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Author Topic: Okinawa bow build
Lighterknot
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This will be my first attempt at building a bow and other than a workbench, I've never made anything out of wood before. Going to try to search as much as possible to avoid repeat questions but I'm sure I'll mess that up a time or two.

Tree selection: Some kind of hardwood that I hacked out of the jungle with a small folding saw. It looks pretty straight but with as many Typhoons as we get over here I'm expecting some twist once it's split. Tropical jungle so bug damage is also a concern.

Design: I found a bow build that I really liked on Youtube that I am going to model mine after. 66-68" Longbow with slightly reflexed tips if I can figure out how to make a form. 2" wide limbs that taper down to 1" about 6-10" from the tips and I'll leave the tips thicker than the rest of the limb. I may back the bow with rawhide if there is bug damage that I have to go through a growth ring. No idea on the rawhide, I need to research that.

Tools: I ordered a draw knife since I couldn't find one locally so for now I've got a handsaw, splitting wedge, hatchet, rasp/file, chisels, small Japanese hand plane, and a knife.

Thoughts, concerns, and laughter are all appreciated as I'm sure this struggle will be entertaining

More to come.

Posts: 23 | From: Japan | Registered: Dec 2016  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lighterknot
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Here's the tree I cut down and a small branch from the top to show the leaves.
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The mighty saw.
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Hoping the small cavity just outside of center on the tree isn't an issue.

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KenH
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It's usually better to work with woods that you know, rather than some random tree hacked out of the jungle You could have the local equivalent of worthless balsa or equally 'worthless for a selfbow' ebony. There *are* good tropical woods for selfbows including guava and mahogany.

Also, hacking a bow from a fresh green log is not such a good idea unless you've got just the right wood. That works well with bamboo for some more or less primitive designs, but not so much for "carved" bows.

Rawhide, in a tropical setting, would not be my choice of backing material. Silk would be much better -- lighter and less prone to insect attacks. All that backing is for is to prevent splinters lifting.

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wood carver 2
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If I lived on Okinawa, I think that I would build a bamboo backed bow, or an all bamboo bow. If you can get your log sawn, you can use it for the core lam. You should first try and find out what kind of wood it is though. Try the wood data base.
Dave.
P.S. there is a huge amount of information here on Trad Gang. Search the files and ask questions.

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" Vegetarian" a Native American term for bad hunter.

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Lighterknot
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Ken,

What part of FL? I'm originally from Ocala.

I haven't heard of guava or mahogany being present in Okinawa but I will keep researching.

I was under the impression that it's acceptable to split a green log and rough out a bow and then let it dry before tillering. Are you saying that is only true for certain kinds of wood?

I did some research on hardwood trees here in Okinawa before heading out into the jungle and chopping down a tree. What I found was that in sub-tropical jungles the trees are very hard to identify from the bark and leaves alone. I am hoping that this is the camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora) which according to a website I found on Japanese trees is Japan's largest hardwood and seems to be a good choice.

info from site:
"Camphor wood is used to make furniture, in general carpentry, and as veneers and inlays. It is a favored wood in Asia due to its natural ability to repel insects, and for its lovely grain and color."

Never thought of silk as backing. I did read about backing being used to help with splinters, but also thought it added strength to the bow.

WC2,

At this time, I'm not interested in building a laminated bow. Maybe a bamboo backed bow will be my next project depending on how this one goes.

What/where is the wood database? Is that on Trad Gang?

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Msturm
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Hummm... the leaf pictured looks considerably different to Camphor... To me it looks a lot like mango in both leaves and bark. The only way to see if it will make a bow is to make a bow. Keep us posted!

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Keep yer stick on the ice.

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mikkekeswick
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I've no idea what your wood is but yes you can remove the bark carefully and rough out a bow. Leave the handle area 1 3/4 inch thick. Thin the limbs to around 3/4 inch for their full length. It is a very good idea to leave the handle full width (same as the limbs) until the bow is actually braced and you can see where the string lies. Then reduce the width of the handle.
Seal the ends once you have it roughed out and watch the thicker handle area for checks as it dries.
No need to back it unless the back is visibly damaged. Use the underbark surface as the bows back.

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mikkekeswick
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Good idea to seal the back as well once you remove the bark.
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KenH
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A camphor tree would smell of mothballs, just as a sassafras tree smells of root beer and an allspice tree smells of allspice.

That's not camphor, the leaves are too long and not wide enough as well as not distributed on the branches correctly.

The only backing material that adds significant draw weight to a bow is sinew. Flax strands (not linen) and nettle strands can add 6-10% to draw weight. Backing is either to add a wood with different characteristics (better in tension), or a simple shield to prevent splinters raising and that sort of thing

I live on the Gulf Coast down in Fort Myers, FL

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Living Aboard the s/v ManCave

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wood carver 2
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At the top of the page, below the ads, there is a line lettered in red: my profile, directory, search, etc.
Dave.

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" Vegetarian" a Native American term for bad hunter.

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Lighterknot
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Mango would be cool, I didn't see any fruit but maybe it's the wrong time of year for that. I honestly have no idea what mothballs smell like, but yeah from the pictures I've seen online and your input, maybe camphor isn't a good match.

Either way, I got it split and it does have some twist. Not sure if that's because of how I chose to split it or just how the tree grew.
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I am using the worst piece to practice on while letting the best piece dry. I sealed the ends of the best piece with wood glue and set it aside and started removing the bark from the back of the twisted piece.
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Even if these end up being nothing more than walking sticks, this has been an awesome experience. I spent hours in the garage last night working on it and really had a lot of fun. Wish I would have discovered woodworking a long time ago.

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Carson81
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This is how it starts. Be careful, you are about to become hopelessly addicted to making wood bows for the foreseeable future. [Smile]

That doesn't look like too much twist. Do some simple bend tests with your spliters and chunks lying around, when green and dry. By bend test, I mean, just bend the pieces until they break. You don't have anything to compare to yet, but as you attempt different woods, you will get a good idea of their qualities by simply breaking a few pieces of scrap.

Good luck!

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Make your own yew or osage selfbow Workshops -
Registration open for August 10-13, 2017 Class
And October 12-15,2017
www.surewoodshafts.com

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Lighterknot
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Thanks for the tip about the bend tests, that will come in handy because I can see this becoming a regular thing.

Most of the twist wasn't visible in that last picture but you can see it better viewing the entire stave with the bark removed.
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Also, on the belly you can still see where that hollow cavity in the tree was.

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Hopefully there will be enough wood once i get rid of that hollow spot to have a deep enough handle section.

The back of the bow had some weird grooves in it in places that I think may have been from typhoon damage. You can kind of see it in the middle part of the back. So I will be removing that layer of wood and judging by the ends and the growing season here there aren't very defined growth rings.

Does that mean I will need to back it to lessen the chance of splinters or the bow breaking?

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Lighterknot
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Starting to look like something resembling a bow
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Mad Max
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"nothing ventured ,nothing gained"

I hope it works out for you.

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"nothing ventured ,nothing gained"

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