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Vocabulary section and other useful info

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Colorado Joe:
I am fairly new to the forums and almost as new to Bow Making. With all the research I have done and the wealth of knowledge that everyone here are more than generous to give, I think this forum site would be a bit more newbie friendly if it had a Bowyers Vocabulary section.

Perhaps this can be of some use. It's a comprehensive glossary I put together for The Bowyer's Journal a few years ago.

A Bowyer’s Glossary

 American Longbow - A longbow with a limb whose cross section is generally more flat than round, often rectangular or trapezoidal, and thickens to a deep handle.

 Animal glue - A natural glue made by processing pieces of hide, sinew, or bone.

 Arrow pass - The place above the grip where the arrow passes the bow when shot.

 Arrow Plate - A piece of material such as horn or leather set in or on a bow at the arrow pass, to prevent wear.

 Arrow rest - A ledge for the arrow to be shot off of. Common arrow rests are constructed by gluing leather, rug, seal skin, or feather directly to the shelf, or by fixing an ‘elevated rest’ of plastic, wire or such to the side of the bow just above the shelf.

 Arrow shelf - A shoulder or ledge of leather, wood, horn or other material glued to, or carved into the bow for the arrow to be shot off of, instead of the hand.

 Asymmetrical design - A type of bow whose limbs are of unequal length… and hence, whose longitudinal center is offset from the center of its handle.

 Back - 1. The side of the bow facing away from the archer as held during shooting. 2. To glue a thin piece, or layer of material such as wood, fiberglass, bamboo, horn, sinew, snakeskin or rawhide to a bow’s back to aid it in its ability to resist tension forces, as decoration, and/or to protect from wear.

 Backed bow - A bow whose back is of a material different than, or separate from the belly, glued on, usually applied to help resist tension forces and/or protect from wear.

 Backing - The material with which a bow is backed.

 Backset – The result (as effected by bowyer or nature) of setting the bow handle back toward the shooter and hence, the limb tips forward for greater efficiency. Inducing backset can be done when splicing longbow billets together by angling both billets forward from the spliced joint during glue-up.

 Belly - The side of the bow facing the archer when held during shooting.

 Billet - A short piece of wood to be used as half of a bow, normally spliced to another billet at the handle to make a full-length stave.

 Bow - A weapon made with a long piece of flexible material, connected at its ends by a bowstring, and used to propel an arrow.

 Bow Length - The distance measured from one string nock to the other along the back of the bow.

 Bow Press - A large jig made of metal and/or wood used to hold and apply pressure to a laminated bow’s pieces while the glue cures.

 Bow stringer - A device used to help brace a bow. Stringers are designed to enhance the safety of the user and the longevity of the bow.

 Bow square - A tool that clips onto the bowstring and is used to determine the nocking point on the string as well as measure the brace height perpendicular to the string.

 Bow Weight - See ‘Draw Weight’.

 Bowyer - A maker of bows used for target archery or hunting.

 Brace - To string a bow prior to shooting.

 Brace height - (also Fistmele) - The distance measured from the string to the strung bow’s grip throat (deepest part of the grip on the belly side). Historically, fistmele was gauged by placing the fist on the bow’s handle and raising the thumb to the string.

 Buchanan Dips - ‘Dips’, ‘Fades’, or ‘Fadeouts’ as they’re commonly referred to, are the areas where either end of a deep, non-bending handle section fades, in thickness, into the working limbs of a bow.

 Cambium - The thin layer of living tissue that resides between a tree’s bark and its sapwood. The cambium layer deposits wood cells that become growth rings as the tree grows.

 Cast - 1. The efficiency of a bow. 2. The distance a given bow is able to shoot.

 Center-shot - A center-shot bow is one whose shelf/arrow pass is cut slightly past center, deep enough that the nocked arrow lays down the center line of the bow as viewed from the shooter’s position, whereas an arrow nocked on a noncenter-shot bow would point to the left(on a right-handed bow).

