by Eric Meier

Disclaimer: I am neither a bowyer/archer nor a materials scientist/engineer. The data and ideas presented in this article are by no means meant to be considered authoritative or precisely correlated to real-world situations. The purpose of the article is simply to foster imagination and exploration in the area of bow woods and what does/does not constitute a good bow wood.

Archery bows present a somewhat unique challenge in finding the right requirements for the best wood. In the simplest and crudest terms possible, the wood should be able to bend, but not break. With all of the data available on the Wood Database, there’s no single measurement that directly indicates a wood’s ability to bend easily without breaking. Instead, it is primarily a combination of two values: the wood’s modulus of elasticity (also known as MOE), and the modulus of rupture (also known as MOR).

Again, dealing in the simplest terms:

  1. The modulus of elasticity (MOE) measures how easily a wood will bend, (the higher the number, the more stubborn and stiff it will be).
  2. The modulus of rupture (MOR) measures how easily the wood will break, (the higher the numer, the harder it is to break or rupture).

In terms of looking at the raw mechanical data of woods, the best bow woods tend to be those that have a low MOE and a high MOR. (Stated another way, the best bow woods tend to be those that will bend easily, and not break.) It’s of little advantage if a given wood scores well in one area, and poorly in another (i.e., a very low MOE or a very high MOR). What is most important, regardless of how low the MOE may be, or how high the MOR may be, is the ratio of the MOE to the MOR; it must be easy to bend AND hard to break.

Given the rationale and requirements, an equation can be formed to roughly assess a wood’s suitability for bow use: (MOR/MOE) * 1000. (The added factor of 1000 is simply to bring the number to a more manageable size and avoid dealing with tiny .00xx decimal values.) For lack of a better term, this ratio will simply be referred to as the wood’s “Bow Index.”

Analyzing all the woods in the Wood Database for their Bow Index, the following results are obtained:

The Highest Bow Index:

Wood Species

Bow Index


Madagascar Rosewood (Dalbergia baronii)

Madagascar Rosewood


This number is somewhat misleading because data is taken from a several species in the Dalbergia genus, (D. baronii, D. greveana, D. madagascariensis, and D. monticola), so it may not reflect an accurate picture of any one particular species of the grouping that is referred to as “Madagascar Rosewood.”

Kiaat (Pterocarpus angolensis)



Along with Madagascar Rosewood, Muninga represents another curiosity. On paper, it appears to rank right alongside other historically proven bow woods such as Yew and Osage Orange. Real-world results may differ.

English Yew (Taxus baccata)

European Yew


No MOE data could be located for European Yew (Taxus baccata), but the values for Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia) are so close to identical that they have been carried over and used for the European species. A slightly higher MOR puts European Yew ahead of Pacific Yew by a nose, though from a numerical standpoint they should be considered equivalent.

Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera)

Osage Orange



Given the great differences in density and overall strength between Yew and Osage Orange, it’s very interesting to note that the Bow Index of the two species comes out to nearly the same. Note that this is for the North American species, with Argentine Osage Orange only scoring an above-average Bow Index of 9.06.

Pacific Yew (Taxus brevifolia)

Pacific Yew


Guajayvi 10.90  Some have rumored that this wood also makes excellent baseball bats.
Tambootie  10.90
Chinaberry  10.85
Pear  10.68
Cebil  10.61
Mansonia  10.57
Turkey Oak 10.57
Makore 10.55
Movingui 10.52
Field Maple 10.42
African Blackwood 10.40
English Walnut 10.31
Alligator Juniper 10.31
Brazilwood 10.22

The Lowest Bow Index:

Wood Species

Bow Index


Grand Fir 5.71
Balsa 5.73
Basswood 5.96
Austrian Pine 5.96
Pacific Silver Fir 6.09
Nepalese Alder 6.17
Balsam Poplar 6.18
Eastern Cottonwood 6.20
Sitka Spruce 6.34
Balsam Fir 6.35
Bigtooth Aspen 6.36
Subalpine Fir 6.36
Yellow Poplar 6.39
Yellow Buckeye 6.41
Sumatran Pine 6.49
Norway Spruce 6.49
Tatajuba 6.52
White Fir 6.53
Jelutong 6.56

Are you an aspiring wood nerd?

