Primitive Archer

Main Discussion Area => Bows => Topic started by: arthoz on September 23, 2017, 02:41:18 pm

Title: First time making a bow
Post by: arthoz on September 23, 2017, 02:41:18 pm
Hello everyone. I'm a long time lurker and only just now registered to become an active member. I have collected some solid bamboo to make a bhutan bow but still waiting for them to dry. However by a stroke of luck last week I've found a dead tree....Leucaena leucocephala or in our language "Petai Belalang". This dead tree is the reason I've come to reach out to the community. I've finally found my first suitable timber to make a bow.

It's a fine grained tropical hardwood that we normally use to carve into beautiful scabbard for weapons. With the help of my brother today we've cut down the 15 foot long tree---long but very slender. The bugs and grub just infest the outside soft bark but the wood is fairly solid. It's about 2 1/2" in diameter but took me a long time to cut it with a handsaw into manageable lengths. The timber is fairly straight with bending twist to one direction. I hope you are able to view the pictures linked here. ( ( (

I've stripped them clean with a makeshift drawknife and cut them into two: a five foot half stave (slender part) and a 7 foot stave (thicker bottom part). Now I'm not sure how to begin. With bamboo I could easily cut and carve them into shape but a bend timber is something different. Is there a guide for beginners how to properly mark and square them? I'm thinking of making them into a sort japanese maruki bow since they are already twisted in the general shape but is it ok  cut them into a sort of a flatbow? Hoping to make something like this person make: (

The timber is very hard. It doesn't bend at all. I'm not sure if the hardwood being extremely tough or it is inflexible because it is too dry and  brittle. Should I wet them a bit? I'm going to process some plants into thread fibres for bowstring and maybe as backing for the bow. I could plane a thin bamboo laminate for the back and belly of the bow.

Honestly I'm at lost what to do with them....

Title: Re: First time making a bow
Post by: willie on September 28, 2017, 02:05:44 am
welcome arthoz

with the smaller diameter, your design options will be somewhat limited,  a flatbow design will need to have the back decrowned. the maruki idea seems like a sensible one as they apparently were made from smaller diameter staves. I would keep the wood dry. The choice to decrown or leave the back natural might depend on the condition of the back.  Most like to harvest healthy live trees so they can control the quality of the surface that will become the back, as bows with imperfections on the back can break easily.  Can you post some close up pics of what you found under the bark?
Title: Re: First time making a bow
Post by: simson on September 29, 2017, 02:11:42 am
Good advice above from willie.
My tip: begin with simple d-bow design. Harvest a bunch of stave and let them season. The more complicated designs require better bow wood.
Title: Re: First time making a bow
Post by: arthoz on September 29, 2017, 06:28:46 am
Thanks, I've studied a tutorial earlier a few days ago on making a stick bow from greenwood branch by Stim Wilcox, very good guidance for beginners. The previous dead wood got some tiny hole so I'm afraid it might shatter when strung. Turned the small one into a scythe handle....the other I will keep for carving work and a walking stick, the wood smells really good to go to waste.

I've gone into the jungle part of my orchard and cut down some random tree for training. Got two small bow made and ready for curing so in two month time I could use them. Their shape is beautiful, the natural curve of the wood similar to a yumi bow so I believe that is a reason for asymmetric bow. The thickest is less than an inch in diameter but the wood seemed to be so tough I almost strained a groin muscle trying to string them. Not sure what species but they must be some kind of a hardwood, even the branch is very tough to bend. I had to put my whole weight to get them strung but not sure about the draw weight, will wait until it is cured first. I'll post the picture later.

Also for future work already started a stockpile of logs for bows and sticks for arrows...I guess now the bowmaking madness begins. Only concern I have is this unknown wood could easily catch fire. Threw the off cut branches and green leaves into a waste pile. There was some embers from fire I've started earlier. The whole pile just burst into a huge flame. I really need to be careful with the shavings.
Title: Re: First time making a bow
Post by: DuBois on September 29, 2017, 07:54:47 am
Welcome and best wishes.
These guys will steer you straighter than I could. You've come to the right place.
Title: Re: First time making a bow
Post by: George Tsoukalas on September 29, 2017, 08:17:39 am
Welcome, arthoz. I can't help you since I never used that wood but it does look like a challenging stave for a first timer. Jawge
Title: Re: First time making a bow
Post by: Hawkdancer on September 29, 2017, 07:20:39 pm
Welcome, Arthoz!  The people on this site are very knowledgeable about primitive skills in general, and especially archery, flint knapping, and muzzleloading.  Also may have an opinion on many other things with a grin intended.
Title: Re: First time making a bow
Post by: arthoz on October 07, 2017, 10:08:28 am
I've been doing some training...still need to change my habit from normal wood carving to bow carving. Working around knots and wood grain is harder than carving them into the shape I want. I've got several bow ready, carved them from greenwood and will wait for them to cure. Though I think most of them would break at tillering, best to expect for the worst. Below is the link to the pictures. ( ( (

The Petai Belalang wood look too old and there's some tiny holes. Also I've discovered an undesirable property of this's tend to split easily. The old wood got some splitting cracks in the middle I think happened when I was cutting it down. Also tried with some green Petai Belalang wood and they also split if I was not careful when cutting it down. Had to properly saw them from both side. Not to mention I was cutting one into a bow today and in the hot weather then end just cracked easily even as I was cutting it. So for now all this wood is going to my firewood pile.

But the other unknown wood is just splendid, easy to cut but very tough. I need to find a forest ranger to help me identify the species name.  Had a short hike to locate some more of them for future project. They grow tall and straight, good for both bow and arrow.

I like yumi bow for the it's technical asymmetric design but now by actually carving  them I think I found a love for small diameter bow. Cutting a full size stave feels too bulky in my hands and I think I prefer the slender ones cut from branches. The curves and knots gives them a lot of character.

But I'll wait until they're cured enough. Can't wait to try shoot with one.

Have a great weekend everyone.