 Check - A longitudinal crack in a bow, usually following the grain and caused by an inappropriate drying process.

 Chrysal - A small transverse compression fault in the belly of a bow, usually caused by an inherent weakness in the wood or an error in design and/or tillering. Chrysals often appear as hairline ‘cracks’ running perpendicular to the limb and are sometimes initially mistaken as scratches or cracks in the bow’s finish.

 Composite bow - A bow constructed by gluing layers of natural materials together, such as horn, antler, wood, sinew, bamboo, rawhide, and others.

 Compression - The force exerted on the belly side of the bow limbs as they are bent.

 Core wood - The wood laminations in the center of a laminated bow.

 Crown - The lateral peak of a stave or bow’s back. A highcrown is indicative of a small diameter tree, a low crown of a large diameter tree.

 Decrown - To flatten a stave’s back.

 Deflex - Any part of an unstrung bow that curves toward the string side, either created by the natural growth of the tree, or intentionally induced by the bowyer through heating and bending, or held to such a shape while gluing together backed or composite bows. Not to be confused with ‘set’ or ‘string follow’.

 Deflex/Reflex bow - A bow design incorporating deflex in the handle area for enhanced shootabililty and reflex in the limbs for added efficiency.

 Dip - See ‘Buchanan Dips’.

 Draw length - The distance an archer pulls the string... typically measured at his/her anchor, from the string at the arrow’s nock to a point 1 3/4” in front of the deepest part, or throat of the grip.

 Draw weight - The force in pounds required to pull a bow to the archer’s anchor.

 Dutchman - A plug or piece of sound wood set into a bow in place of a knot, crack, compression fault, or other inadequacy.

 Early wood - See ‘Springwood’

 Endless loop bowstring - A bowstring formed by a continuous strand of string material, with loops formed and served on its ends.

 English longbow - A bow, traditionally of yew, as tall as the archer, and wearing horn nocks on its tips, whose widest point is at the handle, and whose limbs are long, narrow, deep, and ‘D’ shaped in cross section. The belly of such a bow being fully rounded and its depth at any and every particular place in its limbs is at least 3/4 its width.

 Fadeout - A term commonly used in reference to the area where a laminated bow’s riser tapers to nothing and ends, and its limbs begin.

 Flare – On bows with a narrowed, deep, stiff handle section, the flares refer to the portions of the bow where it widens (flares) from the narrowed grip to full width of limb.

 Flatbow - A bow whose limbs are generally flat, and considerably wider than they are thick.

 Flemish twist bowstring - A bowstring formed by reverse twisting two or more bundles of individual strands of string material, such as cordage is made. The loops on either end are formed by hand as the ends of the string are braided back into itself.

 Floor tillering - To hold the bow’s top limb in one hand and its handle in the other while pushing the bottom limb with moderate strength against the floor and gauging the affect on the limb. Floor tillering is used as an early assessment of the strength and curvature of the limbs prior to stringing a wooden bow.

 Fret - A large compression fracture, or ‘chrysal’

 Grain - The longitudinal connecting fibers present in wood. A split-out stave follows the grain.

 Growth ring - The result of one year’s growth of a tree, comprised of both spring (early) and summer (late) wood.

 Hand shock - Recoil felt in the bow hand at the shot.

 Heartwood - The wood residing toward the center of the tree and under the sapwood, normally darker in color.

 Hinge - An area of a bow limb that bends considerably more than the wood to either side of it. Due to the concentration of compression forces in a ‘hinge’, such places are prone to complete failure if not corrected.

 Hot Box - A makeshift, thermostatically controlled oven big enough to contain the laminating bow press, used to warm an assembled bow as the glue cures. Warming epoxy glue accelerates curing time.

 Hybrid Longbow - A relatively new term used to describe a highly reflexed longbow limb design. Such a bow can show varying degrees of reflex at brace height, to the point that the outer limb begins to curve away from the string and the bow becomes a recurve.

 Laminations - (Lams) - Thin pieces of wood, fiberglass or other material that make up a laminated bow’s limbs.

