The Best Archery Bow Wood: Which One is the Right Fit for You?

If you’re looking to get into archery, you’re probably wondering what the best type of bow wood is. There are a few different types of wood that are popular among archers, but which one is right for you? In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of wood that are used for bows, and help you decide which one is the best fit for you!

Types of Archery Bow Wood

Every bow wood type comes with its own unique qualities. The trick is finding a type of bow wood that offers the flexibility your bow needs with the proper draw weight and appropriate hardness. Below you’ll find the positive and negative qualities of each wood type so you can make an informed decision on your archery bow wood.

Archery Bow Wood

HICKORY

Hickory is a common wood that is strong and durable. Used extensively by The Eastern Woodlands tribes of North America, hickory proves itself worthy of being crafted into a rugged flatbow or longbow. Hickory is also relatively easy to find, so it’s a great option if you’re just starting out in archery.

Pros: Incredibly durable so it will last for many years; strong tension; very affordable.

Cons: Has a high rate of moisture absorption so not a good option when shooting in damp, wet environments; over time becomes brittle.

LEMONWOOD

A hard and springy archery bow wood choice that ranges from light yellow to light brown in colour. One of the highest competitive scores in archery was made using a lemonwood bow.

Pros: A good, basic bow wood choice: affordable.

Cons: Difficult to work with; slightly on the heavier side.

MAPLE

Maple is a common type of wood that has been used for a very long time in many different places. It’s commonly used hardwood that provides strength and flexibility. With over 130 species, this type of tree grows all over the northern hemisphere. Most species grow in Asia, but the tree is abundant in Europe and North America. This hardwood stores a lot of energy and really propels an arrow with force upon release. Maple is also relatively easy to work with, so it’s a good choice for beginners.

Pros: Strong and stiff; easy to work with, making it a good choice for beginners.

Cons: Prone to breaking if not handled carefully; can be quite expensive.

YUCCA

Yucca wood is a softwood, making it a better backing option.

Pros:  A strong and lightweight bow wood option.

Cons: Not a very sturdy bow wood option

RED OAK

Red oak is a hardwood that comes in pinky-reds to light browns, making this archery bow wood option one that’s also very appealing. It is also a dense wood which gives it both strength and stiffness. Red oak is less forgiving than other bow woods, so if you’re looking for a bow that’s easy to shoot, this may not be the best option for you.

Pros:  Strong and, dense, and durable; affordable, readily available in most cities.

Cons: Can be difficult to work with; tends to splinter and/or shatter when using thin pieces to make a bow; a heavier bow wood choicen.

BASSWOOD

This stable softwood isn’t used as often as other bow wood types due to its particular characteristics.

Pros: Lightweight; easy to work with; pleasing to the eye.

Cons: Not very strong; low density doesn’t result in quality, long-lasting bows; rots easily over time.

DOGWOOD

Dogwood is a popular choice for archers looking for a light bow. This wood has excellent shock resistance and is one of the hardest woods in the United States and Canada. It’s also one of the most flexible bow woods available, making it perfect for those who are just starting out in archery. This bow wood option ensures durability.

Pros:  Offers high shock compression, strength, and density.

Cons: Difficult to find; expensive

IPE

Since this Brazilian hardwood option is very dense, it’s best to pair it with hickory wood and/or bamboo to make a strong and sturdy laminate bow.

Pros:  Works very well when under compression.

Cons: An unstable wood so develops compression failure after 6 to 18 months of use

EASTERN REDCEDAR

Also known as Juniperus Virginiana, eastern red cedar actually comes from a juniper tree. When used correctly, this can be a good bow wood option.

Pros:  This bow wood ranks high on the best bow wood list due to it being light; minimal tension and strong compression pair together to make eastern redcedar a great choice for longbow designs.

Cons: Must add backing to address the minimal amount of tension and is difficult to find.

ELM

An ancient tree, bows made of Elm (genus Ulmus) go back thousands of years. The Holmegaard bows discovered and preserved in Denmark date from 15,000 to 5,000 before the present are made of elm. When choosing elm wood, use winged elm tree wood, cedar elm tree wood, or rock elm tree wood. These hardwood elm tree options work best when making a self-bow.

Pros: Very durable; offers great bending qualities; a good bow wood choice for making a self/simple-bow.

Cons: Prone to cracking over time making backing the bow necessary to add strength.

OSAGE ORANGE

Known as The King of Bow Woods by experienced archers, When it comes to self-bows, that is bows made from a single stave of wood, Osage Orange is rated among the best wood for bows. The wood has a Bow Index of 11.5 making it very similar to Yew. Osage Orange is also highly resistant to rot.

