Which wood available in the UK would make a good bow?

PLEASE HELP TO FUND ARCHERY INTERCHANGE

osprey

Member
Hi All

Many commercially produced bows are made out of exotic hardwood which is hard to come by, and very expensive.
So I was wondering. Which wood available in the UK would make a good bow?

Looking at UK timber suppliers the wood available tends to be the list below. Which of these would make good Back/middle/Belly wood for a bow?

Alder
Ash
Beech
Birch
Spalted Beech
Cedar of Lebanon
Cherry
Elm
Larch
Lime
Oak (British)
Brown Oak
Red Oak
Holm Oak
Pippy Oak
Burr Oak
Sweet Chestnut
Sycamore
Walnut

Sapele
Iroko
Dark red meranti
Idigbo
Southern yellow pine
Keruing

I must admit there are a few woods I've never even heard of (but then I'm no expert on wood)

Any help gratefully received

Regards
Osprey
 

Del the Cat

Well-known member
Yew, Elm, Sycamore, Ash, Maple, Hazel, Birch, Elder, Holly, Plum
All those will make a good self bow, some are better suited to a wide limbed primitive style.
I don't see much point in tri-lam bows, a slf bow or a simple backed bow is fine.
Some of the best/well proven combinations are Bamboo backed Yew, Bamboo backed Ipe, Ash backed Yew, Hickory backed Yew, Hickory backed Lemonwood.
Del
 

osprey

Member
If your interested, I was given an explanation demo of the benefits of triple laminated.

The demo went as follows
A small stick of Lemonwood was bent. It gave no warning just suddenly snapped.
A similar small stick of Hickory was bent. It creaked and groaned but did not snap until it was almost a full circle.

These two woods are obvious choices for the belly and back respectively.
Lemonwood is lovely to work with, has few imperfections and can be shaped as required.
Hickory is great at resisting breaking when being bent, but is nowhere near as nice to work with as Lemonwood.

Purpleheart was used in the middle. It has properties somewhere between the two above, but its main purpose is "to make the bow look beautiful" which it does. Greenheart etc can be used for this same purpose.

The only problem with these woods in the UK are they are hard to source, and they are extortionately expensive.
 

Del the Cat

Well-known member
Warning!
Sorry if the following sounds grumpy! 😲 I just get a tad irritated when people ask me a question and then after I have replied... they tell me what they think the answer is, or why they think I'm "wrong".

I'm often asked "What's the best wood to make a bow"
I answer..."The bit you have"😄:rolleyes:;)
Bottom line is, you don't get ow't for now't.
If you put in the time and effort you can find wood for free. If you share the cost with others to buy materials they aren't so expensive. Postage cost is high but it's better to go and buy or collect wood in person anyway so that it can be inspected.
If you harvest, season and process some timber, you'll soon find why it isn't cheap.
People often ask me how long it takes to make a bow... it's an open question, because if you include the time to find the timber, season it and decide where the bow lies within the stave, etc it is ages.
It took me about 10 years to find my first decent Yew stave growing in the tree, over 40 years ago.
I am interested, but generally only in first hand experience.

"To make the bow look beautiful" isn't much of a reason, unless you happen to have a purpleheart lamination languishing in your stash and you are making a bow for a lady who deserves some special effort..
Trilam all Done
The main purpose for a core wood is to save weigh or to utilise thin pieces which wouldn't make an entire belly. Form follows function and a good bow will be beautiful anyway.

To balance the grumpiness, I will often help people who take the trouble to visit by giving them a stave or showing them the processes and tricks.
Indeed that's one reason why I do my blog and post on Youtube... it started as an aid memoire, but has provided a good reference source for aspiring bowyers.
Del
 
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osprey

Member
Hi Del

Sorry if I appeared to disagree with you, that was not my intention at all. My post was intended for information and not a view point.

I just wondered why so many bows (especially comercially available ones) are made of laminate so I asked someone. The reply I got certainly made sense to me so I assume it will be of interest to other readers on here. The only other reason I was told and forgot to include, was that a self bow can have an unseen flaw in it the bow would be likely to break. With a triple laminate even if one of the laminates had a flaw the other two would hold it together for much longer. Again this is what I've been told and not my view point. I am currently just in the learning stage so haven't developed strong opinions one way or the other yet.
 

Del the Cat

Well-known member
Hi Del

Sorry if I appeared to disagree with you, that was not my intention at all. My post was intended for information and not a view point.

I just wondered why so many bows (especially commercially available ones) are made of laminate so I asked someone. The reply I got certainly made sense to me so I assume it will be of interest to other readers on here. The only other reason I was told and forgot to include, was that a self bow can have an unseen flaw in it the bow would be likely to break. With a triple laminate even if one of the laminates had a flaw the other two would hold it together for much longer. Again this is what I've been told and not my view point. I am currently just in the learning stage so haven't developed strong opinions one way or the other yet.
No prob...
Bottom line is laminates are relatively easy to make especially if the belly/and/or core lamination is pre-machined to a thickness taper. It is almost an assembly or make it by numbers job. That's why commercial bows are made that way. They are generally pretty good and reliable, but on the whole don't compare with a good self Yew bow.
A laminated stave is a good way to learn some of the basics but doesn't really compare to a self bow.
A "character" bow is a further test of the bowyers skill, where a stave with bends and knots is made into a bow... of course some people don't get it and think " blimey that's a weird bow" rather than seeing the skill craftsmanship and beauty in it. Some of the American guys take this to to extremes making snakey bows of Osage, which unfortunately is difficult find over here.
Best advice for learning to make bows is to jump in and have a go, even if you fail with a quick first attempt you will learn so much. I recommend cutting some Hazel and having a go :)
Good luck
Del
 

osprey

Member
Cheers Del

Will do. I'll take your advice and make a few "easier" laminates first to get a bit of skill tillering, whilst keeping an eye out for some Hazel.
Then test myself by making a self bow.

I'll let you know how I get on. Wish me luck :)
 
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