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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
The tension side of the tree is what makes the best bow due to the fact that it wants to bend away from the bowstring naturally. The challenge we face when carving a bow out of a sapling or log is to "teach" the tension wood to bend against its natural resistance in order for the bow to reach its full potential.

Our trees in the USA* "travel" from East to West every day making the North-facing section stronger than its South-facing counterpart.
When building bows from trees I have felled for the purpose, I mark the North-facing section. I learned that little gem nearly a quarter of a century ago.... Thank you John Strunk. Much easier to mark a tree's North face while its still standing in the hills than to rely on memory.

Exercise:
Stand up. With your feet together face South and lean into the East and then to the West. Repeat this action with your hand applying pressure on your lower back muscles. You should be able to feel the tension in those muscles. Once you split a log into quarters, you will notice that without the South, East and West-facing woods' support, the desired North-facing wood will start to reflex backwards towards its outer bark. There are times this reaction will continue to varying degrees throughout the entire tillering process.

As a bowyer, you will remove material or tiller the heartwood in an effort to make the future bow bend against the way it naturally wants to. Once strung and shooting, the wood's memory will make the bow's limbs snap back to their original reflexed position.

Understanding the natural tension in wood and learning to work with it will make you a better bowyer and yield better shooting bows.

How many of us have purchased solid wood staves, followed one growth ring, tillered it into a bow only to have the limbs twist?
Which direction do you think that stave was facing while it was in living tree form?

Why are some bows sluggish and poor of cast?
Which direction do you think that stave was facing while it was in living tree form? The answers are in the tension....

Your thoughts?
You are invited to share your experiences- successes and/or failures. You can learn a lot from both....



* The USA is North of the equator. For bow woods coming from South of the equator, the South-facing section is the tension side and the North-facing section is the compression side.
 

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Thanks for this post, I wish I knew where the log I got was facing. In addition, I have a question and dont know where to put it on the discussion board.

I just got into archery and building bows a few months ago and this is my second project (first was a maple board bow that broke while tillering :().

I got a 18" diameter 6' long hickory log from a friend and split it into staves. It had cross grain and was very hard to get to split as the grains crossed between the pieces even when splitting. I want to make a sapwood backed bow out of them but cannot find any grains in the sapwood. I took off the bark and cambium layer currently. But when I sand, shave or otherwise take it down lower, the wood has no discernable rings to chase. Does anyone know what kind of hickory this is and if it is suitable to make a backless bow or is it likely to splinter and therefore need a backing?

In the photos you can see that the grain (for lack of a better word) grows in dashed lines not solid growth rings. Like it grows like condensation on a soda can each year so there is no way to tell how old the tree is either.

Thanks for any advice!
1.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
edwinfarr,

Welcome!

Thankfully, hickory* is one of the few bow woods that does not require one growth ring to be followed on its back in order to make a serviceable bow. This makes it a good choice for a first time bow building attempt. The performance of split log bows vs board bows vary which can be expected from any two pieces of wood.

I have used Pecan, Shag Bark Hickory and Pignut Hickory for self bows and bamboo backed bows with assorted dimensions and varying draw weights.

What a guy might do- if building an un-backed primitive type self bow- is to keep his limbs wide and flat and be sure to ease (and then round off) the edges.

You can expect hickory to "follow the string" due to its lack of ability to resist compression. This is more a case of hickory's general make up as opposed to the moisture content left in the wood after curing.

Backing hickory with rawhide, linen or sinew will increase production time and increase the odds of the bow staying in one piece during the break in period. Predictably, these backings also add to the maintenance of your finished bow. Sticking to a natural, low maintenance material for your backing, bamboo will greatly improve the bow's performance and help minimize string follow. Using a synthetic (fiberglass) backing will serve this same purpose.

By coincidence, just last week I had an opportunity to draw a hickory bow while in Ketchum, Idaho. It was a solo bow build by a friend and former student.... (hmm, funny how that works out!) He took his time, did a fantastic job and ended up with a really nice hunting weight self bow.

* This Link can be used as a reference to the different hickory woods that are available.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I started a new thread regarding edwinfarr's split hickory log stave/bow questions HERE

How many of us have built bows from hickory logs? Saplings? Boards?
What were the results?
Did the results encourage you to build other bows from other woods?
How did the performance of the other bow woods used compare to your first hickory bow?

I'm interested in hearing about your accomplishments and what you have learned....
 
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