Recently, when I was just finishing another bow made of green rowan, I realized the woods of the rose family– rosaceae- have become my favourite bow- woods. So nice to work them with the axe, the draw- knife, they are not at all poisonous like yew, euonymus, black locust…….they smell well……………..an experience for the senses.
Best rosaceae for bows are rowan, whitebeam, hawthorn, wild cherry, choke cherry, cornel cherry, plum, even dog rose will work very well if it is old and thick enough. The trees of the rose family are eye- catchers, wonderful blossoms and fruits. But they know how to defend all their beauty and richness with more or less heavy barbs.
Roses are a symbol of life and love, of beauty itself, roses are red like our blood. The most expensive perfums are made of roses. Roses are dedicated to the Gods Aphrodite, Dionysos, Isis, Flora and Eros.
Roses are medically used as an antiseptic, hawthorn is well known of its benefits in treating heart failures. The fruits of the roses are usually called rose hips, fine jellies are made of them, the dried fruits of whitebeams could be floured and added to a bread dough.
The wood of the rosaceae is great to work, very solid but not to hard, almost no splintering, easy to bend with steam, one of the best woods for to be heat- treated. But all rosaceae are very delicious to dry, I had to do a lot of trials and errors. Cause rosaceae are little trees or even brushes with smaller diameters they split easily while drying. I prefer to work them green, never had any split when doing so.
I´ve to thank Wikipedia for the pics!
Next volume will be focused on 2 short bows made of dog rose.
The flight 137.5- bow is made of 2 limbs, 1 handle, wedges. If the wood of choice has no good steam- bending capablities siyahs have to be v- spliced into the limbs.
It´s a must to prepare the limbs very carefully. I´m not to confident with that design yet, I´ll try some more limb- designs, a wider more reflexed one for a smoother draw.
I haven´t had options for to make the limbs of the osage flight wider, the only osage I could find in my workshop were almost as small as the ready limbs. Some leftovers of a recently finished asymmetrical osage- flatbow.
The limbs of the rowan- flight are made of a green rowan. I splitted a stave cut very close at our farm.
The handle is made of mountain maple, the 137.5- angle is sawn. A right angle of the handle back to its sides is a must, otherwise the bow could be twisted.
As mentioned above the limbs have to be prepared properly.
Just put the limbs on a pot of water, cover it with aluminum foil, heat the water till it begins to boil, leave it for about 40min. Steaming times depends on thickness of wood and the degree of curve or bend. Usually recurves have to be steamed for about 20min., there´ll be an article focused on steam- bending bows within the next weeks.
I left the limbs at least 2 days for “shaping”. The limbs of the osage flight 137.5 are recurved soon after the steam- bending, rowan is hardly to steam bent, so I´ve v- spliced the recurves into the limbs.
Again: after steam- bending the wood has to be fixed in a tool for to get its shape. I left recurves for an hour in the tool.
Next is to check again the dimensions of the limbs, they´ve to be equal in length, width and thickness and shape. Thickness should be at least 1/2″ now. The limbs have to fit properly to the back of the handle. Instead of cutting the ends of the limbs to a proper angle, I cut them in a right angle, for to get the space to fit in a wedge. No other need than a cool looking.
Sorry, this is a bad pic! I´ve chosen the dark- brown walnut as wedges, I´ve used a handsaw, a chisel and a wooden hammer for to adjust the wedges to the handle.
After the glueing the wedges are sanded down. There are for sure some more ways to fix the limbs to the handle. The limbs of the osage flight 137.5 were v- spliced into the handle, a somehow delicious job, but I like that kind of jobs.
Again a chisel- and handsaw- job!
To insert a double dovetailed wegde would have been another possible joint, I tried it, but found it to unstable.
For gourmets of wooden joinery, another one.
Next volume is dealing with tillering and heat- treating the limbs adjusting the string- bridges and recurves/ siyahs.
