Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hickory Flatbow

Back in May, Levi and I cut down a hickory on Papa's farm near Cairo. I wanted to make several primitive longbows to hunt with, and wanted the bow to come from a tree that would mean something. We scoured the farm and after evaluating several trees, we decided on this one, growing along the creek near the pond. After felling it, I counted 27 rings.....indicating the tree started life somewhere around 1982-83, when I was 8 years old. The tree was a young seedling growing very near the spot where a creek bottom squirrel bit my thumb and I was sure I was going to die a slow, agonizing death from squirrel rabies. Years later, it was a proper tree one sunny April afternoon when I called in three longbeards from the pines and took the largest not 30 yards from it's base. Familiar.

My helper (and future bowyer) taking a break before loading the tree on the truck.

When using hickory for a bow, the wood immediately under the bark becomes the "back" of the bow, which is the part away from the shooter. Because you use the wood right under the bark (as opposed to carving the wood down to follow a single growth ring as with Osage or Yew, for example), cutting the tree during the growing season allows the bark to easily peel off in large strips.
When splitting the trunk into staves, its best to use wedges to allow the wood to split along its natural grain, as opposed to using a saw. Seal the ends to prevent cracking, and wait, wait, wait!

Watch those toes!!

Four hickory staves

Thinning down the stave to near-bow dimensions so that it will season faster. If the wood is stressed before the moisture level drops to, say 10%, it will take "string set" and leave a generally weak bow (or a broken one).

Ready to dry for several weeks.

3 months later..........A bow!! What I didn't take pictures of was tillering the bow, the most important part. Tillering involves taking small amounts of wood from each limb until they bend equally. I did an adequate, but not a great job tillering. Hey, it's a learning process. :-)
I wrapped the handle in Jute twine and sealed the wood against moisture.

Full circle.....Shooting the bow with a homemade cane arrow and stone point. Next up, a bow for Molly.


Bonnie said...

How interesting!! Who knew so much went into creating a bow.

tess said...

I second Bonnie! That's too cool! I can't wait to see Molly's. :)