The poster, Worldwide Woods, Ranked by Hardness, should be required reading for anyone enrolled in the school of wood nerdery. I have amassed over 500 wood species on a single poster, arranged into eight major geographic regions, with each wood sorted and ranked according to its Janka hardness. Each wood has been meticulously documented and photographed, listed with its Janka hardness value (in lbf) and geographic and global hardness rankings. Consider this: the venerable Red Oak (Quercus rubra) sits at only #33 in North America and #278 worldwide for hardness! Aspiring wood nerds be advised: your syllabus may be calling for Worldwide Woods as part of your next assignment!


  1. Flamentic July 19, 2018 at 7:16 am - Reply

    MOR^2/MOE/dried weight
    Higher result = lighter limbs for the same draw weight = faster and more efficient bow

    • Flamentic July 28, 2018 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      Lower MOE makes shorter and more efficient or more reflexed and powerful bows
      The MoR need to be squared because draw weight*length at failure give the maximum amount of energy the wood can absorb and the MoE is the ratio draw weight/draw length

  2. Terry Davis July 4, 2018 at 1:40 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all your hard work and effort that it took you to put this posting up for all of us that live the art of bow making. We are always looking for the best way to build our perfect bow and the data you have supplied is a valuable resource for us again koodoos to you and your hard work on this matter

  3. Paul June 20, 2018 at 5:30 am - Reply

    Thank you for posting this – It always crosses my mind when looking at potential bow woods! Incidentally, rowan should feature high on the list too; at 11.61 it would be higher than osage and yew… Norway maple is quite high too, and black locust and hophornbeam (reputably good bow woods are very low…)

    Where I think the difficulty comes from is dealing with the different potential sizes/geometries of limbs. Perhaps the ‘bow index’ is best used for determining how good a wood is at having narrow/deeper limbs? Yew and Osage are the clear examples – their limbs can be made much narrower than many others without taking set or breaking. This leads to a good bow because of narrower/lighter limbs, but is not the only way. There are woods like black locust that are so stiff they have terrible MOR/MOE ratios, however, to bend this wood the stiff limbs are made thinner and are therefore less strained when bending under the same stress (arguably still not as good as osage or yew though!). Or there must be a way to incorporate the MOE and MOR with a hypothetical draw weight and bow length that would tell you the best depth/width ratio of the limbs, and then with wood density you could see how heavy the limbs would be. Of course there’s probably too much variability in wood to take a formula like that and use it across the board (no pun intended) for designing bows of specific species. In any case, thank you for a fantastic discussion!

    To address the question of whether a bow wood should have a high MOE, I agree completely with Marc that a low MOE is more desirable. A low MOE IS good for a bow, so long as you make the limbs thicker to accommodate its easier bending. This is what gives the ELB it’s design. Provided it has an MOR strong enough to withstand the higher strain of a narrow/thick limb (which also creates less limb mass doing the same work, even when the wood has a lower MOE). This is why it’s the ratio of MOR to MOE that’s important, and why I appreciate the idea put forth in this article! A tree with a low MOE AND a low MOR would indeed be like a wet noodle. Likewise a high MOE doesn’t work if the MOR is too low in relation – it wouldn’t tolerate being bent enough to string it (cf. a dry noodle, or why you don’t see many bows made of douglas fir even though its MOE is higher than osage and yew). Of course you can change the design of your bow to suit the high MOE/low MOR by making it longer and wider. But beyond a point it is not worth it.

  4. Marc May 28, 2018 at 5:40 pm - Reply

    Contrary to what some say a low MOE is in fact desirable in a bow-wood, those that deny this just don’t have a proper understanding of what MOE means. The ratio of MOE to MOR is as good a method as any I have seen of identifying good bow-wood and after more than 20 years of making bow I have seen many. I commend you on your efforts

  5. Michael March 29, 2018 at 7:20 am - Reply

    Be specific as to what species of hickory. They aren’t all equal.

  6. Jesse Morgan April 8, 2017 at 10:53 am - Reply

    Did you consider bamboo at all in writing this article?

  7. James Davis October 4, 2016 at 9:07 am - Reply

    I am reposting my initial comment, because this page still presents its wrong approach to determining the value of bow wood. The page should be taken down because it is harmful to the investigation. :

    I have been making bows for more than 15 years. My experience and
    logic say you have the concept diametrically opposed what is desireable
    for the MOE. You say wood needs to be EASY to bend. Wrong.

