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Bow Builders Glossary

  • Actionwood  A limb core material made from laminated layers of domestic hardwood; laminations run perpendicular to the limb face and back; produced by the Old Master Crafters.  
  • Alignment  The position of the bowstring relative to the center line of both limbs. When the limbs are aligned, the bowstring follows the center line of both limbs from tip to tip.
  • Back  The bow surface facing away from the shooting archer; the bow side opposite the bowstring.
  • Backing  The material covering the outer layer of the bow back; fiberglass on modern laminated bows.
  • Backset  A longbow design where unbraced limbs angle backward, away from the shooter, in a reflexed position, and the limb tips set backward of the riser; designed to put preload, or stress, into the braced limbs. 
  • Bamboo  A tropical grass used as a bow corewood. Dried and fashioned into limb laminations for making composite bows, mostly longbows. 
  • Belly  The bow surface facing the shooting archer; same side as the bowstring.
  • Belly Tip Overlay  Material laminated to the belly of the limb tips, to provide extra material for fashioning the string groove and for strengthening the tip to reduce the possibility of limb twist.
  • Billet  A half bow-length piece of wood used in making self-wood bows. Billets are commonly split from a side by side position in the same log to obtain similar limb performance characteristics, and spliced in the handle section of a bow.
  • Black Locust  A native North American hardwood used for making bow risers and corewood laminations. Durable and resilient, also used for making self-wood bows.
  • Bow Form/Former  A wooden or metal form used to press laminated bow components into a specific shape; a bow form commonly represents the shape of the bow back and is part of a bow press.
  • Bo-Tuf  Gordon Composite fiberglass face + backing 
  • Bow Length  The length of a bow, commonly measured form string groove to string groove along the back.
  • Bow Press  A device used for pressing bow composites to conform to the shape of the bow form.
  • Bow Stringer  Usually a cord with a small leather limb tip cup tied on each end used to aid in the stringing and unstringing of a bow.
  • Bow Weight  The drawing force, measured in pounds, required to draw a bowstring a specified braced distance, commonly 28 inches. 
  • Bowyer  A person who crafts, builds, or makes bows. A traditional bowyer crafts, builds, or makes recurves or longbows.
  • Brace  To string a bow. A bow may be braced only slightly or to its recommended brace height.
  • Brace Height  The measured perpendicular distance from the braced bowstring to the low point of the belly of the grip. It may be adjusted up or down by twisting or untwisting the bowstring to slightly alter a bow’s shooting characteristics.
  • Bubinga  An African hardwood used in making bow handles.
  • Butt End  The thicker end of a lamination butted against another lamination (often paired) on the riser section. The end where pairs of laminations are measured.
  • Butt Overlay  Backing material laminated over the butt end of a take-down limb where the limb attaches to the handle section. 
  • Capping  Material overlaid on the back or belly of the handle for decorative and/or strengthening purposes
  • Center Shot  A sight widow cut to the depth of the bow’s center line so the arrow rests at or near the center line of the bow. A center shot bow minimizes the effects of the archer’s paradox. 
  • Center Line  A straight line from the center of the bow handle to the center of both tips, along the back or belly which divide the bow lengthwise into halves.
  • Chrysal  A hairline compression fracture of the wood fiber in the belly of a self-wood bow.
  • Clarified Calfskin  A processed calfskin used for backing self-wood bows, commonly applied to protect the sapwood layer.
  • Cocobolo  A dark, dense South American hardwood used in making bow handles.
  • Composites  The distinct components used in laminating a composite bow; commonly fiberglass facing and backing, corewood laminations, and a riser section.
  • Core Thickness The thickness of a laminated limb’s core materials; commonly measured at the butt end, between the facing and backing material.
  • Corewood  Wood used in making limb cores on composite bows; commonly fashioned into a thin lamination.  
  • Crowned  The peaked or rounded profile of an arrow shelf with a high point designed to enhance arrow flight. 
  • Dacron  Trademark for a synthetic polyester textile fiber used for making bowstrings.
  • Deep-Cored  A limb design with a relative core thickness greater than a flat limb design; commonly refers to a longbow with a thick limb core and “D” shaped cross section. 
  • Deflex  A bow design where the limbs, at the fadeouts, angle toward the belly. Designed to increase a bow’s stability and decrease its hand shock.
