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 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.
almost 15 years I didn´t take care to much for bow- woods like euonymus, hawthorn, blackthorn, wild plum, there are for sure some more of these little trees or bushes worth bow- making. I live in the heights of the Southern Blackforest in Germany , so I ´ve just to drive a bit down to the nearby valley of the Rhine river and there are a lot of hedges surrounding the fields of the farmers or a vineyard or an orchard. This region in the very Southwest of Germany is called German Toscana and it is really the warmest region in Germany. It is indeed a little paradise, but for the needs and dreams of my family it is overcrowded and somehow sophisticated.
But there is enough for to make a bowyers dream come true.
For almost 15 years I´ve done my job as a bowyer with the common bow- woods: ash, elm, black locust, maple, osage- orange, yew, juniper, for sure somemore. I´ve done sinew- backed bows like a Native American, hornbows like the Scythians, the Greek, the Mongols……………more and more refined bow- designs.
I have to admit: for some years selfbows were something like trash, no challenge to make them………………
In the summer of 2008 I was surfing the www a bit for selfbows, I came across the PALEOPLANETE- forum, there was just running a very heated debate focused on selfbows vs. hornbows. At that time I felt myself to be a fanatic-composite bowyer. What the hell these selfbowyers believe! A hornbow has to be the cream of the cake!
But some arguements of the selfbowyers made me suspicious: these guys are able to do very fast selfbows, as fast as modern bows, as fast as hornbows, what do they know, what I don´t know, what the hell I´ve missed in selfbowery
One of the side- arguements made me thinking: hornbows are bows of dictatorships or tyrannies, to make them, a very straight society is necessary. I´m a basic- democrat, but I´ve never looked in a political way at bows.
I gave those selfbows a chance, somehow excited I began to check the new designs and woods.
The new design is based mainly on the Holmegaard or Mollegabet bow with its long skinny tips, but done shorter than our ancestors. The woods I wanted to try are listed above.
I´ll add a pic and go on tomorrow, thanks a lot to all the PALEOS…………………..…………making dreams come true!
2 euonymus bows, made of the same stave, the upper one is made of the reflexed half of the stave, it draws 45lbs at 28″. The other one is made of the deflexed half of the stave, it draws 50lbs at 28″.
There are about 150 different spindlewoods, but the best known are euonymus americanus, euonymus japonicus and euonymus europaeus. Spindlewood grows as brush or as a little tree. Due to the shape of their fruits spindlewood is also called “cap of the pastor”. The fruits are very poisonous, 2 years ago 2 children died after having eaten them, attracted by the nice outlook of the colourful appearance of the fruits.
Spindlewood owes its name to its former use in making gear wheels and other parts of early machines.
I met it when in spring 2009 I came across a wood turner, who would never use any other wood for his work. Its historical proof as a bowwood is known only in Japan. Alex S. a japanese member of the ATARNET- bowery forum was so kind to post a list a bowwoods used in Japan. Spindlewood means nothing else than bowwood, so it is highly appreciated in Japan.
I can´t find any other proof of the historical use of euonymus in bowery
I´ll go on next week with some more euonymus- bows. Have a look at my article “A bowXplosion” here, it deals with a very special euonymus- bow and it is the origine of this blog.