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Thread: Osage longbow build-along

  1. #1

    Default Osage longbow build-along

    I thought I'd start this thread as a few folks have asked about building bows in recent months and I'm getting ready to start another bow myself. Plus, I figured by posting pictures of my progress on here, it would motivate me to actually make progress before spring starts looming and my attention turns elsewhere!

    JamesMac and I are going to get together and start building bows. Here's what I'm starting out with, an Osage orange stave that's been under my work bench for a couple years. Straight (with slight backset on one end) and no knots, should be an easy stave to work. Here's what I'm shooting for: 60" bow, weight in the mid 50s @ 25" of draw. I'm still toying with the idea of recurving the tips and making this into a take-down bow, we'll see.

    Hope you enjoy following along as the bow develops.

    Jeff
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  2. #2

    Default

    awesome man keep it up
    God Created Man Samuel Colt Made Them Equal

  3. #3
    Member
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    Oct 2006
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    Default Good Luck

    Thanks for taking the time to document the build. Really looking forward to watching your progress.

  4. #4
    Member Rick P's Avatar
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    Mar 2007
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    Palmer Alaska
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    Default

    Very cool! Nice looking stave, could you post a pic of the end so we can get a idea of ring count and early/late growth ratio.
    BHA Member
    Bowyer to the forces of light in the land of the midnight sun.
    The 3 fold way: Every step we take as we walk through life effects, our family, our comunity and ourselves. One should walk thoughtfuly.

  5. #5

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    Will post a pic tonight Rick! Though a warning ahead of time, the rings are incredibly tight, thickness one I can find it not even 1/16".

  6. #6

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    Here's a cross sectional picture of the stave. The rings are thin, really thin! Usually I like to do most of the wood removal on the belly vs. the back, but in this case I'm going to have to remove quite a bit off the back to get down to the thickness ring you see in the middle. Back of stave is at the top of picture. Will post more pics this weekend.

    Jeff
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  7. #7

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    Before I'ld remove all that wood I'ld just lay 2 layers of heavy Dupioni silk on the back with Tite Bond or liquid hide glue over your thin ring and make it bullet proof. Put some Watco walnut on it and the silk will look like rawhide.

  8. #8

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by DWLong View Post
    Before I'ld remove all that wood I'ld just lay 2 layers of heavy Dupioni silk on the back with Tite Bond or liquid hide glue over your thin ring and make it bullet proof. Put some Watco walnut on it and the silk will look like rawhide.
    Thanks, I considered that. I also have a piece of bamboo backing I could use. But I think with this bow I'll keep it all Osage with no backing.

    Jeff

  9. #9

    Default Stave

    Jeff, where did you find a Bois de Arc tree in Alaska ? I've never seen a horse-apple up here. LOL
    " Americans will never need the 2nd Amendment, until the government tries to take it away."

    On the road of life..... Pot holes keep things interesting !

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by brav01 View Post
    Jeff, where did you find a Bois de Arc tree in Alaska ? I've never seen a horse-apple up here. LOL
    Exactly, that's what makes my source so valuable

    Actually, when I moved up here, I made the moving company pack and ship about 25 staves. They griped that I was moving firewood...

    Jeff

  11. #11

    Default Curiosity

    Quote Originally Posted by shearej View Post
    Exactly, that's what makes my source so valuable

    Actually, when I moved up here, I made the moving company pack and ship about 25 staves. They griped that I was moving firewood...

    Jeff
    I was just wondering if you had a Bois de Arc tree in your back yard ! They make good bows. Movers aren't exactly the brightest bunnies in the forest, sometimes. Firewod don't come in 6 foot sticks !! LOL
    " Americans will never need the 2nd Amendment, until the government tries to take it away."

    On the road of life..... Pot holes keep things interesting !

  12. #12

    Default long overdue update

    Apologies for not posting an update on the progress of this bow. I've been working on it slowly and it's been testing my patience the entire time. Before even touching the stave with a draw knife, I knew the thin growth rings would give me fits if I tried keeping this an unbacked bow. So I deciding to put that bamboo backing strip under my work bench to good use. Thus, I'm now building a bamboo-backed Osage longbow. But that's exactly how working with Osage goes, you never really know how the bow will turn out until you're done.

    First step was to remove the bark and outter sapwood from the stave. That was pretty easy and straight forward. I used a draw knife for this step. Next came the hard part and is the step that has been taking me awhile. I need to decrown the stave to give the bamboo backing a relatively flat surface to adhere to. Easily done with whitewoods, not so easily done with Osage orange. I've decrowned staves before, but it's not something I like doing as it adds time to and complicates the process. However, given the thin growth rings of this stave, decrowning was a good option.

    In the first picture, you can see a couple growth rings along the back of the stave. The goal of decrowning is to imagine a line running down the center of the stave and having the same number of growth rings exposed on both sides of that center line. In the second picture, you can see a couple growth rings running across the stave. This is NOT what you want the finished product to have as the limb will flex across those different rings and that's a likely spot for a broken limb.

    I'm almost done with the decrowning process. Next update I'll show the decrowned stave and the bamboo glue-up steps. If there's one plus side to removing as much wood from the back as I have, it's that much less I need to take off the belly!

    Jeff
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  13. #13

    Default more progress

    Just like I mentioned in my previous post, working with Osage is always an evolving process. I thought I had settled on decrowning the stave and backing with bamboo. But I knew there'd be problems if the stave's back was not perfectly flat (didn't want gaps and big glue lines showing under the backing strip). Sure enough, when I had the stave decrowned it became obvious the bamboo would not glue flush with the Osage. At that point I was considering breaking out the belt sander and making the stave flat! But I prefer not to use power tools in the process, so after some debate I decided to try getting down to one complete growth ring for an unbacked Osage bow. And what do ya know, I pulled it off.

    Here's the before and after picture of the stave's growth rings. I ended up removing so much wood during the decrowning process, that I wasn't all that far off the thicker growth ring you see in the middle of the first picture. In the second picture, that thicker ring is at the top (or what is now the back of the bow).
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  14. #14

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    Here's a view of the finished back of the bow. One complete growth ring running the entire length of the stave. Tomorrow I'll clean it up with sand paper and draw the bow's outline.



    Jeff
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  15. #15

    Default unexpected surprise

    Tonight I drew the outline of the bow onto the back. Here are some of the dimensions:
    handle - 4" long x 7/8" wide
    fades - 3" long tapering from 7/8" up to 1 7/8"
    limbs - working area (14" long x 1 7/8" wide) tapering up to 1/2 " at the nocks (23" overall for each limb)
    total bow length: 56"

    When I started narrowing down the sides I noticed a split running throughout the entire length of the stave. Hmmm, the surprises just keep coming I knew it was going to split out whether I wanted it to or not, so I went ahead and wedged it apart with a hatchet. Might as well get any bad news out of the way before putting more time and effort into the bow. Luckily it was a clean split and left me with enough wood thickness on the limbs. Essentially what I was left with was a board, just over 1/2" thick. See picture #2. Not what I was hoping for, but not a total loss. Next I'll need to glue on a handle section and will try this stave like a board bow, though I shouldn't have to back it. I think I'll use black walnut for the handle section. Will be out of town for a couple weeks, so it'll be awhile before the next update.
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