  • Deflex-Reflex or Reflex-Deflex  A bow design where the unbraced limbs deflex forward toward the shooter then reverse attitude, reflexing backward away from the shooter. Reflexing replaces the braced limb stress lost by deflexing; a common longbow design.
  • Delamination  The failure and separation of a glue joint in a laminated bow, sometimes caused by lack of glue, excessive heat or moisture.
  • Dished Grip  A bow grip concave along the belly; commonly fashioned on longbows to provide consistent hand placement.
  • Draw Weight  The pounds of pull exerted on the bowstring when drawn a specified braced distance; commonly measured at 28 inches of draw length.
  • Dynamic Position  A braced bow in a partially or fully drawn position.
  • Epoxied  To glue together with epoxy.
  • Epoxy  Any of the various thermosetting, or heat set, resins capable of forming tight bonds characterized by toughness, strong adhesion, and a high corrosion and chemical resistance.  
  • Exotics  Imported woods not indigenous to North America. 
  • Face The bow surface on the same side as the bowstring and facing the shooting archer; also known as the belly.
  • Facing  The material covering the bow face; fiberglass on modern composite bows.
  • Fadeout  The tapered end of the riser enveloped by the limp components and separates the limb components into back and belly laminations.
  • Fadeout Wedge  The fadeout portion of the limb of a take-down bow; also known as a fadeout block.
  • Fast Flight  Trademark name of a non-stretching bowstring material used for making bowstring. A Fast Flight bowstring shoots an arrow from a traditional bow approximately seven feet per second faster than a Dacron bowstring. (Now a term used for all modern bowstring material.)
  • Featherout  The thin feathered end of the fadeout.
  • Fiberglass  A composite material made of spun unidirectional glass fibers bonded in a high tensile strength, flexible epoxy matrix; approximately sixty-eight percent glass fibers by weight. 
  • Fistmele  A traditional word for brace height.
  • Flatbow  A straight-limbed bow with thin-cored, relatively flat limbs. A design styled after the Plains Indian flatbows. 
  • Flemish Bowstring  Bowstring made by hand with 2 or 3 bundles with designated loops.
  • Flush Cut  When bowstring nocks are cut to a depth that holds the string flush with the edges or back of the limb.
  • Follow The String  When a self-wood bow develops a bend in the limbs in the direction of the braced position. Lemonwood and hickory longbows are noted for following the string.  
  • Forgiving  Jargon for a bow that minimizes shooter inconsistencies. 
  • FPS  Feet per second; refers to arrow velocity.
  • Full Cut  The part of the sight window cut deepest into the riser.
  • Glass  A common slang word used to describe fiberglass lamination material.
  • Glue Creep  The inter-molecular slippage of a laminated glue joint. 
  • Glue-Up  The process of applying glue to the bow composites of a laminated bow.
  • Gongola Alves  An exotic hardwood used in making bow handles.
  • Grip  The middle part of bow handle griped by shooter; on longbows, often covered with leather. 
  • Handle Riser  The middle grip section of a bow to which the limbs are attached. The middle section of a three-piece take-down bow. 
  • Hinged Limb  A limb that has a distinct bend rather than a smooth continuous curve.
  • Hue  Shade or tint of color; a particular gradation.
  • Lamination  One of the layers of a laminated bow limb; either corewood or fiberglass.
  • Lay-Up  The process of arranging the glued bow composites in a bow form. 
  • Limb Length, Working  The measurement from the end of the fadeout to the string nock along the back. The bending portion of the limb that does the work in propelling the arrow. 
  • Limb Thickness  The measurement from the limb face to the limb back.
  • Limb Twist  The sideways bending of the recurve portion of a limb out of alignment. Some twisted limbs can be corrected. Contact your bowyer for advice.
  • Limb Width  The measurement across the limb face or back.
  • Micarta  A dense, fiber impregnated resin.
  • Mike  Jargon for measuring with a micrometer. 
  • Myrtlewood  A native wood used for making bow risers.
  • Osage Orange  A native North American wood historically popular for making self-wood bows. Also used for risers and corewoods in laminated bows. Known for its resiliency and toughness. 
  • Overlay  Material that is laminated to the belly, back, or side of a bow, usually on the tips or handle section.
