How To Make A Longbow

“The longbow has a lot of romance tied to it, it’s the bow of Robin Hood, the bow of Howard Hill, It’s also a very forgiving style of bow, I can make mistakes and still hit the target”.

Byron Ferguson

A longbow is more or less equal to the height of the user and allows the archer a quite long draw. It is not significantly recurved. The limbs of the longbow are comparatively tapered so that they are circular or D-shaped in cross-section.

A longbow can be made from a single piece of wood, so it can be crafted relatively easily and quickly. One of the simpler longbow designs is known as the self bow.

Here is the detailed guide on making a longbow, which you can follow easily.

What do you need to make a longbow?

  • Hatchet or axe
  • Very sharp small/pocket knife
  • Drawknife 
  • Pencil or marker
  • Chainsaw file
  • Parachute Chord
  • B-50 bowstring
  • Tillering stick
  • 220 grit sandpaper

Steps to create a longbow

I’ve busted this guide into steps. So prepare yourself for making a longbow:

Choosing the Right Type of Wood

There are different opinions on which wood is the best wood to make a bow. Here is a list of different types of wood that are up for the job:

  • Yew – is the best widespread European timber that will make good self longbows, and has been the main wood used in European bows since Neolithic times. Yew is lightweight wood and it is good for simple, temporary bows with the light draw weight. This wood is good for beginners because it normally has lesser lumps.
  • Elm – can make longbows but require heat treating of the belly and a wider belly/narrower back, while still falling into the definition of a longbow. It creates short and solid bows with thick limbs. Like Yew, the bows produce from Elm are temporary and have a lighter draw weight than other woods.
  • Ash – is another famous bow wood from the past, and made a way better wide-limbed flat bow than a D-section longbow. It will make a bow of moderate weight, up to possibly 70lbs or so, it is prone to developing compression cracks on the belly of the bow. American white ash is quite different from European ash. Bows made with European ash are better than American ash. Instead of bows, American ash makes better arrows shaft.
  • Hickory – is perhaps one of the best woods for a beginner to start with because it can handle compression and tension better than red oak.
  • Oak (White Oak/Red Oak) –a little easier to tiller because the wood is a little softer than hickory.

Selecting the Right Type of tree

Selecting the right tree doesn’t matter much when making a hasty bow but there are some considerations to make. There are two types of trees from which we can make bows. One is hardwood & the other is softwood.

Hardwood is very durable and it has the strength and capability to return to its original form. Softwood trees can make nice bows but will lose a lot of their strength and take a large amount of sets after a few draws. But softwood bows can be made very quickly.

For beginners, soft trees are great for making bows for the first time. Because of the softwood they are easy to work with and time-saving as well. Hardwood and softwood trees have the one difference that is the total “set” or string follow” they take.  

For selecting the right tree, you can follow these standards:

  • The trunk section should be straight and 6-8 feet long.
  • The tree’s bark runs upright without twisting.
  • The knots, limbs, bumps, or swales should be few as possible (ideally none).

Split off a Stave

After selecting your tree, start marking the sections from the wood. Strive to make straight sections so that you can make a bow easily. And cut these sections approximately to the length of your body.

With a marker or pencil draw stave outlines in triangular shape near the center of the tree log. Or you can divide the sections into equal halves, so for that purpose draw a straight line diagonally on the section and split on the line. The thickness, width, and length of the stave only depend on the size of the tree you selected.

 While splitting try to give some extra width, thickness, and length to the stave what you decided or think you need. So that you can conquer yourself to finish up with too small a stave for unexpected reasons. Split the section with the help of a hatchet or axe on the line you draw.

Shave the Staves

After splitting the sections, scrape the bark off from it. For this purpose use a dull draw knife or it can be done with a hatchet as well. Tend the log against another tree and pull the knife downward for removing the bark.  

Shave away the wood until you have reached the wood white and take care that we don’t want to damage the wood so remove the bark only.

Shaping & Cutting the Stave

Find the center of the bow and draw the handle. We will draw our basic shape profile on the bow with a marker. If you are a beginner then you have to keep a simple design or shape of the bow. When we have drawn the handle or shape of the bow we will start cut out the extra or wider part of the bow. You can use a hatchet for wider parts but avoid splitting the huge pieces from the bow.

Once you cut the wider parts, use a drawknife to reduce the limbs of the bow to your drawn outline. Try to cut out the rough profile and smooth out its edges.

Floor Tillering

Floor tillering is the first step to see how the limbs of the bow are bending. For floor tillering, hold one limb in your hand, and resting the other limb on the floor steadily against your foot. Put your other hand on the handle of the bow. Just bend the bow lightly to test the flexibility. Repeat the same step to the other limb. We have to check the flexibility to get a string on it.

To create more arcs in bow limbs start to shave off a small amount of wood between each bending section if needed. On this point you have to be very careful otherwise you can crack the bow.

Nocking the Bow

When the bow looks flexible and bent enough to string then start the next step. You have to attach the string in a way that it remains in its fixed position and cannot move or slide around. For holding the string we have to make notches on both ends of the bow limbs.

First, use the marker or pencil to mark a line of 1 ½ inch and then with the help of a knife or chainsaw file create two deep 45-degree notches on both ends of the bow.

Measure the B-50 bowstring and tie it with the parachute cord on the bow limbs. You can measure the bowstring by adding 20 inches to the total length of the bow. And the gap between the bow’s belly and the string should be 7 inches.

Final Tillering

By using tillering stick you can make your bow more flexible and in proper smooth curve shape. Place the tillering stick upright against the wall or tree and put the bow’s belly on the top of the stick. Begin to draw the bowstring and place it in the tillering stick’s notches. Increase the draw of your bow gradually, and wait for a few minutes on each level of notches to adjust the wood.

While tillering, your bow should be D-shaped. If you notice one side of the bow bends more than another side so starts scrapping that side and repeat the process until it bends in a proper curved shape or D-shape.

Finishing Your Longbow

When bow tillering is completed and you are satisfied with the bow shape then start sand your full bow with 220 grit sandpaper. You can also rub your bow with wax or furniture oil. Your handmade longbow is ready to hunt.

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