Author Topic: Red Oak vs. Hickory  (Read 3058 times)

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Offline chuckp

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Red Oak vs. Hickory
« on: June 26, 2010, 03:41:25 pm »
I've made 5 hickories. They are coming out better and better as I gain experience.
I have a very good supply of oaks, especially the red oaks. How does the red oak compare to the hickory. I assume I can just de-bark the oak stave like I do with  hickory and not have to follow a ring. Will I have less of a moisture retaining problem? Any differences that I should be aware of?

Offline Hillbilly

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2010, 06:19:54 pm »
You can debark oak just like hickory and use the first ring as the back. I greatly prefer hickory to red oak myself. If I was making a stave bow from oak, I would try to find white oak first.
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Offline ken75

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2010, 08:58:24 pm »
chuck the red oak in my opinion seems to be a little more brittle and wont take as much abuse as hickory , but still will make a great bow given its long enough and wide enough . by all means if you have it use it . and post pics

Offline J05H

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2010, 08:30:48 am »
Chuck, like the others said, Red Oak is a fine bow wood.  It doesn't retain moisture like hickory. Its not as strong, but it will easily make a hunting weight bow.  I've never used a Red Oak stave, but for availability, you can't beat Red Oak boards.
If you never have time to do it right, you'll always have time to do it over.

Offline chuckp

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2010, 08:33:31 am »
I have plenty of white oak also, just looking for a little diversity in bow woods. I love hickory, but I haven't tried anything else.

Offline Pat B

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2010, 08:52:18 am »
We hear a lot about red oak because it is readily available and relatively cheap to most folks here in the US. Other than that I consider it a marginal bow wood. I prefer white oak to the red and hickory over both of them. Even though hickory is a very hygroscopic wood, if handled properly and the finished bow is stored properly hickory(IMO) is a superior bow wood. It ranks near the top for me.
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline ken75

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2010, 10:11:31 am »
yay pat ! finally hickory shines !

Offline chuckp

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2010, 11:25:20 am »
Pat, when you say "stored properly", would you go into some detail? How would you store a hickory that:
1. Is shot daily.
2. Resides in the N.E, where humidity can be a factor.
3. Hunt everyday during the fall season.


Offline Pat B

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2010, 01:02:10 pm »
Store it inside your home with the A/C or heat going. Both will dehumidify the air. I live and hunt in the South East and we have high humidity here too. If my hickory bows feel "soft" because of humidity I don't shoot them.   If you have a hot box you can keep them in it on low heat(less than 100deg [F]) and a small fan running to circulate the air.
  The hygroscopic rate is different in each wood. With hickory that rate seems quicker to take on moisture but slow to release it. This doesn't happen in a few hours but over days or even weeks. I have hunted many times with hickory selfbows and hickory backed bows in heavy down pours with little if any weight change. Over a few days of wet conditions I start to feel the bow soften. Then I put it up and grab another bow.
  Also a well sealed bow can be dumped into a river and recovered later and still not have absorbed much moisture. It is water vapor and not actually the water that soaks into the wood. Left long enough any wood, sealed or not will soak up moisture if left in water but also from humid conditions.
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!    Pat Brennan  Brevard, NC

Offline hedgeapple

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2010, 04:25:33 pm »
Since I have very little bow building experience, I tried not to add my 2 cents worth.  But, alas, I"ve given into temptation.  haha
I've made 2 hickory stave bows and another has sinew drying, it's a little d-bow that was drawing 47 pounds before sinewing.  I've made one red oak board bow that crystaled after about 20 shots.  It was 43#.  Of course realize that it was bending just a bit too much right out of the fades, thus causing the crystals.  My opinion, if it had been hickory it would still be shooting.

Here' my observations based solely on my limited knowledge and experience.
Hickory is easier to work.  The red oad board was a pain to reduce to bow dimensions because the sureform would catch a splitter and gauge the wood.  A 4-in 1 rasp was not much better.  I had to use a belt sander (scary stuff) to reduce it, then all scraper.

The red oak board just didn't have the "spring" that my similar weight hickory did.  I know design styles might explain some of this, but it just seemed slow.  Now, it did put an arrow where I looked.

I have hunted on several weekends with fog, rain, freezing rain and snow with my hickory bows.  They "might" have been a wee bit soft by Sunday night.  But, I bet they still had better cast than a dry red oak board bow would have had.

If I were going to be hunting for a week in humid/wet conditions with no way to dry a bow, hickory would probably not be my first choice, neither would red oak.

Will I ever attempt to build another red oak board bow, maybe, if for some reason I don't have hickory or osage or any number of other better bow wood available.  Or, maybe just to prove to myself that I can build one.

Pluses for red oak boards, they're cheap and readily available.  And, I could probably have one built in a weekend and that's allowing for the glue to dry on the handle.  And, the make an "ok" bow.

Just my humble opinions :)
Dave   Richmond, KY
26" draw

Offline ryoon4690

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2010, 04:37:27 pm »
Given optimal conditions for each wood, if the bow is designed for the wood they should all shoot the same. Red oak will just need to be wider or longer. Design is key. I have a ton of hickory staves drying right now but while they do I'm going back to red oak to test my skills. If it turns out as good as I hope my new red oak bow should shoot as fast or faster than any bow I've made.

Offline George Tsoukalas

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2010, 04:49:37 pm »
I love red oak and hickory. I've made lots of red oak board bows. I like hickory too. I find red oak is less sensitive to humidity. Jawge
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Offline The Gopher

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #12 on: June 28, 2010, 07:30:53 am »
I think it was Baker who quipped about how thousands of years from now, archeologists will think that we prized red oak as the supurior bow wood to all others, just because of the number of red oak board bows that they will find.  ;)
45# at 27"

Offline NTProf

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Re: Red Oak vs. Hickory
« Reply #13 on: June 28, 2010, 01:17:07 pm »
I agree. A PROPERLY DESIGNED red oak bow will shoot with anything. I have made and shot sluggish bows of several different kinds of woods, due to bad design, overstressed, etc.