Small diameter rowan branch for a flatbow?

WoodenBow
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11:55 AM - Aug 09, 2018 #1

Hello everyone! I'm new here.
I've got a small diameter rowan branch, and would like to make a primitive flatbow out of it. The branch is around an inch thick at the narrowest end, and an inch and a half at the thickest end. The bow will be 180cm long, using the thickest portion of the branch, removing the very narrowest part at the top. I'll be aiming to make the bow around 30lbs @ 25".
My only concern is that this piece of wood is simply too thin to make into a bow. I've mostly seen flatbows made from a much larger stave spilt into halves or quarters, with limbs around 2 inches wide when finished.
Anyone got any ideas on how best to turn this stick into a bow?
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The rowan stave
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The rowan stave
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Simk
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7:49 PM - Aug 15, 2018 #2

Hi, I did some rowan bows and will do more. It's good bow wood for flatbows - thicker/smaller limbs are possible but risky, especially if they are not perfectly clean. Your stave has a very very small diameter - too small for a flat bow. I'd say it's not ideal. Though it will may be possible to do 30# @ 25" with a length of 175 cm and a bendy handle. Try it as an exercise and try to find a 3"stave for the next one. Good Luck
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WoodenBow
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8:35 PM - Aug 15, 2018 #3

Thank you Simk.
I will have a go with the tiny stave but if it doesn't turn out very well it won't matter. I'm only just getting started in bowery.
I do also have another stave, a bit thicker than this one, which I partially worked on a year ago, intent on turning it into a flatbow, before realising I had done the wrong measurements and put the handle in the wrong place. Silly mistake! Well I abandoned it for that reason, and it has been outside ever since. I thought recently that perhaps it could be salvaged and continue to be worked on? I would need to move the handle position but I'm not sure how to do that without shortening the upper limb. I had already begun to taper the upper limb towards the tip, although not at the very tip which is why it looks wider there. The lower limb hasn't been tapered but is naturally thinner. I noticed a bad twist at the bottom of this limb, and wondered if it could be worked around.
Do you think there's any hope for turning this into a bow? (By the way, I have only referred to the limbs as 'upper' and 'lower' because that's how they appear in the photo. They might not actually end up that way if you see what I mean).

EDIT: I should've mentioned that this stave is also rowan.
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Simk
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8:52 PM - Aug 17, 2018 #4

dimensions of that stave? length? thickness at the handle? thats what defines the possibilities. Where are you located? Isn't there maybe lots of hazel around? this usually provides much easier staves that can be dried within 2 weeks! my rowan...cheers
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WoodenBow
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9:26 PM - Aug 17, 2018 #5

Hello Simk!
Forget about that stave, it's at a friend's house and when I posted that I hadn't seen it properly for nearly a year (my friend sent me the photo). I've seen it now and it's far too short to make a bow in my opinion - about 160cm long, and part of that would've had to be removed to get the handle into the right place.
Well, today we began roughing out a new rowan stave. It's green, as it was only cut today, but we will let it season for a while once it's completely roughed out, the tips haven't been tapered yet. How long would you recommend to season it for? This piece is 190cm long, and about 4.5cm wide at the widest point.

We're in North East Wales, and all the wood I use comes from a bit of woodland that belongs to my friend. There's no hazel there that we could use, and I don't know where else we'd get it.
By the way, your bow looks great! And I'd love to have so many rowan staves!
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Simk
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8:45 AM - Aug 19, 2018 #6

Hi WoodenBow

This looks like a reasonable stave. You can speed dry it if you want: Put it in a warm and sunny place, e.g your car. completly removing the bark also will speed up a lot the process (it's easier to remove also when it's green). Be careful you dont damage the outer ring on the back when removing the bark. And Important: Seal well the ends and the whole stave in the handle-area with white wood glue to prevent drying-checks. Like this you can start the bow making process within 2 to 3 weeks... Cheers and feel free for further questions