 Limb Bolts - Bolts, normally used in conjunction with alignment pins, to attach the limbs to the riser of a takedown bow via threaded inserts that have been set into the limb pockets of the riser.

 Locator Grip - A handle design that is dished in such a way as to predispose the bow hand to consistent placement on the grip.

 Negative tiller - The term used to describe the condition of a bow whose top limb is stronger than its bottom, apparent by measuring from near the dips of each limb to the string.

 Neutral plane - The transverse plane in a bow’s limbs lying between that material which is under tension and that which is under compression.

 Nock - 1. Grooves at each end of the bow formed to hold and protect the bowstring. 2. The slot at the aft end of each arrow formed to accommodate the bowstring.

 Overlay - A thin piece of wood, fiberglass, micarta, antler, horn, etc. glued onto the bow, usually at the handle or limb tip, for decoration and/or resisting string wear.

 Parallel Lamination - A thin, flat piece of material, the same thickness from end to end, used to build up the core of a laminated bow.

 Positive tiller - A term used to describe the condition of a bow whose bottom limb is stronger than its top, apparent by measuring from near the dips of each limb to the string.

 Power Lam - A double tapered core lamination glued into a bow's handle area and extending a short distance beyond each end of the riser fadeouts in order to reduce or eliminate flexing in those areas.

 Propellor - Any degree of twist in a bow limb or stave, most easily seen by sighting down the back.

 Pyramid bow - A bow whose limb’s front profile is triangular in shape, starting wide enough near the handle to allow the needed tapering to be accomplished in width, while limb thickness remains practically unchanged throughout its length.

 Rawhide - Animal hide that has been de-haired, fleshed and dried. Rawhide is often used to back a bow and can be cut into long narrow strips and used for bowstrings and lacing.

 Recurve - A bow whose limbs curve away from the string at their ends. A recurved bow is said to be ‘static’ if the recurved portion does not bend during the draw, or ‘working’ if it does.

 Reflex - 1. Any part of an unstrung bow’s limb that curves away from the string side. 2. Distance a bow’s tips are set in front of the handle when unstrung due to reflexing. For instance, a bow may be said to show two inches of reflex, when unstrung.

 Riser - A term usually used with reference to laminated bows. The piece that encompasses the bow’s entire handle section. That which extends from fadeout to fadeout on a one or two piece bow or from one end of the handle section to the other on a three-piece takedown type bow.

 Sapwood - The white wood residing between the inner bark and the heartwood. Thickness can vary greatly, from 1/4” or less to a foot or more, depending on specie and age.

 Selfbow - A bow made from a single piece of wood or two billets joined at the handle to make a single full length stave. In addition, a selfbow is self-backed, that is, with no type of backing added that enhances the durability, performance, or overall integrity of the bow.

 Set - The result, generally due to belly compression/compaction, of a bow’s inability to return to its original shape. For instance, if a bow was constructed from a bow stave with 3” of reflex and after tillering, shooting in, and unstringing, the bow then shows 1” of reflex, the bow is said to have taken 2” of set.

 Sinew - Animal tendon dried and shredded longitudinally. Sinew is used for the hafting of arrowheads, arrow feathers, and often as a bow backing or twisted into bowstrings or cordage.

 Sister billets - A pair of matching billets, split from the same tree from where they resided side-by-side.

 Siyah - pronounced ‘see-ya’ - The stiff end of an Asiatic composite bow limb.

 Springwood (Early wood) - The light-colored, porous wood growth deposited during the tree’s resurgence at the beginning of the new growing season, visible in each annual growth ring. Springwood appears soft and pithy when compared to the more dense summer growth.

 Splice - To join two billets together at the handle to create a full length stave. The two billets are typically ‘fingerjointed’... mated with a Z-splice, V-splice or such so that each billet accurately receives the other, and glued together. Spliced handles are sometimes drilled and pinned with a wooden dowel for added strength.

