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Practice wood for bow carving...

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by SplitNick, Mar 29, 2014.

  1. Can anybody recommend a cheap wood to practice bow carving techniques?


    Eta: Red oak is tough as nails.
  2. Never mind. I seem to have found a groove, and it looks like bow woods will be much tougher when that time comes.
  3. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Ipe is used for bows, and decks. While you have to be considerably more selective when making a bow than a deck, you should be able to find some relatively cheap.

    Otherwise, find the hardest wood you can get your hands on, then find something harder. And practice sharpening your tools as much as you practice bow making.
  4. I'm going to order some Ipe in the next month, maybe Bloodwood as well. Both have are 2900 or harder on the Janka. Pernambuco is 2820.

    I went ahead and used some red oak flooring to practice carving and planing. My tools and technique rough at best, but at least looks like a bow. I have an old Glasser that was given to me. For fun I think I'll rip its fittings and hair the red oak. Can't wait to hear the sound of it even if it is horrible.
  5. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have a bow that Martin Brunkala made out of osage. That might be worth looking at

  6. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Ipe, Bloodwood, Osage, Ironwood, Snakewood, Amourette, Warmara, Purpleheart, and a few others I can't remember right now have all been used for bows. Most of them have been used historically by a variety of makers, and by modern makers as well. I do not like the term "alternative woods" because they are all woods that have been intentionally used, and they shouldn't be seen as "alternatives" to pernambuco, but other valid options.

    With that said, wood selection becomes very important, as straight grain makes the biggest difference, but knots and imperfections can be deal breakers as well.
  7. I appreciate all the info. Is anyone that has responded actively making bows? I feel like my path is headed that direction and while carving the red oak stick (Which resembles a bow, but has so many flaws not related to the material itself [as if a first, uneducated attempt would yield something]) a lot of questions came up. Some will be answered through work shopping, but that will take a few years due to expense.
  8. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I would fit the "actively making bows" description. I have personally worked in Ipe, Bloodwood and Pernambuco, and I own a Snakewood bow by another maker. All of the woods are a little bit different when working them, and the characteristics of the finished bows change as well. I have yet to make enough bows to be able to isolate the characteristics that are the result of the wood species, the individual piece of wood regardless of species, and the differences that subtle changes in the decisions you make along the way truly have, but I have talked at length in previous posts about some of the generalizations that are most commonly associated with several wood species.

    As your ability to select wood improves through making hundreds of bows, eventually a maker can pick sticks that will have the qualities they desire, and they emphasize or understate qualities within that stick as well. That is something that only experience can build, and although I am happy with the bows I make, I have not reached a point in my career (or wood stockpile) where I can select a specific stick from thousands for preferred characteristics.

    As for developing as a maker, there are a few workshops offered in America. I have studied with Lynn Armour Hannings and George Rubino who both teach workshops at the University of New Hampshire, and in Claremont California. They are fantastic makers and incredible sources of knowledge. There is another program in Oberlin Ohio that I have heard positive feedback from, but I have not attended or worked with the makers who teach there to provide more input on that program. A few makers also run their own private programs or will allow you to pay to study with them for a short period of time as well. I strongly recommend seeking some in person guidance. As helpful as the internet can be, determining things like "is this stick too stiff behind the head?" or "should I stay octagonal, or go half-round or round?" are things that are next to impossible to determine without the bow in hand.

    Hopefully that helps.