Bow Woods

Archery enthusiasts and hunters enjoy making bows themselves. Many types of woods and grasses can be used to make a custom bow.

Red Oak

Red oak is used to make bows by many people, especially beginners. It is easy to find at any lumber shop and is even available at big box home stores. A 72-inch long board is the size needed to make a bow. Though it is three quarters of an inch by one and a half inches, it is known as a one by two. The wood of the red oak is porous, especially in the early growth ring portion of the wood. The best wood is that with wide, late growth rings, making the wood heavier. If the grain is very straight, it will not need backing, but many find that backing helps stabilize the bow.

Juniper and cedar

Juniper, or aromatic cedar, is a lightweight wood, but in spite of this, it makes a good bow because of its elasticity. It has a specific gravity of .45. Using a rawhide backing will help it with the tension. Juniper can be brittle, as can other types of cedar. It has a wonderful smell and works well under fiberglass.


Hickory is another popular bow wood. It is strong so a thick piece of wood will suffice. It is very difficult to break, but it can become sluggish over time because hickory wood will drink moisture from the air. Keeping the bow dry will help with this. To remove the bark, place the wood into a shower for thirty minutes, and then remove with a chisel.


Mulberry is similar to Osage orange, a native citrus in northern areas like Michigan. Osage makes a good bow but it is hard to come by. The tree grows quickly, so the wood is easy to find. Woodworkers find that mulberry and Osage are similar to work with, but it has a thicker sapwood, up to one and a quarter inch in some trees. When you cut the mulberry, remove the bark and the sapwood to prevent cracking of the wood. Mulberry is lighter weight than Osage, and the bows will have less hand shock.

Various whitewoods

A variety of whitewoods can be made into bows. These are good when quickly cured. Birch, ash, elm, hardrock maple, vine maple and hop hornbeam are all good candidates for bow making. Some woods can crack if they are debarked too soon. This group of woods includes the apple and the crabapple. The pacific yew is a heartwood but won't crack.

Heartwoods for bows

Heartwoods need to be seasoned before they are used. They have a layer of sapwood that must be removed. Thee woods include Osage orange, black locust and mulberry.

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