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Thread: Looking to make a bow

  1. #1
    Member chrisWillh's Avatar
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    Default Looking to make a bow

    I'm looking into making my own bow and was wanting to use local materials. I was wondering if anyone has made a bow with local woods, and what would work the best. I'm looking at willows, like the diamond willow, but that might be too hard of a wood. I know Birch is too hard, and spruce splits and brakes too easy. Any local bowyers that can give me an idea what was used by the natives or what they use that's local?

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    There was an article in "Primitive Archer" magazine 2 or 3 (or 4?) issues ago by a guy in the valley that used local material. I think the title was something like "The survival bow". Go to there web site & see what you can find.
    "Hard" isn't really a problem in bow woods. Some of the better self-bow woods are Hickory & Osage.
    To be honest with you I think Hickory will be superior to any local wood.
    Vance in AK.

    Matthew 6:33
    "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

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    Member chrisWillh's Avatar
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    Thanks, they've got some good resources on their site. I've decided to go with either ash or hemlock for my bow and now just have to find a tree that I can harvest the wood from.

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    Best of luck with your bow.
    Let us know how it turns out. Win loose or draw I'll bet you have fun.
    Vance in AK.

    Matthew 6:33
    "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

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    you CAN make a birch bow though it's extremely tough.

    The Rock Shop just north of Wasillia is the guy you're looking for (his name temporarily eludes me as usual).

    I have a pile of osage slats for doing bbo's, along with a bbo stave, hickory stave, jeesh god knows what else stave.

    I'd go to the hardware store and make a hickory back hickory bow. About as fool proof as they come. ORDER the hickory backing (grain issues and thickness issues). Can use a lesser quality (grain) wood with the back then without which will help you finish a bow. Can do a hickory back osage, cedar heck just about anything for the most part. Though I would highly not use willow. It can be done but don't expect it to last!

    Look up Paul Kloster (norseman) on stickbow.com or tradgang.com.

    Hope it helps.
    Dan
    Fairbanks

  6. #6

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    White birch actually makes a very good bow and is not hard to work with at all. It certainly won't give you as good a bow as Osage or yew, but it is comparable to other hardwoods, if not better. There is a guy in the Traditional Bowyers Bible who is one of the contributors to the book and makes his bows exclusively out of birch. I don't have the book in front of me (its somewhere outside in a box) or I would tell you his name, but he is from Alaska. I made a nice birch bow that was very comparable to other woods I have worked with. Willow is not good at all from what I have heard, especially since it is hard to find one big enough to cut a flat grained stave from. If you are planning on glassing it, you can make it out of just about anything except cottonwood anyway.

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    birch is no beginner wood, make no mistake about it, learned that the hard way!!!!

    Doug Theiner is the guy you are looking for. out int eh valley. He is also the one in PA mag on the survival bow, and I believe is in the trad bowyers bibles quite possibly though I question all his bows are birch. He had a lot of other bows in the old shop in wasilla other then birch. He also mentioned birch is not all that great of a bow wood but it does make a bow. Bow design is the big factor for this wood. It didn't work so well for me so dont ask, my desgin didnt work LOL.

    I'm not sure where Ed Scott lives but he's also in the anchorage area and would be another good resource.

    Ed Schleif of Alaska Bowhunters supply is anohter good resource and knows where to point you. He can be found online.

    The traditional bowhunters of Alaska is a group who makes bows on a regular basis and would be another good place to look for info etc. I believe you can find a link to this group off the ABA web page. I'm not a member and dont have their web addy but I'm sure someone who has it will chim right in with it.


    You can find these people by contacting any of the groups (ABA< black sheep, etc), or Striaght flight arrow company Brian Stewart, Bill at backwoods archery. You might try and find Loel Banzhoff (husband to ABA pres), he atleast ran with this crowd. Or Martin Farris, whom you can find at shoots and such. Just ask around.

    There is really nos uch thing as to hard of a wood, realize bows are made of horn and sinew, how hard is horn? Harder then most woods I'd bet. Atleast harder then ALL woods found in AK.

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    Default Hickory makes a great bow!!

    I have made a couple bows, killed my first real nice buck with an osage self bow. What an incredible day that was!!

    Osage is my favorite wood to use but hard to work with. I started using hickory and what a treat.

    You can buy long straight clean staves and all you need to do is remove the bark and the back of your bow is finished. No need to dig down into the stave and follow that every so important growth ring. Just get the moisture content down and it is great. Hard as nails too.

