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Reflexed Bows

Reflexed bows have the ends reflexed or bent back in a pleasing curve. Reflexing adds beauty and grace to the outline of a bow. Reflexed bows may be Long Bows or Flat Bows. There are two methods of reflexing bows. Osage and Yew may be reflexed by means of steam and boiling water. Lemonwood is very difficult to reflex this way. It does not absorb moisture readily and is prone to split and check from the heat. The other way is to glue a reflex in the ends—it is done by laminations. Flat bows are easiest to reflex, and most reflexed bows are of the Semi-Indian Flat Type.

Plate 6. Making a Reflexed Flat Osage Orange Bow

First Method—Assuming that you have a flat osage or yew stave, proceed the same as if you were making a flat bow, but before you cut your notches in the ends, they are reflexed or bent back. A water pail, two wooden forms, and about two dozen rubber strips cut from an old inner tube constitute your bending equipment. Rubber strips should be 1" wide.

The wooden form is made from boards 1½" thick, or two 1" boards nailed together. The shape with measurements is given on Plate 6.

Boil the ends of the limbs, one end at a time, until the wood is soggy, soft and pliable. This takes three to four hours. Bind the ends to the wood forms with the rubber strips. Stretch the rubber well and bind tightly. As you bind, the rubber will pull the ends down along the curved forms. Begin binding at the bottom of the curve and work up (towards the ends of the stave) so the wood is always covered with rubber in order that splinters may not lift. The stave ends should be left in the forms in a dry place, not too hot, for three or four days. All exposed parts of the stave should be shellacked to prevent possible checks from drying. After the rubber binding and forms have been taken off, allow the stave ends to dry out for four or five days to be sure they are perfectly dry and set. Then cut the notches, brace or string the bow as described before, tiller the limbs to a perfect bend, scrape, sandpaper, handle and finish.

Second Method—This, in the writer's opinion is by far the best way. It results in a reflex of beauty and grace, and is in to stay; the reflexes made by the first method may eventually pull out. Assuming that you are going to reflex a 5'8" Flat Bowstave either of Lemonwood, Yew or Osage, the first step is to flatten the ends of your stave with a long 12" taper. The tips or ends of the stave should be thinned down to 1/16" and increase in thickness to ¼" at the 12" mark. This permits bending the tips around a form as shown on Plate 6-A. Prepare two sets of lamination slats (ten slats in all). These are to be about 1/16" thick. Each set consists of: 1 piece 14" long, 2 pieces 12" long, 1 piece 10" long, 1 piece 8". If these slats are of contrasting colors-for instance, lemonwood and black walnut, or lemonwood and rosewood, the finished bow will be very handsome. Prepare a wooden form as shown on Plate 6-A. Place the stave on the form and bind the thinned ends down around the curved extremities of the wooden form. Use strips of rubber ½" wide cut from an inner tube. Leave the stave overnight so the ends take a set. Prepare good, thick, lumpless, creamy waterproof glue. It is possible to glue on two lamination slats at a time. Apply glue liberally to the 14" piece, place it over the end; apply glue liberally to one of the 12" pieces and bind these down around the form ends with strips of rubber. Be sure the ends are lined up evenly with the tips of your stave. Continue glueing these slats on around the form ends until you have built up about a half inch of laminations in a reflexed or curved form. Let the glue job dry at least a week before shaping the bow. After the laminationg are well set, the step-like ends of the slats are all tapered off as shown on Plate 6-A.

Plate 6-A. Laminating a Reflex in a Bow Stave