Monday, June 9, 2014

Salt Cedar Bow

As a new bow maker, I wouldn’t call myself a bowyer, I certainly don’t have any experience, or much other than basic woodworking skills, and who has relatively successfully made all of one bow, I immediately did some research on what people thought about different woods.  Everyone seems to think that Osage is great, Yew is great, and lots of other will make a serviceable tool, or that lots of others are awful. 

Looking around for quantification I came across this article at the Wood Database –

In the article, the author (who, like me, isn’t a bowyer or materials scientist) came up with a formula that he thought might estimate the quality of the wood for making bows. I thought it was interesting.

Then I thought about the scrap wood that I had lying around and remembered that I had a couple of Saltcedar/Tamarisk staffs. I looked at them and decided they were useless for bow making. But it got me thinking, I wonder what the physical properties of Tamarisk are. I checked the wood database, unsuccessfully.

With a little Googling I found the analysis of a closely related species, Tamarix aphylla – Athel Wood, now, I know it’s not the same species, but it should be somewhat similar, or not, so I decided to do the math…. MOR/MOE*1000 = bow rating;  88.5/7533*1000 =  11.75!   That is up there with Yew and Osage. 

So now I have to try it.  I found a nice 6’-ish 6” diameter log, which is mostly straight, and split it into 4 staves.   Two I had to shorten due to some branching/knots, and they are closer to 5’.  I painted some glue on the ends of all 4 and put three into the shed to dry some. 

I took one of the shorter pieces and started with that – before it had much chance to dry.  I peeled the bark off the back and brought it down to a single growth ring.  Smoothed out the sides and the belly a bit, tapered the limbs and then put it away for a few days

Despite liking the center cut of the Oak bow, I shaped both sides of the center, and added a hard maple riser.  There is fairly substantial twist in the limbs at this point…might be something to letting it dry first.

I ordered some more fiberglass tape for the back, and some real bow epoxy, I can’t say I expect it to work all that much better, but who knows.  They arrived the other day.  I also bought another string so I can play with two bows at once.  In the meantime I foolishly messed with the string of the Oak bow, and I’m not sure 

I got it back to the right length when I realized how stupid that was. Oh well, now I know.
I may start playing with one of the longer pieces too.

The last piece is the current experiment.  It is one of the shorter pieces, and definitely is not as stiff (at this stage) as my oak board bow was  - but it isn’t as thick or wide either.  I stripped the bark off of it, following a growth ring – since that is the way most people seem to recommend doing things. 

It’s not straight, has some twist, but I’m plowing ahead with this one.  I will probably back it with fiberglass again, since it’s pretty cheap, and I think it stiffens things up nicely, and should keep things from shattering if it all goes wrong.
I’m going to use a hard maple riser this time, rather than something more exotic, and I’m not going for a center fire this time, since the stave isn’t quite as wide.


My fancy epoxy came in, and I decided to make the bow red.  Here it is curing with the first layer of fiberglass.  So did my extra string.


We'll see how it progresses from here.

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