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basic bow making

basic bow making

Traditional archery bow construction begins with high quality hickory staves.
The next 'trick' in making first class traditional hickory bows with superior cast and little string follow,
 has to do with the moisture of the hickory stave. The moisture content of hickory should be about 10%.
 Hickory has the unique characteristic of holding together at lower moisture content than other hard woods.
Hickory has a naturally high moisture content and in stave form could take years to dry. For a faster drying method
we suggest doing the following (from the Traditional Bowyer's Bible by Tim Baker):
Remove the bark from a stave and reduce it to near finished bow width dimensions,
leaving the stave full width the entire length including tips and grip.
Place the stave in a location that is relatively cool and without much air circulation for a few days.
This will allow the wood to stabilize and avoid the possibility of drying checks appearing on the back.
Begin tillering this uniform width hickory stave until it just starts to bend when the tip is placed on the floor
and pressure applied to the grip (i.e. floor tillering).
Make sure the sides are square and the belly flat.
With a stave in this form, it can now be dried safely without too much worry about warping or twisting.
If it should twist slightly, you have full width limbs to readjust the limb layout.
When exposing the wood to rapid drying with heat and moving air, start out with low heat and no air
circulation and gradually increase these over a period of several days.
Temperature of 70 degrees and 50% relative humidity will dry a stave in about two weeks. Temperature
of 100 degrees and 40% relative humidity will cut drying time to about a week. A flow of air to all parts of
the stave will ensure uniform drying.
Where you live will dictate how much effort it will take to dry the hickory stave. Many parts of the country
have constantly high relative humidity (60-90%) and other places experience relatively low humidity levels.
The higher humidity levels will require greater efforts in reducing wood to acceptable levels.
Once stabilized, you can then continue working on your stave. In between working sessions, it is a good
 idea to place your staves back in the dryer as untreated wood can pick up moisture very quickly.
Once your bow is finished, put on a protective finish to waterproof it. Even with a waterproof finish, wood
will still slowly pick up moisture. Finished bows can be put back in the dryer occasionally to make sure the
moisture content stays low and protect them from developing string follow.
Good luck with your next bow building project,