    What is needed is wood that is HARD to bend and hard
    to break. That allows less wood to do the work. Less wood means less
    mass to be put in motion by the energy stored in the bent bow, resulting
    in faster arrow flight.

    Black locust the hickories, white ash and
    others balance the force required to bend them quite well with the
    force required to break them. Perhaps a formula recognizing the value of
    high MOE numbers would be a good next project?

    I appreciate your efforts but you began from a false premise.

    • ejmeier October 5, 2016 at 6:14 pm - Reply

      We may be comparing apples to oranges here. It should be noted in this article, the values listed above are for bows made of a single piece of wood, not laminated. It should also be noted that what is really being examined here is the RATIO of MOE to MOR, and nothing more. I think that the equation tends to eliminate most lighter woods anyway, simply by virtue of the fact that lighter woods tend to have a proportionally better MOE (versus MOR) as weight decreases.

      I don’t think anyone has this subject completely figured out. One of the characteristics of the scientific method is that a hypothesis is formed, and then measurements are made and tested against the hypothesis. I made such a hypothesis in this article, and when I ran the equation across the data of hundreds of species of wood, it just so happened to uncover two of the woods that have been so commonly used in bow making over the centuries: Yew and Osage Orange. So far, the data seems to support the hypothesis. I’m open to reinterpreting things and running the numbers through based on another calculation, but so far, the one listed above is the simplest and also seems to point to the best (single-wood) bows.

      If what you are saying is true, then the related Argentine Osage Orange (Maclura tinctoria) found in South America would perform better than the North America species. It has a significantly higher MOE (on average) with the MOR and density being about the same — or perhaps a little bit higher. Yet I find no references to this wood being used for simple bows at all, even though it should (in theory) have an almost legendary performance.

      • James Davis October 5, 2016 at 8:43 pm - Reply

        As far as the Argentine Osage is concerned, it was probably not known by those making bows during the centuries when wood was the most used bow material.

        Second, you should be aware that no data exists for DRY Osage orange. Either the Forest Products Laboratories didn’t run tests on dry Osage or the data never got recorded. I’m sure all your data is from the FPL. I have been in contact with them several times and they have no data for dry Osage and no plans to do any testing.

        If there are numbers for the Argentine Osage, that data may be for dry wood.
        I’m sure your study of the ratios of MOE to MOR is pertinent. But the whole purpose of a bow is to store energy and then to transfer as much as possible of that energy to an arrow. So, the wood should be hard to bend in order to store much energy, and able to bend far enough without yielding or breaking. (This is where the “work to maximum load” might add insight.


  8. Thawed Cave Bear July 26, 2016 at 6:00 am - Reply

    FPS on release is pretty major…Yew and Bamboo both excel unless I’m mistaken. Also fiberglass (which sucks at most other refined details).

  9. Thawed Cave Bear July 22, 2016 at 7:43 am - Reply

    It’s a grass. Yes. …How on earth does that matter in any way concerning how to back a bow?

  10. bob July 20, 2016 at 8:05 am - Reply

    i live in norway what is the best wood here?

    • Thawed Cave Bear July 23, 2016 at 3:03 am - Reply

      English/Spanish (European) yew, followed extremely closely by the not-almost-extinct…yet ‘Pacific Yew’.
      Others would argue osage, and several of the densest tropical woods–say, Ipe or heartwood. Hickory is ‘easy’, but is the most boring, poor-performance wood in the world next to self-backed pacific yew

    • Thawed Cave Bear July 25, 2016 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Do you have elm (wich elm’s traditional)? White ash is good, but regular ‘European Ash’ is better/tougher. And there’s white oak. You don’t have Oregon Oak…but the movement of many European beeches (better than west hemisphere) into Norway expands options. …Also the maples. And the oak comin north, also.

      Junipers, I assume you have a variety–you need a huge amount of wood.

      Applewood, pear, and also Laburnum.

