Making the Bow
There are many kinds of wood that will serve for a bow, but comparatively few are really good for bow making. Among these few, in the order of their excellence, may be named: yew, Tennessee red cedar (when backed with hickory), lemonwood, Osage orange, lancewood, and second-growth white hickory. The hickory seems the easiest to get, and consequently is used for experimenting. No one can make a perfect bow in the first attempt, and it certainly is not wise to use a fine piece of yew or Osage orange for the first bow, or even the second or third ones. Hickory is not an ideal bow wood as it tends to follow the string quickly; that is, it does not come back to its original straight form when it is unstrung, after having been used a short time. This fact soon destroys the life of the bow. But hickory will serve to teach the correct shaping of the bow, and will shoot long enough for one to gain experience and a desire for a better bow of some of the woods mentioned in the foregoing.
Hickory is not hard to get and can be found in almost any hardwood dealer's stock. Air-seasoned lumber is the best medium but very hard to get, unless you are fortunate enough to know where a piece was laid away years ago to season for farm carpentry purposes. It ought to have been two or more years in a dry place, where the air reached it from all sides. Usually, we have to take the lumber dealer's word for the seasoning, and pick out a board that is 1¼ inches thick, straight grained, free from knots, checks, and bark. The white variety or pignut hickory is the most satisfactory. Take this board to a bench and clean off the mill marks from all surfaces with a plane. This will reveal the figure of the grain, and selecting a piece that has the grain running the full length will be easy. If the grain runs out, the bow will fracture; therefore, this piece would be useless to start with. The piece should be ripped out approximately 1¼ inches square, and as long as the height of the person who is to use the bow. It should be straight in the length and 1⅛ inches square trued up.
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