Probably one of the most common questions is whether it is OK to make a bow from a
wood other than yew or Osage orange. Not only is it okay, in some cases it is more
desirable. Firstly, white woods do not need to be coddled in terms of the sapwood to
heartwood ratio. With yew and Osage, bark and outer wood should be removed to
produce a good quality bow. For a beginner, this is a daunting task. However, white
woods require no special treatment. Once dry, simply remove the bark and the exposed
wood instantly becomes the back of the bow.
Secondly, yew staves can cost $120.00 US now, while most people have the ability to go and cut down their own maple, ash, white oak, birch or hickory tree for little or no cost. Often, one can pull two or more staves from a white wood tree. I, personally, refuse to cut down a tree unless it can yield 5 bows. Sometimes this takes a bit of looking, like maybe two hours as opposed to the week or so it could take looking for the perfect yew tree - if such a thing exists at all. In speaking of the virtues of white wood bows, it's impossible to fully appreciate their value without first speaking about bow design and how it can affect performance.
If you have already made your first bow of some common wood, you will probably have found that the resulting bow has taken a massive set or amount of string-follow. Both of these terms refer to the amount that the bow has bent in the belly direction when unstrung. String follow or set is not a big problem unless the set is extreme (anything over 3"). Again, if you've made a white wood (common wood) you will probably have constructed a bow with anywhere from 6 to 10" of set. Set robs a bow of arrow speed - a factor that is very important in the construction of bows. Why? Because a higher arrow speed means that an arrow has a flatter trajectory, thereby making it easier to aim at varying distances. Additionally, if you're a hunter, you'll appreciate that arrow penetration into target is important to ensure a quick, clean kill. So how can we make a white wood bow with the same weight, arrow speed and poundage as a premier wood bow? Simple. Make your white wood bow wider (in the case of the flatbow) or longer (in the case of the longbow).
Most bowyers agree that white woods need a factor of 20 to 30% increase in width or length to equal the cast and speed of a premier wood bow. In the case of a flatbow, this amount only applies to the maximum width of the bow. In the case of a longbow, this applies to the entire length. Although 67" is by far the most efficient length to base a bow at, such a thing is practically impossible if making a D-Style longbow out of a white wood. In my experience, I have found 79 inches to be a good base point. This done, I don't have to adjust any other aspect or dimension of the weapon. With white wood flatbows, I always use 2 1/8" at widest point with handle remaining the same width and thickness as it would in a premier wood bow. Remember that these increases apply only to the widest point (in terms of flatbow) or entire length in the case of a longbow. Adjust no other dimensions, as these changes will do the job. Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of making bows from "white woods".
- Easily obtainable
- More choice of woods
- Outside of tree becomes back of bow (no extra work)
- Requires wider of longer limbs
- Not as "prestigious" as premier woods
Offered by Brian.