Yesterday I´ve shot the osage flight 137.5 at 22″ ,same 195grs. arrow:
After having drawn the rowan bow up to 18″ I had to work the tiller a bit for an equal bending. I left it aside for about 7 weeks, last week I could finish the bow. Checking tiller again, sanding, cause of the beauty of the wood at the handle I didn´t wrap the handle with leather or some woolen cloth:
I always try to leave the natural grown shape of a stave. Usually I end up with a very charming and comfortable handle.
The string is made of linen, two- coloured, some natural coloured strands mixed up with some yellow dyed strands.
The padding of string is done with red silk.
I left some tracks of the inner bark(cambium) at the back.
The tiller of the bow is looking uneven, but limbs are still twisted a bit, maybe I ´ll try to balance it. Depends on the performance of the bow.
The wood is dry now(12%), I picked up the stave 5 month ago.
In the meanwhile I´ve done some more bows of green wood, I really prefer to do wooden bows of green wood now. I could exercise much more control on the drying- process, the wood seems to be much less stressed by the drying, done the usual way causing splits and twists. Now you´ll always find some preworked green staves fixed at square timbers.
Green wood seems to respond way better to a heat- treatment and could be pre- shaped by just fixing it near to the final shape at a square timber for some weeks.
Bows made of green wood perform as well as bows made of 2 or more years air- dried staves!
I´ll shot the bow for performance this weekend and will update you soon.
After having survived 3 winters here in the heights of the Black Forest, the actual winter began a bit lately in December but such heavily with tons of snow. Around the 15th of January there was a bit thaw, but the snow came back, again icy temperatures. We all were awaitng spring to come at the earliest in April. But my horse was telling me another story, since a week or so I was wondering why she was rubbing her winter coat off.
Last Saturday I found it to comfortable outside for not to go for staves. Last fall I´ve cut down some locusts nearby, time for picking them up and to split them. The last 3 winters there was no way to go to the forests for picking up staves cause of the heavy snows.
The slope where the ranger has adviced me to fell down the locusts is quite steep, the ground was still frozen, a bit dangerous for to handle my chainsaw. I preferred to use my heavy tenon saw.
It was quite exhausting to carry the logs to my car, cause I had to leave it about 100m away.
Last Monday I splitted the logs into staves.
The drying crack indicates my way for to split the log, again self bowery is much on cooperating with nature.
Using the first drying crack will guiding the split just right along the center of the log, 4 blows with a light hammer did the job.
Almost knotfree straight staves, some of them reflexed and so some deflexed staves too.
After cutting of the bark it´s drying time, I´ll leave the staves outside till it will rain or snow, the first warm breezes of February will let the staves dry fast.
Next bowXplosion will be of “The perfect bow Vol.1”, a picture- heavy build- along of a real ideal design for wooden bows including how- to´s and measurements, heat-treating revisited and explaining “the tracking of a selfbow”.
Another advantage of using green wood for to make selfbows is the possibility to shape it while drying. Vol. 1 was focused on working a green bowstave a bit longer, wider and thicker than the final dimensions will be. So drying will help us again in making working easier.
But for to draw the drying wood into a shape a jig is needed, a kind of “shaper”. Don´t expect to much what is possible to get. I recommend slight deflex, reflex or recurve. For more curvature I reommend steam- bending( there will be an article about it soon). Anyway I´m not a friend of highly reflexed or recurved bows, maybe they are somehow looking wild or fast, but their performance is often quite disappointing compared with the challenge of making and shooting them.
The jig: as a mindful reader of the bowXplosion you still know it. It´s one of these multi- jigs I prefer so much, it could be used for heat- treating too. And its easy to do.
It is made of a squared timber of douglas fir(2″ x 4″ in cross- section). Be generous and choose a real stable timber, maybe some found beech would be a better choice. The curvature is suited for to get a slightly deflexed bow with long slightly reflexed tips. Usually bowyers have more jigs with different curves: more or no deflex, reflex all over the complete length, more reflex or even some more recurved tips. Anyway it is a good idea to have more than one of such jigs avaible, when a bow made of green wood is drying you can´t use the jig for heat- treating.
The most important thing is to get a right angle all over the length, otherwise you´ll end up with a twisted bow.
