View Full Version : Bow Timber
I was wondering if any one new of a supplier of wood suitable for self bows.
Species that i'm particularly after are orange osage, yew, elm, hickory. Its important that I can follow a growth ring for the bows back.
It would be great if some one could help me.
Try Murray Gaskins - I've bought from him before and his wood is good.
Shipping prices are perhaps a bit high, but if you buy billets he can ship by regular postal service (about 40 US$ as far as I remember from last time I bought wood from him - it's quite a while ago though). Longer stuff like staves usually require UPS and thats about 120 - 160 US$ (for 1-3 staves) !
Billets are also cheaper than staves, but you have to splice them yourself, which can be a challenge if you don't have access to a bandsaw.
If you are looking for green timber then you can try tree surgeons, firewood suppliers, Forestry Commision (Forest Enterprise) also your County Wildlife Trust and large country estates, private sawmills. All of these for home grown timber, ash, yew, elm, oak, etc. Generally wood is cut in the winter but tree surgeons operate all year round.
The non home grown woods are available from specialist importers you need to contact a hardwood supplier (yellow pages) who will also have homegrown air dried and kiln dried home grown timber. For osage you need to find a hardwood dealer who also has exotics.
You can also try the archery shops who often sell a diy bow blank kit osage or degame etc.
My wee brother recently bought a copy of the Bowyers Bible; one of the recommendations for cheap timber was pick axe or sledgehammer handles, spliced at the centre.
So we spent some time on Friday picking over B&Q's stock of "finest" hickory...
If you haven't bought a copy of The Traditional Bowyer's Bible I would thoroughly recommend it.
I bought some hickory planks from Timberline in Tonbridge:
Timberline Tel: 01732 355626
Unit 7,Munday Works,58-66, Morley Rd, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1RP
Pequia, black walnut, and black locust can also make a good bows
I have found that hickory is a bit slow to dry, it tends to hang onto moisture in the climate here. I have made a few bows with it and unless I take active measures to keep it hot during work it tends to take a set, have too much string follow.
I do not know of anywhere that you can buy osage staves in the UK, I haven't even seen Osage boards, it is not a popular wood for that sort of thing. Makes good fence posts :wink:
You could try contacting people at:
There are a lot of bowyers in that group.
I have found several regular timber yards that carry ash and "hard rock" (aka sugar) maple lumber. Both will make good bows, if you get a perfect board you can work it down to one ring, but as long as the fibers are parallel with the board surface it isn't really neccessary. Boards can be backed with linnen cloth soaked in watered down Evostick wood glue (the waterproof type), this makes them less likely to break, something I was glad about when I started :roll:
I have dealt with Murray in the dim and distant past, great guy, has lots of good advice and sells good wood. The only hitch is the postage. He has a web site :http://www.murraygaskins.com/abw.html and posts on the Leatherwall over on www.Stickbow.com
For my money, if I was starting out, I would steer clear of yew and osage simply because of the cost and difficulty in obtaining them. There is a high chance that your first bow will not come out quite how you want, generally under weight :banghead:, possibly take more set than you want, that sort of thing. Better that this happen with local wood than you can replace. My first bows were from a hickory plank, they were backed with linen and took a bit more set than I would have liked, they were also ugly! :rolmao: I am SO glad that I didn't do my experimenting on nice expensive wood!!!
Best of luck. Let us know how you get on :biggthump
Thanks for your emails and advice. I'll have a look at the websites.
Yes I've read the Bowyers bibles 1, 2 and 3 and a few other books on the subject. A great read :biggthump
I've got my eye on a few tree's in my area that i'm planning on harvesting this winter. There's a particularly elm that when ever i drive past it, screams :yikes: I want to be a Mere heath bow :-P
I've a board of purple heart that came from a supplier who advertised it as bow timber but it's getting me confused. :roll: Any of you guys live in the Midlands, it would be great if one of you could take a look.
Keep the advice coming if you think of any more.
Ps sorry about the spelling etc... dyslexia runs in the family, a real paid in the back side :cry:
I've been up all night thinking about bows :shock: I don't know about you guys but these skills have an effect on my sleep!
I think I've figured out my purple heart. Chris, I'm thinking of backing it with rawhide. Should i back it before tillering? Is it possible to do it that way? or should I tiller it and hope for the best, and hope it doesn't splinter? :yikes:
Where abouts in Leicestershire are you? My parents live in Market Harborough and I usually visit them about once a month.
In the UK purple heart tends to be used as the centre lamination in longbows, belly is lemon wood, backing strip of hickory and centre lam of purple heart, green heart, or osage. Being the centre lam means that they don't do a lot of work, just add mass to the limb where you don't need it :rant: :rolmao:
I seem to recall that Tim Baker said that he made a whole bow from purple heart (Design and Performance section TBB1?) I think he mentioned that it was a bit splintery and needed to be a bit wider than its weight would lead you to think. I have never used it, just for arrow footings, I would probably aim for a flat back and a slightly crowned belly, about 1.5" wide. That could be overkill :?:
Definitely do backing before tillering!!!! The wood will have to do a lot of bending during tillering.
I hope you have a sharp rasp, that purple heart is hard stuff and my memory of working it for footings has it splintering if worked the wrong way with cutting tools (spoke shaves etc).
Any chance of you coming to the BCUK gathering on the 21st and 22nd? I will have my bow collection there for all to laugh at :roll:
I've never made a bow (yet) but I have worked a little with purple heart and I can second what Chris said, its not very nice stuff to use, very splintery and quite hard, might be an idea to find something more forgiving for your first attempts.
I've been thinking of making a bow myself, we have loads of Yew trees round here and theres not a single straight/knot free limb anywhere to be seen :( In fact I have trouble finding pieces good enough to make a spoon let alone a bow!
As a first attempt I'd use ash, fairly cheap so not too distressing is it all goes wrong and nice and easy to work with. On the course I did last Sept at the Greenwood Trust in Telford all of us made a sucessful bow (even if one of them was very light draw weight) in 3 days.
Mine is one scarey bit of ash when you let fly from a full draw!
Thanks for your advice about purple heart. I'm going to give it ago any way, i'll hopefully learn alot from it!!!
Chris, I live about 15- 20 minutes from Market Harborough. I don't suppose you know Swinford? 3 miles from Lutterworth. I'm new to this site, Is the Bushcrraft gathering, the wilderness gathering? I though that was held during the first weekend of September. I'm going to that.
The BCUK meet up is not the wilderness gathering. The dates for both can be found on the main forum index page.