Selfbow basics- harvesting wood – dead wood

When winter has gone it is very worth to look for dead trees or branches, just when in spring the trees are beginning to grow again. It is easy to  notice what is dead and what is still alive. Usually the bark has more or less detached from the trunk too. So there are very clear indications to recognize if the wood is really dead. I cut the dead wood, split and check it for signs of decay and wood worms. Maybe I´ve cut firewood, but in most cases I´ve got bowstaves, already dry, I can begin to work them right now.

Recently I checked a crop of Black Locusts growing at the southern slope of a very prominent small mountain just nearby called “Spitzkopf”. In the Middle Ages there was a silver mine there.

I found some dead Black Locusts, one of them very straight. I can´t remember to have seen a Black Locust like this one. Thick growthrings, no knots, no twists, already dry. Enjoy the pics, sometimes the dreams of a bowyer become true.

perfect locust stave spring 2010
splitting locust spring 2010
some more locust spring 2010
cross section of locust spring 2010

The bark is almost very lose, I cut it with a drawknife and will leave the wood for some weeks, for to give it a final drying. Time is a healer.

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selfbow- basics harvesting wood, when winter has just gone

We live in the heights of the Black Forest in the very southwest of Germany, winters are usually long with a lots of snow.  The last winter wasn´t to snowy, but very icy and cold.

frozen maple

This winter we could enjoy pics like this, just by a look through the windows of our farm, frozen mountain- maples, such a mighty look, I´ll never be able to cut them for bow- staves.

So every year on Easter I go into the woods for to look which trees and branches usable as bow- staves had been broken down by ice and snow.  Usually my daughter came along with me since she is able to walk. Cause its Easter we´ve a can with us, for to fill it with water from a spring, we call it the Easter water. This is an old custom, we like it  as a starting shot for the spring.

This year we went to our so- called secret valley, a small valley, nearby a road, surrounded by a widely used hiking trail, but nobody has been around, whenever we went there. It seems to be more and more a phenonemon, that nowadays people are using always the same ways and trails, not taking notice of what´s beside them. They are hiking from A to B, the trail has nothing but to be done. They miss a lot, our secret valley too.

secret valley

Yes, amidst a lot of junipers. I guess this is one of the largest crops of junipers in Germany.

If you enter the secret valley you´ve to pass a guardian, I call the hawthorn- queen, everytime I pass her, she seems to be alive like an animal, she is unbelievable old.

hawthorn queen

She is just a bit sleepy after the long winter time, I like her gesture so much.

The secret valleys´creek, just one day after the ice has broken.

secret valley creek

Junipers are growing at the sunny slope of the valley, the opposite slope is grown over with birches, mountain maples, hazels and blueberries. I´ve even found some buckthorn there.

A closer look to the junipers made soon clear, that this winter has broken down some of them. I checked them if they are matching what a selfbowyer is always dreaming of.

died juniper
some dead juniper branches
more juniper

Finally I decided to cut one for today, some days later I asked the forest- ranger about the other branches and some dead maple and hazel. He allowed me to take them: take everything you need! The rangers here have a new problem, the woods are coming back, cause more and more farmers are giving up agriculture, looking for other jobs. The kids of the farmers are leaving their homelands, no one wants to be a farmer anymore, they are longing for clean and somehow more comfortable jobs.

There is a small back to nature- movement, by families like ours, but anyway the woods are enlarging again, the forest rangers are really thankful if anyone is cutting wood. I´m always wondering how quick a former  grazing land is  overgrown again with small brushes and trees.

The cut juniper- stave will make an elegant designed snaky bow. At first I´ll have to debark it, to split it and to dry it for a while. The upcoming making of a bow of this stave makes me nervous: cause I never succeded in making more than 300- 400 shots with a juniper- bow, they all have broken, but for to be serious in at least in 2 times I handled them to careless.

Juniper backed with sinew makes superior bows. Juniper is very elastic, but can´t withstand to much tension. So you should sinew-back a juniper- bow. I´ll update you.