[you can also start working on it when it's green - just don't bend it before it's dry. the less wood there is left the faster it dries]
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WoodenBow
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9:41 AM - Aug 20, 2018 #7

Hi Simk!
I've put it in the conservatory where it gets very hot at this time of year. Would a spokeshave be a good tool for removing the bark? I'll have to look into sealing it with wood glue - it's not something I've done before. There are quite a few knots on the belly of one of the limbs, and also a couple on the back. How should these be worked around in a way that won't ruin the bow? The limbs are already roughed out in terms of thickness (not the tapers) but the knots made that difficult on this limb.
Thanks for being so helpful!
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Simk
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6:15 PM - Aug 20, 2018 #8

Hi WoodenBow

Your welcome.

We now have different topics at this stage:

Most important: Check the string alignement immediately with a string/cord, attached on one side clampwise. Check if the string from tip to tip runs nicely trough the handle. It' doesent matter if it's not centered on the other parts of the limb. look for a good string alignement - try to find it for a safe bow of 175-180 cm for a 28" draw. you dont need the full 190cm you have. Use them to find a good alignement. If you have problems finding a proper string alignement, you can correct the stave now during the drying process by clamping it down on a piece of wood. You can also clamp it a bit reflexed with a piece of wood unter the handle. That helps a lot for getting a good stave and as long its still green it's a chance...

The Knots: Don't sideways remove any wood at these problem spots at this time...basicly there's the rule that the width of the limb should be wider (diameter of the knot/branch) at these spots. all grain in the limb runs round the knot...and sideways running out of grain is what you have to avoid, it's a n1 rule. you shouldn't let these spots stiffer because you will create two weak spots...also these spots have to bend properly...If you'd give me good pics of problem spots (also from different angles maybe), it would be possible to help more.

Proper bark removing: Is not really important for a good bow. Important is not to cut the back under the bark. I use a draw knife but don't cut too deep. The rest of the bark is removed with steam when the bow is nearly finished - it needs 3minutes of direct hot steam....after that i remove the rests with a scraper that is not sharp or with a strong brush. If wood is very fresh (yours is not anymore) you can also remove the bark completly with a big flat screw-driver, just lift it away...especially if harvested in summer. Spoke shave could also work for stage one...

Tools & techniques: Look at this vid, I really like how he's doing a bow.



Some things I do differently, but I think there's a lot to learn - he ist using very few and easy tools and the tillering process is very nicely showed - although i would highly recommend a tillering-wall... I do have spoke shaves but don't use them. Most importent things after roughing out is a rasp and a scraper...

Wood: You shouldn't cut wood during growing season. Although you have good chances to get away with it's not optimal as the last back-ring on the stave is not fully developped...Try to get in contact with other bowyers in england - they will know what wood you should have an eye on on your friends yard. If you don't find some, get a primitive-archer acount and ask about available bow woods in england...or ask here @ paleo planet. You could also look for, Ilac or black elder - both first class bow woods.

Cheers
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WoodenBow
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10:04 AM - Aug 21, 2018 #9

Hi Simk

I have checked the string alignment and it looks pretty good to me. I laid a piece of cord on the stave going from the centre of one end to the other, and the string naturally runs through the centre of the handle. I have attached a photo of this. I don't have anything to clamp it down with but perhaps it could be something to look into for another time.

Luckily I haven't sideways removed any wood yet. There are quite a few knots that happen to be right on the side of the limb, including one low down right where the limb would be tapering to the tip. Would it be best to cut off this section of the stave to avoid it and also remove the same amount on the other limb (to keep the handle central)? I've attached some photos of the knots from different angles for you.

I thought about using a draw knife for removing the bark but feared it might be too 'rough' and cut into the outer ring. Think I'll go with the spokeshave. Steaming the bow would be another new avenue to explore! I'll keep the screwdriver tip in mind for any new staves.

This seems like a good video series. I'll watch them!