      Various types of maples (Norway Maple is good). Welsh oak (if you can get it, decent, and European Holly isn’t bad–please don’t tell me they have English holly sometimes in the land of the West Norse!? Norway spruce are expanding and moving north…bit brittle, but otherwise good (back with rawhide or ligament–or add belly support with horn or Afr. Blackwood?
      I know you can get bamboo, there. They wear out quickly, but are simple to construct, and return a lot of energy with a fast release. And olsoHawthorn! Oh, and the magic-associated tree of some Germanic tribes: willow. Best I can do for…not my continent, hope it helped.

      One good way? Order an osage stave for 40 Euro plus 15 in shipping. It’s not that heavy.

      If you go down to Spain, you can find an even better supply of harder, denser woods. Probably worth it. Hope that was helpful.

    • Thawed Cave Bear July 25, 2016 at 9:23 am - Reply

      Wych elm.

    • Chris Traub August 22, 2018 at 1:20 pm - Reply

      Bob, my wife and I visited your incredibly beautiful country two years ago. We were only there for a day and two nights but we did Norway in a Nutshell and saw a lot of the country. I did not see a single yew tree, taxus baccata, but it does occur in Norway. I think that would be your best native wood, but, from what I’ve read, it’s illegal to cut yew in Norway!

  11. Mario Cargol May 10, 2016 at 12:57 am - Reply

    What about cupressus macrocarpa? It’s got long straight pieces and the MoR/MoE relation is 10.39, looks nice.. I’ve readed that some have made nice bows laminating alaskan yellow cedar wich has a worse MoR/MoE relation.. I think i’ll try and tell what about it ;)

  12. ???? April 18, 2016 at 6:45 pm - Reply

    Stiffer is better in terms of strength resisting the draw, allowing higher poundage– yet at the same time, too stiff with too little MOR to resist the breakage means the limb would not bend that far before it broke, limiting draw length and reflex design. Finally this does not factor in density at all, where higher mass limbs rob cast, because the moment (physics) is further diverted from arrow to limb.

    In actuality, there is no good metric to say which wood is the best for all the bow designs in the world out there:
    – Some bows have shorter limbs and short draw, so elasticity doesn’t really help
    – Finally, there are shorter reflex bows that really are designed for longer draws, requiring less MOE and more MOR
    – Some bows have very long limbs, so density plays a bigger factor, to prevent the limbs to take a greater proportion of moment against the arrow when drawing.

    • Thawed Cave Bear July 26, 2016 at 6:05 am - Reply

      Elasticity IS still important for short bows–for the arrows as well as the bow. But your point is taken.

      -As for the point about more massive limbs….that’s why European Yew will always beat Osage by more than a nose, with faster, better casts and less wasted energy :)

  13. Patrick King March 4, 2016 at 9:44 pm - Reply

    Otzi, the 5000 year old ice man mummy found in Europe had two kinds of wood with him. He had Cornel and Verbinum. The pbs show (Nova) wasn’t clear on which type of wood was used for his bow and arrows and which was used as an axe handle.

    • Mario Cargol May 10, 2016 at 12:48 am - Reply

      I’ve seen a recent article wich said the axe’s wood was yew

  14. Danny Campbell January 20, 2016 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    Is black cherry a good bow wood

    • Thawed Cave Bear May 20, 2016 at 6:17 am - Reply

      Yes it is, if backed by something else. For much more detail, there’s an entry in ‘The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible’, which you can page through on google books.

    • Thawed Cave Bear July 27, 2016 at 7:02 am - Reply

      Yes and no. Can have truly great characteristics, but it’s unreliable. It fails easily and unpredictably. Chrysals for no reason you can think of. But people tell me it’s almost self-backed yew, sometimes. Treat it right (whatever that is…), if you give it a shot? That’s what the kids are saying, anyway.

  15. Charles Elias SR December 29, 2015 at 5:34 pm - Reply

    I have and odd question has anyone tried crepe myrtle as a bow wood

    • Thawed Cave Bear July 26, 2016 at 6:07 am - Reply

      I recall the name coming up, so I’m going to say yes, and that…it’s probably supobtimal, but possible to use. Mostly guessing.

  16. Ben March 1, 2015 at 9:35 am - Reply

    This is an interesting article to get people talking about how mechanical properties relate to bow performance. There are several problems however.

    1) the value the author has effectively calculated is (%strain at failure)x10. In other words the change in length of the material at failure(rupture).

