Author Topic: Knots and Sinew on Juniper  (Read 786 times)

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Offline Marin

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Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« on: January 03, 2023, 01:43:01 am »
Hey ya'll,
I was curious about this topic as I have gotten conflicting answers. I am roughing out a Utah juniper stave for an Ishi/Pit River style bow. I harvested the stuff two months ago myself. The wood seems fine, though there is a "character" spot near the center where it sort of swirls due to a knot that was on the side of the branch, but as I am sinew backing it I think it should be fine. My question was this however: there are a handful of rather sizeable knots in the stave itself. They are not massive but they certainly are not pin knots. When sinew backing, is there any special treatement one should give knots?
I would think no, and I have inspected enough old bows myself to see that many of them have some knots in them and it seems they were just often ignored, though almost all of them were yew and not juniper.
I did however see another post on this website that suggested you should leave more wood on the belly, something I do with self bows but I haven't seen with sinew backed bows
http://www.primitivearcher.com/smf/index.php?topic=30471.0

And still another seems to suggest that if not properly dealt with, a knot can be fatal to a sinew backed bow
http://www.primitivearcher.com/smf/index.php?topic=52307.0

Bascially, what do ya'll do with knots when sinew backign? I've attached a pic of the stave I had so far to help clear up what I was describing earlier and am now curious if I should even continue with thinning and then the more time consuming process of preparing sinew for this bow if it is a lost cause. I've backed two bows before but have had them fail eventually for differing reasons, the second being the wood wasn't very good quality to begin with so I just want to rule that out.
Thanks for the help!


Offline wizardgoat

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Re: Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2023, 01:19:20 pm »
To be honest I try and avoid staves with knots when I want to build a sinew backed bow, just because of the time and materials involved I want the bow to have the best chance of survival.
For juniper, and yew, Iíll flatten the back and shape it how I want for the sinew backing.
For juniper, probably better idea to leave the knots on the belly a
Bit proud. If the knots are in your handle area just leave that area a bit stiff as well

Offline Marin

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Re: Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2023, 01:56:25 pm »
Thanks,
I did flatten the back, although since this is an Ishi style bow, it's more of a rounded back. I did however even out the contours caused by the knots, because that's what I saw in the originals. Do you still think however these knots are too big to make this stave useable?
Another issue I was running into was I had a major "swirl" in the middle, caused by the fact the branch I harvested this from ( I took this stave just from the top of a large branch) had a major knot on the side. I thought I could get around this, but looking at it, even if Iheat straighten this portion and sand it down, does the amount of grain runoff that would be present mean it would still not be good enough with a sinew backing? This is sort of related to my issue with knots, like if sinew backing can make up for grain runnoff or cutting through a lot of fibers on the back
I've attached some pics of the knot swirl I was talking about

Offline Marin

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Re: Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2023, 01:57:53 pm »
Also should note, I am plaiing inf straigtening this with heat (if I deciced not to start over with new wood) so there is a lot of deofrmation still in this stave. I am just trying to see if its worth going through the process of straightening and backing this if this stave just really isn't that good for a sinew bow.

Offline bradsmith2010

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Re: Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2023, 11:37:31 pm »
its hard to tell from the photos,,shape the bow to floor tiller and see what you think,,,
maybe make the bow a lower poundage bow,, and not draw it too far since the stave seems questionable,,

Offline superdav95

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Re: Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2023, 12:13:10 am »
its hard to tell from the photos,,shape the bow to floor tiller and see what you think,,,
maybe make the bow a lower poundage bow,, and not draw it too far since the stave seems questionable,,

Plus one on this.  Be a shame to spend all that time with sinew in less then premium piece of wood imo. But if you do proceed get it bending some first with floor tiller then see.   
Sticks and stones and other poky stabby things.

superdav95@gmail.com

Offline bradsmith2010

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Re: Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« Reply #6 on: January 04, 2023, 10:34:52 pm »
I will add, I made a bow from a juniper stave that was not that good ,, knots and such,, two layers of sinew,,got it strung and tillered, it shot well at lower draw,,, got over confident, drew it further than needed,,, and and it exploded,,










 a lower draw,, got over confident and drew it further, it exploded,,

Offline wstanley

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Re: Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2023, 11:21:09 pm »
By no means am I am expert on sinew backed juniper bows. I have made 5. I donít think those knots are too much of a concern with sinew. However, that swirls looks quite drastic and a good spot for it to fail. In the spirit of making a California style juniper bow, I would start over and find a straight grain limb with lout knots if you still have access to junipers.. All the juniper bows I have made have been split off a trunk. Itís a bit of a process but worth it for getting a knot less straight grain piece of wood. In fact, many junipers with stave removal scars on the trunk have been found in Nevada and I believe Utah. One tree in particular still had a basalt chopper/wedge still sitting on a limb of a juniper with a scar from a removed stave. I can send you a link to the article showing this. I have spoken with Southern Sierra Miwok in California  elders who have seen these trees also in California. Not sure if that was common among Ishiís people or the Pit River natives (Atsugewi?) to remove staves off the trunk). I have some juniper staves with a 40-42Ē length if your interested in them you can message me. May be  a little shorter than what youíre looking for. Anyhow, good luck. Juniper with sinew makes a hell of a bow.

Offline Marin

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Re: Knots and Sinew on Juniper
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2023, 01:44:36 am »
Thanks you guys.
Yeah the swirl seems quite risky so maybe I will set this one aside.
I was honestly just curious what anyone thought about this to be hoenst. I have heard of some people who even chase rings on already pristine bow staves before they back them, and others who just take any relatively straight peice of wood, knots and all, shape it and back it. Good to hear all of ya'lls opinions.
wstanley: I actually did the method you are talking about and yes I also have a copy of that article. Part of the reason I harvested this stave was to test out the method (spolier: it required a lot more work and the help of a tree cutting bow making friend to do this). I live in North Utah so there is a lot of Utah Juniper I have access to, though finding a straight, knotless peice is another question. this particular stave is half of one that we extracted from a tree using that method that you were talking about. With the bark, the trunk portion looked abosultely pristine at first, but it was only upon debarking and carving that the problems began to appear, such as the knots which ran very deep into the wood. The swirl was caused priarily because my friend and I wedged this off of a tree trunk that had a rather large knot on the side of it, which we avoided taking off but obviously the wood around it is not good.
The other half of this stave (I ended up splitting this one because it was beginning to crack in the middle while drying) is a little bit better and does not have that pesky swirl, so I may try that one. Worst case scenario, I just go out into the desert to find some more.