The trees we have the most of are: English oak, rowan, sycamore, beech, silver birch. There are a few holly, hawthorn and ash trees as well. I know ash is a good bow wood but unfortunately all of these are large, mature trees which certainly aren't going to be cut down just to make a bow. I'll asks here about bow woods I might be able to find.
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Simk
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6:29 PM - Aug 21, 2018 #10

Hi WoodenBow

These are my thoughts:

I see some centered knots that are not too problematic - just leave the limb a bit wider there. I give you an example from a yew bow...the knot in this case  is completley removed to a hole. In my opinion a knot like that can't take any tension force but disturbs the bending with its very hard material. If in your case it's better to drill out the knot and refill it with a glue/wood-dust mix or just leave it there, i cannot really say. It's still a mystery to me. I have bows that have knots on the belly like this that made problems and some that didnt. I think with a flat bow you will get away with that. Maybe some real experts could chime in and explain...

I see some knots sideways: They can really be problematic i think. It's completly forbidden to have a sideways branch/knot on the belly of your bow. I'm about to do a little rowan bow with a similar problem; I was lucky I could rasp away the knot-wood and still have enough wood for a reasonable limb thickness of maybe 15mm. But: You still can see that the grain makes a wave in sideview and also a slight turn on the back, I tried to follow. I hope/think that will work...
In your case: How big your problem is depends first on the placement: If you can cut it away: Very good. If it's only 10cm from the tip it's also ok because this part of the limb anyway has to remain completly stiff. If its after the fades or in the main-bending zones we have to take a closer look at it and be very careful. If that's the case I need more photos that give a better idea of where these branches are heading to and where the might end.

English oak: ?
rowan: good
sycamore: good
beech: very bad
silver birch: maybe good
holly: very very good
hawthorn: very good
ash: good   

Cheers from Switzerland
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Last edited by Simk on 6:47 PM - Aug 21, 2018, edited 2 times in total.
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Simk
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6:34 PM - Aug 21, 2018 #11

What happens if a knot disturbs the bend (because the knot is very hard, has no compression-ability) you see on this pic.
Such problem zones must be considerd in the layouting process of the stave or, if inevitable, very carefully worked. In this particular bow I didnt success. Instead of a 60# elb design I got a 40pounder 😂 see the compression cracks at the side of the belly. I'm blaming the knot/branch - a hole-solution or a filling with epoxy or better tilleringmaybe had worked better. You never run out of problems. Fails must be accepted.
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WoodenBow
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9:54 AM - Aug 22, 2018 #12

Hi Simk

One of the sideways knots is about 8cm from the tip and could perhaps be cut off. There are a couple of others along the limb, in the main bending zones, with one being on the fades, as you might be able to see in the photo showing the string alignment. I will take some more photos of the stave and post them here when I have access to it which I don't right now.
Drilling out the knots that are in the centre of the limb then filling in the holes doesn't sound like a bad idea. That yew bow looks amazing. But perhaps I should just leave the limb wider there like you said.
Sorry your bow failed! But of course, it's all part of the process. Knots can be rather problematic can't they - if only it were easier to find totally knot-free staves!
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WoodenBow
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10:57 AM - Aug 24, 2018 #13

Hi Simk

Here are some more photos of the knots on the limbs. Hopefully you will be able to see where along the limb they are positioned. Sorry if it's rather hard to tell, this was the best I could manage.
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Simk
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7:39 PM - Aug 24, 2018 #14

Wi WoodenBow!

One good thing when working with knots is, that many of them just fall away when working down on the final dimensions. So always check/guess how deep the knot maybe goes and how much wood you will remove to get to final measurments...a caliper helps to measure limb thickness. I usually start with 25mm at the end of fades and taper it to 12-15mm on flatbows.