The parallel lines are indicating a center- line for to fix the bow straight.
Sorry this pic is not to good, but you see the string of this is running just at the edge of the handle: the bow should be fixed at the jig so, that the string is running a bit more towards the center of the handle. Heat- treating is so genius, it is possible to correct twists, to add deflex or reflex and at the same time drawweight is increasing!
Anyway it is possible to use a squared timber without sawing any curves, just straight and stable enough, the shaping could be done by using blocks of wood or cork as displayed above.
Next volume is dealing with tillering the dried bow.
The mentioned rowan- bow is ready, but to far away from 50lbs at 23″: 27lbs at 23″, what´s wrong about it? I did the bow to thin! That´s all, cause of my lack of experience in making bows of rowan- saplings. To fail is the teacher you´ll never forget.
Anyway I heat- treated much more reflex into the bow, I didn´t succeed in increasing the drawweight: if there is to less material, it is a no- go to enforce a selfbow. It´s quite better to cut away to less wood 20 times than to cut to much wood away one time! It´s not possible to add wood to a selfbow. Usually I keep such a failed bow, sooner or later a customer will ask for it.
The bow was tested, 27lbs at 23″, I did no chronos, it shoots a 350grs.- arrow at about 130yards.
Beside the failed drawweight the bow is matching my expectations. I want the slightly reflexed limbs to become straight when drawn, most working is just beside the handle, so there is a quite well energy- storage.
This bow is a kind of study for to more get confident with the deflex/reflex- design I´m actually studying.
The second trial with a rowan- sapling:
What looks straight is a bit snaky and twisty too, but with someheat-treating I could get by with it.
Cause the stave is green, it´s really easy to straighten it finally, but there´ll remain some tracks of its naturally growing- pattern. That´s what makes selfbows such distinctively genuine.
The handle is almost completely beside the center- line. Laying out the handle and the skinny tips. I wanted to make a longer handle as usual for to shorten the working area of the limbs. Combined with the skinny tips, this is a way for to mix the qualities of a longer bow with the capablities of a shorter bow: good leverage and a quick movement of the limbs.
My Swedish ax is one of the best tools I´ve ever bought, this blacksmith is making single pieces, just tell him what you want. The most important thing is a premium blade, highly durable and not to heavy. If an ax is to heavy, it is not possible to make exactly cuts and your hands will be tired soon.
Next volume will be focused on making a jig for drying a greenwood- bow, it could also be used for heat- treating.
In the meantime it has become a maruki- style bow, a yumi made of a single piece of wood, the fore- runner of the delicious to do yumi made of bamboo. It measures 75″ in length, 11/4″ in width at its widest point at the handle.
There are still some details to work, tillering it at 30″, about 55lbs, sanding, polishing, coating with walnut- oil.
The recurves are steam- bent, the s-shaped natural growing was at first heat- treated, but without any appreciable succes, so steam bending was required. The bow insisted on keeping a bit of its natural shape, I agreed, the string is running across the handle. Juniper is quite delicious to heat- treat or to steam bend, cause of its content of essential oils. The workshop smells great when working juniper. Store the splinters as a remedy against clothes moths.
The ratio of the length of the upper limb to the length of the lower limb is 1.61- the Golden Ratio.
The string is made of linen, the slight recurves are wrapped with thin buckskin, the handle is wrapped with a thicker buckskin, buckskin is naturally tanned with fat.
Eventhough I prefer short bows, I like this style of “primitive” yumi, due to its asymmetry it makes you feel to shoot a somewhat shorter bow than it really is. For to use it to full capacity, I guess I´ve to take some kyudo lessons.
This bow makes me feel very happy: juniper is one of my favourite plants, but I´ve never succeded in making a juniper- selfbow, they´ve all broken. I succeded in making shorter bows of juniper by backing them with sinew, juniper is very compression strong but tension weak. But this stave is completely knot- free with very thin growthrings- perfect. Done as long selfbow, it is a durable character bow.
