target practice, and for good reason. Even a weakly little longbow can seriously injure/kill someone if the shot is particularly unlucky.

If the wall in your back yard has a house behind it, you may have a safety issue. It's pretty hard to miss a large target, much less a wall from a couple yards away, but you want to be 100% sure you won't shoot somebody. If that means going to the range, then that's what you may have to do. You may be entirely fine shooting in your backyard, but you can't beat the safety of a professionally maintained/run shooting range. They have likely taken care of every possible safety hazard, far beyond what is possible for a back yard. Bows killed people for thousands of years. You want to do everything possible to be 100% sure you won't continue that tradition.

7 feet is plenty long for tillering. An adjustable tillering string is probably best, many are adjustable. you can shorten them as you go. Generally you want one end to be a loop like a flemish kind of deal (explained earlier in the thread) and a timber hitch (or bowyers knot) on the other side for adjustability.

16 to start driving lessons? that's not too different than here. In my home state (Wisconsin) I started classes/lessons at 15, license at 16 and 6 or 9 months (can't remember) of 'probation' where you need an adult in the car with you. It does vary from state to state, though. My wife's family is from South Korea, they have to be 18! I would've died if someone told me I had to wait an extra couple years to start driving. My parents would have, too, because they didn't want to keep giving me rides! I wasn't much younger than you when I started shooting. I only asked because if you were like 10 or something I would've said you should get a lot of help and supervision when making something like a bow, or potentially wait until you were a bit older. You can start shooting young, but making bows increases the risk (sharp tools, the bow can break and shoot wood splinters everywhere, etc... in addition to the risks with shooting).

It makes sense that bows are more expensive there. They are usually produced in part by hand (skilled craftsman type labor, too, not just assembly line kindof stuff) , so they aren't as cheap as a plank of wood, then you have shipping costs on something that is 6 feet long, import tariffs, and so on. A friend of mine just moved to China and said a Buick there costs as much as a BMW in the USA, and owning one was a way to display wealth and prestige (he's an anthropologist like me, and thus has an odd way of interpreting material goods). In the USA a Buick is a way to display excessive old age and lack of taste. It's fascinating how that works. Anyway, back to bows...

A couple more questions from me- Are you going to add an arrow shelf to this bow, or shoot off your hand? If off the hand, you'll need to make sure the leading edge of the feathers on your arrows won't scrape your skin. you can do this with a knife and some superglue, also you could wear a glove to protect that hand.

Have you looked into Paleoplanet.net or the forum at primitivearcher.com? You can post your progress here and ask questions as much as you want and I'm happy to offer all the help I can, but I'm currently not working on bows, and the people at those sites have more experience than I do. Sadly a couple of the most awesome ones were chased away by internet trolls, but there is still a wealth of knowledge there.

You may also try to get a hold of a copy of The Bowyer's Bible Volume 1. The information is truly invaluable for bow making. volumes 2-4 are also extremely awesome, but the first one is the most important one for a beginner.

russ_mill None
7/31/14 12:45 p.m.

This is so much great info! Just want to let you know I am following along so you keep these posts coming.

DSnell New Reader
8/7/14 4:39 p.m.

And Russ isn't the only one! Looking forward to your work with the Black Locust. I managed to start my bow a few months ago, but it wasn't out of Ipe and Hickory like I planned (Ipe turned out to be difficult to get from lumberyards). I actually am making it with a White Oak backing and Purpleheart belly, with a bit of Bird's Eye Maple for a handle riser. I'll post some pictures when I finally finish it. We think it's Purpleheart anyway... It's actually a piece of wood that showed up on the doorstep of our shop a number of years ago, and the grain looks like Purpleheart to us. Maybe you can confirm or reject our thinking on that when I manage to post the pictures. Life just got crazy in the middle of tillering it, and so it sits on my tillering stick just begging to be finished.

Good luck with your bow Hadi!

Rufledt SuperDork
8/7/14 10:59 p.m.

Glad people are interested! The black locust that I de-barked started showing drying checks right away, so I'm thinking it's not dry enough yet. I may have to let the wood sit some more and actually finish my other projects!

Ipe can sometimes be difficult to get. I think it goes by Brazilian walnut too or something like that, though it is completely unrelated to walnut beyond both being trees. Purpleheart and white oak sounds like a good combination. I made a Purple Heart/hickory bow, I think there's a photo of it on page 1 on this thread. White oak is immensely strong in tension,sometimes better than hickory, but purple heart isn't as tough in compression as you would think for it's high density. This is an example where slight trapping might be good. Purple Heart is supposedly very good in tension, but the color makes it tough to spot knots, so the grain could be terrible and you'd never know until it blew up, that's why backing it is a good idea, and a light backing like white oak will look awesome.

Purple Heart can vary in color from dark purple to maroon sometimes. I might know it when I see it but there are lots of cool woods that I don't know about. If those bowyers bible books taught me anything, though, it's that any wood can be designed to make a half decent bow. Post pics!

Brett_Murphy UberDork
8/8/14 10:48 p.m.

I've been eyeing that privet growing in the back of my yard now for a while. I still haven't gotten around to cutting it down yet, but this thread has kept it in my mind to save a long straight piece of it if I can. Most of the trees are only about 6" or so in diameter, so I'm probably going to wind up starting really small.

Rufledt SuperDork
8/11/14 7:22 p.m.

From what I remember, privet makes a great bow. I think it may be similar in characteristics to Osage, so the bows can be narrower. I may be mis-remembering, though.

6" or so isn't too small. Remember you'll have to split it, and splitting anything over 12" is more work than it's worth IMO. You could probably get 4 good bows out of a 6" log.

DSnell New Reader
8/13/14 8:40 p.m.

O.k. so here are some pics (now that I've finally figured out how to post them!) I've got a lot of work to do at this point, and I plan to take tillering pretty slowly, both because this is my first bow, and because the grain is a bit funky... The first pic is from a while back, I just wanted to give you an idea of the general shape of the bow and you might be able to see a bit of the reflex that I glued into it. (The blank in the background is my dad's project, but he hasn't had the time to do a whole lot beyond cutting the general shape out.)

And finally, here's a pic of a carving mallet I turned out of the same wood and put a couple of coats of oil on, so you can see what it looks like with a bit of finish on it. What do you think? Purpleheart? or some other cool looking and incredibly dense and hard wood?

Rufledt SuperDork
8/14/14 11:52 p.m.

I'm not sure that's purpleheart. Maybe bubinga? Either way you can make a bow out of it. Looking good so far! Are you sure that backing is white oak? It looks a bit like red oak, but it's hard to tell from a picture.

DSnell New Reader
8/15/14 8:02 p.m.

I'm pretty sure it's white oak, I did the test with a 10x magnifier and looked at both a couple of boards I knew to be red oak and the board I cut this out of. If this bow ends up not working out, I finally did get some Ipe and hickory, so I've got that all lined up to start on. I'll have to look up the properties of Bubinga in TBB 4 and see what that tends to do as a bow wood. Thanks!

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