Bows are available in all possible designs nowadays. In principle there is a bow for every individual. There is also the possibility of making an absolutely unique bow yourself – according to your taste. We will show you how to make a bow and arrow in our guide to bow making.
Which Types of Bows are Suitable for DIY Construction?
In principle, all traditional bow types such as longbows or recurve bows can be built by DIY construction. However, building a DIY bow and arrow yourself is not as easy, so we limit ourselves to bows made of traditional materials – especially wood. If you want to build a bow, you need few appropriate utensils and some time. This is especially true if you start from scratch and even want to cut down the tree for your self-made bow.
Making a bow is no small task. And since the longbow is in principle the easiest to build, when we say we are learning how to make a bow and arrow, we are speaking strictly about building longbows. If you are impatient and want to start shooting right away, you can also buy a bow directly with our guide.
Which Wood is Suitable for my Bow?
If you are interested in making a bow and arrow organically, it is best to cut down the appropriate tree yourself. Maybe you happen to own a large plot of land with trees that need to be cut down for some reason?
If not, that’s no problem. Contact the local forester and ask if you are allowed to cut down a tree with a diameter of about 15 centimeters yourself, for a fee of, in order to make your wooden bow. But make sure that the tree is not infested by a fungus, because then it can no longer be used for bow making.
After felling, cut the tree down until it is just over two meters long, remove the bark and cut the trunk in half vertically. To do this, drive a wooden wedge into the cut surface and then further wedges along the cut until the trunk is completely split.
Next, you should cut the remaining pieces in half. Proceed in exactly the same way as for halving. The outer side, i.e. the side where the bark was, will serve as an outer arch. Remember to work off the tips of the former tree core.
If you decide to use this option you must allow for time for the drying of the wood. A freshly felled tree is usually way too moist to be processed immediately. If you have cut it to length and quartered it, you will have to allow several weeks or even months for the drying process.
If this takes too long for you, you can buy a bow making blank as an alternative. This is dried and delivered completely ready for further processing.
You can work the blank before the drying process so that the belly is a little thicker and the limbs a little slimmer.
By the way, the following types of wood are suitable for wooden bows:
Tip: For a beginner making a DIY bow and arrow it is not easy to judge whether the wood in question will really withstand the enormous strain of tensioning the string. If you are unsure, it is better to buy a piece of wood that has already been prefabricated for this purpose or to get professional advice.
Material required for Bow making
When figuring out how to craft a bow, you don’t need as much material as it might seem. Some of it is considered standard equipment for a well-assorted do-it-yourselfer.
- Suitable wood
- A Band saw or
- A Plane or
- A Wooden rasp
- A Bowstring
- A glaze brush and wood sealing, preferably linseed oil, or a suitable varnish
Instructions: Building a Bow Yourself
A sheet is comprised of the following components:
- Upper and lower throwing arm
- Back of the trestle and arched abdomen
- Handle piece
Before you start building a bow, you have to think about how you want your bow to look and which parameters it should have. The draw length is as important as the final size of the bow. It is best to make a note of what you expect from your self-built bow and for which purposes it should be used.
The draw weight should be high enough for you to ensure both a good shooting performance and optimal technique.
The Correct Bow Bend – How to Tiller a Bow
After the drying time you have to cut the blank, which in this state is also called stave, to the right length. This depends on how long you want to have the sheet.
Then you go to work on the bow belly and the edges of the bow. There are a few things to consider here:
- The throwing arms should be symmetrical to each other
- The bow handle is between 3.5 and 4 centimeters wide, the throwing arms at most five centimeters at the widest point and at most two centimeters at the ends
- Work roughly with the saw first; for the fine work you will have to use a file later – be very careful with it, because a lot can go wrong
You narrow the bow blank until it is only two centimeters thick at the bow belly and 2.5 centimeters near the handle. Towards the end you work exclusively with your file and/or rasp and proceed very carefully.
The grip must be thicker than the ends of the limbs to withstand the strain of tillering and later the shot. Therefore it should not or hardly bend. This is followed by a curvature that extends to the last twenty centimeters of the limbs. The last twenty centimeters do not bend either.
Now it gets a bit complicated: put the bow down and grab both one end of the bow and the handle. Now bend it gently. There are two ways this could go:
- The bow cannot be bent: Then you have to remove some wood from the whole belly and then try to bend it again
- The bow bends only at one single point: Take some wood away everywhere but this one place.
Try to work both limbs in this way. Pay attention to the uniformity and file or grind away any unevenness. This work step is called tillering. It can take several days until the desired uniformity of both limbs is achieved.
Professional bow archers use a tiller board to check the curvature of the bow. If by chance you don’t have a tiller board in your garage, you can also build a tiller pole yourself. This has a Y-shape at the end, on which the bow is placed, and regular notches on the side for clamping the Bowstring. Place them with a distance of about two centimeters between them.
