Author Topic: First bow build - white birch  (Read 586 times)

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Offline Jlynch4

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First bow build - white birch
« on: August 05, 2019, 07:20:39 pm »
Hi all,

I've recently acquired a beautiful knot free 65" long slab of birch 3" thick with two live edges, weathered for a year. I decided that I could split the wood and get two staves out of it and try my hand at bow building. I've read that birch is one of the toughest woods to work with, so I wanted to engage the community to get advice as I progress.

I'm aiming for a 65" flat bow with 2 inch risers tapered to 1/2 inch tips. Ive read that wide and long is best for birch. Aiming for 40-50 lbs as I'd like to use this for hunting.

I have split the slab, debarked one of the staves, laid out my design and completed roughing out the shape with a hatchet. Most recently, I spent the day shaping one of the risers out of the stave with a plane followed by a file.

I plan to have the other riser and grip complete by the end of the week, which will have me set to start tillering.

Looking forward, does anyone have any advice on whether or not I should use a backing on this bow? I've seen some people say it's not required and others swear by it. My preference would be to keep the natural wood as the back of the bow, buy I also dont want to risk my first bow breaking.

If you recommend adding a backing, what would compliment the properties of the birch?


I will continue to add posts as I progress and welcome any advice you all have for a first timer.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2019, 07:27:04 pm by Jlynch4 »

Offline Calendargirl

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Re: First bow build - white birch
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2019, 09:55:39 pm »
Welcome to the forum and great post!!
You shouldn't grow a wishbone where your backbone should be.

Offline Jlynch4

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Re: First bow build - white birch
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2019, 05:34:59 am »
Hi again,

Another question came up while working on this yesterday.

I noticed cracks on the tips of the bow. My assumption is that this is due to the fact that the original slab was left to season without having the ends sealed, so cracking developed.

Looking for any advice on options here.

Can it be repaired?

Can it be shortened? Currently 65 inches long with 2 inch risers until half-way. Do I risk shortening the bow to 60 inches in length? The longest crack is 1.5 inches long on one end and 1 inch on the other. My thought is to take each end in by 2.5 inches to be safe.

If I cut the ends, should I seal them or would the check already be done after a year of weathering?

Thanks all!

Offline Woodely

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Re: First bow build - white birch
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2019, 11:38:52 pm »
"would be to keep the natural wood as the back of the bow, buy I also dont want to risk my first bow breaking."    Sounds like the thing to do.
"whether or not I should use a backing on this bow?"  Others will chime in I don't build many self bows so cant say whether or not to back.
The only thing is I would of had more gradual transition in the fades,  but that's just me.   Good luck with the Birch.
"Doing bad work is an exercise in futility, but honestly making mistakes is trying your best."

Offline Hawkdancer

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Re: First bow build - white birch
« Reply #4 on: August 10, 2019, 12:35:58 am »
Welcome aboard!  Sealing the ends likely won't hurt and will give you a big of leeway, maybe!  I live in a real dry area and believe sealing helps.  Others may not agree.  Overbuild if you can -it is easier to take a bit off - and really very hard to put it back on! (SH) >:D (lol)!  Btw, I am a very old newbie!
Hawkdancer
Life is far too serious to be taken that way!
Jerry

Offline Jlynch4

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Re: First bow build - white birch
« Reply #5 on: August 12, 2019, 06:06:38 am »
Latest progress. Decided to cut down the bow to solve the cracks. It's now 62" vice 65".

Now looking at redrawing out my design and retapering the width of my risers to this new length.

On a shorter bow, think I should leave the tips wider or should I stick with the 1/2 inch tips?

Other work I did was fix the handle shape. I'm now going to start floor tillering.

Offline Mountain Man1

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Re: First bow build - white birch
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2019, 09:31:25 am »
I've never tried white birch but my first was made from yellow birch. it seemed decent but came in under weight and flabby cast. I hear heat treating the belly works well on birch so that might be worth looking in to if she survives tillering. As for backing it's a bit of extra work that may not be required if all else goes well, but certainly won't hurt and provides some cheap insurance. looking forward to seeing some more progress on your build, it looks like a beautiful piece of wood and some nice work done on it thus far. Best of luck and don't forget... if it breaks you can always make another.