When I first became interested in crossbows I thought the only wood used for crossbow prods (and bows) are/were yew – but here in central Europe yew has been used to such an extent that it is now considered an endangered specie and illegal to cut. With additional reading on the internet it seemed to me orange Osage and hickory are the American favorites. Because of their popularity I suspect they are the best and at first I had the idea of importing one of them but the shipping costs alone would make me have to go back to work. With yew, Osage and hickory being out of the picture I decided to look into what other woods are traditionally used and on the internet found a Czech bowyer whom I visited.
Mainly through him and some further study I have found the following woods are used – at least as hand bows: elm, hazel, ash, locust, black elder, hornbeam, yellow plum, and hawthorn and a couple more I can’t remember. He had finished bows, some being worked, and some staves drying of several of the woods. He gave me a couple pieces of hazel and a very short piece of yew. (I’m working on the hazel now.)
Yesterday, despite his telling me winter is the best time to cut, I went into the forest a ways from where I live because I don’t want to wait ‘til winter. But because spring is just beginning it was difficult to identify other species but with the help of my brother-in-law I was able to cut several pieces of hazel and one of hornbeam. Closer to where I live I have spotted elm, black elder, and yellow plum; well, I have enough wood for now – but some dark winter night . . .
If anyone has worked with any of these woods, or has seasoned them I would really like to hear how you went about it!