Pros: Offers great compression strength; doesn’t rot; one of the best archery bow woods available today

Cons: Osage orange wood bows tend to be hard to find; possibility of allergic reaction; expensive and become more flexible with heat.

BLACK LOCUST

Black locust is a hardwood that ranks high on the best bow wood list due to its light weight and minimal tension. This wood also offers great compression strength, making it perfect for those who are looking for a durable and long-lasting bow.

Pros:  A good choice for making a self-bow.

Cons: Extremely dense making it difficult to work with.

BAMBOO

While technically bamboo is not a tree but rather a grass, its use in bow construction has been widespread for millennia. While there are more than 600 bamboo species, only 5 or 6 of them make for good bow construction. More often than not, bamboo is used to back a bow. The cores of several Asiatic recurves are made of bamboo. The traditional Korean bow (gakung) features a core of bamboo. Traditional Chinese bows were known to be constructed out of mulberry or bamboo for their cores.

Pros:  Very affordable; should last for a few years if made using quality bamboo.

Cons: Requires more time and effort to make a bow using bamboo wood.

LABURNUM

Laburnum is an unusual bow wood, and as long as you can find a decent size and length of straight-grown wood you could have the makings of a decent bow.

Pros:  A great bow wood choice when used to make D-section English longbows

Cons: Archers are more apt to experience string follow issues.

WHITE OAK

White oak is a popular bow wood choice for those looking for a strong and durable bow. This hardwood offers great compression strength, which makes it perfect for those who are looking to shoot arrows with a lot of force. White oak is also one of the more affordable bow woods available on the market today.

Pros:  Good tension so very bendable; easy to find.

Cons: Tends to be on the heavier side; doesn’t last as long as other archery bow wood types.

HAWTHORN

The hawthorn tree produces hardwood with a tight structure, making it best for flat bow construction. It’s not usually thought of as wood, but hawthorn can produce some decent-sized logs of around four feet or so, and if it is reasonably straight-grown without too many little pin knots, it will make quite a respectable flat bow.

Pros:  Hawthorn wood that’s been properly seasoned makes for a strong bow.

Cons: The interlocked structure makes it difficult to use so not recommended for new archers.

YEW

The most notable historical use of Yew for bow wood is that of the Welsh or English Longbow. Yew is considered one of the hardest of softwoods, yet it possesses a high degree of elasticity (high MOE value).Yew is a popular English wood that was commonly used to make longbows as weapons for war. It’s not as common today as there are many other bow wood choices now available that have better characteristics.

Pros:  Makes for a good temporary, lightweight hunting bow.

Cons: The hardness and stiffness of yew make bows more brittle over time; yew bows tend to be expensive.

WYCH ELM

This bow wood was often used to make short and stout bows as weapons for war.

Pros:  A popular bow wood option for flat and broad-limbed bows.

Cons:  Low draw weight; over time wood becomes brittle, causing the bow to fall apart in a short amount of time; unseasoned green wood doesn’t support a long-lasting or strong bow.

Bow Wood Characteristics

Let us consider what aspects, characteristics, and qualities of wood make it especially suitable for making a bow. When it comes to making a bow, here are a few fundamental properties a bowyer would desire from a wood, or from any material that would go into making a bow.

Extensive calculations done by The Wood Database (https://www.wood-database.com/) reveal the best and worst woods for bow construction based on the wood’s Bow Index.

Strength 

The best woods for bows are strong in that they can undergo a relatively significant amount of stress and not break. If a wood is too weak, it could rupture as its fibers tear. This would of course be highly undesirable.

Flexibility

Archery bow wood should be both stiff and flexible. The stiffness of each wood type helps give it its overall strength and flexibility counts due to the necessary stress and bending required when taking a shot.

Stability

Some wood is highly resilient. Therefore the two above-mentioned characteristics do not change or alter significantly with changes in the environment. A drastic change in temperature and/or humidity can drastically alter the behavior of certain woods.

Elasticity

In physics and material science, elasticity refers to the ability of a material to resist a distorting influence and return to its original, unstressed state. The elasticity of a wood allows the material to store energy, and from a purely technical perspective, that is what a bow is: an energy storage device.

Choosing The Best Archery Bow Wood

When looking for the best archery bow wood, it’s important to keep in mind what you need and want from your bow. With so many different types of woods to choose from, it can be hard to know which one is the right fit. Each type of wood has its own good and bad points, so If you plan on making your own bow, always choose the highest quality wood to ensure the safety and longevity of your equipment.

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