ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Building a Wood Bow- The Grain

Updated on February 3, 2018

Building a bow out of wood is a time honored practice going back all the way to the paleolithic period of human civilization. Bows have been used to hunt game, fight wars and in modern days some interesting Olympic sport. With modern materials and compound pullies the humble wooden bow has been transformed in a durable high performing machine that little resembles the humble tool of 5000 years ago.

While modern bows are fabulous tools for hunting and amazing performers in target shooting they lack a certain life that can make them unappealing to people like me that like the traditional feel and handling of a wooden bow. While they may lack in performance and durability they can feel much more alive in your hands and can feel like a extension of your arm rather than a tool.

To build a bow out of wood you need to to know a few basic things about wood species, grain selection, shaping and tillering the bow. I will endeavor to cover all of these steps in a series of articles that will teach you how to make you own longbow out of common wood species.

Part 1- The Grain

Depending on who you ask the grain of the wood is the most important thing you need to know how to select when choosing wood for your bow. There are two different types of grain you need to pay attention to when selecting the wood for the bow.

  • End grain for bows make from split staves from tree trunks or branches

  • Long grain for bows made from sawn boards

Stave Bows

Stave bows are made from either a single branch or trunk of a small tree or they are split from the trunk of a larger tree with multiple bows being made from one tree. On the right you can see examples of the kind of grain you are looking for when selecting the wood for your bow. The outer layers of the tree is called sapwood. Sapwood is typically the best wood for the back of the bow as it is better at taking tension when the bow is drawn. You also want to make sure that the wood is clear of knots in all parts of the stave that will be bending as a knot is typically a weak point in the wood. Bows can be made with wood that has knots and crooked grain but it take experience and skill when shaping and tillering the bow to not turn those into fatal defects. So until you get more experience it is best to steer away from wood with too much character.

What you are looking for in the end grain is tight even growth rings that show the wood is dense and strong. Growth rings that are spaced to widely or with clearly visible pores in the wood will typically not make a long lived bow.

End Grain

Board Bows

Board bows like the name implies are made from a sawn board from a lumber yard. They can make excellent bows if treated right and you take care to select good grain. Now unlike stave bows you do not need to pay nearly as much attention to end grain but instead you need to pay more attention to how straight the long grain of the board is.

The board on the left is a perfect example of what you want to see when selecting a board bow. The grain is perfectly parallel from end to end and it doesn't leave the edge of the board at any time. The most common point of failure on a board bow is where the grain runs off the edge of the bow like depicted in the image on the right.

If you can find a board that has bow straight long grain and a good end grain than you have found a good piece of wood and you need to buy it right that second.

I hope that you found Part 1 of building a wood longbow useful and stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3.

Long Grain


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)