    2) it ignores the density of the wood. modulus of rupture is a measure of strain at failure. Strain is force/area. So this is only a relevant value for comparing two woods of identical mass since limb mass will determine performance and not limb cross sectional area.

    3) it assumes that a wood which can bend farther is inherently better. This is simply not true because a wood which has a high MOE for example makes a bow limb which is thinner than a wood with low MOE and therefore experiences less strain at a given radius of curvature.

    A more appropriate method in my opinion is a two step approach:
    1) group woods by their MOR/MOE. Woods with similar values can make bows of the same design by simply varying limb width. It’s not that MOR/MOE doesn’t matter, it’s just that it tells you very little. It really only says how far a wood can bend before breaking. For example, I can bend a bundle of wet noodles VERY far but they would make a terrible bow.

    2) RATE each wood within each group by calculating MOR/density at low %MC. A high MOR/density is better. Since MOR is proportional to energy storage per unit cross sectional area at failure, MOR/density is ~ maximum energy storage per unit mass. In other words this tells you how much energy can be stored in the limbs of a bow with a given mass during drawing. So basically any wood can store any amount of energy if you makes the limbs wide, long, and thick enough. The question is which wood can store the most energy in the lightest, shortest, narrowest limbs. That is what makes a wood suitable for use in a bow.

  17. nicethugbert January 17, 2015 at 11:56 am - Reply

    A bow is a spring. How well does MOE describe a spring? An easily bent bow is a weak bow. Rubberbands bend easily. Stronger bows require more strength to bend then weaker bows. So, I doubt a low MOE would describe a good bow.

    The MOE would be matched to the strength of the person using the bow to know if it the bow is too stiff for them to draw.

    • UrbanBowyer February 18, 2015 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      The thing is, a bow with a high MOE and a medium MOR will be strong but will make a bow with a very shallow and wide cross-section which isn’t very aerodynamic. For example although Hickory does make great bows, it relies on its raw strength rather than an efficient transfer of energy. You commonly see hickory short-bows so the ends of the limbs won’t be too far away from the center line to create much drag and the bows tend to not be the highest poundage because the wood is so thin. Hickory is great for backing a bow however. Yew on the other hand has a very high MOR and a mediumish MOE which facilitates a very deep cross-section and thin limbs. Even though hickory has a lot more elastic strength than yew, a yew bow can handle greater depth so it can store more energy. The deep, limbs with a thin profile are also very aerodynamic which makes yew a great wood for longbows.

  18. Doug November 23, 2014 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    The two post prominent Australian bowwoods seem to be Red Ironbark and Spotted Gum. Yet using this method they both rank very low (7.37 and 7.17 respectively).

    My understanding has always been that high density, high MoR woods were most likely to make good bowwoods.

  19. Steve September 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    One thing that should be included in the calculation is the density of the wood. A low density would make the limbs of the bow quicker. The equation would be modified be dividing by the density.

    Question: what is the source that supports a low modulus? For 2 identical bows, the one with the higher modulus would have a higher stored energy and draw weight at the same length of draw. If the same draw weight is desired, then the limbs could be made thinner and lighter with the higher modulus wood. This would result in quicker bow limbs.

  20. Matt April 11, 2014 at 9:42 am - Reply

    I wonder if we could get the raw numbers for these? I would imagine you’d want a wood with neither a very high, nor very low Modulus of Elasticity, since a bow too easy to bend ends up with less power, yes?

  21. Drew November 7, 2013 at 4:45 am - Reply

    I live on the West coast of Australia, and have been trying some local timbers in bow building with little success. Has anyone had any success with Australian timbers for bow building

    • Doug November 23, 2014 at 9:27 pm - Reply

      Spotted Gum and Red Ironbark are the two premier aussie bowwoods I’ve heard of. For the most part you want high density, high MoR timbers.

  22. Dan Goodwin October 2, 2013 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Can anyone tell me what is the best glue to laminate a wooden bow?

    • kj November 30, 2016 at 4:21 pm - Reply

      Tightbond, epoxy, and hide glue all work fine, if applied properly.

