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What is the Best Wood for a Recurve Bow?

I found the best wood for my recurve bow while I was learning the skills that come with handling a recurve bow and making my recurve bow the very best.

There are many types of wood that make great recurve bows like osage orange, bamboo, red oak, hickory, ipe, eastern redcedar, dogwood, and most hardwoods like oak and maple.

But what is the best wood for a recurve bow?

The BEST wood for a recurve is a tie between Maple and Hickory. These hardwoods are common enough to be inexpensive and, most importantly, have the best durability and ideal flex snappiness needed for a recurve bow.

What kind of wood do you use to make a bow?

So you have decided to handle a recurve bow.

Have you ever thought about making your own? or are you trying to have the best bow out there for outdoor activities?

Recurve bows are fun and are the traditional hunting tool that was used to get food for thousands of years. Having the best recurve bow starts with the best wood.

Archery has been around for a long time and was one of the first tools ever created for hunting. Back then there were only a few different choices of wood to choose from.

But now with science and technology, artificial wood has been designed. Different wood has been tested and researched to help create bows that shoot faster and more accurately.

So what are the best woods then…

Maple

At the top of the list, we have Maple.

Maple is the most commonly used since it is a hardwood meaning it has a good “snap” to it. Hardwoods are known for storing potential energy when flexed which would allow the arrow more force when it is released.

It also gives the flexibility needed to create a recurve bow.

Even with the invention of modern materials like fiberglass, recurve bows are STILL made using maple laminates.

A perfect example of this is the iconic Grizzly Recurve Bow made by Bear Archery. Using a combination of maple wood and fiberglass laminations in the limbs, this recurve bow has been a favorite among Traditional archers for decades now.

You can pick up your Grizzly Recurve Bow from Bass Pro Shops here.

Hickory

In close 2nd, we have Hickory,

This type of wood is usually the first pick for beginners. It is super cheap and you can find it anywhere.

It has strong tension which is perfect for backing and also tolerates more wood run than most woods do.

It has a very strong tinsel strength like bamboo so it needs to be thin when you make your bow.

*If you are thinking about making your first bow I would go with hickory wood!

Hickory wood does have a high rate of moisture absorption so it doesn’t perform great in damp areas.

Osage Orange

Anyone who has had a bow made of Osage Orange will probably have it listed as one of their favorites. It has good tensile and it has super compressed strength to help the balance of the bow.

And let’s talk about how it DOESN’T ROT! (even when buried)

A downfall…when the heat is applied this wood will bend like melted rubber. So you need to be very careful with heat.

But….the fact that it is this bendable means that it is very flexible and is easy to make into different designs.

Con! This is a pretty expensive wood and can be hard to find.

Bamboo

This wood compared to Osage orange wood is a lot less expensive and is easier to find but it needs more work than Osage wood.

Bamboo will last a very long time and can be affected by heat as well. The heat will make it an increase in elasticity.

It snaps back very well and this will help give the arrow more force.

Pro Tip* When using bamboo to make the bow, let the outer surface be the belly. This will help the balance.

Red Oak

Red Oak is super easy to find and is cheap to get. You can find it in any local hardware store or even your closest Lowe’s or Home Depot.

BE AWARE: When you are shopping for this particular wood; make sure you don’t get a piece that has earlier growth rings.

Red Oak is very porous so you will want to get a piece with thick late growth rings. This will be less bristle.

This type of wood is heavier but you will still need to back it just like any wood to have good support for your bow.

Ipe

Okay, so I wish I could have you record how you pronounced that word because I am pretty sure if you don’t know what this wood is, you said it wrong.

It is pronounced as “EE-pay”. So go ahead and say it a couple of times in your head because I know I did.

It is a very strong wood so it allows you to make thinner limbs which will also be much lighter. A lot of archers use this wood and back it with bamboo.

Ipe is most commonly used in making decks because it has a high resistance to decay. That’s good news for your bow!

*BE AWARE: A lot of people with allergies may be allergic to this wood.

Eastern Redcedar

Now you may be thinking that this is a type of cedar. It is not actually!

Its Latin name is Juniperous Virginiana. It is a type of Juniper.

This bow is so brittle and light that it is great for making recurve bows. It has strong compression and a weak tension.

The only con is that it can be very difficult to get your hands on.

Dogwood

It seems more people in Europe use dogwood than here in the U.S. for bows but don’t get confused, this is still a great piece of wood to use.

It is dense and very strong and is high in compression.

The key is finding a quality piece. Meaning, when you are looking for dogwood, be careful it doesn’t have knots. Because they don’t bend well. Most of the time they will just crack right in half.

But when you find a piece without pins or knots, you are in the clear.

*Also if this wood is too stressed, over time the wood could also create knots and then your bow as more of a chance snapping.

Definitely a lot of great options. The higher your budget the more you get out of your wood.

So now you have your wood picked out, how do you build it?

Build Your Own

This is a craft in itself!

It can take years to learn how to build your own bow especially if you are starting at the basics of picking the right wood out.

The First step!

You need to pick out what kind of wood you are going to use. Maple and Hickory are the most commonly used so I would definitely start there.

You can even find kits that provide pre-cut pieces of wood and other materials needed to make your own bow.

I think this is a great route to go for beginners because you can learn the basics of what material you will need to build your own bow. You can find these kits at most archery stores.

This is a great bow kit to start with!

Like I said there is a lot that goes into building a recurve bow. David Radtke is amazing and if you want to get all the info and details about how to build your recurve bow-go check out his article!

Step by Step instructions!

By David Radtke

Conclusion

Maple and Hickory are going to be your best options for your very first recurve bow. They are sturdy and a cheap material to get as well as easy to find.

The wood that I have listed are going to have their pros and cons no matter what but to have an amazing bow you have to have amazing material that will be able to hold up well with durability and perform to your highest expectation.

Try out the build your own recurve bow kit to get started and don’t forget to have fun doing it!

Related Questions

What Australian wood is good for bows?

Australian wood is good for bows such as hickory, spotted gum, water gum, and bamboo.

What is the best wood for arrow shafts?

The best woof for arrow shafts that are mainly used for target arrows are made of imported Norway Pine and Port Orford Cedar. These are good hunting arrows.

Can you make a bow out of pine?

Pine would not be a good material used to make a good bow. Pine is a very soft wood and does not hold its snappiness as well as hardwoods.