Author Topic: Looking for tips from Australian bowyers r.e. Bow wood (board) selection.  (Read 334 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Julian

  • Member
  • Posts: 21
So my last two bows from spotted gum were failures (as of about 10 minutes ago). I'm willing to keep trying at it, but maybe some of the other woods I have access to would be better?

Here's what my last bow looked like just before a clean snap near the fades.

https://imgur.com/a/Je0Kk

Here's what I can get as boards from my local timber supplier, in no particular order:

- Cypress Pine
- Spotted Gum
- Red and Grey Ironbark
- Tallow wood
- Yellow Stringeybark
- Blackbutt / New England BlackButt
- Northern Beech

Source: (http://demar.com.au/timber/flooring/flooring-lining/)

Thoughts?

Online cadet

  • Member
  • Posts: 68
I haven't used any of the ironbarks, but they're supposed to be good.
According to conventional wisdom, we're not supposed to be able to make bows from white cypress, but a few local bowyers are having some success with it.  I really like working with it.
What's sold as vic ash/tas oak is rubbish in compression, but can make a backing, and is easy enough to find in clean, clear lengths with little runout.
There's elm saplings/suckers with nice straight, clear trunks to be had if you drive around the countryside; I'm also experimenting with black wattle.
Come up to Kyneton some time.

Offline Julian

  • Member
  • Posts: 21
Kyneton's a nice bit of country; I used to live in Bendigo and I found several logs of Osage on gumtree once. Didn't know what to do with them at the time tho.

Offline LittleBen

  • Member
  • Posts: 183
I've never been to Australia, but beech is bow wood .... if you can find a straight piece.

Offline PatM

  • Member
  • Posts: 4290
What are considered Oak, Pine and Beech in the Southern Hemisphere are not the same trees we think of.

Offline Hamish

  • Member
  • Posts: 438
 Hey Julian, What State do you live in (Vic) ?  Of the species you have listed, I have used ironbarks, SG, Blackbutt, and Beech. The beech I used was Tasmanian beech, so it might not be the same as Northern Beech. Tassie stuff is nothofagus cuninghamii but I think it grows in rainforrest areas through eastern Australia, I also don't think it is a common commercial timber much anymore. It makes a nice bow though. She oaks might be worth a try if they grow near your area. I haven't tried but it is also called Australian Pine by guys in the US, and they have made good bows from it.

I'm not really a fan of our eucalypts, for bows. They will make a bow if the grain is right, but they can be fickle timbers, both in tension or compression.
Straightness of grain on the back and sides of the board, and freedom from knots or pins are what you should focus on regardless of species.

Osage  grows in the eastern states, if you know where to look. Black locust, oak, elm, ash, crepe myrtle can be got from gardens via tree loppers, if you keep your eyes peeled. Native desert acacias usually make good bows and the wood can be very beautiful.
Also I you live in a major city you could try timber sellers that have imported timber, oak, ash, south Am timbers.

 The bow in the photo has long levers. You might try increasing the width of the bending limb. If you haven't made many yet, focus on a bend through the handle bow before takling a more advanced design.

Offline colin1991

  • Member
  • Posts: 38
Spotty makes a great bow, you need to either A) be VERY picky with your board for the grain. B) back it with linen for practice and cheap alternative or C) back it with bamboo or timber (bamboo is excellent!)

Cypress is also a great bow wood if you pick a nice piece. Loves being backed and loads of reflex!!

Red ironbark works well for belly wood and I've heard of stringy used as self bows.

The others I'd steer clear of personally.

Offline colin1991

  • Member
  • Posts: 38
Had a look at the photo you put up of your bow. Too much bend in near the handle and not enough out near the tip end of the working limb.

In that bow design the whole working limb section should show a bend at brace and when drawn so you need to reduce the thickness of the tip end of the working section more in the next bow.  About 3-4mm of thickness taper would be a good place to start.

Offline Julian

  • Member
  • Posts: 21
Hey, thanks guys. I picked up a couple more spotted gum boards but I gave myself a bit more to work with this time. The bow in the photo I only had 58" x 1" and while it looked good to me at the time on reflection I understand why it broke.

Currently working on what I think is a pretty good board, 72" pyramid longbow 1 1/2" at fades to 1/2" at tips. Going to back it with linen. Hopefully I get a working bow, Keep u posted.

@Hamish - I live in Melbourne; there's a timber supplier near me but they only seem to stock Australian timbers. I do like the idea of working with aussie timbers though, to be fair. Can't seem to find oak or ash anywhere!




Offline koreybear

  • Member
  • Posts: 9
Hi Julian,

I have tried Red Gum, Spotted Gum, Tassie Blackwood, and BlackButt for board bows. The Red Gum was good; made a nice Sudbury that is still in service, though has not been shot for a while. I have a nice little Blackbutt bow. Made a couple from Tassie Blackwood; it is real light and flingy, but chrysals easily. I have two Spotted Gum bows still in service; these are my favourites, though I did spend some time in finding suitable boards.

For a board bow, Spotted Gum is your go-to.

I made a bunch from Ironbark staves, but found it to be unpredictable in its seasoning. It would twist up whilst drying, due to the wavy interlocking grain, or propeller twist whilst tillering. I was making a very cool snakey bow that I was real excited about; followed the snakey grain just below the sapwood, and roughed er out. At 1/2 inch thick, the snakey grain on the belly was exactly opposite the snakey grain on the back!  :o  I proceeded none the less, and heard that heartbreaking "tick" during tillering; a splinter had raised right at the start of the snakeys  (--) Is this why our first people would just throw it instead of bend it?

Frustrated with Australian woods at the moment, I have purchased a number of Osage billets from the 'States. Pretty excited about that. Expensive?..... yes; gonna make some nice bows?...... yes also!

That is not to say I'm done with Aussie woods. Discovery is all part of the bow attraction for me. I hope you will enjoy it just as much as I

Offline Hamish

  • Member
  • Posts: 438
Julian, Matthews Timber is in Melbourne. If its close to you it would be worth the trip. They have a site in Sydney as well, where I go and they are pretty good, for stuff like, oak, maple, ash, and some fancy exotics. They will also have spotted gum boards, a proper 1" thick rather than flooring. Once again straight grain, no knots is the key. I can't think of any others of the top of my head but there are more exotic wood sellers around Vic.

Lots of elm grows in Victoria too.
Aussie timbers, I like outback acacias, and some rainforrest timbers like saffronheart, scrub timber like Australian Red Ash(not a eucalypt) makes a really nice bow too. If you are still hard up for bowstaves,  PM me and I can give you the details of a friend that I go cutting staves with. He has osage, red ash, brigalow, and some others, in stock, seasoned and ready to go. Billets are short enough to go through the post(need to be spliced and joined), but full length staves need to go through a courier(added expense). These are genuine bow woods so you will get a bow out of them.


Offline longbow steve

  • Member
  • Posts: 17
Hi Julian, I have plenty of billetts/staves that can be posted or couriered. Osage, black locust, brigalow etc. Cheers Steve

Offline Hamish

  • Member
  • Posts: 438
Steve is the stave man I was talking about. A fine archer and talented bowyer too.

Offline Julian

  • Member
  • Posts: 21
Hi Julian, I have plenty of billetts/staves that can be posted or couriered. Osage, black locust, brigalow etc. Cheers Steve


I'll keep you in mind!

Going to work on some successful board bows first though. Thanks everyone :~)