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I have a woodlot in Northern New Hampshire with a wide selection of tree species at various ages. Everything from saplings to mature trees: Main hardwood species include at least some of the following -- beech, sugar maple, striped maple, red maple, white ash, brown ash, hop hornbeam, elm, cherry. As well as a number of smaller species like alder and choke cherry. I was thinking of cutting some wood and splitting it into staves for future self bow making. My first question is how big a tree should I cut? Am I better off selecting a smaller tree that might split into four staves or a bigger tree that will yield more? As far as drying goes, I have a large loft over my dog kennel building or I could put the staves in under an open shed type roof where they would be dry but less exposed to the summer heat in the loft -- which would be better? How long will they need to dry? Any bow makers within striking distance would be welcome to some wood in exchange for a little sweat equity and expertise.
 

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welcome to the forum!
I've not done what you detailed above, so will wait for others to chime in.
 

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Great question.
 

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My first longbow, lightening stripped ash. When i was 11 a monster bolt of lightening hit our neighbors very straight and tall ash tree. It peeled a 8" by 12' stave off of the tree. A man that made hunting bows with osage billets came by and made two sinewed billet cut longbows, one for himself and one for me. I killed rabbits, squirrels and pheasants with that bow. I had great success with true pignut hickory, it needs to be super dry. I was asked about honey locust and mulberry sinewed back bows. I had no answer, so the individual flipped a coin and went with a billet mulberry and it turned out great. Of the species listed ash and elm are the two that I have personally had or shot that were good usable hunting bows, both were sinew backed and the ash that I had also had calf skin. .
 

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hop hornbeam is the one stuck out to me. have seen several bows made from it in the "Primitive Archer" over the years. have not tried it myself however.
 

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When I was making selfbows I ALWAYS USED as you mentioned smaller trees quartered to get four staves .The thinking behind that was a young tree like us in its prime is much stronger.The growth rings are tighter making the wood stronger.Shagbark hickory,vinemaple and hophornbeam were some of the woods I used.
 

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I'm in a somewhat similar situation. I made a few bows in the 80s, but recently started reading everything I could find. It seems it's all about design. I made a bow from a stick just for fun, and it works! Large trees, small trees and almost any kind of hardwood. Just make it a little wider as the specific gravity drops in the wood you're using. Note I'm not pretending to be any kind of expert, and I learn every now I make (or break) but it seems design is more important than wood type.

If you have it, it seems a 8-10" hickory makes it the easiest for a native wood in the northeast. I've successfully used walnut and maple too. Every ash now I've made has broke, but I'm not giving up on it.


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