Author Topic: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood  (Read 693 times)

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Offline Marin

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Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« on: March 17, 2023, 11:56:42 pm »
Hey guys,
Hereís something Iíve always been curious about. Iíve always only used juniper limb wood and tried to get wood from the upper part of the limb. I get why itís considered better: itís more dense and has more growth rings in this region. Iíve noticed that too.
I have been super interested however in looking into how bow staves were selected in the Great Basin prehistorically  (I live in Utah), and of course the first thing to read is Wilkeís article on bow stave trees.however, it seems that almost every bow stave tree they found has shown they usually harvested from the trunks, with a small number coming from the tops of large limbs.
Part of me wonders if it comes to the fact itís just easier to notch and wedge a piece of wood thatís on the trunk with stone tools then something that is on a bit more precariously located limb. Iíve run into the problem sometimes collecting limb wood, though Iím using metal tools which are way more wiedly and can be used in different ways than stone tools are. I also wonder if maybe trunk wood doesnít warp as much when it dries. Iíve often seen some lateral warping, sometimes even twist, when I let my limb wood season, which isnít too difficult to get out though I need a good clamp setup, something people in the past might find more difficult to deal with. The one time Iíve harvested trunk wood, it dried with almost no lateral and no twist. .
On top of all of this, with my few treks into Utah pinyon-juniper woodlands, itís very difficult to find a large tree with limbs big enough and not twisted to make a bow out of. It it however a bit easier to find a tree with a straight grained central trunk that can have a stave removed from it. Maybe other regions encourage bigger juniper growth, like in California and Oregon where juniper can be pretty big, but here in Utah the juniper is a bit smaller. On top of all of that, Utah juniper is denser than other junipers (at least thatís what Iíve seen with itís specific gravity number being larger than other juniper subspecies) so maybe the trunk wood is already pretty good anywaysÖ..

Thatís just my opinion but I havenít talked to many people about this

That makes me curious then: is there a major difference between trunk and limb wood in Utah juniper or do whatever differences that do exist only occur in the long run of usage (ie bow takes slightly more set when made from trunk wood vs limb wood)? Whatís your guysí opinion as to why most bow stave trees came from trunks? I would love to hear yíallís thoughts.


Offline willie

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2023, 09:32:05 pm »
Quote
I also wonder if maybe trunk wood doesnít warp as much when it dries. Iíve often seen some lateral warping, sometimes even twist, when I let my limb wood season, which isnít too difficult to get out though I need a good clamp setup, something people in the past might find more difficult to deal with. The one time Iíve harvested trunk wood, it dried with almost no lateral and no twist. .


I would agree that primitive bowyers would avoid the reaction wood  taken from limbs that tends to warp, all other things being equal, but maybe the higher density found in the top of limbs was worth the extra hassle.  I presume the primitive bows were sinew backed as are yours? in which case the wood property to be considered would be compression

Offline Marin

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2023, 02:39:36 am »
Yes I am talking about sinew-backed bows primarily.
And I guess that's the question: it appears most of these ancient bow stave trees have scars on the trunks and not the branches. Now thye could have harvested the branches by just cutting them compeltly off (especially smaller 2-3" ones) but I guess why go through the effort of extracting trunk wood if the branch was better?
So I guess my question is this; is branch wood really that much better than trunk wood? Or is the difference only slight, at least enough that no major performance issues would be found in a bow made of juniper trunk wood vs branch wood?

Offline willie

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2023, 12:07:59 am »
havent read wilkes article. can you post a link?

I cannot recall the source, but it was mentioned in some paper that NA bowyers might have notched a trunk to let a stave dry in place. if so, if a dried stave popped off the tree into a wonky twist, maybe its time to find another to start work on.

Offline Marin

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2023, 01:02:20 am »
Ah, sorry, should've posted in the first place
https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4v5249w9
What you just described was what was described by this article, so here's the citation you're looking for.
Although the whole thing about it drying in place was later disproven because conifers like juniper don't actually work like that and a notched section left for long enough will eventually heal, even if it still leaves scars.
It's that article that makes me wonder if branch and trunk wood, at least in some varieties of juniper, are really all that different to work with. It seems a lot of native bowyers didn't seem to think that expenditure of effort was a a waste of time, so it just makes me wonder.....

Offline Marin

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2023, 01:03:44 am »
And if I may also note, an ethnographic source within that article even says that some northern Paiute informants said they only ever used juniper trunk wood and not branch wood when making bows......which confuses me quite a bit.

Offline willie

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2023, 01:24:15 am »
maybe there is a comparision to be looked at in different bow designs, where some bows use a lesser amount of sinew, maybe just enought to keep the back from blowing on a mostly wood bow, (small game type?  trunk wood?)

as compared to highly sinewed bowdesign where a more suitable but challenging stave is called for?
(big game? or limb wood?)   just guessing here,


Were any of the researchers bowyers?, and even if they were would it be acceptable to speculate in a scientific paper?


Offline Marin

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2023, 02:39:53 pm »
None of the researchers were, but I'm just looking at the data. Like where wer ethe stave scars found, and almost all of them are found on trunks, very rarely on the sky side of large limbs.
But at the same time, maybe if a branch was used it would have just been sawed//chiseled off entirely leaving no scar. Maybe trunk wood would be a last resort? And so many bows would have been made at that point in history, maybe there just wasn't that many branches left in some areas and they had to resort to trunk wood.
And still, there's that tidbit from the Northern Paiute informant about the fact they only used trunk wood and not branch wood.....All I can assume was it was a single guy's preference that got extrapolated as being the preference for all Paiute bowmakers?
This is of course all speculation, I have only ever worked with juniper branch wood, so all I was curious if anyone else has had experience with juniper.

Offline willie

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2023, 02:37:08 am »
juniper sinew site:http://www.primitivearcher.com/smf/

paste the above search term into google, also

http://www.primitivearcher.com/smf/index.php?action=profile;area=showposts;u=7503
« Last Edit: March 22, 2023, 02:45:00 am by willie »

Offline Marin

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2023, 12:03:46 pm »
Thanks willie, Iíll look through these.
I guess there no conclusive answer so maybe Iíll experiment myselfÖ.
If anyone else does eventually come across this thread would love to hear their thoughts as well if theyíve experimented or played around with this already.

Offline willie

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2023, 05:20:35 pm »


Hopefully chuck has his email notifications turned on and can comment

The best incense cedar bows I made were from the top side of the branch..............

My favorite wood and the wood I have used most is juniper. Although I always back it with sinew, ..........

Sinew backed juniper bows I have made from compression wood harvested from mountain range islands in Utah and Nevada that recieve very little moisture have produced the best bows to date.

Offline Marin

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Re: Utah Juniper - limb vs trunk wood
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2023, 05:25:16 pm »
Yeah I saw that comment and thatís why Iíve usually harvested be ages or the tops of large limbs.
But as I said, it makes me confused why ancient peoples would ever bother with harvesting trunk wood. I can only conclude it was out of lack of good branches to make a bow from in the regions where bow stave trees are found.