Prepping bow staves

Prepping bow staves is a fair amount of work made easier with the right tools and a little experience.  The examples below have aged for about 6 years, 11 months in a dark, dry barn.  These are nearly all hickory and therefore, are generally easy to split if the grain is respected.  I use an old froe and hammer for most of my splitting and only resort to wedges or power tools in rare, generally green cases.  As most of the staves that I cut personally are 6’6″ – 7′ long, this is the time when they are sawed to a rough length; generally 65 – 70″.  They are left long initially to prevent any checking caused during the drying process to interfere with the bow.

These staves are massive and can often be made into two or three bows in the end.  Two from the outer portion and one from the inner.  This isn’t always true for some older hickories as the heartwood “sets” and becomes dark and brittle.  This tree was large enough and fast growing so doesn’t seem to be a problem.  It is difficult to tell from the photo above but this is an extremely large piece of wood.  It was weighed a few days after felling at 79.5 lbs.  It was weighed again, just prior to splitting at 48 lbs.  That is nearly 30 lbs (5 gallons) of water that evaporated.

The above photo shows the froe in use, prying the two halves apart without much effort.

The staves can now be safely de-barked, a relatively easy task on hickory, but not so with Osage orange (below).

One of the troubles with Osage orange wood is the transitional new growth on the outer (back) of the stave, visible as the white rings.  This wood is not useful for bow making and needs to be cleanly removed down to a single growth ring.  In the case above, several old growth rings will be removed as well as they are inconsistent and pinch out on the right side of this stave.  It is generally wise to choose one of the thicker rings to serve as the back as it is under a lot of tension during the draw.

This is about half the useful bow staves made yesterday with a “whole” stave on the right to show how they begin.  This one weighed about 80 lbs green but only about 50 lbs dry.  I’ll add more photos as they transform into useful bows.

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6 Replies to “Prepping bow staves”

  1. Have to tell you… you inspire me. Beautiful work… and inspiring philosophy. I wish everyone would only take what they need to live (and not what they want, or think they need to have). Again, you’re very inspiring. Thanks for doing what you do.

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