Selfbow Secrets

Question Dean, I acquired a large osage log, over 24" diameter at its base, perhaps 8- 10' long. By the time I acquired it, it had dried out for several month. It was fairly straight, but when I tried to split it, I never got a clean split, the grain had a fair amount of twist in it. Out of frustration, I finally took it to a friend who had a sawmill. We made planks, flat sawn, 8/4 thick. Question, are flat sawn osage planks any good for making a bow if only used on the compression side, that is, backed with either bamboo or perhaps hickory? How worried do you have to be about runout on the compression side?

- Phillip Bryan 09/15/2011, ID=3111

Runout (the side to side movement of the grain) can be a problem on sawn slats. I try to stay away from anything that travels left to right more than an inch for ever twelve inches of length.

Question Hello , I picked up your DVD on making bamboo backed bows and Kit at the Comptons tradional Rendezvous. I am wondering if I need to change any of the measurements of the pattern from the if I use hickory instead of Osage. Hickory is very acessable here in Michigan. Thanks for your time

- Pete Haueter 07/08/2011, ID=3099

Shagbark and osage will yield approximately the same weight at similar dimensions. Pignut would make a better bow than shagbark, but you'll need to increase the dimensions slightly. How much, I cannot say, but I'd add both depth and width, a little more depth than width.

Question Dean, I just watched your Bamboo-backed bow video three times. I love everything about it, and the bows you make are beautiful. I am working at a camp for young people and am hoping to put together a bow- building workshop at some point. My question is in regard to the handle section. Do you cut a rest into the handle? There was nothing mentioned in the video. Thanks!

- dan 06/12/2011, ID=3094

Thanks for the kind words, Dan, but no, I do not cut a shelf or rest into the handle. Hurts every time I see one done that way, not because it's a genuflection in the direction of production fiberglass archery (which it is), but because it's just wrong, like stealing, only to a magnitude that could jeopardize your immortal soul. In other words, God's against it, too.

Question I plan to make a bow with 1/8th inch hickory backing, 1/8th inch core of Ipe, and a tapered 5/8s to 3/8s piece of eastern maple for the belly. The bow in question is a reflex/deflex design that is 70 inches long and 1 1/2 wide to start. I would like this bow to have a 60 pound draw weight. I would like to know if there is a better wood to use for the belly and if My thicknesses seem to be a good start. Also when cutting the width I plan to go 1 1/4 from fade to 5/8th at the end. Any of your input would be appreciated.

- Joe 01/20/2011, ID=3074

Belly wood choice is suspect, esp. considering the limb design, which does not distribute stress evenly along the limb length. I'd rather see you use ipe or hickory.

But I'm equally if not more concerned with your planned limb width. At the length you want, a laminated bow 1.5" wide cannot help but be sluggish and unpleasant to shoot. You'll have way too much limb mass to hope for efficiency or decent cast, and shooting such a bow will likely worry your arm from its shoulder socket.

Don't fret over the thickness. That's a concern of fiberglassed bows. Consider your width first, then work the belly to your desired weight (something fiberglass bowyers can't do). I wouldn't consider a width beyond 1 1/4".

Question Dean, I've made about 50 of your rattan kids bows to give away at our local archery club, thank you for providing that information on how to build those. I'm currently helping a young lady build a self-bow for a school project and she would like to make a larger version of the rattan kid’s bow. Using the same technique have you built bows any longer than 48”. I guessing we’ll be shooting for about 60” with a 20lb pull. I’m wondering if the same diameter rattan would work or if I need to go up a size? Thanks in advance. Matt

- Matt Dworak 10/26/2010, ID=3057

Matt, that's a commendable and generous gesture. Can you imagine the respect archery would command if each of us did his part to share its lore?

You can make such a bow using the full culm. DOn't rip it down the middle. The cast won't be terrific, but it will work—it will shoot arrows and you won't be able to break it.

[NEXT 5 Questions]

Submit your Question on Selfbow Secrets
Sorry, the form to input questions has been disabled because there are too many questions in the Queue. Please try back later.

Dean Torges
Be sure to visit Dean Torges's Website - Dean Torges is well-known to new and experienced self-bowyers. He is the author of Hunting the Osage Bow along with numerous articles, selfbow-tools, and videos.