    Like others said just make sure to use the proper design per the wood you choose. I went through many pieces of wood trying to use the pattern I wanted and not then one the wood would work best with.

    Birch will work. I just looked in Volume I of Traditional Bowyers Bible and in the chapter Other Woods they list birch as making a good bow. Think it said 2 inch wide limbs and 66 inch length.

    One other thing, listen to everything you read and approach the tillering phase with patients and determination. DO NOT TRY TO HURRY THIS!!!!! Again I speak from experience.. Hardheaded I guess!

    In the end it is most rewarding to kill game with a selfbow.
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    Member chrisWillh's Avatar
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    I've gotten a lot of good advice from all of you and I've learned a bit. The more I learn, the more I find I want to learn. I'm not afraid to admit that I am a beginner here and that is one reaso I was looking for local woods to help keep the cost down. I know I am going to make some mistakes and the price of good osage staves is a little prohibitive to someone just starting out. That is a nice looking buck by the way, and a nice bow. Thanks for all of the advice and help.

    I'll keep you posted as I find the right pice of wood for my first attempt and begin seasoning it.

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    Moderator Paul H's Avatar
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    Traditional bowhunter had a 4 part series on traditional Alaskan bows, and I believe they still have backcopies.

    To me if one wanted to approach it, it seems the bow should be made from local materials and in traditional methods.

    I have learned an even greater respect for the native peoples by studying their bows that were made with the limitations of local materials. I haven't personally tackled the project.

    I'd suggest getting the traditional bowyer's bibles, and also searching the net for info on board bows. Go to home depot and sort through the red oak to find a suitable board, you'll likely find one in the pile with decent grain flow. Make a few board bows to learn the basics of tillering and bowmaking. Then procede to more advanced designs.

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    make some hickory backed hickory bows. That'd be a great place to start. You'd probably have to order (or have Brian Stewart) order them for you. But it'd be cheap!!!

    I tried that 2" and 68" birch bows, boy I tell ya, birch aint what it's cracked up to be. It started to bend so good it just bent right over, KERPOW!!! Have built a hickory self bow and a couple attempts at boo backed hickory bows, have some bbo's in the makings. Birch is by far not the easiest wood to work with!!!! For a beginner it might be enough to turn you from bow building.

    I believe hemlock is only found in southeast on the islands?

    Look at the board bows, believe it was done by Paul Comstock, there is also an article on them in TBB's, and also in PA mag it's a quite frequently written about topic.


    Another thing, you might check out Primitive Archery mags web page, they ahve forums and some major bow building addicts that visit the site. Look for Marc St Louis, DCM (whose tiller is outstanding). There is another young guy on Tradgang.com whose building some darn fine looking boo backed bows. Tiller is spot on!!!! There was one recently just a few days ago. I believe it was a bamboo backed yew bow.

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    Moderator kingfisherktn's Avatar
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    Smile Hemlock

    We have Western Hemlock in SE AK, is that bow material?

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    Member chrisWillh's Avatar
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    I do have access to hickory. My father-in-law owns some timber land in Louisiana and usually drives down once a year to bring back some wood for smoking. I could probably convince him to bring me up some good cuttings and try making staves from that.

    I was also thinking about trying a board bow from some untreated white oak or something similar. I was also talking to my father-in-law about making a self bow and he actually recommended using a cutting from a lilac tree that he has in his yard. He used a cutting from it in his greenhouse for his tomatoes and was surprised at how similar it was to other hard woods. I've done some reading and it is a hardwood, but it tends to twist and split into smaller sticks during drying.

    My wife used to make self bows from what she calls the tulies, but she's never been able to tell me what she was realy using.

  14. #14

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    I didn't have any trouble with birch, and I am by no means a bowyer. I had worked with birch in sledbuilding, so I did have a little experience. I also made a laminated bow, so if you are using a solid stave you may have more trouble, but I don't consider laminating to be a stray from traditional bow making, native Alaskans used laminations to a degree in sled building, for instance, on the brush bows. Fiberglassing, of course, is getting away from traditional methods. It all depends on what you want out of it. Personally, I like the idea of making a bow out of birch from the very woods you will be hunting in. When steaming or submersing birch in hot water, don't overdo it or you will get the over-bending effect already described by someone above. Birch is better used as a short stocky bow, or if you feel brave and are willing to put the work in, try a heavy-limbed recurve. Thats just my experience and 2 cents.

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