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Discussion Starter #1
This was initially posted by edwinfarr on 9/21/2014 in my "Determining Tension in Bow Wood" thread. I feel it is deserving of its own thread and have re-posted it here.

Many folks start with the maples and hickories when attempting to build their first bow(s).
I am fairly certain edwinfarr's experiences and questions are shared by others.

I hope all who read this will benefit and share their own first bow building experiences as well.

Yesterday, 06:01 PM #3

Join Date
Sep 2014
Durham, NC

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!
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Today, 01:57 PM #4
Tom Turgeon
Tom Turgeon is online now AT Sponsor

Join Date
Feb 2014
Boise, Idaho



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 hickory 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!

Master Bowyer
Boise Bows and Arrows

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