Author Topic: How to pick a hickory to cut?  (Read 747 times)

Offline hickry

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How to pick a hickory to cut?
« on: August 20, 2008, 10:17:00 AM »
Hey guys.  I've got a question for those who cut/season their own bow wood.  I've cut, and used, two hickory trees now for bow wood.  After breaking about a half dozen bows trying to use the outside of the tree as the back, I finally figured out that if I shaved down some and got more towards the center of the tree that the wood got MUCH stronger.  I posted a link in the PowWow section on "Pithy Stave" and got a lot of responses that were helpful.  And then I did some testing per the TBBI.  It was amazing at the difference in the wood in the outside of the tree vs. going down into it a little.  On each of these trees I noticed that the growth rings towards the outer part of the tree become MUCH thinner and are, in many cases, impossible to see without doing a lot of sanding, etc.  Also, the outside rings are much more "pithy" than the rings as they go toward the inside of the tree.  My questions are... 1) have I just picked a couple of bad trees to work with?  2)Is there a way to know if a tree will be like this before cutting/splitting, etc? 3) is this common or have i just been unlucky?
I'm wanting to collect some more wood this month for late-winter projects and was hoping you guys might have some opinions?
Thanks,
Alek

Online Pat B

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Re: How to pick a hickory to cut?
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2008, 10:29:00 AM »
Alex, all of the hickory I have cut have had thin rings. With hickory, in my experience, ring thickness doesn't matter as to the strength. I have never used thick ring hickory so my answer is a bit bias. I have also found the heartwood of hickory to be more brittle than the sapwood. It would make good belly wood but I prefer the sapwood and especially the wood just under the bark to be the strongest and the best for self bows or backing strips.
   I usually cut hickory for bows early in the growing season. The bark comes off easily at that time and the wood just under the bark is perfect for self bows as you have a continuous untouched ring for your back. The reason I don't cut hickory this late in the season is because you will be using a "new" ring that hasn't had a chance to mature. By next spring that top ring has had all winter to mature and become sound.
   With that said, hickory cut any time will make an excellent bow if the M/C is low.  How did the previous bows break? Did the back fail or did a hinge develop and cause a weak spot in the limb?     Pat
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Offline hickry

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Re: How to pick a hickory to cut?
« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2008, 01:29:00 PM »
Thanks for the info Pat.  I guess I've been somewhat confused... had it in my mind that late summer was the time to cut the wood.  May wait till next spring if that's the case.
What I'm using is really all sapwood... just closer to the center than the outside.  All my bows broke in tension.  This made a lot of sense after testing according to TBB1.  I broke 1/2" x 1/2" samples according to the testing procedures laid out in the book.  The samples towards the outside of the tree were breaking at ~7-14 pounds while the ones closer to the center were all breaking over 40 lbs.  The samples towards the outer part of the tree ALL broke in tension... just like the bows.  The samples I took closer to the inside of the tree had a "clean break" throughout.  I've made a couple of shooter bows from these trees, but I had to shave 1-4 inches down from the outside ring to hit good wood.  I'm going to take your advice and try it again... just maybe wait until the spring to cut the wood.
Thanks!

Online Pat B

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Re: How to pick a hickory to cut?
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2008, 03:22:00 PM »
Alek, Were you taking your staves from a tree cut in the fall. If so that may be why they broke. The top ring had just been laid down during the growing season and didn't have time to mature.  That is why I like to cut all whitewoods in the spring, just after the leaves come out. All of the last ring have had all winter to mature and the newest ring is what is allowing the bark to "slip" so easily...its new growth.
   I have never had a hickory bow break. I have had them henge and fret but never break.
  Also the way the wood(all whitewoods) was handled after harvest can have an effect on the strength of the wood. If it is allowed to lay on the ground or if the log is left whole and the bark left on, fungi will attack it. Even though it might not look bad it can be. I try to cut the tree, split it into good size staves, remove the bark and seal the ends and back(I like shellac) as soon as possible then get it into my shop to season. Pat
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!
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Offline Mechslasher

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Re: How to pick a hickory to cut?
« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2008, 04:53:00 PM »
i'm with pat on using the sapwood or outter layer.  if you cut your hickory just as the young leaves are coming out the bark will literally fall off during the splitting.  if it wasn't for osage, hickory would be the wood i'd be using for all my bows.
"There is beauty and magic in a drawn bow."

Cade (SC)

Offline hickry

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Re: How to pick a hickory to cut?
« Reply #5 on: August 20, 2008, 09:34:00 PM »
Thanks guys... sounds like i've got a new winter project!

Offline hickry

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Re: How to pick a hickory to cut?
« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2008, 10:55:00 AM »
Hello again.  I posted this picture awhile back in another post but thought it might help someone in this one as well.
 

On this tree, I ran tests per the "Break test" in TBB1, on three different staves.  On each stave, I took samples 1/2" x 1/2" from the outside of the tree to the inside.  On this particular tree, the outer 1.25" - 1.5" broke at MUCH lower values than that which is listed in TBB1 (~25%)... and from those closer to the center of the tree.  I really believe it's just due to bad wood on the outside of the tree.  I've read a lot over the course of the last two days and it appears that this could be due to 1) drought, 2) competition, 3) age/size, 4) disease, etc.  So, I think I'm gonna move over a little late this winter and look for wood in a little different setting.  If anybody has any additional input, I'd sure like to hear it!
Thanks,
Alek

Online Pat B

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Re: How to pick a hickory to cut?
« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2008, 11:36:00 AM »
I've never seen hickory(or any wood for that matter) with holes in the wood like in this pic. It seems to be mostly in the early wood. With wood like that I have no doubt it would fail.     Pat
Make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes!
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Offline onemississipp

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Re: How to pick a hickory to cut?
« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2008, 03:09:00 PM »
That is strange, but I have no idea as to why it is that way.
Dustin
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