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.
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.
Decrowning a bow-stave is a very useful way for to take advantage of small- diameter saplings.
Hawthorn, blackthorn, spindlewood, for to call a few of real super- bowwoods are shrubs or bushes, sometimes they grow to the size of small trees. Making bows of them is a delicious job for a bowyer, due to their small diameters they are high-crowned. High- crowned staves are a good choice for a longbow, but if you want to make a flatbow of such a stave you need to decrown it for to get a wider back.
Look at the cross- section and choose the growthring on top of the stave (the back of the bow), is it running through the whole length? If not, take one growthring deeper………..This growthring is a kind of guide to follow all over the stave lengthwise.
It´s almost the same story like to cut a whole growthring, follow the growing of the wood, every bend and curve and knot, the top of the growthring in the center of the sapling is the guide.
It is very important to do the decrowning very equally, so the top of the growthring in the center has to be cut out in equal width all over the length, just as well as the other cutted growthrings. A perfectly decrowned back should look very harmonically. Look again at the drawing above: the sidecuts of the outer growthrings are paralleling the top of the center- growthring. The more perfectly you decrown the more stable the bow will be and it will bend more even, otherwise you could end up at some twisted limbs. Even decrowning is some delicious job to do, it is very worth for to know it. Otherwise a lot of great staves would be fire- wood or fence- posts.
Mindful readers of the bowXplosion know this bow. It´s one of the bows I used as a sample for to post heat- treating as a great way to enforce and to shape a bow.
Next volume will be on some samples and more how- to pics of decrowning bow staves.
There are fatal errors in our life, there are average errors too. A great error has just happened to me, a great error is an error making you marveling finally. To call it a swindle is a bit excessive, but makes a startling title.
Mindful readers of the bowXplosions may remember: “Midsummer on hornbeam- mountain” and f.e. the following pic:
Here we are, rock and osier; sorry, osier is wrong! This tree is very common on the Belchen mountain, for whatever reason I thought it to be a kind of osier, cause there are a lot of osiers are around here. My neighbour is always calling osier rubbish, worth of nothing, even bad fire- wood, something to cut when it gets in your way ( a real Rambo- farmer).
Collecting some hazel- bowstaves nearby my farm, the other neighbour was passing by. We were talking about the similiarity of hazel and alder, both belong to the corylus- family, they are really easy to mix. But the wood of the hazel is white, whereas alder is red. He pointed at the slope vis-a-vis, asking me if those mulberries there would be a good choice for making bows?
Mulberry!!?? Mulberry is one of the best reputated bow- woods. Mulberry is highly estimated by bowyers in Asia, even the famous Korean hornbows are made with cores of mulberry. I´ve heard about some mulberries growing in botanical gardens in Germany or Switzerland, I guess there are more mulberries in some southern parts of Europe. “You are really sure that´s mulberry?” “Yes for sure, we´ve lots of mulberries here, even on the Belchen Mountain, my father knows them, my grandfather too. Ask the ranger!”
At home I googled for “mulberry on Belchen mountain”: I met hiking the Belchen mountain- reports telling the same story. How could I be so blind to miss this treasure, mulberries all around. I dreamt of making a mulberry- bow the next day.
Heading for to cut a mulberry stave with my big saw and an axe next morning, I passed the neighbour again: “Oh, you just try to get some mulberries, good luck, I´ve just talked with the ranger about it, he would appreciate you to cut that one beside the barrier of the forest track. He told me that the elders have called the mulberries “Mehlbeere” too.” Wait a second: “Maulbeere”, “Mehlbeere” is this the same? In German the terms “Maul” and “Mehl” are sounding similiar, above all spoken in rural dialect. I returned at once, googling for it: it took me some minutes( ages for google), but I came across a linguist clearing up the backgrounds: “Maul” and “Mehl” have been mixed up, almost in every German dialect the “Mehlbeere” became a “Maulbeere”. “Maulbeere” means mulberry, the english term for “Mehlbeere” was not easy to find, the common term is whitebeam, a former term is haw, sorbus aria! The German term “Mehl” means flour and so I had to think about floury wood, no way for a bow. But haw means a relation to hawthorn, a premium bow- wood, rowan another well reputated bow- wood belongs to the sorbus- family as well as serviceberry, a solid bow- wood too. All sorbus- trees are rosaceous plants.
I´ve to admit I´ve never heard about whitebeam.
Usually whitebeams- trees have a big trunk with thick straight branches.
The German term “Mehl” means flour: the berries of the whitebeam had been collected, dried and pestled for to add it to the bread. The whitebeam- flour is flavoring the bread and is saving it a longer time. Great, I´m a passionted baker, but the berries are still green. In fall, when the berries will be red and orange, I´ll go for them.
We have 3 neighbours here, the 3rd one is not a farmer but a kind of crazy gardener and above all a hobby- geologist, knowing a lot of facts about plants and stones and rocks. He told me the whitebeam to be a kind of hangover of very ancient times. More and more I´ve to realize that we are living in a real paradise here.
Again I went out for to cut some whitebeam, the mulberry- swindle was over then. I found a big whitebeam with a very clean trunk, straight branches, cut down about 2 years ago, not to much indications of rottening, just left for me! I don´t like to cut living trees and I whenever it is possible I´m going for dead wood. Woods like whitebeam are not worthwhile the needs of modern timber industry! In former times whitebeam- wood was highly estimated by cabinet- makers for its outstanding durability and beauty.
I debarked and splitted a thick dried branch, keep care of the short but hard and sharp barbs, a joy to work it, a very clean wood. Easy to shape with the drawknife guiding according to the fibres and the growthrings.
I choosed the very solid American flatbow- design: about 65″ in length, 2″ wide near the handle, tips are about 1/2″ in width, for to be become confident with the wood I worked the limb down to 3/8″ in thickness. The limbs could be bent a bit, I tillered the limbs step by step. The bow is not finished right now, I´m at about 25″/60lbs.
The bow is not ready, but it works, some tillerwork still to do, the limb at its left is bending to less. I guess I´ve to do some heat- treating for to straighten the naturally grown whipped ends.
Encyclopedias are telling me, that the whitebeams are growing all over the world, they even could stand heavy climate and bad environmental conditions. There a lots of whitebeam- bastards or hybrids, f.e. serviceberry and whitebeam mixed up. Whitebeam could be a big tree up to 80ft, or a small tree like on the Belchen mountain. It has been a favourite for making woodturning, handles for tools, even gears had been made of whitebeam.
As a bowwood I´ve to highly recommend it. Look out for it, there is an unknown treasure around.
And I´ll make up my mind for to see the things just before my eyes. Otherwise I´m a kind of robot, realizing nothing else but something I still have in mind. Like a programmed TV set. This planet is a miracle!
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.
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 hasbeen 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I´ve updated the Euonymus- bows article, cause I recently began the topic “Asian wooden bows” in the ATARNET. Alex S. a japanese member of the ATARNET posted a list of woods traditionally used in Japanese selfbowery. The ancient Japanese bowyers highly appreciated euonymus or spindlewood. Go to: http://atarn.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1590
I got a lots of emails asking for the basics of traditional bowery.
I´ll do a “How to make a selfbow, string and arrows- basics” until the end of April. I´ll offer it as pdf- download.
Now I´m heading for the Eagle Feathers Trading of Andy Schumacher near Zürich in Switzerland to run another bow- class. I´ ll report.