Suitable longbow woods available in the UK

osprey

Member
Hi All

What readily available woods could be used to make a reasonably good longbow?
I know Yew, purpleheart, Osage, IPE, hickory and other exotics make good bows but we are not exactly awash with these locally. They are even hard to find to buy and prohibitively expensive.

The wood we could probably obtain locally (from people pruning overgrown trees) are things like oak, birch, hazel, Leylandii, laurel etc. Would any of these make a reasonable quality bow?

Regards
Osprey
 

Del the Cat

Well-known member
If you limit yourself to a longbow it's not quite so easy. A primitive style with wider limbs gives more choice of suitable wood.
Ash, Elm, Hazel, Birch, Maple, Sycamore even Elder will make a bow.
If you insist on a longbow then they will still do the job at a lowish poundage (say 40# or less) especially if you make the belly slightly wider and flatter than the victorian D shape.
Heat treating the belly also helps stop the chrysals (compression cracks).
Google "bowyers diary", there is plenty on there and the search engine works quite well.
I've made 100# Elm warbows, about 70-80# in Ash, and Hazel.
If you are new to making bows, Id suggest cutting some Hazel about 3 or 4 fingers widths wide and 7' long. split it and season the best bits (with the ends painted with pva or any old paint to stop drying splits) You can rapid season one of the other bits in 30 days and have a quick go, you will learn so much by actually trying, but don't be disappointed if you end up with nothing.... even a 20# poorly tillered bow that shoots 50 yards is a good first step.
Del
PS. If you come across any straight limbs 2" thick of any wood (I'd avoid Willow tho') give it a try... the received wisdom about which woods will make a bow aren't always correct. Mind the skill of the bowyer is the critical factor, almost anything can make a bow if it's design suits the properties of the wood.
 
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osprey

Member
Thanks Del, I am new to longbow making. I made one on a course (Hickory/Purpleheart/Lemonwood) which turned out great. But it's different without an expert standing over me. I don't want to risk super expensive woods at this time, but if I'm going to put the effort in I would like a reasonable result.

My next project is a Ash/Greenheart laminate. I've got the basic shape but need to make a tillering rig, and learn the art of tillering without someone there to help.

Regarding the rational behind my first question, I've noticed locally that a lot of trees (especially Oak and Beech) get pruned by tree surgeons, but the branches then often just get shredded or used as firewood. This seems an almost criminal waste of wood, even if it is the easy option. I was wondering if a reasonable bow could be made with these unwanted branches, even if it required a backing of something more flexible like Bamboo or Hickory.

A primitve or flatbow would be fine for such a project.

Regards
Osprey
 

Del the Cat

Well-known member
There is a vast difference between making a bow from a glued up stave of machined laminations and making a bow from a natural stave.
A glued up stave can be made to be almost tillered first time if the core (or belly) lamination is ready tapered. Working with a natural stave is a process of successive approximation which requires "getting your eye in" to seeing the curve.
I've done several series on Youtube following the tillering of a bow including one where the tiller starts off very lopsided and is gradually brought into balance.
Have a look at this vid... a tad long, but there is a wealth of information hidden in there! (Along with a little grumpiness!)
You should be able to find some Hazel, Ash or Maple fairly easily...
BTW where abouts are you?
Del
 
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osprey

Member
Cheers Del

I'll watch those. I'm fairly sure I can supply my own amount of grumpiness too :)
Just the skill I need now.
 
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