Longbows: How to Make Your Own
“Kentucky Afield” filmed a special show on how to start with a tree and end up with a hunt-ready bow. If you can’t watch the whole video, watch these highlights.
What You Need
Spitting wedges and maul
Band saw (optional)
Belt sander (optional)
Glove or finger tab
Select a Tree, Season the Stave
The first step is to select a straight tree with no knots or low branches. You want “clean” wood that’s strong and easily worked. Next, fell the tree and cut out its straightest 6-foot section. Use a splitting wedge to split the tree into sections called “staves.” Staves must be slowly dried for about a year.
What if you don’t want to wait for your staves to dry? Buy a clean board at the hardware store. Oak, maple and hickory are readily available and affordable. And if you mess one up, buy another. Consider it a great way to practice your bow-building skills.
Rough Out the Stave
After curing or buying the wood, draw the bow’s rough outline onto the board and use your saw, draw knife and/or rasp to remove wood to that line. Then begin to taper the bow’s belly.
Make it Bend
Remove wood evenly from the belly until the bow begins to bend when you press the limb against the floor. Once it starts bending, start the tillering process, which makes the limbs bend in graceful, uniform curves. You’ll flex the bow, inspect how the limbs’ bends, and remove wood from their uneven sections.
Finishing the Bow
When your bow’s limbs bend evenly, and they match your desired draw weight, it’s ready to finish. Apply a clear finish like polyurethane to seal out moisture and preserve the wood.
You don’t have to chop down a tree or buy a good board to enjoy traditional archery or bowhunting. You can learn to shoot with a longbow made from wood and fiberglass, and see if you enjoy the sport. These bows, and shooting lessons, are available from archery retailers. Once you fall in love with archery, you can build a bow and take on archery’s ultimate challenge.