 Stack Height - (Core Thickness) - The thickness of a laminated bow’s limb material measured at the butt end of the laminations.

 Stacking - When a bow gains substantially more draw weight per inch of draw than it did in any inch previously, it is ‘stacking’. The most common cause of stacking is a limb tip/string angle that exceeds 90 degrees.

 Starved glue joint - A glue joint that, with gluing surfaces too smooth and too much pressure applied, lacks enough glue for a sufficient bond.

 Static recurve - A recurve whose limb tips are unbending (static) throughout the draw.

 Stave (Bowstave) - A long piece of wood from which a bow is made.

 String follow - When an unstrung bow's side profile shows its limbs bent toward the string side so that the tips are behind the front of the handle, they are said to have string follow, or follow the string.

 Symmetrical design - A type of bow whose limbs are of equal length and whose longitudinal center is at the center of the handle.

Tapered lamination - A thin, flat piece of material, usually wood, tapering in thickness from one end to the other, used to build up the core of a laminated bow. A common degree of taper is .001/1” (one thousandth per inch).

 Tension - The resulting stress inflicted on a bow’s back when it is drawn.

 Thumb ring - A ring of horn or such hard substance worn on the thumb and used to hold and loose the string in the Asiatic style of shooting.

 Tiller – 1. To affect the desired results in the curvature of a bow stave/blank’s tensioned limbs by removal of material from the belly and/or sides by rasping, scraping or sanding. 2. An assessment of the side profile of a strung and/ or drawn bow.

 Tiller stick - A stick with notches along its side used to hold the bow drawn at various lengths for inspection during the tillering process.

 Tillering string - A bowstring, often adjustable by use of a timber hitch or bowyer’s knot, of sufficient length to be attached, in the early stages of tillering, to the bow’s string grooves without first bending the limbs. Its ease of adjustment allows it to be shortened as the bow is trained to bend further, and its use allows the bowyer to affect an even arc in the bow limbs prior to bracing the bow.

 Tillering tree - A simple rope and pulley system, usually mounted to a wall, pole, tree, etc. and consisting of some sort of bracket or cradle (which is used to hold the bow at its handle), a sufficient length of rope or cord (attached to the bowstring and used to draw the bow), which is run through a pulley mounted near the floor (allowing the bowyer to study limb curvature and movement from a distance).

 Whip-ended - The condition of a bow when the outer limb bends considerably more than the rest of the limb. Unless such a bow is designed of sufficient length to negate it, a whip-ended bow’s limb tip/string angle will reach 90 degrees and begin to stack earlier in the draw than a bow with a more gradual arc in the outer limb.

 Wind shake - A condition of the wood of trees that have been damaged by wind, apparent in internal breakage or visible separation of the growth rings.

 Wood borer - A wood wasp larvae that digs tunnels by eating through green (wet) bow wood. Usually reserved to a stave’s outer rings of sapwood, in woods with thin sapwood they sometimes bore down into a growth ring or two of heartwood. Grub-damaged wood can often be removed and a stave salvaged from underneath.

Cant we keep this at the top considering this question arises every month or so? I bet Rob could help us out.

Searched the Bench for Acronyms and got all these in a few threads.

R/D Bow = reflex deflex bow

Trap a back= to narrow the back so that the belly is wider giving the limb a trapezoid shape

BBO= Bamboo backed osage

D bow= a bow shaped like a D when strung

ERC= eastern red cedar

ttt= to the top

poc= port orford cedar

Example - BBO is a bamboo backed osage
Mostly the acronyms are ______ Backed ______ . Like BBO, BBI, BBH, HBI, HBO, HBY,

HHB - Hop Hornbeam

ELB - English Long Bow

D bow - Bend through the handle bow... shape of a "D"


CA glue is super glue.

there is TBII and TBIII both titebond glues.
TBBI, TBBII, TBBIII and TBBIV these are traditional bowyers bibles volumes one thru four.

Colorado Joe:
Absolutely perfect, Both of these should be locked down somewhere for easy access!


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