A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a shortbow I built and named Jumper. I hailed the all-forgiving Osage for allowing me to coax a bow from firewood. Today that stave’s forgiveness ran out and I learned a lesson about over-stressing wood.
I strung Jumper up cold and fired off a few arrows. There were no audible cracks, no strange feelings, and no other telltale sign of wood failure. It shot like it had hundreds of times before.
I had, however, noticed chrysals, or compression fractures, growing in the fades of the lower limb. After shooting a few arrows I inspected this stressed spot in the limb and found that a splinter had lifted on the back. It lifted directly opposite the chrysals, where sapwood meets heartwood. In my original post I mentioned how the stiff handle delaminated in the fades, which bent too much while tillering. I originally shortened the handle a bit, but left a hitch in the lower limb’s fade while tillering. That is where the splinter lifted and how this bow got the better of me.
Though this bow ultimately failed, I’m still glad I made it exactly how I made it. This bow taught me some valuable lessons, and its failure is a chance for me to learn from my mistakes and grow in my craft. Thus, I still think the take-home message from the original post is worth repeating:
“Maybe you are on the fence about making your first bow. Maybe you’ve made a few board bows and don’t know if you’re ready to progress to a stave. Or maybe you’ve had bad luck with your local bow woods and are hesitant to order that expensive piece of Osage for fear of breaking it on the tillering tree and wasting your money. If you’re in one of these situations, I say go for it. Find some Osage and build a bow. Take your time, research, and do your best job. In the end you will most likely end up with a shootable bow, regardless of imperfections, that will at least serve to bolster your confidence and fuel the bowyer addiction.”