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.