Results 1 to 18 of 18

Thread: Basics of making a longbow

  1. #1
    WSF's official Mora hater NCO's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Sulkava, Finland
    Posts
    610
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default Basics of making a longbow

    [READ FIRST!]

    This "tutorial" will go through material selection, tools and working technique in a way that it will provide one a basis from where to start one's own experiments on bow making. This tutorial will not provide detailed instructions of making a bow at this time.

    [/READ FIRST!]


    OVERVIEW:
    Making a bow is easy in theory. Just take a good piece of lumber and remove everything that isn't bow.

    BTW, some might not know which side of the bow is the back and which is the belly. If you are unsure please refer to this picture.
    Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.

    MATERIALS:

    WOOD: ash(not black), yew, oak, apple, beech, lemonwood, pear, osage, plum, walnut... (NOTE: I've only tried common/european ash)

    CUT: The cut we need from the wood is about half way between the surface and heart as shown in the next picture. Preferably more surface than heart for an ash bow.
    Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.

    Try to find as straight and knotless piece of wood. In fact you cant have any knots at all on the stave you'll be making the bow with. Make sure the wood is properly dry (relative moisture about 8-10%) before starting to work with it.

    Make sure that the outside of your bow(the "back") follows the grain of the wood. You cannot have broken grains there. In the next picture the upper bow is done about as wrong as it can be while the lower is done correctly by following the grain.
    Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.

    The grains at the cross section of the bow should look like this:
    Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.
    Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.

    TOOLS:

    PATIENCE is your most important tool. Do not rush the job, you'll end up having a floppy stick that wanted to be a bow.

    SAFETY EQUIPMENT

    FIRST AID KIT: for cuts and such from stick in the finger to a severed head. Remember, if you hurt your self, it's not my fault. You should work so carefully that you don't hurt your self. (in case of lawsuit happy idiots)

    SAW, to saw the preliminary stave

    TILLER (w/ two strings, one as long as the bow and one about 8" shorter): Is a piece of wood(2x4 is good) with a notch at the top for the bow and notches for the string between every inch on one of it's side, all the way to 28".
    Guests can not see images in the messages. Please register in the forum.

    JACK PLANE: (Stanley No.4 works)

    OTHER PLANES: (Stanley No.5, RB5...)

    SPOKE SHAVE

    RASP

    FILES: Tiny round one and larger flat one, maybe more.

    SANDPAPER: from 100grit to 320grit (you can go up to 2000grit)

    WORKBENCH: where you can attach the stave.

    CLAMPS

    KNIFE

    Only power tool you might want to use is something to replace the saw with, on other phases power tools make it far too easy to take too much wood of. Be patient and use the plane and spoke shave for the "rough" forming.



    THE WORK:

    NOTE Make sure your tools are sharp! Nothing is as dangerous as a tool with bad edge.

    PLANNING

    Usually a longbow is the same length as the person that shoots it. few inches here or there wont make a big difference. I'm 194cm tall and my bow is 203.5cm long and it is a pleasure to shoot.
    The place where the arrow is launched is in the middle of the bow, the handle will be below the middle point. In a bow there really are up and down.
    Making a lighter bow, 20lbs to 30lbs is easier than mid-weight(40-60lbs) or heavy bows(65-100lbs), heavy being the hardest. Old English war bows have been up to 200lbs!!!! If you intend to make a hunting bow, make sure you find out about the laws regarding bow hunting and pull force requirements. In Finland the PFR is 180 Newtons at full pull. That is about 40.5lbs

    Start with assessing your pre-dried material, what length of a bow you can get from it, are the grains straight, how it is cut. You really CANNOT take shortcuts with material quality.
    Using the parameters you get from the assessment, figure out more details. What kind of handle you can make, which growth ring you'll choose for the back of the bow. Will it be a light or mid-weight bow.
    Figure out what is your draw length. Standard is 28". I'm tall so I measured my draw length and it was 30", which is the length I tillered my bow to.



    ROUGH FORMING:
    Saw and carve out the the basic design of the bow. Be careful from damaging the growth ring you intend to use as the back of your bow. Be sure to leave extra material on all sides.