The bow stave is half the work to do a good reliable selfbow. To go out cutting wood is the beginning, to grade the staves and to assign them to a design and to the purpose of a bow is the 2nd step. If you want to make a great performing flightbow, the wood has to withstand heavy tension and compression- forces choose the best stave you´ve, if you´ll do a kid´s bow take the smaller staves. Keep in mind: the handle- area of a selfbow does usually not bend, if there is a knot don´t care to much about it, but it´s a matter of your evaluation. As a rule of thumb you´ll get by if a knot´s cross-section is not more than about 1/3 of the handle´s cross- section.
To debark or not to debark is another question. I do usually debark the woods with shorter fibers( rowan, maple, birch, whitebeam, cherry, plum………..)cause they trend to rotten soon if humidity can´t escape. I left the bark on the long fiber- woods(black locust, osage, elm………..), if they dry to fast they´ll split.
Super bow- woods like hawthorn, blackthorn, euonymus(spindlewood) are told to split soon and heavily while drying. That´s cause of their usually small diameter cross- section. I cut them roughly to a bow´s shape while green and force them with clamps into the chosen design, not any problem working them this way! Look for “Bow staves Vol.2- making a bow of green wood”.
I post a lots of pics of handling bow staves, the stave is 50% of the bow:
This rowan is dedicated to become a deflex/reflex– flightbow, the deflex is naturally grown, the reflex at its ends will be enforced by heat- treating. For to succesfully split a smaller stave, debark it and mark the splitting line. Go for enough material: handle thickness about 11/2″, limbs thickness at least 3/4″. If the split will fail, stop it and use the bandsaw.
Usually a twisted tree is easy to recognize, but some trees like rowan hide their growing. Lately while splitting them you´ll see what´s up. Trees with a thicker and rough bark like elm, black locust, osage, hawthorn, blackthorn tell you soon if they are twisted. Maple, cherry, whitebeam, rowan and plum are less kind, almost no signs of twist in their thinner bark.
Black locust is one of the woods with long fibers, grown straight and knotfree it is a pleasure to split, a few blows and it is done…………………..
The string of a bow has more or less to cross the handle- section. The best case is the string lays towards the side where the arrow is shot off. So for to check the straightness of a bow stave use a chord and string it over the back- side of the stave. It is possible to make a bow with both limbs pointing in an opposite direction, the main thing is, that the string crosses the handle.
There is the rowan from above again. I found this stave just cutted by the forest- ranger for to thin out a hiking trail. It has been rainy, the thicker end of the stave was covered with leaves and some other cutted smaller woods, great conditons for a rottening.
I debarked the stave soon, splitted it, stored it at a breezy and dry place, rottening can´t cause any further damage. The bow will be made as a skinny tip design(holmegaard, mollegabet), so I´ll get by with this stave.
There is a whitebeam to split, a part of a real big tree. One side is to knotty, the other side is knotfree but somehow snaky, anyway a delicious to do bow. But due to the capablities of whitebeam as a bow wood and its beauty it´s very worth to do it.
One of the best rowan staves I´ve ever come across, one straight half, so easy to split.
The bow within this rowan sapling is in its knotfree slightly reflexed half, cause it is of a small diameter, I´ll not split it. The only knot is just in the center, at the bows belly- side at the handle, there is no bending.
Bow staves Vol. 4 will be focused again on making bows of green wood.
The more bow- designs you know, you´ve done, the more bows you´ll be able to imagine in a tree, a branch, a sapling. It´ s very important to have a lots of bow- designs saved.
At the left I´m just beginning with the splitting, it was hard, I almost missed to get a stave thick enough allover its length.
Cause the rowan trunk was thick, the stave turned out to become very wide- about 4″. I just had to cut it smaller, while removing wood from the sides for to get the thicker inner part of the stave.
Since some time I´ve in mind to do a flightbow with a deflexed handle area and very slight small recurves. The stave is matching more or less this design. It´s still not to symmetrical. Its length is 62″, so 50lbs at 23″ should be no problem.
I debarked the stave, an easy job to do when its still green. I cut it with the axe and the drawknife to its shape, worked out the handle and an allover thickness of 1/2″ in the limbs.