  • Paired Laminations  Two corewood laminations cut consecutively from the same board to obtain similar grain and performance characteristics. Using paired laminations in opposing bow limbs helps achieve balanced limb characteristics.
  • Parallel Laminations  A corewood lamination uniform in thickness from the butt end to the tip end.
  • Phenolic  A crystalline resin derived from phenol, impregnated with cloth-based material and used in some facets of bowmaking such as tip overlays and fadeout wedges.
  • Polyurethane  A flexible resin coating used as a bow finish.
  • Preload A limb design feature measured by the amount of string tension at braced position.
  • PSI  Pounds per square inch at atmospheric pressure.
  • Recurve  A limb design in which the unbraced limb tips bend toward the back of the bow, and the braced bowstring lays against the belly of the tip.
  • Reflex  A limb design in which the unbraced bow limbs angle toward the back of the bow, and the braced bowstring does not touch the belly of the tip. The opposite of deflex.
  • Reverse Handle  A handle design in which the bow handle sets flush with the bow belly and extends toward or even past the back of the bow. 
  • Riser Handle  The grip section of a one-piece composite bow, measured between the ends of the fadeouts.
  • Riser Width  The measurement between the sides the rise, narrowing though the sight window. 
  • Sapwood  Soft, outer layers of newly formed wood between the bark and the heartwood of a tree.  It is the vascular system of the tree. This softer, usually lighter colored sapwood is used as the natural backing on some self-wood bows such as Yew. 
  • Shedua  A brown exotic hardwood known as African cherry, used in bow making.
  • Shelf  The ledge at the base of the sight window where the arrow rests. Also known as the arrow shelf.
  • Sight Window The cut out portion of the riser above the arrow shelf. It allows the arrow to pass near the bow center line reducing the effects of the archer’s paradox.
  • Sinew The fibrous tendon material from an animal leg or loin. It is used as a backing material on self-wood and primitive bows.
  • Skived  A trimmed narrow edge, such as the edge on leather lacing.
  • Stacking  Describes a bow that gains more than average weight per inch at the back of the draw.
  • Static Position  A bow in the braced position but not drawn.
  • Stave  A full–length, single piece of wood used for making a self-wood bow.
  • Strike Pad (Plate) The material covering the sight window where the arrow makes contact; commonly leather or animal fur on traditional bows.
  • String Groove  A shallow groove in the belly of a recurve limb where the bowstring contacts the limb. It helps keep the string and limb in alignment.
  • Tamboti An exotic African hardwood used for making bow risers.
  • Tapered Lamination A lamination that tapers form the butt end to the tip end. A common lamination taper is .001", .002”, or .003" per inch.
  • Taxus Brevifolia The genius and species of yew wood used for making self-wood bows.
  • Tensile Strength The resistance of a material to force. 
  • Throat, Grip The narrowest portion of the grip where the thumb and index finger encircle the grip.
  • Tight Radius Recurve A recurve limb exhibiting a pronounced and in-creased recurve in the outer half of the recurve. 
  • Tiller The difference between the upper limb and lower limbs measurements from the bowstring to the belly at the fadeout. Bows are traditionally tillered to produce a stiffer lower limb; i.e., the bowstring to belly measurement on the lower limb is less than the same measurement on the upper limb.
  • Tiller Board  A wall-mounted board used to visually inspect the bending of a bow’s limbs in dynamic positions. Predominantly used by self-wood bowyers.
  • Tillering The adjustment of tiller by removing material from a bow limb or limbs. Most bows are tillered to approximately ¼” positive measurement on the upper limb. 
  • Tip The very end of a bow limb past the string nock.
  • Tip Overlays Material laminated to the back of the limb tip, usually to strengthen the tips and to provide additional material for fashioning the string nocks.
  • Tip Wedge A thin tapered piece of wood or fiberglass laminated in the outer portion of the limb tip for strength and rigidity; used mostly in longbows.
  • Torque, Bow The unintentional twisting of the bow in the hand during shooting. Torqueing the bow can cause inconsistent arrow flight.
  • Trapezoidal Cross Section  A bow limb with a cross section in the shape of a trapezoid; commonly narrower on the belly side. 
  • Unbraced  A bow that is not strung. 
  • Whip Ended Limb  A bow limb that bends predominantly at the tip end, like a whip.