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Yew Wood and Longbows

Longbow Design Options

One of the simplest longbow designs is called a selfbow, by definition made from a single piece of wood. A little known fact on how effective the longbow is and has been for centuries is MORE people have been shot with longbows in wars then with guns!  While we do not advocate bows for war we DO build and sell them for target and hunting purposes.


Traditional English and similar longbows are self bows made of Yew wood, from England and other countries. A huge forest of Yew is shown above. 


The single piece of wood is called a bowstave which is cut from the radius of the tree so that sapwood (on the outside of the tree) becomes the back and forms about one third of the total thickness; the remaining two thirds or so is heartwood (50/50 is about the maximum sapwood/heartwood ratio generally used). 


Yew sapwood is good only for supplying tension, while the heartwood is good for compression. 

However, compromises must be made when making a yew longbow, as it is difficult to find perfect unblemished yew. 


The demand for yew bowstaves was such that by the late 16th century mature yew trees were almost extinct in northern Europe. In other desirable woods such as Osage the sapwood is almost useless and is normally removed entirely.


Wooden laminated bows, such as the one shown on this site are longbows that can be made by gluing together two or more different pieces of wood. Usually this is done to take advantage of the inherent properties of different woods: some woods can better withstand compression while others are better at withstanding tension. 


Examples include hickory, bamboo and yew longbows: hickory or bamboo is used on the back of the bow (the part facing away from the archer when shooting) and so is in tension, while the belly (the part facing the archer when shooting) is made of lemonwood or yew. 


Any wooden bow must have gentle treatment and be protected from excessive damp or dryness. Wooden bows may shoot as well as fiberglass, but they are more easily dented or broken by abuse. 


Bows made of modern materials can be left strung for longer than wood bows, which may take a large amount of set if not unstrung immediately after use.


Wood Options

 The longbow has a distinct advantage in it is a very quiet bow, as it has less surface area contact with the string when compared to a recurve bow.  It also has less 'finger pinch' than a recurve, can cast a heavier arrow with greater penetration, although it has slower arrow speed when compared to either a recurve or especially a compound bow. 


The advantage of a longbow, which is often as long as the archer's height is tall, is that the bow is extremely lightweight, feels balanced in the hands and draws with ease. 


Very large game, up to and including elephant and Cape buffalo have been taken with a longbow. In the right hands it is a very effective weapon, with archers in the English wars able to shoot and hit the enemy at well over 200 yards!


Most longbows are 20% longer than recurve bows, usually 64 to as long as 76 inches long.


We primarily work with Hickory, Maple and Bamboo as these woods are readily available, not considered 'old growth' and renewable. We use laminated wood for most of our bows to insure strength and uniform construction. Contact us for wood choices, options, pricing and wood combinations. SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PACIFIC YEW WOOD BELOW.


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