Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Post and discuss your recipes, techniques for creating useful and decorative items. Show off your hints and tricks. Let us see your work.
User avatar
ShadowCat
OBOD Ovate
Posts: 1505
Joined: 06 Nov 2012, 13:12
Gender: Female
Location: The highlands of the Low Lands by the North Sea
Contact:

Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby ShadowCat » 02 Mar 2015, 19:24

Hi All,

I'm looking for help or advise: as part of the path OBOD's work has lead me on I feel compelled to work on making a (short)bow and arrows. The goal is a functional but simple bow, if possible using natural materials. A bow that would be able to fire an arrow fairly straight for about 20 meters max and still have enough momentum to make it stick it a straw target is all that I ask for. It is to be as much a energetical/spiritual exercise as a practical one. Can't go in to much detail on the why without risking spoilers :) So lets keep in on the how. Any imput will be greatly valued.

Thanks muchly,
:hug:
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

BS13 I BS13 II LI13 SB13 IL14 LI14 SB14 BS15 LI 15
Sacred spaces and places

User avatar
Mountainheart
OBOD Bard
Posts: 383
Joined: 24 Nov 2008, 22:26
Gender: Male
Location: Yorkshire
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby Mountainheart » 02 Mar 2015, 21:20

I made bows and arrows all the time when I was a child. My grandfather instructed me that Yew is the best wood for making the bow. In terms of arrows you need to whittle them so that the front (pointy end) of the arrow is heavier than the rest of the arrow (as per a dart).

Good memories: I'm tempted to get my knife out and start whittling :-)

User avatar
Sciethe
OBOD Ovate
Posts: 552
Joined: 03 Oct 2012, 22:34
Gender: Male
Location: Berkshire UK
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby Sciethe » 02 Mar 2015, 21:42

Hi Shadowcat,
Mountainheart is right, yew is best. The way it is best done is to take a straight branch and split it six ways. You need a stave about 4'6" to 5 feet long for a short bow, allowing for trimming. That gives you six attempts at the finished article. Four or even two staves from one branch are possible if you can't get the diameter of timber, but a single stick with the pith in it should not be used. The bow can be whittled into shape straight from the stave. The yew has sapwood (pale) and heartwood (reddish, dark). The sapwood goes on the outside of the bend curve, the darker heart wood goes on the inside of the curve, natural laminating as the two woods have different properties. That's why a single stick is a bad idea. Yew sapwood stretches but has poor compression characteristics and heartwood compresses well but fractures if you try to stretch it. the proportion of sapwood and heartwood can be about 50:50 in the finished article. Yew should really be seasoned for 3-7 years before it is made into a bow.

You could also get a nice piece of straight grain ash wood and make a flat bow. Seasoning is much a shorter affair.

Sciethe
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him. For he is of the tribe of Tiger. Christopher Smart

User avatar
ShadowCat
OBOD Ovate
Posts: 1505
Joined: 06 Nov 2012, 13:12
Gender: Female
Location: The highlands of the Low Lands by the North Sea
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby ShadowCat » 03 Mar 2015, 10:40

Yew should really be seasoned for 3-7 years before it is made into a bow.
Woops... wasn't planning on taking so much time for it. Will a lesser seasoned wood break more easily or just have lesser "spring" in it?
You could also get a nice piece of straight grain ash wood and make a flat bow.
A flatbow might indeed be a bit more monkeyproof for my first adult whittling-attempt. It's something I did as a kid but haven't done in maybe 20 years now :old: Good thing I still have a nice sharp whittlingknife lying around here somehere.
In terms of arrows you need to whittle them so that the front (pointy end) of the arrow is heavier than the rest of the arrow (as per a dart). Good memories: I'm tempted to get my knife out and start whittling :-)
I learned that as kid early on. I always firehardened the tips. I never got the art of making decent flights right mastered though... I'll talk to my chickens for some feathers in the coming days.

Thank you both for your fast and valuable comments!
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

BS13 I BS13 II LI13 SB13 IL14 LI14 SB14 BS15 LI 15
Sacred spaces and places

User avatar
Skogsvandrare
OBOD Bard
Posts: 62
Joined: 22 Sep 2011, 20:45
Gender: Male
Location: Jämtland, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby Skogsvandrare » 03 Mar 2015, 13:14

You can make several different types of bow.
  • Quickie-bow: basically a simple bow from a stick, tiller the thick end until it pulls fairly evenly. Season as fast as you dare (near a fire, in the back of a car on a warm summer)
  • Panda bow: Take a bunch of thin sticks (thin bamboo rods for garden use works fine, the name comes from this) and tie into a tight bundle. Ultra-fast, often ugly, works. I suspect that these are a modern invention.
  • Flatbow: This is most early bows (paleolithic, viking age, etc). Limbs are relaviely flat and wide. This is probably the easiest "real" bow to make, and a quickie bow can be made to resemble this. Due to the thinness you are not as dependant to top grade materials for it to last.
  • Longbow: This is the English style longbow. Similar to the flatbow, but with a more D-like cross section. Harder to get right than the flatbow . One reason the English favoured this is that you could get more bows out of the same trunk (yes, they were running out of good sticks).
  • Laminated bows: Often made as flatbows or longbows (D-shaped), but with more than one material. Glue, etc are non-trivial skills, but a glued on piece of rawhide can save a bow and make it more forgiving for weaknesses in the wood. Yew has sapwood that is quite different from the inner wood, and thus actually act as a laminated bow.
  • Recurve: Bows that are shaped into various shapes in order to become even more efficient
  • Exotics: Bows with a backing of a braided sinew (or nylon) cord, double staves, etc.