Notice the jig on the pic above( beside the bows limb at the right). I always cut patterns of the bows I´m doing. I make them of thin flexible plywood for to get by with the natural curves of a stave, you can reuse them again.
Finally the bow is “shaped” by using a straight stable squared wood, clamps and small wooden logs at different thicknesses.
As usual in bowery, waiting time now! 2 weeks at least, every 2 or 3 days I´ll check what happens. Rowan doesn´t split to easy while drying, I find it very suited for to do bows of green wood.
I´m becoming more and more a “green wood” bowyer. I did very good experience above all with plum, hawthorn, euonymus and blackthorn, all badly reputated for splitting while drying. Since I worked them being green, no split at all. Almost every bow I do for customers or my own is actually done of green woods. But for the bow- classes I do all the year round with kids and adults I use the long proven air- drying. I´ve always about 50 staves in stock, seasoned for at least 2 years in our barn: a dry and breezy place. Just about 2 weeks before a class, I pick up the staves I need , for to be acclimatized. I don´t use any hot boxes or other methods for to dry bow- staves.
Bow staves Vol. 3 will be dealing with some more samples.
Fall is just beginning, the first cold nights, in the morning and in the evening I light a fire in the wood stove in the kitchen. It smells and sounds of winter. Time for the lumberjacks to begin felling the trees for to earn the money the forest district needs.
In the heights of the Black Forest the lumberjacks have to be very busy, cause the forests are growing faster, due to the fact that the young ones are leaving their farm- homes for a kind of better life in a nearby city. It´s really very hard to get by being a farmer, cause of the law of inheritance grasslands have become more and more very small. Grasslands and fields are mountainous too.
The forest ranger is never at a loss to be asked for fire- wood or bow staves, if you cut it by yourself it´s for free. I´ve noticed that the lumberjacks are leaving a lot of great wood, cause they are ordered to work fast and to cut the big trunks, the “moneymakers” and easy to work woods like pine, fir, spruce………….when the lumberjacks have done their job, my job begins.
Last week the wooded slope opposite to our farm has been thinned out, the lumberjacks know me and have laid aside 2 whitebeams and 2 rowans. Not to big ones, cause the slope is faced to the northeast, so the trees there have been grown slowly and straight, with long trunks, so called norhtern wood. Last Monday I went for cutting the wood, taking it home and checking it out and splitting it to bow staves.
Usually I pick up the whole tree, we need fire wood for our stoves, we collect the berries of the rowans for to make marmalade, the meal of the dried berries of the whitebeams is a great additive in every kind of bread for a better taste and for to keep it fresh. My wife is a passionate weaver, she is using natural fibres only and dyes them with plants, so she needs a lot of leaves, bark and lichens growing on some trees.
Lichens are such a great dye, you get real unbelievable strong colours.
I check the cutted tree for staves by looking for knot free straight or slightly curved sections measuring about 80″ in length and 2″ in cross-section at least. It was a heavy job, cause the slope is steep and I had to throw the staves downhills near the track my car was waiting for to be loaded.
For an easier handling I split the bigger woods into halves before bringing them home.
I prefer heads of axes and hammers for splitting woods, cause the splitting of bow- staves demands for more accuracy than the splitting of firewood.
This rowan trunk is slightly reflexed making the splitting a delicious job.
Almost done, there is a clean reflexed half for to make a bow, the other half is firewood.
It was a lot of wood, finally it took me about 7 hours to work on 2 trees. At home I did a closer look at the collected woods. It´s very important to look for a lengthwise harmony, when cutting the woods.
The harvest: about 12 very straight staves for longbows, another 10 staves for flatbows, some small diameter staves to be used in bow- classes for kids.
Now I´ve to be patient, my wife and friends call me very patient, drying time of these staves is beginning right now. About 2 years curing in a breezy dry place.
I´m a patient guy but to curious for not to have given bow- making of green woods a try.
Next volume is dealing with drying and curing of bow staves and the making of the bow I explored within the rowan above- a how to make a bow of green wood.