It's very difficult to get hold of yew down here. it has to be imported, and it's usually very expensive. I've been wanting to shoot a yew bow for ages. The wood seems to have a mystic, if not mythic status. I've been able to try Osage, and Wych Elm, and a Bamboo composite. A couple of Spotted Gum bows that were in the State both broke before I could beg a go. I was not impressed with the Osage, felt like a yard broom and massive vibrations. The Wych Elm is OK, but I elected to back it with buffalo hide because I was worried about a big knot in just the wrong place. It seems a tad sluggish. The 5-piece bamboo laminate is as sweet as a nut, but doesn't seem that fast. Finally I decided to try a compromise, and managed to pick up an ELB (sort of) in the States that is Pacific Yew heartwood backed with bamboo. It feels very snappy (in the quick sense). I've only been able to try it in the back yard, but the test will come at the range tomorrow, where I can compare it POA at distance with my other bows. I confess I'm quite intrigued to see how it matches up, particularly against my AFBs. I am wondering if any of you guys have any experience of Bamboo-backed Yew bows, and how they compare to the real thing. Would they be in the same league? Any input appreciated. Cheers
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It's very difficult to get hold of yew down here. it has to be imported, and it's usually very expensive.
Blakey mate that is an understatement, I have a very nice Pacific Yew warbow stave sitting in my shed maturing and waiting for the date when I think I can do it justice. I have had it for just over a year and it cost me over $400 to purchase and get it to Oz. As it was quite freshly cut when I bought it I figure one more year of maturation/curing/drying and I should be good to go.
I have an Osage bow made from an imported "Kit" from Hungary, the stave was supposedly almost finished but when I got it I found the bowyer had violated pins on the back and not only was there little meat on the stave but it was deflexed, crooked and worst of all the early and late wood rings were barely distinguishable, which is bad in Osage. So having read up on the heat bending properties of Osage I set to with a heat gun etc. Everything straightened up nicely I even put a little reflex into the stave, however I failed to check its state of cure before proceeding with making the bow. I ended up with a beautiful bow but all the reflex and straightening I performed came out during the tillering and by the time I had taken the back down a couple of rings to leave the pins proud there was insufficient meat for the 90 pound bow I wanted, it ended up at 65 lb or so. Still it shoots nicely and I am considering trying heat treatment again.
You say the Osage bow you shot "felt like a yard broom and massive vibrations", I suggest that must be a case of either bad tiller or too masive tips. Osage being heavier than yew can have very thin tips/nocks.
As for what is best. Probably the best answer to that is to look at the results of the EWBS, their distance records with their various standard arrows are nearly all held by yew bows in the 130 lb range, these bows have outshot heavier bows of other woods and done the same in all but one case to laminated bows. The exception being the flight arrow class where a Bamboo/Iroko/Ipi bow holds the record at 438 yards, which is considerably more than the 370 yards held by a yew bow and 319 yards held by a Norwegian Elm bow. See:
Yew will make a great bow as will osage and wych elm (indeed any elm), however these 3 woods need very different designs to perform to their maximum. Simply saying osage is better than yew or vise versa is not fair to the wood! If these woods were made into ELB's of the same draw weight / length etc.. they would look very different. However they would all shoot within a few fps of each other, this is a fact - i've proved it to myself time and again. No wood holds magical properties - it simply has properties. If these properties are taken fully into account with the design essentially they will have equal performance. However when you start to look at laminated bows it gets a little more interesting. A laminated stave can be tricked into storing energy along the glue lines and you can glue a stave into any shape you want. If you get everything right a laminated bow will out shoot a selfbow.
I agree with Craig that your osage bow was 'shocky' it certainly had outer limbs / tips that were overbuilt eg. too wide. Regarding the EWBS records i've a feeling things might change this year...i've got some bows that I intend to be shooting and I expect them to do rather well.