Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Perfect Hazel Stave

This is a long post, so get a mug of tea!
I'm multitasking a bit (Ok I know I'm a bloke, so it's hard to believe) doing a bit with the Oregon Yew billets, preparing them for Bamboo backing.
I've  also started on a Hazel primitive for a guy who had a little 35pounder off me a while back and wants one with a bit more thrunge.

I sorted through the Hazel I cut back in January on a copicing trip with a local conservation group.
Most of it is as twisted as a politicians answer, but one piece is superb.
It has a slight reflex (Most logs dry with a slight reflex when split) and split dead straight.

I've tidied up the split surface to get it clean and flat as I can use that face as a reference to run it through the bandsaw to rough off some of the belly. In the pic on the right you can see the line of pith which runs through the middle of the tree in the centre of the cleaned up face.

I shall maybe jig it up carefully to ensure it runs true, I have got and adjustable vertical guide which I made, but I've learned that the more time spent in preparation the better the result with power tools and it's vital to avoid a costly error or slip which can ruin the wood in the blink of an eye.
That doesn't mean I always do it, as I'm prone to impetuousness.
Whilst cleaning it up I remembered that this is the fatter half of the piece i used to make a bow on a festival day at the club.
This is a good thing as I have experience with the wood already under my belt.
I pressed on and sawed out some of the scrap from the belly of each limb. One limb is pretty close to roughed out dimensions, but the other is a bit oversize.
All the roughing out is aimed at getting it manageable and just flexing, with plenty of width left for shaping and string line correction later. Note the grip is left full width for now. The pic on the right shows the fresh stave with my old fave' Hazel bow, you can see how the colour mellows with time.
The limbs are nominally 20mm thick at the fade (where it fades into the grip) and 15mm thick at the tip. This give approx 1mm reduction every 6" along the limb. A longbow tapers more like 1.5 - 2mm every 6" but a wide flat bow like this has more width taper and thus needs less thickness taper.
The simplest bow form is a flat limb just tapered in width, even a sheet of hardboard cut to a tapered limb will work as a V low powered kids bow.
I was tempted to reduce the fat limb a bit more on the bandsaw (there was 3-5mm to come off) but I quit while I was ahead and used a spokeshave which was pretty quick and easy.
Power tools can be a snare and a delusion. My view is they don't actually save you time, they save you physical effort. So my view on removing a thin sliver from one limb was that it may cause damage, it will need cleaning up with a spoke shave anyway and it will be V nerve wracking. What could be nicer than sitting outside on a sunny day doing a little spokeshave work with a mug of tea, a piece of toast and the cat on my lap? (Ok I'm lying about the cat)
Enough chat, here are the pics. You see the adjustable jig on the bandsaw, it needs care to ensure the stave is constantly pressed hard up against it. It is positioned a bit in front of the blade, this allows a little side to side movement/adjustment of the stave as the cut progresses, although I had to stop and re-adjust a couple of times too. It's easy to get sort of hypnotised as you are running wood through the band saw, you see it slowly creeping off line and don't stop 'cos you think you can correct it. Whoops, much better to stop adjust and re-start.


  1. Really, I hardly ever find a piece of hazel that isn't twisted BADLY. When I started bowmaking only half a year ago, I thought I would probably be working with hazel only since this is so easily avilable just around the house. MEanwhile, I have a good load of wood drying, from about 10 species, but not a single decent piece of hazel. I'd treat it like a treasure by now.

  2. Yeah, of the 4 logs I split only one split straight. I think it's pretty much down to luck, but at least there's plenty of it about (My Sis has a wood burner, so none goes to waste).
    I think about 45 degrees of twist is useable by simply laying the bow out slightly on the diagonal and carful tillering, I've read that heat can be used to untwist limbs too, not done it yet though.
    Hazel being fairly homogenous might be ok just sawn straight regardless, but I havn't proved it. I'll try one of my twisty bits and see how it comes out.
    There always seems to be more stuff to have a go at, and it's a constant learning experience.
    10 species! Wow, that's a good stash.

  3. I'm really looking forward to trying out the different woods. Since ths is my first year, I'll have to aquire wood double the rate I use it, so next year I have a years buffer of seasoned wood :) I just finished a spiky blackthorn sapling about 5 or 6 cm diameter that I cut in february. I'll post ist on the PA forum as soon as the half-oil is hard, that may take some weeks, though.

    The wood is marvelous, warm red colour and quite hard contrasts between rings. It's very dense and hard, brittle even. I could not really cut it, the draw knife would more split it. The spokeshave kept tearing deep splinters although it was zero spiraled. I had to work most of the way with a rasp and then move to sanding.

    it seems to be good bow wood, took little set and snaps hard.

  4. Hi everybody and Derek,

    I have read and found empircally that hazel will grow with a twisted grain when it is growing on a north facing slope, or mostly receives light from the north because of shading from other trees, hazel growing with the sun from the south is more likely to have a straight grain.