  23. Joseph E. Cunanan July 25, 2013 at 7:08 pm - Reply

    I’m chopping down a Blackwood Acacia (Australian Acacia, Black Acacia, Myrtlewood?) Tree, and I’ve got a few projects lining up, one of which is a Recurve or Long Bow and the other is a Cross-Bow/Mini-Cross-Bow or three.

    My questions are how does this wood add up for use as a Bow.

    It seems to be up there with the best Hickory in terms of Strength, Rupture, Harness, Elasticity, and Crushing Ratios.

    But, it doesn’t show up anywhere as a Material for a Bow.

    Is it because I only checked the Top Ten Search Listings on Google.
    Or, because the Australians only used Boomerangs, which is getting added to the list of Projects, now too.

    I hear its as gorgeous as Hawaiian (Acacia) Koa Wood. And, also what Noahs Ark and the Ark of the Covenant were made out of.

    • Bowmakerindo February 26, 2015 at 8:40 am - Reply

      Any kind of acacia will do the job

  24. Michael David May 28, 2013 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    This is perfect for what I was looking for! I have been looking for good wood to make bo’s and Jo’s from and I wanted something that would flex, but not break. Perfect.

  25. D May 12, 2013 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately, I have to agree for bows. Too low an MOE is not ideal. You need the wood to be able to take all the force without bending too much and then deliver it back into the arrow. If it bends too much you will lose force. But I’m no scientist.

    However for my purposes this has been fabulous as this is exactly what I was looking for, thank you. I’m making something (it’s hard to explain) that requires exactly this: migh MOR/ low MOE. Imagine my joy!

    Thank you very much.

  26. Rob Wilkey January 11, 2013 at 1:12 pm - Reply

    This is an awesome article, but I have to agree with James Davis. The best recurve bow I’ve ever shot (that was mostly wood) was carved in Hickory.

    I think the real value to this article is showing woods that work well in tensioned setups.

    A furniture design I’ve been working on required tensioned lengths of wood for the legs and armrests, and this article has helped me narrow down the list of woods available for this purpose.


    • Thawed Cave Bear July 26, 2016 at 6:12 am - Reply

      Ugh. Hickory. I’m glad it did something for you, but…it’s the short bus of bow-woods, for me–so often recommended in suboptimal circumstances because “hey, at least you won’t break a hickory bow!” In efficiency, power, subtlety it doesn’t compare to a bow-material that can send arrows down-range through compression, like a rebounding string. It’s just cheap, robust, carries tension and is stable–and is easily covered in fiberglass. Would you like to buy a still-wonderfully functional Hickory longbow?

    • Thawed Cave Bear July 27, 2016 at 5:13 am - Reply

      (Cough) -Just a personal feeling about it–I meant no offense.

  27. jonathan December 27, 2012 at 4:25 am - Reply

    This is an interesting article. I agree with Eric regarding the ratio of MOR to MOE. Hickory is known to have an excellent MOR but it also has a very high MOE. That I believe explains its inferiority to osage or yew. Black locust has a slightly lower MOE than hickory but a similar MOR- again explaining its superiority. I have made bows from osage, muninga and chinaberry and of none of them took much set (plastic deformation). The only problem with just using this ratio is that it doesn’t take into account the fact that you still need the MOE to be high to keep wood thin and you need a wood with a high crushing strength. Muninga takes very little set but it does crush in compression making it an extremely touchy wood that readily forms compression fractures. If the bow works it will be excellent but it requires a lot of skill. My feeling is that the perfect wood would have a high crushing strength, high ratio of MOR/MOE, low density and a high MOE (but still low compared to the MOR). That’s why yew scores so well compared to all other woods.
    One question- why is your value for african blackwood so low? From the data on this site it should score closer to 12.

    • Steve September 21, 2014 at 3:18 pm - Reply

      A true MOR is measuring the bending strength of the wood, so crush would be included in the value. There is a good article at ask dot com. That is unless you are asking about transverse crush (cross grain). That value is typically directly related to wood density. Balsa would be immediately discounted because the light grades would crush in the archer’s hand.

      • Thawed Cave Bear July 26, 2016 at 6:02 am - Reply

        What a useless response, devoted to demonstrating alleged technical knowledge that’s not useful without context!

    • Alex Wirtz October 6, 2017 at 2:54 am - Reply

      A very qualified yes to this: if you’re building laminate bows – not selfbows – you get a different result for the back wood (the part of the bow facing away from the archer, requiring strong tensile strength) and for the belly (where compression strength is most important).