    FINDING THE BACK:
    After rough forming, take your plane and spoke shave and start removing material from the back until you get to the ring just above the growth ring intended for the back. BE DOUBLE EXTRA CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK THE GRAIN ON THE BACK OF THE BOW!!! Once this is done, leave it there. the one extra layer is there to protect the real back from mechanical damage it might take during the process.

    BELLY STEP 1:
    Clamp the bow belly side up on the work bench and start using your plane on the belly. Try to get the general form of the belly done, but make sure to leave some of extra material. Do not hurry.

    TILLERING BEGINS:
    Remove the extra layer from the back of the bow, CAREFULLY.
    Make notches for the long string on the ends of the stave. Use the little round file to make them so that they run diagonally on both sides, high end on the back side and low end on the belly side. Make them just deep enough to take the tiller-string firmly. Set the bow on the tiller and start your first bend. Very slowly bend it just a little, maybe a quarter of the desired maximum bend. You have to teach the bow to bend during the tillering process. Bending it straight a way to maximum bend will just crack it. At each time you bend it over the course of tillering bend it a little more. Avoid leaving it on the tiller for longer than 15mins. The bow will take some shape due to the tillering. This is normal, as long as it doesn't go all U-turn.

    TILLERING:
    The purpose of tillering is to control the weight of the bow, pull length and most importantly make sure the bow bends correctly. See the tiller picture on the tools-section for reference.

    Continue to shape the belly to a D-shape. Remove just a little material each time before setting the bow on the tiller. On the tiller, observe how the bow bends. If there appears to be a stiffer portion, remove some material from there. If some part seems to bend more than the rest, remove material from everywhere but there. Also continuously observe the pull strength of the bow. A fish scale is a good tool for this.
    After the bow starts to bend nicely to at least 3/4 of the full bend, switch to the shorter tillering string. This happens around the fifth or sixth bend. Once you get your bow to full pull use removing material as a way of controlling the pull force. Rasps, files and coarse sandpaper are your friends at this stage. Once you are only couple of pounds heavy from the desired weight, STOP. The bow will lose some weight with the finishing and over time in use.

    FINISHING:
    NOTE: The bow doesn't like wet. No water sanding. Only dry sandpaper or similar is a go.

    Finish the bow by sanding it smooth, CAREFUL not to take too much material off! Just remove scrapes there still might be. Be TRIPLE EXTRA CAREFUL with the back.
    With the sanding/polishing you can go all the way to 2000grit. When finishing the back, the Old English used to use a smooth piece of glass for final "grind". I used a 2000grit dry sandpaper.

    Apply five to ten thin coats of beeswax on the full length of the bow in 2 hour intervals, just before applying new coat wipe the excess off from the previous one. Let the last coat dry overnight and polish with lint free fabric. Store like an acoustic guitar.


    USEFUL LINKS:

    Making a string:
    Part 1
    Part 2

    Making a broadhead:
    Common Man's Broadhead
    (remember to make yours long enough)


    The Essentials of Archery:
    Document
    Last edited by NCO; 04-08-2011 at 06:07 PM. Reason: updatedfinished
    Survival is not about surviving AGAINST the nature. It's about surviving WITH the nature.

    You can't go in to nature, nature is not a place or an object. Nature just is. You are living it.


  2. #2
    Senior Member Winter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    SE Alaska
    Posts
    2,991

    Default

    Watching this one..
    I had a compass, but without a map, it's just a cool toy to show you where oceans and ice are.

  3. #3
    Super Moderator crashdive123's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    North Florida
    Posts
    38,335
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    Good start. Had to give you some rep for your tutorial. Looking forward to the rest.
    Can't Means Won't

    My Youtube Channel

  4. #4
    Senior Member Winnie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Location
    Middle England
    Posts
    5,515
    Blog Entries
    1

    Default

    Yup, rep given, My Pop used to dabble in making Longbows, mainly for me to shoot. Brought back some great memories.
    Recession; A period when you go without something your Grandparents never heard of.

  5. #5
    Hall Monitor Pal334's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    New Jersey
    Posts
    4,433

    Default

    Great start, I am looking forward to more
    .45 ACP Because shooting twice is silly... The avatar says it all,.45 because there isn't a.46

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTs6a...eature=related

  6. #6
    WSF's official Mora hater NCO's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Sulkava, Finland
    Posts
    610
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    Updated, more to come
    Survival is not about surviving AGAINST the nature. It's about surviving WITH the nature.

