Making a bow from scratch

bow

With Hackaday’s new handmade category we have the option of covering a wide range of builds – everything from jet engines designed on paper and built on manual machines, to old-world crafts made with the most primitive tools. This time, we’ll be looking at making a longbow from scratch, the work of [Billy Berger], a project that covers everything from selecting a tree to tillering a bow to make the best possible weapon.

European-inspired longbows are usually constructed out of yew, but in [Billy]‘s native east Texas yew is a little hard to come by. He eventually selected a small Osage orange tree for his bow, stripped the bark, split the log, and started crafting his handmade bow.

The most important part of making a bow is ensuring the back of the bow consists of only one growth ring. With a drawknife, [Billy] carefully planed down the back of the bow so only one of the tree’s growth rings was visible, then began shaping the belly and sides of the bow.

Wood is a natural material, and when freshly cut contains a lot of moisture. As [Billy] was working on his bow, some of the moisture left his piece of Osage, leading to some twists and turns in the lumber. There’s a solution to this that mankind has been doing for millennia – fire bending the wood. By covering the wood in some sort of animal fat ([Billy] used olive oil), you can hold a piece of wood over a small frame without scorching. Using the crook of a tree as a vice, [Billy] twisted the wood, giving him a perfectly straight bow.

There’s an amazing amount of work that went into this bow, not surprising given that [Billy] is only using hand tools and primitive woodworking methods. Still, the completed bow is a work of art and a masterpiece of craftsmanship. You can check out all four parts of [Billy]‘s demo below.




Comments

  1. Hmmm. Not really able to see x-section, but from the limbs I’d guess “flatbow” rather than longbow. Rather cool.

  2. andar_b says:

    There’s a great home bowyering section on the Leatherwall forum, I made my longbow based on tutorials I found there.

  3. naviathan says:

    Olive oil over a flame? Olive oil is flammable, I know this because I cook with it, a lot.

    • andar_b says:

      Most bowyers use a heat gun these days, but this IS about a very basic “what you have” approach. The oil will only scorch if you get it too close to the flame and hold it there for too long. Kinda like when you put your hand in a candle flame (or if the Mythbusters are to be believed, molten lead) – it can be there for a moment without burning.

      Believe it or not, you can make a functional (and quite adequate) bow with lumber from the home store and cheap hand tools. I used a couple of files, a horrible plastic Stanley plane and a hacksaw, in my apartment living room. I’m quite proud of it and it shoots great – if a little slow compared to more advanced designs.

      • Bandar, my first few bows were very similar. The first 3 american flat bows I made, I used a replacement blade from a surform rasp, a steak knife, and some sand paper.
        25 or so bows later, I’ve refined the process a little.

  4. Doug says:

    Nice when someone takes the time to make series of videos like this, thanks to the builder. Winder if building a tool as this remove unneeded wood faster, along with leaving surface that need less touching up; http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/how-to-make-an-axe.aspx?PageId=1

  5. aoeuidhtns- says:

    A great resource for all those enthusiasts looking to get started: http://paleoplanet69529.yuku.com/forums/18/Archery-Primitive-Bows

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