My ash selfbow “JB3″ is outshooting the Flagella Dei ipé bow, but it’s still lacking the zip of other club member’s laminated bows. However I still want to get more performance from a self bow rather than go the laminated route. I can’t justify the cost of a good yew stave yet and I know that I’m not ready for one. Over in Hungary though Flagella Dei is offering an osage stave for 69 euros!
Most bowyers will agree that yew and osage orange are both exceptional bow woods, as long as you can get good bits of course. Something else these two woods have in common is that it is extremely hard to get a good bit and that is true of either variety.
Anyone thinking of working with osage would be well advised to read “Ferrets Osage Build Along” first. As well as giving many useful tips he comprehensively lists the many quirks and challenges found within the osage stave and you will almost certainly find all of these problems in any piece of osage you buy.
My piece of osage orange started causing me problems by getting lost in Germany. It ended up back in Hungary, only to have to start its journey all over again.
My Stave has finaly arrived, or is that a fence post? It weighs a ton and I recieved my first Hungarian splinters by just unwrapping it. It is half a branch, one side is a smoothish white sapwood, the other is a golden mass of torn grain that swirls in all directions, like water rushing around rocks in a fast stream.
The first job is to remove the sapwood using my newly acquired draw-knife.
With this removed, cracks in the heartwood are revealed. Now I have to cut down untill I have a single growth ring that runs the length of the stave. I’m trying not to think about the knots or pin holes, I’ll worry about those later. I am getting the hang of the draw-knife, though it’s not easy picking out one ring when when they are only microns deep.
Still using the draw-knife I slowly removed wood from the sides untill I had to make a final decision on where the line of the back of the bow was going to be. The biggest headache was this knot I could not go through it, I would have to follow the grain round it!
In doing this I was forced down another few growth rings, this meant taking the back down lower but slowly the stave started to take shape and I could at last settle on a final centre line for the back.At this point I put away the draw-knife and started to use rasps and a spoke shave. Later, as the interlocked grain on osage tears so easily, I resorted to sanding discs on an angle grinder used very gently as even a cabinet scraper was lifting the grain in places. It didn’t feel right, but the grinder did the job.
Tillering was difficult as the knots left stiff places in the bow. Also there were a couple of reflex curves, one above, and one below the centre line, but not evenly spaced. I could not use my block of wood technique on the belly to judge the curve of the bow as it was so irregular. This meant I had to rely on my untrained eye.
The bow also has a radial twist in the lower limb so all in all it should shoot with the accuracy of a fairground rifle.
Surprisingly enough at full draw a lot of these problems disappear and the bow shoots well at distances to 60 yards, but over that it is too slow and will not match “JB3 or 4”, the ash bows.This I think tells us that Hungarian osage, is to US osage, what English yew is to Italian mountain yew.
Or perhaps it’s the Bowyer, or the archer, or a combination of all three.
Anyway it was fun to build and to shoot, and it’s a novelty to own.
First time the bow had been shot.
This was at 50 yards.
For me this is exceptional!
Who’da thunk it.
Click on any of the pictures above to enlarge.
It’s a shame I could not repeat this feat at our club’s “Ancient Woolverton Arrow” competition last Sunday.
My Hungarian bowyer describes his snakey bows as character bows and I’ve learnt heaps building it. This must help when I finally get that yew stave.