      One of the reasons yew has the primacy it does in European bowmaking is that it is, in effect, a laminate itself – the sapwood and heartwood have quite different qualities.

      Hickory is inferior to practically nothing as a back wood (not sure how a hickory-only selfbow would work, though I’ve seen ’em made).

      Must say I’m surprised ash doesn’t feature here – I’ve made a couple of small selfbows out of it and it’s one of the best whitewoods there is (others, far more experienced than me, have made them up to 150lbs draw weight at 32 inches).

      Think there’s more to this than just the numbers (but if I can find some muninga I might give it a whirl :) )

  28. Eric Hauck December 21, 2012 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your efforts and work in providing these correlations of tests and data. For those of us who battle the obsession of bow-making all additional information and studies are always welcome.
    Best Regards,

    P.S. Your disclaimer “…to foster imagination and exploration” is appreciated but probably not necessary :)).

  29. James Davis December 21, 2012 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    I have been making bows for more than 15 years. My experience and logic say you have the concept diametrically opposed what is desireable for the MOE.

    What is needed is wood that is HARD to bend and hard to break. That allows less wood to do the work. Less wood means less mass to be put in motion by the energy stored in the bent bow, resulting in faster arrow flight.

    Black locust the hickories, white ash and others balance the force required to bend them quite well with the force required to break them. Perhaps a formula recognizing the value of high MOE numbers would be a good next project?

    I appreciate your efforts but I think you began from a false premise.


    • LEM December 2, 2013 at 12:37 am - Reply

      It seems to me that the best bow material for bow making is bamboo. I don’t know the MOE or MOR of the wood but it will flex and return to it’s original shape better than the ones I have made from hickory, hard maple and Pacific Yew. Granted, the grain of these species is sometimes erratic. Tonkin Bamboo is a good species partly because it can be gotten in larger diameters 3″ to 4″ or so and split to 2″ strips, flattened, and planed to thicknesses for laminating. Bamboo in general is straight grained wwhich is part of the advantage. This all presumes you are going to laminate and shape the bow and work it to an even flex between the two limbs.
      Howard Hill was the first person who used a hand made bamboo bow for serious bow hunting in America to my knowledge (in the 1930’s) also shot the scenes in the first Robin Hood movie and many other video presentaions later. That is when I got the idea I was barking up the wrong tree. Also bamboo is still used for bows in rural Asia but not necessarily laminated. After all 1 billion Chinese cannot be wrong!

      • rockyrgs January 14, 2014 at 7:37 pm - Reply

        What poundage are the so. eastern bamboo self bows? do they shoot arrows or bamboo darts like their crossbows? Although their bows on the crossbows are 4′ Mountain Yard mahogany.
        BTW HOWARD HILL never shot bows less than 110 lbs draw weight. the movie with Errol Flynn he used that 110lb draw weight bow and the guys that he shot in the chest had 1″ wood boards backed with 1/4″steel and they hated to get hit with those arrows! they were really knocked off their horses! H.H. loved the bamboo bows.

        • jim May 31, 2014 at 11:48 am - Reply

          you would have to change never to most of the time. i still have the pictures of howard hill shooting my fathers recurve bow. my fathers name was frank murphy and he was a skilled bowyer out of new york.
          locally his diamond bow company was a favorite among many new york target shooters and hunters. the chance meeting of HH at a field archery event was one of his favorite memories.

      • Thawed Cave Bear July 26, 2016 at 5:58 am - Reply

        Not even during the Great Leap Forward? (42 million dead for no important reason)? The continued Cultural Revolution?
        –I guess all the hundreds of millions of historical slave-owners must have been right, too! It’s too many to be wrong.
        -Bamboo may be ‘straight grained’ but it simply doesn’t last as long as its partners in crime–great tensile strength, but it needs replacing before a battle’s over.
        -It’s unlikely Howard Hill shot the bow-hunting sequences in Errol Flynn’s (thematically rich AND historically accurate) masterpiece. More likely, I’d expect he was, say, stunt choreographer, or an AD.

        • Bug eater 357 April 1, 2017 at 4:15 pm - Reply

          Hundreds of millions of slave owners?

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