Weirdly, having carved for something like 30 years, I have never harvested my own timber – I have always re-cycled or bought in whatever I have needed. The thing with bows is that they require timber that (in the UK) you can’t easily come-by. A bow needs timber with very specific qualities – a 2m length of straight not-free timber (clean) of one of a very few types of wood – yew, hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, ash, elm, holly and maple are the short-list of relatively common British timbers, but in realistic terms, that really leaves hazel. Consequently I have become very pre-occupied with finding bow-wood. Its a VERY addictive sport.
Over the last six months I have harvested yew, holly, hawthorn, blackthorn and lots of hazel, but finding the timber has been far from straight-forward – lots of country walks! Anyone fancying commission a long-bow or flat bow get in touch.
Most of these species are cut-and-come again pollard species so as long as you have permission, you will not harm the tree, and can even invigorate it. There are several, rather more practical issues; saplings of say four-inch diameter might cleave cleanly or they might not – its always worth starting off by cleaving it but be prepared to have to rough out one side with a hatchet – do not count on getting two useful lengths from a sapling such as this. Larger trunks might need the services of someone with a BIG circular saw or chain saw – if you are not that person, ask around – a local joinery is often a good place to go, but so is a comprehensive school. If you find tree-surgeons at work, always stop for a chat, local contacts are really useful, and if they are felling something you are interested in they will often dimension the timber for you if you ask nicely. Oh, and do not forget, the timber must be sealed on every exposed surface with a couple of coats of PVA and left to season for several months, and although there are ways to speed up the process, its best not to, so if you are planning on making a bow as a Christmas gift, the timber should be cut, roughed out, sealed all over and put to dry by mid August……….
If you have a specific project you would like me to post about, leave me a comment.