Tighten the bow on the tiller stem and bend it slowly and carefully. Thereby the tendon is hooked into the notches. Go back one or two steps and check carefully the uniformity of the throwing arms. If the two limbs are asymmetrical, you have to tilt it again carefully.
When you are finished with the above mentioned points, the tendon notches for the tendon suspension are worked into the ends of the limbs. Of course, these must not have any sharp edges, because otherwise the tendon will wear over time – and this can get into the eye.
The chord notches are worked into the ends of the throwing arm at a 90° angle. If the chord notches are smooth, the bow is tensioned with the chord. Here the large loop comes on the upper throwing arm end and the small loop on the lower one.
Bow Finish – the Final Touch
To make your bow weatherproof, you should apply a layer of varnish or wood sealant. To do this, sand the bow with fine sandpaper and wire wool. Moisten the bow slightly beforehand. Then apply the varnish or wood sealant carefully. After application of the varnish or wood sealant, you polish the back of the bow with the help of a glass bottle.
On the belly side of the grip you can now add some foam, depending on your taste, to guarantee comfort when holding and shooting. You can also add an arrow rest and use a small, well polished wedge.
You may also want to apply cams to the tendon. How exactly this works, we explain in our nocking point set guide.
Making Your Own Arrows
The structure of the arrow, going from the tip to the rear end, is as following:
- First the arrowhead
- The shaft
- The fletching area
- The cam
The arrowhead stabilizes the flight of the arrow and protects the shaft from damage when hitting the target. Different feathers are attached to the feathering area, either natural feathers or those made of plastic. The cam is used to lock the arrow into the string before firing.
Material Needed to Make Arrows
Of course you need different material for building arrows. These are the the utensils you need if you want to build your arrows completely by yourself:
- The appropriate wood
- Possibly arrow cams
- Springs, either plastic or natural
- A strong adhesive
- A thin, but durable cord
Alternatively, there are also sets for building arrows, which contain all the arrow accessories you need:
- Arrow shafts
What you choose is a matter of taste. Take a look at our arrow building guide how you can build an arrow completely by yourself.
The Best Wood for Arrows
The following wood types are particularly suitable for arrow construction:
It is better not to choose wood from a sawmill, as this can have a negative effect on the flight characteristics. If you are a purist, this is particularly relevant.
Of course, the weight of the wood has a serious influence on the strength of the arrow and the range. Harder wood also has a harder impact. Lighter wood achieves longer distances when shooting.
DIY Arrow Instructions
If you want to make your own arrows, you can choose between the complete self-construction and sets for building arrows. The latter contain everything you need and come with detailed instructions. If you prefer to build your own arrows from wood, proceed as follows:
Cut the arrow shafts either from solid wood or make them from thin branches. The method with the branches is easier. However, cutting from solid wood produces more equal arrows and you don’t have to search the whole forest for the best branches. You can make several arrows from one trunk. If you choose this method, either split the trunk several times or saw the shafts out.
These pieces of wood also need to dry first before you can build your arrows. Then you can craft them into thin square shapes with the help of a plane. Then you plane the four edges into eight and then round them off so that you get a round wooden stick. Now sand them down until smooth.
You will achieve the appropriate thickness as follows:
- Drill a sufficiently large hole in a board – it should have a diameter of five to seven millimeters
- Try to put the wooden shaft through
- If it fits exactly, you can process it
- If it doesn’t fit yet, you have to carefully plane or sand it away a little
Regarding length, the arrows should be between five and eight centimeters longer than your personal preference.
Now cut the cam up to 1.2 centimeters deep. Pay attention to the width: the cam should engage slightly in the bowstring, but not slide back and forth. Make sure to cut the nock perpendicular to the annual rings, otherwise the arrow will not be able to bear the load.
Like the bow, you should also paint your arrows to make them more weatherproof. Just use a standard wood varnish.
For the fletching you have the choice between plastic and natural fletching. Each has its pros and cons. Since we are building a traditional bow, we will use natural fletching.
Split a quill and drag it. Use a very fine grain for this. Now glue the feathers to the arrow at an angle of 120°. One of the feathers should be at a 90° angle to the cam. This way you keep the contact point between feather and bow shaft as small as possible. A small part of the keel should protrude from all feathers, so that it can be tied additionally with a thin string soaked in glue.
You can also make your own arrowheads from old saw blades. They should have a thickness of two millimeters. To glue them on, proceed as follows:
Saw into the wood and spread glue on the tip of the arrow. Then you put it in the slot. This area is also reinforced with a string soaked in glue. Make sure that the string is really tight.
Of course you can also buy ready-made arrowheads; these are available in the aforementioned complete sets or individually.
We hope that our bow- and arrow-making instructions have furthered your knowledge and that you have fun figuring out how to craft your own bow and set of arrows!