Making a bow


(Naomi Zainuddin) #1

Hi all,

Some of you saw me wander in on Saturday with a very cheap wooden bow that I was trying to assemble. I haven’t yet found a string for it, but making the tiny modification to it that I did had me thinking about making one from scratch.

I originally looked at PVC pipe bows but it’s actually kind of hard to get the right kind of pipe in the UK. Looking at the basic recurve bow that I bought, the handle (?) Is a very basic shape cut out of any old wood, and the limbs looked to be thin bits of bamboo, that had been shaped somehow.

Tutorials seem to fall into 3 groups, making the bow from one long stick and trimming the limbs till they bend evenly, making the handle/riser and then attaching limbs (like mine), and laminating a bunch of thin strips.

I’ve found this tutorial on making a longbow that looks relatively simple of one knows what one is doing (which I do not).

Does anyone have any advice on which method to try first, and would anyone fancy having a go at making some bows with me?


(david) #2

I may be biased but would think an english longbow style may be easiest since the handle is fairly simply compared to an american style longbow or a recurve. While you can make one from a single wood the different requirements for back and belly wood is what caused laminated bows to become popular and you should be able to buy a blank stave made up of 3 woods “relatively” cheaply. For a string until you have finished shaping the bow and know what length you will need you will need to use a temporary one which will be looped on one end and you then tie a lop on the other depending on what length you need while shaping.
I’ll have a look and see if any of my archery books include bow making.


(Naomi Zainuddin) #3

Thanks for the advice! You don’t think it’s worth attempting to create the stave from scratch then?

I’m planning on using some 3mm nylon rope as a temporary string based on what BackyardBowyer uses on his PVC bows.


(david) #4

No you can certainly make the stave from scratch. It may just be worth checking what is available as for a first attempt you may not only end up saving money but eliminate one area of potential beginners error and concentrate on the shaping of the bow.


(Frank Scott) #5

I know nothing about archery, but I seem to remember from my youth that an ideal bowstring would be infinitely stiff and of zero mass and very tough.

A modern material with these sort of properties is Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene, specifically braided line made of Spectra or Dyneera.

When I want an inextensible light line I use Spectra braided fishing line. This is very strong, tough, soft and light with good fatigue properties and available in a wide range of breaking strengths.

I don’t know how strong a line you need for a temporary string but as an example on Amazon you can get Spectra extreme braided for -
100m of 90lb (400N) 0.5mm line costs £4.80
100m 0f 300lb (1.3kN) 1.0mm line costs £7.99


(Robert Keyes) #6

Depending on the length of your bow, I can ask around for a string at the archery competition I’m at this weekend if that’s of interest?


(Naomi Zainuddin) #7

Oh wow! Thank you for the offer, but I don’t know what size or even sort of bow I’m going to make yet. I also like the idea of trying to make my own, I know there’s a couple of different styles


(Naomi Zainuddin) #8

I’m struggling to find a stave online but I have found a bunch more tutorials http://poorfolkbows.com/index.html

Including one that just needs a 1x2x6 red oak board


(david) #9

Have a look at Richard Head Longbows on youtube. He has a playlist of his videos on making a longbow. I’ve not watched them but he’s one of the top bowyers so hopefully a decent instructor as well (teaching and doing do not always correlate).
You can make a decent self bow (single piece of wood) out of a few different types of wood. I think Ash and Hickory? It depends on what’s available as a lot of guides are American so what they consider easily available and hence cheap may not be the case. Also self bows will tend to be lighter in draw weight, take a set easier (get a curve after repeated use) and weaken over time but I expect you will have moved on to another bow before that happens.
I don’t know what length string is used during tillering but I’m assuming it will be longer than the final string since a knocked bow the string will be around 6 inches from the bow and when starting tillering you will have a straight stave. That’s where either a basic alternative or a single looped string will come in handy. I would suggest a proper string though when shooting. A broken string can often lead to a broken bow if not an injury. Super modern string materials for modern bows (assuming I am remebering correctly) are too unforgiving for traditional bows so something modern but suited to wooden bows would be used. You use a jig to make them but that just makes it easier to created different length strings so you can make a one off jig easily. A string is just several strand of continuous thinner material and some serving (thinner string wrapping around the loops and the centre where the arrow will knock).
You may even find someone at your local archery club who may be willing to assist and show you how to make a string. It’s one of the first make it yourself skills an archer tends to pick up.
I can’t find my books (The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible series) but could bring in a bow if it’s of any use to see a finished product.


(Naomi Zainuddin) #10

Yeah, one of the more frustrating things I’m coming up against is I’m looking online for these supposedly cheap and readily available woods and coming up with nothing.

I’m not worrying too much about the practicality of shooting anything yet - I’ve got no where safe to have a go for a start, but thank you for the advice.

Do you have a self bow? I think my main problem right now is finding some cheap wood to get started with but it would be cool to see the finished product if you have one.


(Robert Keyes) #11

If you don’t mind travelling to Greenwich, there’s a place called Archery Fit and they’re pretty laid back about testing bows as long as you can demonstrate that you’re at least kinda safe with a bow in the first place. There’s also a longbow making course that they run on occasion, although it’s crazy stupid expensive


(Naomi Zainuddin) #12

Greenwich isn’t that far away!

I’ve now been distracted by the possibility of making a wooden tankard.

Does anyone know if Whitten Timber is likely to have the sort of long straight bits of oak that I need?


(Pete Hellyer) #13

v. likely.


(david) #14

Most if not all archery clubs will run a beginners course in the Spring. They tend to last several weeks either one or 2 days or evening a week and use club equipment if you don’t have your own (standard modern recurve bows, arrows, tabs, bracers). They do this to attract new members as they usually offer a discounted membership afterwards and because insurance and safety requirements mean you have to be competent to use the range and that means you will have done a course somewhere at some point (they will require proof) or just completed one with them. If you want to take up archery it’s worth doing.
I can find a guy in Hailsham selling staves for around 60-80 on ebay. Not sure what the going rate is or how much you can find wood for.
My bow is laminated - can’t remember what woods other than one is Ipe - but the basic shape is standard for english longbow regardless of wood. It has horn knocks but that’s not necessarily something you would need to do.


(Naomi Zainuddin) #15

Yeah that was the only person I could see in the UK. £60 is more than I’m willing to spend on a whim. This is more of a practical experiment than anything - I haven’t done much woodworking and there are a lot of techniques I’d like to practice.

I have done some archery before, on holiday and at university - I’m very inconsistent.


(andrew tidman) #16

hi i am a level 2 archery gb coach and have made bows in the past pleas let me know if i can help you can get bow staves from Quick’s archery or carol archery
kind regards
andy