If you just want to make a bow that works go for a quickie bow, use e.g. hazel or rowan, and try to make it as nice as you can and have the time/patience for.

The general order of work is:
  1. Split the green stave
  2. Remove bark, with your hands (or you risk damaging the back of the bow (that would be bad, with a nick there it would most likely break)
  3. Tiller (i.e. shape it) slowly until you have a rought shape, work only on the belly (i.e. the side towards you). A rasp, spokeshave or piece of flint are good tools for this.
  4. Allow to dry as straight as you can.
  5. Fine-tune the tillering
  6. Make of buy a string. You should have about 15-20 cm between bow and string. Good linnen, 3-4 mm braided polyester, etc are good materials. Wild materials only sinew and nettle are likely to hold up for any bow with a reasonble pull (30 lb and up).
Arrows are as tricky as bows to do if you want good ones

People have a made bows in 24 hours with just paleolithic tools, including drying time near a fire. A brutal quickie bow can take 1-4 hours of work (depening) and then some drying time, a panda bow with garden store materials as little as 30 minutes.
Last edited by Skogsvandrare on 03 Mar 2015, 13:31, edited 2 times in total.
images/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gif

User avatar
Skogsvandrare
OBOD Bard
Posts: 62
Joined: 22 Sep 2011, 20:45
Gender: Male
Location: Jämtland, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby Skogsvandrare » 03 Mar 2015, 13:24

Arrows

Use e.g. willow, find a piece that is as "clean" as possible. Scrape with a piece of glass or flint, wrap around the nock end with linnen cord to keep it flom splitting (or use a strategically placed knot). Use feathers for fletching -- goose, swan, etc --, make sure that they "turn" the same way. You can get away with just two feathers, but three will work better, lash them down with a spiral wrap, seal the wrapping with glue. Use pine pitch glue for the all natural style. Make a point from a piece of bone and glue (again: pine pitch glue) and lash into place.

By the way: 20 m is pretty good if you want to have accuracy, but just reach is easy.
images/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gif

samurai
OBOD Ovate
Posts: 156
Joined: 17 Apr 2012, 16:54
Gender: Male
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby samurai » 03 Mar 2015, 16:13

What do you use for the string and how do you secure it?

User avatar
ShadowCat
OBOD Ovate
Posts: 1505
Joined: 06 Nov 2012, 13:12
Gender: Female
Location: The highlands of the Low Lands by the North Sea
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby ShadowCat » 03 Mar 2015, 19:55

Skogsvandrare, can I say that I just want to hug you for some great pointers :hug:

Samurai, I've got some modern bowstring around somewhere, as well as artificial sinew that might be usable if split and twined right.
Three sounds one should treasure:
the whisper of the wind through the leaves
the songs of one's heart
the callings of the universe

BS13 I BS13 II LI13 SB13 IL14 LI14 SB14 BS15 LI 15
Sacred spaces and places

User avatar
Skogsvandrare
OBOD Bard
Posts: 62
Joined: 22 Sep 2011, 20:45
Gender: Male
Location: Jämtland, Sweden
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby Skogsvandrare » 03 Mar 2015, 21:09

There are some great books out there ("Bowyers Bible", all three volumes, for example), and probably plenty of guides on the Internet.

And it is allways good to be able to help someone out. :)
images/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gifimages/icons/goldharp.gif

User avatar
Sciethe
OBOD Ovate
Posts: 552
Joined: 03 Oct 2012, 22:34
Gender: Male
Location: Berkshire UK
Contact:

Re: Tips on making a functional bow and arrows

Postby Sciethe » 03 Mar 2015, 22:22

Yew should really be seasoned for 3-7 years before it is made into a bow.
Woops... wasn't planning on taking so much time for it. Will a lesser seasoned wood break more easily or just have lesser "spring" in it?
Skogsvandrare seems to have you well on the way. Good man. In answer to the above question the less seasoned the yew wood the shorter the life of the bow, the more likely it is to warp and crack with time, and the less smooth the loose of the arrow; unseasoned yew bows tends to "kick". However there is no reason, if you decided to go down the yew bow route, why you shouldn't keep several staves from the same splitting, and use them through time, the earlier ones being essays for brief use and the later ones perfected and well seasoned "keepers". Just a thought.

Great that you're doing this, intrinsically worthwhile whatever your actual intention :applause:
Sciethe.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him. For he is of the tribe of Tiger. Christopher Smart


Return to “Arts and Crafts”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests