Just wondering what the best native timber is best for bow making. Is there any timber suitable for making a bow from green wood? Arrows shafts? what would you use. Thinking survival bow and arrow!

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This is a tricky one Neil.
For a long lasting bow I have wondered about manuka / kanuka.
These will definitely make a survival bow- but any bow made from green, un-seasoned wood will take more and more 'set' in use until dies.
As kids we used to string up untillered saplings and these would work well in a survival situation- very little energy expended.
I have also wondered if wineberry (makomako) or titoki would be good bow wood.
I found a broken karaka sapling and can say it's definitely NOT a bow wood.
Stephen Coote has used some other native woods to make bows and I know that he has had success using dried bracken / fern stalks as arrow shafts.
Hopefully he will chime in here....

As kids we used Lance Wood green, but not sure if it would be suitable after seasoning.
Cheers Norm.
I have experience building bows from Native timbres, and I have found that Manuka and Kanuka are the best by far. The hard, tough woods are great for bow building, and I have made a few bows out of them. The only problem with these woods is that, when they become fully seasoned they are quite stiff. For arrow shafts I would recommend Rimu branches. I made a number of arrows using (roughly) 8mm Rimu braches, which I have straightened over a fire.
Thanks for the input, i've marked off said trees in my book and it's off we go to find them. I'll let you know how i get on.

Tawa makes excellent heavy duty arrows. It has very similar properties to ash and I use them up to 12mm thick for my warbow arrows.

Keith, have you tried tawa for bows, I have read where people have suggested it but have not tried it myself. I'm working on a couple out of kowhai at the moment it seems like good bow wood strong and elastic.

I'll ask the lads about tawa. I'm not a bowyer myself just a prolific fletcher. From a survival perspective I'm sure most woods would suffice if only for a short period of time. I have made some bows out of bamboo. Some were training bows for my kids which were 3 or 4 strips of bamboo taped together. They drew about 25lbs. I took it a stage further and used full pieces of bamboo (from the garden centre) bound together with string. I ended up with a bow that drew about 60lbs at 28". It lasted for about 2 dozen shots before a piece broke but it only took about an hour to make.


are you talking about carving a bow from a solid piece of timber or using a branch as a bow?

i was thinking about carving a long bow from macrocarpa, but not sure if it is realy tough enough, it will be easier to carve and probably have a good amount of strength and readily available in my area.

i think as other people have suggested, probably the harder the wood the better, traditional long bows in uk and europe were once made from yew which is a very hard wood, also hickory which again is very hard.

Giddy David, generally carve bows out of split of a log. But there are quite a few defferent ways you can go about it. Good bows can be made from branches from 3 to 4 inches in diameter.the most important thing is to have a good clean back(outside of bow) with no grain violations. The easiest way to go about that is to carefully remove the bark and that will become the back of your bow. A then only remove wood from the belly to achieve an even bend and the desired draw weight. Not sure about macro for bow wood generally the denser woods are better but the wood needs to have a natural springyness or elasticity, like yew. Plum, hawthorn, privet, crabapple, oak ,ash, elm plus a hole host of others can make good bows. I would go for a semi pyramid American flat bow design for the macro.

hi rob,

thanks for that,

is the flat bow the same as aboard bow? 

yes i would be looking at using a 3-4 inch branch, straighter the better. and carve the long bow from that, splitting it in half and using the good front  outer face as the front of the bow, 

i would love to have some yew or oak etc but don't really have access without maybe sneaking into someones garden late at night, or maybe hagley park.

this will be my first time building a bow so i'll give macro a go and see what happens, at least it will be easier to carve and when i mess up not too much time lost.

i will post pictures as i go along but first i think i should find my branch and let it dry for a while.

Even small branches are good to get Practise tillering with. There is plenty of bow wood around once you know what you are looking for. I would be inclined to glue a backing on the macro just for added protection. Silk or linen will do. You can speed up drying time buy working the stave down to about half the bows dimetions then leaving it for a few weeks.

Its been a while

Post it up in the bowyers group if you haven't found that already. 

Bowmaking has taken a break ever since the 'discovery' of the .177 air rifle and the bad weather. Will get back into bow-making in the summer through.

If you do find a good Chch wood source, be sure to let us know.  Or any source for bowmaking materials in general.

The bush-craft map of nz on the 'home' tab will have a few locations for stuff.


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