    You can't go in to nature, nature is not a place or an object. Nature just is. You are living it.

  7. #7
    WSF's official Mora hater NCO's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Sulkava, Finland
    Posts
    610
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    The tutorial is ready!!!!
    Survival is not about surviving AGAINST the nature. It's about surviving WITH the nature.

    You can't go in to nature, nature is not a place or an object. Nature just is. You are living it.

  8. #8
    Senior member Ranger andy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    live in sunny cal in san josa
    Posts
    64

    Default

    A good improvement would be rub it with flax oil and water proof it and i would say that's a beautiful bow!
    "You'll never get a Purple Heart hiding in a foxhole! Follow me!"
    -Capt. Henry P. Crowe, USMC; Guadalcanal, 13 January 1943


  9. #9
    naturalist primitive your_comforting_company's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Location
    314.3'N, 8452.7'W
    Posts
    3,919
    Blog Entries
    7

    Default

    One of my books says you use the outer rings for bowmaking, BUT an old back-country fella told me he uses the hearts, too. Why is one preferred over the other?

    Also, I've spotted a nice hickory about 6" diameter that I was thinking of harvesting for my attempt at a bow. Is Hickory too hard?

  10. #10
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    Northern Illinois
    Posts
    17

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by your_comforting_company View Post
    One of my books says you use the outer rings for bowmaking, BUT an old back-country fella told me he uses the hearts, too. Why is one preferred over the other?

    Also, I've spotted a nice hickory about 6" diameter that I was thinking of harvesting for my attempt at a bow. Is Hickory too hard?
    If I had to guess, I'd say no. Both Hickory and Ash are used for baseball bats, and up above it says ash is okay to use. But I'm not sure.
    Nature is great, God is greater.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Sparky93's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Southern Indiana
    Posts
    1,428

    Default

    Wow, how did I miss this thread! Great tutorial even though I'm a little late. Rep sent!
    "Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."
    Thomas Paine

    Minimalist Camping: Enjoy nature, don't be tortured by it. Take as little as you need to be safe and comfortable.

  12. #12
    Senior Member gryffynklm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    West Virginia
    Posts
    2,086

    Default

    YCC, Hickory is a HARD wood with a good elasticity and spring to it. It has been used for bows by a guy I met from Madison WI, wist I remembered his name. . I find that when I work hickory I'm sharpening cutting edges more frequently then when I work ash or oak. I just keep a stone nearby and put my spoke shave, chisels and other cutting tools to the stone before I need it. I take the attitude of if I notice that the blade isn't cutting as it should, I have waited too long to sharpen. It seems that I spend less time sharpening if I do a quick trip on the stone now and then. I may be over thinking this but it seems to help.
    Karl

    The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion the the effort he puts into whatever field of endeavor he chooses. Vincent T Lombardi

    A wise man profits from the wisdom of others.

  13. #13
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    KY bluegrass region-the center of the universe
    Posts
    4,948

    Default

    Hickory was the prime bow wood of the eastern Indians for bow making. It does need to be seasoned for at least a year to make a proper bow.

    World wide almost all woods have been used at one time or another. When the British were at war, and not enough of the valuable Yew was available they used ash and elm. Some of the English churchyards claim to have yew that are 1,000 years old growing in the garden.

    I have an 18inch diameter straight elm trunk down in the yard at this minute. The section is 6 feet and not a knot or curve in that length. It is waiting form me to split the sections out for bowstaves. They will cure in the shed for a year and I will bow them out.

    There are recipes out there for greenwood (also called whitewood) bows, stick bows and bows made from all sorts of materials. Quick bows can be made from the sapwood, but they will take a set quickly and lose power. A proper long lasting bow is made from aged wood from the heart of the tree.

    If you know what you are doing you can make a bow from any wood available, some is simply better than others. I have seen some very presentable bows made from materials bought at Lowes. (Carefully selected pieces from the hardwood section with famica backing glued on!) Then there are the bows made by plains people world wide, glued up from layers of horn and bone with no wood in sight. I have enen seen caribou horn bows made by the aluts and eskimo.

