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This question is about the simple type of bow often (but not exclusively :) ) made by children that consists of a branch of wood with a cord tied to both its ends. Obviously such a branch should be straight and uniformly thick. Furthermore there is the question of how much force it can take. I experienced that wood from certain brushes/trees can take more force (at the same diameter) than others.

Which trees/bushes make good bows, i.e. can take a lot of force?

Please also give a reference in what region those types can be found. I am asking from a middle european standpoint, but answers for other regions are welcome as well.

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    quick comment - you don't really want it to be straight, and you definitely don't want it to be uniformly thick. Ideally you want a curve, and a taper. – Rory Alsop Aug 14 '15 at 19:31
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There are two important factors when bowmaking:

  • Flexibiliy, i.e. how easy the wood is to bend
  • Strength, i.e. how much force you can put into the wood before it breaks.

If you are just interested in a toy bow that doesn't shoot to hard or far then flexibility is your main concern. You want thinnish green wood which tends to be the most flexible.

If you want to build a more proper bow the strength of the wood is also important as it needs to take the load you are putting in.

For specific woods, the traditional English longbow is made of Yew which is probably one of the best bow making woods in Europe (note: English yew is poisonous so be careful while handling it).

Other wood traditionally used for longbows according to wikipedia include ash, elm, hazel and laburnum so these are other good options.

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In the US southwest, Juniper was commonly used by native peoples. I've heard it said that one can still find living Juniper trees around the southwest that have apparent 'slices' taken out of them where material was removed to shape a bow.

Also, a quick google search turned up this site with a seemingly comprehensive list of woods that will work for bow making: https://sites.google.com/site/nativeamericanplants/crafts-catalog/Indian-Craftsman/bow-woods

To lift a few from the list:

Apple, Ash, Bay California laurel, Beech , Birches, Cherry, Eastern Redcedar, Elms, Junipers, Koa, Lemonwood, Locust, Maples, Oaks, Etc…

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When I was a kid I repeatedly made simple bows from hazel trees/shrubs. The main advantage here is that it grows in very handy, more or less uniformly thick branches that are very appropriate in size to use as bows (also make good walking sticks/spears).

As strength/durability of the bow was never an issue we used freshly cut, green branches - obviously a no-go for any serious longbow. If the latter is what you're going for, I advise using yew or ash stems (not branches) of at least 15 cm in diameter that have been stored and dried for about 12 months. But in this case you'll need to look into some detailed manuals on bow making anyway.

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In the Canadian prairies saskatoon and choke cherry trees were used to make bows by the first nations.

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