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LAMINATIONS AND LIMB WOODS

There are 2 basic lamination shapes; parallels and tapers. Parallels stay the same thickness from one end to the other, whereas tapered laminations are thick at the butt end and get gradually thinner as you move towards the tip. There are several different degrees of taper available, .001" per inch, .0015" per inch, .002" per inch and .003" per inch. A .001" per inch taper will loose 1 thousands of an inch in thickness for every inch closer to the tip that it is measured. A .0015" taper will loose 1½ thousands and so on. The amount of taper in a 36" long lamination, that tapers .001" per inch, will barely be noticeable, whereas a 36" taper that is .125, or 1/8", at the buttend will be paper thin at the tip in a .003" taper. What taper in a bowlimb does is create a bullwhip effect, theoretically snapping the bowstring taut and thereby increasing efficiency. It also makes the limb "open up" smoothly. Too much taper in a limb, depending on the design, can cause a bow to stack, however. Some bowyers prefer a combination of tapers and parallels, some prefer all tapers and others all parallels. Experience will dictate your final preferences and opinions.

No subject can get a healthy, sometimes heated, discussion going between bowyers more than the pros and cons of various limbwoods. What I'm going to do here is state my personal opinions on a variety of woods. These are my opinions and are almost sure to cause discussion and debate, but what the heck, I enjoy living life on the edge.

Limb Woods 
 Red elm: A proven limbwood that has good recovery speed, is relatively inexpensive, is readily available and has good cosmetic character especially when used flat grain. Can be used in both longbows and recurves with good results. Modulus of elasticity is 1.54
 Osage orange: Another proven limbwood with excellent recovery speed. It seems to me to be a little harsher shooting than most woods. It isn't as easy to find good quality osage as it is red elm, but still readily available. It is a bright orange-yellow which darkens with age. Modulus of elasticity is unknown.
 Black locust: An excellent limbwood, although I don't find it especially pretty, it is easy to get. Modulus of elasticity is 2.05
 Honey locust: A relatively heavy and hardwood that can have an attractive color and figure. Not as common as black locust. Modulus of elasticity is 1.63
 Maple: This wood is looked down upon by some bowyer for a lot of reasons, however has been used quite successfully in a lot of bows. It is easy to get and can be very pretty especially when it is curly or quilted. Modulus of elasticity is 1.83
 Black walnut: I believe that this is an overlooked limbwood and that it makes a good shooting bow. The only disadvantage I find with it is that because it is so dark, it shows the flaws in the clear fiberglass more than most other woods. Modulus of elasticity is 1.68.

 

The modulus of elasticity data is from the U.S. Forest Service Wood Engineering Handbook.

I believe that all of the above woods are quality limbwoods and can be used in both longbow and recurve limbs with good success. I am sure that several of you have noticed the absence of Pacific Yew and Bamboo from the above list. This is because I have never used them in a recurve and from all that I have read and gleaned from alot of other bowyers, their durability in recurves is in question. They are of course, excellent longbow limbwoods with a proven track record and many ardent fans.

Some exotics that I have used as full thickness laminations are Zebrawood, Canarywood, Bubinga and Purpleheart. Veneers of approximately .025 thickness, of other exotics that I have used or have seen used, are Australian Lacewood, Bocate, Cheechum and Cocobolo.

Since we are discussing laminations, I will breifly mention fiberglass. The two types of fiberglass most commonly used in traditional bows are made by the Gordon Glass Company. These two types are Bow-Tuff and Uni-Glass. Bow Tuff is made with woven glass strands and Uni Glass is made with lineal glass strands. Uni was developed to help alleviate the white spots and cosmetic flaws sometimes found in Bow Tuff. Unfortunetly, Uni can occassionally develop small cracks. Bows are being successfully made every day with both types of glass.

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