link to Home Page

Bow Back

The back of the bow should be the side which is closest to the outside of the tree or branch if it can be determined (i.e. sapwood - particularly for Yew).

In many bows, the back is sometimes made in the sapwood of the timber, with the bulk of the bow in the heavy heartwood. Whether to use the sapwood or not is dependent mainly on the type of timber being used. Yew's sapwood has properties that make it ideal to be left on as the back of the bow. With many species, all of the sapwood is removed and the back of the bow becomes the first layer of hardwood found (See below for a fuller discussion on whitewood bows). If the sapwood is being left on to form the back of the bow, it should be thinned down so that it only comprises up to a maximum of about 1/3 of the thickness of the finished bow. Most of the strength of the bow comes from the heartwood. Bows can be made totally from sapwood of many tree species, but some slight changes need to be made in the following designs to accommodate whitewood bows.

To prepare to work the bowstave, the back of the stave should be worked down until the full length of the back is all within a single growth ring i.e. there are no rings or 'feathers' showing through on the back. This means following the grain no matter what twisting occurs in the grain and in the stave. This should be done with hand tools, rather than a saw, as it is probably the main reason for weaknesses in a final bow. If the growth rings are cut through anywhere on the back of the bow, it is extremely likely that this will be the place the bow will snap at. Once the back is cleaned down to the same growth ring, the actual bow can be marked out.

Offered by Brian.