Best common wood for survival bows

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LongbowJake95

New member
I'm thinking of trying to make a really simple survival bow, just to see if I can do it. I've seen some good tutorials but the majority are US based so when it comes to reccomended wood to use most of them are species we don't really have in the UK.
The most common trees in my area are ash and birch. Does anyone know if either of these would work or which is the better of the two?
 

WillS

New member
Don't use birch, it's useless unless you know exactly what the density is and has super fine grain. Ash is a fantastic bow wood, but again it requires a very good piece to make a good bow. You'll find that using any old piece of English ash and making a basic bow out of it will give a fairly good bow to start with (provided it's tillered very well with no hinges) but will quickly take a lot of set as ash is prone to it.

That being said (and I'm not trying to be negative!) give it a go and you'll probably love the process far more than the outcome, and you'll just keep makin' em. There's a lot of skills required before good bows start coming such as careful reduction of staves, feeling taper and widths rather than relying on dimensions and numbers, tillering of course is a whole load of learning just on its own, finishing, string making, bracing and so on. It's fantastic fun though, and highly addictive so I say get out there, chop a bit down and see what happens!

In short - ash is brilliant. I bet you've got yew somewhere though, and hazel. Del The Cat on here is a big fan of hazel and will have lots of advice, but I've not used it yet so couldn't offer advice. I've used a lot of yew though, and it's very user-friendly - you can abuse it to hell and it will still make a decent bow. You don't need much of it to make a quick survival bow.
 

WillS

New member
Unfortunately ash being a white wood rots very quickly when left dead on the ground. It becomes hopeless for a bow the minute rot sets in, so cutting fresh is the only option.

Of course in an ideal situation all wood should be seasoned for at least a year before attempting to make a bow, but for a survival bow this isn't as important. Bows made from unseasoned wood will simply take a large set and lose lots of power, but won't break as a result usually. If it's a first attempt then seasoning isn't a priority as much as learning techniques that can be used for future bows.

Often people will cut down ash as a result of the dieback, so getting in touch with tree surgeons and landowners to let them know you want straight, knot-free branches and trunks before they chip/burn them is a good plan.
 

Del the Cat

Well-known member
I'd have thought there wood be Hazel in most UK woods... better working than Ash and where it's been copiced you have long straight relatively knot frr poles and thin shoots ideal for arrows.
Simplest survival bow, is two sticks lashed together at the thick end for the grip. If you are using unseasoned wood go long and expect set.
This post on my blog shows how far green Hazel will bend and recover.
Bowyer's Diary: Walk in the Woods
Del
 
S

SAS_1

Guest
I'm thinking of trying to make a really simple survival bow, just to see if I can do it. I've seen some good tutorials but the majority are US based so when it comes to reccomended wood to use most of them are species we don't really have in the UK.
The most common trees in my area are ash and birch. Does anyone know if either of these would work or which is the better of the two?
The best wood for a survival bow is probably Osage if you can get some where you are. Otherwise use the next best wood; paper money and buy a SAS Tactical Survival Bow at The SAS Tactical Compact Folding Survival Bow ? Survival Archery Systems
 

Raven's_Eye

Active member
Ironman
For pities sake!!!!!
Osage isn't found in the UK.

Best survival bow wood in the UK is probably Hazel, Ash, Holly Elm, Yew.
Del
It COULD be found. Depending on what the disaster was that you'd need a survival bow in the UK you could raid a timber merchant....though probably just as easy to raid an archery shop.
 

Del the Cat

Well-known member
@Raven's_Eye
Go and sit on the naughty step... else I'll send the zombies after you and then you'll be sorry. :duck:
Del
 

frustratatosk

New member
Just a quick note - If a tree has Chalara then don't take a bit of it and run around in a wood somewhere else!
Fortunately (and I'm touching wood like crazy) it hasn't yet manifest itself seriously in the UK other than in young imports.
 

WillS

New member
I made a super quick ash bow for a shoot weekend once with completely green ash in about 3 hours. It was 115#@31" when it came off the tiller, and 90# by the end of the weekend :D

It took 6 inches of set and had the return of a well-worn pair of Susan Boyle's knickers but I heat treated it back up to 110# and it's lovely now!

Some yew makes remarkably good bows when it's completely green. If you ignore the set and the slightly soggy cast it's brilliant for a "survival" bow that's really fast to make, and once it's eventually seasoned the weight flies up. That said, other bits of yew can be diabolical and just fold up on you past brace height. I'm talking about purely green wood here - literally taken straight off the tree.
 

WillS

New member
You know Matt, you could have tried it with some of that yew in Newmarket. There was plenty enough of it for experim... oh ok, I'll be quiet :mischievo :muted: :devil:
 
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