Photo Guide to Bow Wood Gathering

Guest
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11:06 PM - Mar 29, 2008 #1

I thought I'd add a photo guide on cutting bow wood. These pictures are from an osage cutting excursion I made last weekend. After hopping out of my truck and hauling an armload of tree felling gear down into a creek bottom, I set out to look for a decent osage tree or two. Typically, only one in perhaps 50 trees is straight, clean, and long enough to consider an entire trunk suitable for bow wood. One in 20 trees might offer usable staves on half the trunk, or have flaws mild enough to write off as "character". Over the years I've cut all of the former from my stomping grounds, so I'm left picking through the latter.

This tree cluster caught my eye at first, but the trunks weren't long enough (or would have only been barely long enough) to make into one piece bows. The trunks also had some mild twist, random flaws, extensive furrowing, and were grown together at the base. Some segments may have been fine for spliced billet self or backed bows, but I kept looking.

Last edited by Guest on 12:21 AM - Mar 30, 2008, edited 1 time in total.
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Guest
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11:18 PM - Mar 29, 2008 #2

Moving along the floodplain, I found this tree which showed some promise, but the bark on this one also showed signs of moderate twist and it also did not appear to be straight enough, for long enough, for one-piece bows. The bark pattern on trees tells alot about the grain orientation of the wood beneath. Bark certainly won't reveal all wood grain flaws, but you can bet the wood will follow the general bark pattern and irregularities that you can make out. The red line in this photo traces the moderately twisted wood grain revealed in the bark.



The bark on this tree showed signs of knots in the wood. Pin knot clusters, most likely on the lower two flaws. The small branch at the top of the photo is a dead giveaway of a large knot beneath.

Last edited by Guest on 12:22 AM - Mar 30, 2008, edited 1 time in total.
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Guest
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11:40 PM - Mar 29, 2008 #3

I finally settled on this tree with sister trunks. I've been eyeballing it for 8 years, waiting for the trunks to get long enough to be usable with certainty. It's not without a few flaws, but half of each trunk should be good for full length bow staves.



I tore into it with my chainsaw. Before long, I had it on the ground. If you've never cut trees before, I'd highly recommend you do some research on tree felling. Things will undoubtedly go smoother and you won't be "winging it" with life and limb at risk.



Osage develops drying checks VERY quickly. Often you can watch them form the moment you cut a tree down. To prevent moisture from escaping the exposed ends of the wood, you'll need to seal it right away. Shellac works extremely well. You can get it in a convenient spray can form, but be warned that the nozzles often clog irrepairably after the first use. Spray-on shellac also may not be as effective a sealant as the normal canned variety, since it contains chemical propellants which dilute the purity of the shellac. You can apply canned shellac with a disposible paint brush. Or you can store your shellac in an aftermarket can such as this one (available from lab supply catalogs), which incorporates a screw top lid with a built in brush. In any case, check the condition of your shellac before you head out to the field. Mine had set in the can too long and had gelled. It was worthless and certainly a cause for concern.

Last edited by Guest on 12:25 AM - Mar 30, 2008, edited 1 time in total.
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Guest
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11:54 PM - Mar 29, 2008 #4

The next task is to split the trunks into staves. You'll need a sledge hammer, a hatchet, and at least 3 or 4 steel wedges. (More wedges are better.) To start the split, drive either a hatchet or wedges into the corner end of the stave. It is much easier to start a split with a hatchet, but hatchets aren't meant to be wailed on and often break at the handle. (Save broken heads for this purpose if you trash a hatchet.) If you get a wedge started, but you find it bounces out when hit hard, start another wedge in beside the first. Alternate hitting on each wedge to advance them in a back and forth fashion. Be mindful, too, that wedges can and often do bounce out of logs by several feet when you hit them.



Once the log has began to split, place another wedge in the split and drive it home to split the log farther. On larger logs, it helps the splitting process, in terms of both ease and in keeping the split true, if you roll the log over and drive successive wedges in from opposing sides.



This is what you'll see as you near completion. If you get all your wedges stuck in the log and need more, you can use your chainsaw to cut makeshift wooden wedges from the scrap osage. (They work surprising well.)

Last edited by Guest on 12:29 AM - Mar 30, 2008, edited 1 time in total.
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Guest
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12:18 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #5

As you split the wood, particularly near the end, you'll find "stringers" of osage that have refused to cleanly split. Use your hatchet to cut through these.



