What kind of wood is good for a bow?

Thread starter #1
I have have heard osage many times. I am asking this question for to get other opinions. I am interested in making a bow? All input welcome.


Senior Member
If your just starting making bows use hickory. It is a good tough resilent wood that is very forgiving. Osage makes great bows, but you have to remove the sap wood and work the heart wood down to one growth ring, working properly around the knots while doing it. Osage is not a beginners wood, and some pieces will make a seasoned bowyer swear. With Hickory all you have to do is cut the tree, split it, paint both ends with elmers glue to prevent checking, and peel the bark off while its still green. Then let it dry. Where you peeled the bark off will be the back of your bow with no wood removal at all. All wood will be removed from the sides and the belly during the tillering process. Other hardwoods like persimmon, hop horn bean, oak, and dogwood can be used in the same manner as Hickory, but Hickory is the most forgiving of small errors or mistakes.
I would say Ken is right, my buddy just made his first self bow out of hickory and he said it was fairly easy to work, skrewed up the top limb a little and it has a flat spot but he can still shoot it well. Not bad for the first attempt


Senior Member
Hickory is great to start with, it's a very good wood, it's plentiful and best of all, it's cheap.

Another good wood is black locust but it has a history of checking after awhile.

I prefer osage and elm. My first bow is hanging on the wall downstairs and, it's hickory.


Gone but not forgotten
Ditto on the Elm. It is hard to split into staves, in fact I would advise using a band saw, but it works easy, and all of my Elm staves took a good backset. All in all, it is a good choice for a beginner.


Senior Member
Here's a curve, any ya'll ever use "sweet gum" ?
That's one heck of a wood to split out after curing for awhile. I wonder how good it would be for a bow ?
Hickory and white oak for beginners like me.
Thread starter #9
Thank you for all who replied. The next question is what length to make the bow?
Sweetgum would likely dissappoint you as a bow wood. It would have to be sawn since it is impossible to split it along the grain.

Its uses have been restricted to crossties, pallets, low grade veneer, dough trays for grandmaw, furniture that will be upholstered, and hubs for wagon wheels for grandpaw.

It would be ok wood to practice on, but the end result would likely be dissappointing


Senior Member
I'm gonna agree with Bam-Bam on the lenght. The longer you make it, the less stress on the wood. Most Eastern Woodlands bows were 62" long or better. The Plains bows were 40" to 50 ", but they were also sinew backed.
The most energy efficient type of bow to make is the "Pyramid Design" . :cool:The limbs taper from 1 3/4" to 2" at the handle to a point at each limb tip. According to the "Bowers Bible" this design gives the best speed, and performance of any self bow design known.
Thread starter #13
Thank you once again guys. I will get started in the next couple weeks and will post photos.