Pic 1: Looks tiny, so that if you shift the handle a little bit away from it and work down to the bending limb it maybe falls completly away. that handle looks long...You only need 10cm handle. I myself do 9cm...place handle 1cm under the geometrical center of the bow.
Pic 2: Completly ignore it.
Pic 5: Ignore it. It's in a place which anyway has to remain stiff or even better, cut away. I often work short staves because I dont like knots.
Pic 3, 4 & 6: Hmmm. Not easy to predict. Try to see, where the knots go? What is left of these knots in final dimensions (approx 16mm)? How thick is the limb actually, how wide is it, what diameter does the knot actually have and how much ist left to work down and eliminate the knot. Some knots soon turn into sound wood also.

I would therefore suggest, carefully working it down. As you work you'll see more very quickly. Important for better judging would be side profiles of the limb and the knots and a pic from the other side (above). I normally rough out the limbs before floor tillering to 20mm and 25mm towards the fades. I'd begin with shaping the limb width and reduce it 5mm each side. And always draw the lines with pencil before cutting.

Edit: My bow is now tillered 95%. It's 153 cm and has 45#@28"...see what rowan can take. no need for a 190cm bow.
Have Fun
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WoodenBow
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11:26 AM - Aug 26, 2018 #15

Hi Simk, sorry about the late reply

Here are some more photos of the worst knots, from side-on views and back views. On the back view photo I have drawn circles to highlight where the knots are. Hopefully as I work the stave down to the final dimensions some of the knots will prove not to be too bad at all like you say.
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Simk
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3:07 PM - Aug 26, 2018 #16

thanx - as i cant match mentally the different pics of the same corresponding knots it's still hard to judge. maybe you could tell which pics correspond to which pics in the previous post. also the dimensions would be helpful, thickness and width of the limb. sorry for complicating again (-; all in all i think you can get a bow out of it. by the eay: you can monitor the drying process by weight. it's dry when the weight remains constant. cheers
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WoodenBow
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5:53 PM - Aug 26, 2018 #17

Hi Simk

All of the photos in my last post correspond to the knots shown in the sixth picture of the other post, and they also appear in the third photo of that post. I'll probably be able to tell you the dimensions tomorrow, I should've measured it today so that I already knew. Never mind. I'll certainly do my best to get a bow out of it! Thanks for the tip about the weight, I'll try that!
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WoodenBow
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9:18 AM - Aug 28, 2018 #18

Hi Simk

These are the dimensions of the bow stave that you wanted.
Width across the limb at widest point: 40mm
Thickness the limb has so far been reduced to: 23mm
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Simk
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6:25 PM - Aug 29, 2018 #19

Hi WoodenBow!

Thanx for the pics.

My cautious predictions are:

Only the knot on the last pic is problematic. The others will probably fall away.

As I checked my rowan bows I measured a thickness in midlimb between 12mm to 14mm and they are 25-40mm wide.

If your stave still is 23mm thick and worked down another 10mm also this knot is maybe eliminated...it depends on how the knot exactly is positioned in the stave, which is hard to tell. You really will be able to judge only when working down. Work carefully. For sure the knot(s)affected the "straight-grain-flow" and caused the grain to flow around which you should also consider (see pics above). If  - while working - you realize that the knot goes deeper and deeper, stop removing material from it...the situation has to be re-evaluated and you maybe have to accept a stiffer spot.

Im curious of what you will get out of it. If you have further questions...post pics.

Cheers and good luck

PS: Only bend it when it has a clean surface on the belly. Always sand properly before bending again... It helps a lot to have an absolutely even thickness on both limbs before start tillering - you can measure it or feel it with your fingers (-;



 

 
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WoodenBow
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8:29 PM - Aug 29, 2018 #20

Hi Simk!

I would've thought 12 - 14mm would be pretty thin for the midlimb, but I'm sure you're right. There's still a lot of thinning to be done, especially on the limb in the photos that has all the knots. We roughed the other limb out thinner because it doesn't have any troublesome knots, but left that one very thick.
The grain has definitely been affected by the knots. Hopefully it'll be alright. I'll leave the limb stiffer if I need to.
Thanks for the tip about not bending it unless the belly is sanded completely smooth, I might not have known that otherwise. :)
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