bow staves Vol.3- chosing, splitting, ……….picture heavy!

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:

split failed, cause of a big knot

This rowan is dedicated to become a deflex/reflexflightbow, 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.

let´s try it again at the other end
progress in splitting- such great colours are coming up!
dangerrr- the split will cross the red line!
for to end up succesfully I´ve used the bandsaw to finish the split

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.

missed splitting- this stave has twisted fibers
the twisted stave- firewood!

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…………………..

easy to split black locust- first split along the core
very straight black locust trunks- so easy to split
checking straightness of a stave- string a chord over it as a construction line

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.

again checking construction line

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.

the rowan- there is a deflex/reflex- design inside
rottening has just begun- cause of water

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.

rottened- view at the cross- section

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.

splitting a whitebeam
progress in splitting the whitebeam
let´s go further.............
for the split the knotty end some blows from the other side are necessary
whitebeam splitted- one half is a deliciousn to do bow stave- the other half is firewood or will become a part of a new stairrail

One of the best rowan staves I´ve ever come across, one straight half,  so easy to split.

splitting of a rowan
splitted rowan- one half is a great knot free stave- the other half is firewood
where is the bow?

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.

finished- it took me an afternoon to get 1 whitebeam-, 3 rowan- and 9 black locust- staves

Bow staves Vol. 4 will be focused again on making bows of green wood.

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.