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Thread: Bow Woods

  1. #1
    Member hntr's Avatar
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    Default Bow Woods

    Since there is a lot of talk about longbows here and there seems to be a few builders here also I was wondering if anyone knows if there are any good woods for making self bows in Alaska?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    hap
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    Quote Originally Posted by hntr View Post
    Since there is a lot of talk about longbows here and there seems to be a few builders here also I was wondering if anyone knows if there are any good woods for making self bows in Alaska?

    Thanks
    The answer will get a lot of different angles based on the old ideas that only the very best woods really worked which were beat up when folks started taking vine maple in particular and turning out snakes that shoot amazingly well.

    Working with the characteristics of the particluar wood opens up a ton of opportunities for good bows that will be a bummer to tiller and make folks laugh... But they can make a seriously good bow.

    For good straight staves there are a number of ornamentals you can sometimes find in the local (ANC) woodlot (just north of O'Malley on C, west side). Particularly if backed. I have found all sorts of stuff there including pin cherry over 16" in daimeter, pear, apple, crab and a lot more.

    Wild, native crab apple can be found down on the Kenai if you know when and what to look for. The biggest problem is finding trees of size. Using a sapling is a waste of time in my opinion and experience. The first inch or so of wood laid down is a form of reaction wood (juvenile wood) and has very short fibers. That is not a good thing in bow-making... It does not make a long-lived or powerful bow without a lot of luck and more than average skill.

    Willow is usually not thought of as decent bow wood, but there are so many in AK and they are so different I would bet there are some that would make fine bows. I would look for something of size at elevation if looking for a good willow. I have messed with some pieces of feltleaf willow that made me think it was really good wood. In the UK willow is used for cricket bats exclusively. There is no comparison between wild, slow-growing AK willow and the weeping willow of southern states.

    Do not waste time on limb wood. Get vertical stuff whenever possible. Limbs are also reaction wood. There is a neat difference between softwoods (gymnosperms actually) and hardwoods (angiosperms) when laying down limb reaction wood. Softwoods rely on tension wood and build wood on the top side of limbs, more than bottom. Hardwoods rely on compression wood and lay on more wood at the bottom.

    If you are going to try limb wood the tops of both types of limbs is better wood. Softwoods, because they make better wood when grown rapidly, and hardwoods because they make better wood when grown slowly. That immediately brings up the obvious problem that most branches come off the tops of hardwood limbs... Part of the whole anatomy of the tree is involved there. Usually the difference is visible when tillering a stave cut from the side of a limb.

    I used a ton of generalities here and there are lots arguments makeable over some statements... But I think I can handle walking out on this limb... Pun obviously intended.
    art

  3. #3
    Member Rick P's Avatar
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    If you can find a strait, clear enough section of alder it will work. The traditional bow hunters bible claims if you make the limbs wide enough at the fade outs just about any wood will work. I made a bow that was 3 1/2 inches wide at the fadeouts from birch. It was slow, had tons of hand shock and lasted about 50 shots before blowing up.

    A better option for bowyers up here is a board bow. AKmud's bows are of this type and I have built several as well. Several woods are available commercially in the Anchorage area that make very good bows including ash, hickory and purple hart.

    I'd start with a board bow then try alder if I had to have a native wood bow. Alder can be challenging to work. Get a copy of the traditional bowyers bible, my set is next to my sleeping wife but I think the first book has self bows and board bows covered. You can also take a look at the build along AKMud stickied to the top of this forum.
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  4. #4
    Member Rick P's Avatar
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    Hap

    I'm going to have to spend some time in the wood lot this spring! 16" pin cherry!
    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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    Quote Originally Posted by hntr View Post
    Since there is a lot of talk about longbows here and there seems to be a few builders here also I was wondering if anyone knows if there are any good woods for making self bows in Alaska?

    Thanks
    While not Alaskan wood, I have some red oak and black locust staves I'd be willing to sell pretty cheap. Just let me know.

    Jeff

  6. #6

    Default HUh

    I didn't know hickory was a native Alaskan wood! LoL !! While your out in the wood lot Rick see if you can find a couple of native Bois de' Arc (osage orange) staves. They are usually knotty but make decent self bows.
    " 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 !

  7. #7
    Member hntr's Avatar
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    I've got a couple board bows under my belt and am ready for a self bow. I dont want to break the bank on ordering a stave if there is a decent local wood. What about tamarack? I thought I heard that it was decent. May have to try alder i remember seeing some about 6" in diameter.

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