At last, with no small amount of effort and alot of sweat, you'll have parted your log in twain. Splitting of course gets easier from here. Try to make all your splits where there are wood flaws, to preserve the cleanest parts for intact bow wood.



Unless you are fortunate enough to be able to pull your truck up right along side of an osage hedge row, the real work is likely to start now, in getting your staves out. After carrying each 20 - 50 lb. log split on my shoulder uphill for 300 yds though thickets that would rip the hide off any whitetail, each one is worth it's weight in gold by the time I reach the top. The uphill journey also causes me to be somewhat selective about what I choose to bring out. Just have to focus on the blue skyline when huffing your way up.



This is what I'm awarded after a few hours of work. Several full-length staves, some of which can be carefully bandsawed into 2 or more staves later, and a pair of billet sized staves for either self or backed bows. A moderate haul like this is comfortable to work with at home. I've brought home bedfulls of osage, and the subsequent time required in debarking and rough prep all at once makes you question why you would choose to do this in your spare time. Since my shellac was dry, I sealed the ends of each stave with molten paraffin as soon as I unloaded them from the truck.

Depending on where you live, wood wasps and other varieties of wood borers could begin to attack your staves through the bark, boring through the sapwood and into the heartwood, and destroying them in short order. To combat the these pests, you can spray the bark with Diazinon, a potent chemical which I, at least, choose to avoid with children in the yard and often under foot while I'm work. Or you can use a drawknife to strip the bark and sapwood from each stave (what the bugs love), and seal the back with several coats of shellac. Stripping the bark and sapwood while wet also saves extra effort that would otherwise be needed later to removed dried and hardened wood. I choose the latter and have been busy working at this stash on and off over the last week. Of course, if you are lucky enough not to have these devils around, you can omit nasty chemicals and still prop your staves in a corner to dry and work on at your leisure.



Hope this may be of some help to new bow wood gatherers! Have fun!
Last edited by Guest on 2:04 AM - Mar 30, 2008, edited 2 times in total.
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boerneaggie
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12:48 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #6

Thanks, Enjoyed it!
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badger5149
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12:54 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #7

I enjoyed that Adam, I have spent many unsuccessful hours hunting for oasge trees in Mississip while I visit there, I guess flood planes might be the place to look. Steve
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Richard Saffold
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1:14 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #8

Good stuff Adam! We have 3 osage trees here in Santa Barbara, and I hope to get a branch off one of them.. Permission will be required unless I want to post bail..

Rich
GoodlandArchery.com
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toxophileken
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1:55 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #9

Very good and useful tutorial. My limited experiece with black locust matches what you have presented perfectly. Thank you very much for posting this!

Ken
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wb canyon
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2:19 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #10

Thanks for the photo essay. I do not live in a part of the country that is blessed with osage but have had similar adventures(!) with oak and maple.

Lee
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Boomer
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2:27 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #11

They need to invent some "Winter Osage" for Minnesota!

Brett
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George Tsoukalas
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2:36 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #12

Very nice, Adam. I bet you'll sleep well tonight. Jawge
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Matte
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5:54 AM - Mar 30, 2008 #13

Thanks Adam, I've had some problems splitting wood but now I think I know how to do. Thanks.
Mathias
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scotty31691
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4:17 PM - May 25, 2008 #14

im 17 years old and just started to get into the fun of bowmaking but i need wood and i dont know where i can find the kind of wood needed in my area, and ive tried online but so far its all to expensive for me. can you guys give me some advice? please so i can get rolling
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toxophileken
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3:51 AM - Jun 02, 2008 #15

Welcome to the forum, Scotty. You have posted in a "read only" area, so you probably won't get any replies... Try posting your question on the Archery - Primitive Bows forum, and you will get some help.

Ken
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thearcher
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6:18 AM - Jun 17, 2008 #16

Awesome!
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wanabeprimitive
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2:02 AM - Jul 03, 2008 #17

I have A piece of crap electric chainsaw so im stuck :'(((((((
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spoons
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3:03 AM - Jan 28, 2009 #18

One tip from an old farmer who cuts wood, start your split in the upper end of your log. Try start ing your wedge in the end grain first might have to start two to male a split straight accross the ene of the log, after split starts it will tend to split evenlythe rest of the way. If you want to split one half of the split in thirds ie six staves per log, start two wedges in the small end , one for each stave then keep on leap frogging them on down, this keeps your stave more or less the same size from end to end doesnt split out to one side.
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