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I thought it might be of interest to some to give a quick overview of how I make a  laminated bow stave. I'm not for one minute suggesting this the definitive description of the method, more a brief picture diary. There is an almost countless number of permutations with near infinite number of variations for you to choose from when making your stave-

  • which woods - often determined by availability, suitability and/or cost (not necessarily in that order)
  • how many laminations - glue lines store energy, but more laminates require more work and more resources
  • what thicknesses of each - the quality of the woods use can be a factor, as well as the effects of the individual characteristics of each wood on the finished bow.
  • grain orientation - edge grain is much quicker to produce but single growth ring backing can make a superior bow
  • which adhesives - this is a huge area with a lot of controversy but in general it depends to large degree on the woods used

None of which I will cover here(ha!). I will simply say the vast majority of longbows will have-

  • hickory, bamboo (maybe maple) back
  • purpleheart, greenheart(maybe ipe) core
  • lemonwood, ipe belly

If your lucky you may have yew or osage somewhere in there.

(Right click  and select "View Image" to see the picture full size.Depending on your browser settings you will have to hit the "Back" button or close the tab/window to return here)

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First of all I select the wood I'm going to use

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from left to right- lemonwood(degame-good belly wood) iroko, golden iroko,(not the best core woods in the world) hickory(excellent backing wood).

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As can be seen from the above, a little bit of work will need to be done on the "off the shelf" plank before laminating can begin.

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I'll rip the edges square(this plank has a bit of a belly in it) and then rip the(oversized) laminates I want from the different woods

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This piece of golden iroko was cut straight from the edge of a straight plank and shows the tensions within the wood. The right-hand side was on the outside and is therefore drier and so shorter, hence the wood bends( I've found this wood is particularly prone to this). It will straighten up over time as the wood normalizes .The next lath cut came out reasonably straight.

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I've cut enough laminates for two staves as I had some ash I wished to use up.

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The planer thicknesser reduces the laths to the thicknesses I want, while also removing all saw marks (which is why I cut them oversized)and leaves them almost ready to glue

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Mocking up the stave will give you a rough idea of what the wood combination will look like.You can see that just with a small amount of hand pressure,there is practically no gaps between the laminates.

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My preferred glue for these woods is cascamite . Stick to the correct ratio and do not be tempted to add more powder as it doesn't make it stronger like you may think, in fact your better off with a little more water if anything . Measure it by weight rather than volume, jewelers scales are handy for this.

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Be generous with the cascamite, it's the least expensive ingredient, but one of the most vital.

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Here is where it starts to get a bit tricky as these kinds of glues require some pressure over a period of time, in order to bond correctly.So which method to use- clamps and formers, rubber strips while free standing or vice versa, bow wrap or some other combination !?

There are pros and cons to all methods - clamping requires the use of formers the initial outlay can be quite expensive and you can easily over tighten them and force out too much glue, rubber strips can apply uneven pressure if not applied properly, bow wrap can only be used once(like a heavy duty cling film) etc. Here, I've lightly bound the staves in cargo wrap, mainly to stop the cascamite going everywhere, but the method I use I'll keep to myself, as which ever method i use someone is bound to say I'm wrong!

You need to lay the stave up for at least 48 hours. I personally don't touch mine for at least a week (which is why I forgot to take a picture of the finished stave!!).

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Above are some details of the laminations on the finished bow.From the stave I produced a 76" longbow pulling #55 @ 28".It's a springy "thwacky"feeling bow with little in the way of stacking and I enjoy shooting it. I think slightly heavier arrows with a lower spine than the ones I'm using would suit it well, but that's another article.

If you have any questions or feedback please feel free to email me at JLIB_HTML_CLOAKING or post on the club forum if you wish..