    Right now I have in the rack bows made from oasge, hickory, white oak, elm, persimmon and one gift that I treasure made from laminated maple and bamboo. I did have an osage with sinew backing covered in rattlesnake skin but I gave it to the SIL.

    We had best get ready for a flood of teenagers looking for bow information! The Hunger Games has already caused a rush on the archery market in my area and the movie has not even opened yet!
    A person often meets his destiny while walking the path he took to avoid it.

  14. #14
    Senior Member hunter63's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    SE/SW Wisconsin
    Posts
    16,735

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kyratshooter View Post
    .........

    We had best get ready for a flood of teenagers looking for bow information! The Hunger Games has already caused a rush on the archery market in my area and the movie has not even opened yet!
    LOL, at least they can make one........... it makes more sense than a "lightsaber".
    Survival isn't a game...it's what you do when the game goes sideways.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Sparky93's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Location
    Southern Indiana
    Posts
    1,428

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kyratshooter View Post
    .........

    We had best get ready for a flood of teenagers looking for bow information! The Hunger Games has already caused a rush on the archery market in my area and the movie has not even opened yet!
    I've wanted one ever since I watched Lord of the Rings and saw Legolas blowing away the baddies with his Elven longbow..... Who would win in a fight? Lord of the Rind nerds or Star Wars nerds?..... The answer is Lord of the ring nerds, cause they are covered in chain mail and have real swords where as Star Wars nerds are wearing cloth tunics and have plastic light sabers.... just say'n....
    "Freedom had been hunted round the globe; reason was considered as rebellion; and the slavery of fear had made men afraid to think. But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing."
    Thomas Paine

    Minimalist Camping: Enjoy nature, don't be tortured by it. Take as little as you need to be safe and comfortable.

  16. #16
    Senior Member kyratshooter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    KY bluegrass region-the center of the universe
    Posts
    4,948

    Default

    You got to remember that having a "perfect bow" is not going to be possible for everyone. Some do not have the time or skill to make one.

    One of my friends, who was editor of Primitive Archer Magazine, used to remind me the in the end what you were using was a stick with a string on it. He had a couple of yew stickbows that were just that, a limb with a string, and he could put the arrows where he wanted them with it. As long as the bow did not shatter when he drew it he was more concerned about good arrows than a perfect bow.

    While the bow is simply a stick with a string on it the arrow is a missle that needs some attention and technical knowledge to achieve its mark.
    A person often meets his destiny while walking the path he took to avoid it.

  17. #17
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    Southwest Missouri (Ozarks)
    Posts
    152

    Default

    Using the sapwood and heartwood is based on the type of wood you are using. sometimes sapwood is better in tension while the heartwood is better in compression, which is Yews case. For Osage, Black Locust, and Mulberry you remove the sapwood completely, this is called chasing rings and is much more difficult than it sounds. For beginners whitewood bows are easiest (Whitewood is every other wood), all you do is debark it and make sure you don't touch the back. That's what I did for my persimmon stave I cut recently. I got it to near bow dimensions and I'm speed drying it now (I hope it doesn't propeller twist).
    "In a jam, the best friend you have is yourself." -Dick Proenneke

  18. #18
    Senior Member Thaddius Bickerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    North Alabama
    Posts
    237

    Default

    Hickory is a wonderful wood to make a bow from. Many "board bows" have been made from hickory.

    Also a strip of hickory glued to a lesser wood as a "backing" will make the bow stronger and usable.

    I made one that was red cedar backed with hickory backed with rawhide. That was a nice flat bow. The wood was from selected boards from the lumber company for the hickory, and the cedar was taken from a 8 foot long fence post that had been seasoning in an old barn for goodness knows how many years.

    The rawhide was a large dog bone (18" from dollar store) soaked until it unwrapped and glued on using knox geletin as teh hide glue.

    It drew around 47 pounds at 26 inches. (probably a bit more for a 28 inch draw lenght)

    Still have that bow, but it hangs at my Mom's house and isn't used anymore. I often retire a bow after a season and make a new one.

    Last few years I have not bothered because I can no longer really use one. I could still make one although it would be slow, but the mind may be willing but the body cannot follow the minds instructions anymore.

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •