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.
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.
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.
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.
The grains at the cross section of the bow should look like this:
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.
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".
JACK PLANE: (Stanley No.4 works)
OTHER PLANES: (Stanley No.5, RB5...)
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.
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.
NOTE Make sure your tools are sharp! Nothing is as dangerous as a tool with bad edge.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Making a string:
Making a broadhead:
Common Man's Broadhead
(remember to make yours long enough)
The Essentials of Archery: