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» Trad Gang.com » Topic Archives » How To - Resources » The "So You Wanna Build a Bow?" Build-Along (Page 1)

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Author Topic: The "So You Wanna Build a Bow?" Build-Along
4est trekker
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Hey, all. I've seen a lot of folks hangin' out by the edge of fire [campfire] looking in just wanting to build a bow but no knowing where to start. Well, this build-along is for you.

We're going to make a cheap, solid, and good shooting "board bow" (i.e. bow made from board lumber rather than a stave or billets.) This bow will certainly be overbuilt by most standards, in that it will be very wide. This will create a bow that is forgiving of any mistakes you might make and/or flaws in the wood. Even if you’re the poster child for Murphy’s Law, you oughta wind up with a hunting weight bow that’ll render an unsuspecting gobbler as dead as the next stick with a string. This won't require much money or time. In fact, you can buy the wood for $12 on Friday afternoon and be shootin’ the bow on Saturday night. Plus, you'll only need a handful of tools you probably already have or can get access to pretty easily. Well, enough talkin’! Let's get started.

ROUND 1: WOOD

You first stop should be a local lumber yard (Menard’s, Home Depot, Lowe’s, local hardwood supplier, etc.) Head for the hardwood section and locate the RED OAK lumber.

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Ignore the walnut, cherry, mahogany, pine, aspen, birch, maple, etc. Just RED OAK. Next, as Tim Baker so plainly stated in the Traditional Bowyer’s Bible (TBB) in his article on board bows, you need to pick a board that has PERFECTLY STRAIGHT GRAIN ON ONE FACE. That grain should run from one end of the board to the other without snaking, waving, running off the edge, etc. Again, you just need ONE face to exhibit this quality, not both. And don’t even worry about the way the grain looks on the sides. Also, be sure you find a CLEAR BOARD (i.e one that has no knots). Lastly, I would hesitate to use a board that exhibits two or more distinct colors, as that second color most often means that board contains heartwood and sapwood. If the transition between the two woods is situated right (or wrong, depending on your outlook on life), the bow can fail there.

You’ll need a 1”x4”x7’ board (which in actuality will be ¾”x3 ½”x7’, and probably come in 8’ lengths, not 7’.). So, start in that stack. Here’s what you’re looking for:

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Here’s what you’re NOT looking for:

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Here's what you're REALLY not looking for. If you drew this sucker back it'd give you a knockin' you wouldn't soon forget!

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If you can’t find a suitable 1”x4”x7’, look in the 1”x6” or 1”x8” pile. Still no luck? Try the next store or come back when their next shipment of lumber comes in.

Now, just one more thing. You want to make sure that you have an appropriate ratio between the early grown (porous part of the end grain) and the late growth (solid part of the end grain.) You want a higher percentage of late growth per annual growth ring. This picture should help. The black line follows the early growth while the green lines indicate the late growth region of a single growth ring.

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Be patient! Out of the entire stack of lumber shown above I came home with just two keepers.

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I decided on this board for the build-along. It’s 1”x4”x7’ and has a slight reflex to it.

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All for this round...see ya next time!

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"Walk softly...and carry a bent stick."

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:17

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4est trekker
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Round 2: Layout and Glue-Up

We’re going to build a 68” pyramid bow with a target weight of 50#@26”/55#28”. It's called a pyramid because the limbs will be shaped like a pyramid when finished. This type of bow is efficient, easy to make from boards, and is VERY easy to tiller. In fact, sometimes they need little or no tillering after the bow is profiled to shape.

Your first task is mark the face with the straightest grain as “back.” This part will eventually face away from you when you shoot the bow and will need the straightest grain possible to maintain its structural integrity as it stretches in tension at full draw. Mark the other face as “belly.” This side will face you when you shoot the bow. Now, on the BELLY side, mark your stave as in the picture below. The section marked “Tip Overlay” is optional and will be described at a later date.

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Still working on the belly side, find the vertical center of the 68” section and square a line across the board. Mark this with a “C” for center. Then, square a line at 3” and 5” from both sides of your centerline. I mark the 3” lines with extra dots so I can keep everything straight in my little pea brain. Your stave should now look like this picture (minus the green lines running horizontally along the stave, which we’ll get to shortly).

NOTE: As outlined later in this thread, I would now recommend an 8" riser section to give you more working limb and a better look. To accommodate the 8"riser, mark the center (C) as normal, then draw a line 2" and 4" from either side of it. The two lines 2" from center denote the end of the limbs' front profile fade (i.e. the "pyramid" shape) while the lines 4" from center indicate where the ends of the 8" riser block will be. All other dimensions and procedures can remain the same.

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Now, mark the horizontal center of the stave on your center line. If using a 1”x4”, this mark will be at 1 ¾”. (Remember, the 1”x4” is really ¾”x3 ½”). Now, mark 1 ½” above and below this mark to give you a total of 3”. Now, do the same thing on the vertical lines located 3” to either side of your center line (the ones I marked with dots). Connect these two lines along these marks as in the picture above.

Now, at both ends of this 68” section, find the exact center of the board, which again will be 1 ¾” from either side assuming the board is true. (Check just to be sure!) Now, put a mark 1/4” to either of this mark, which will give you a 1/2" width overall at the tips. Next, connect these marks with the lines your drew between the dotted lines. Here’s a picture of what that’ll look like:

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Now, here’s a picture of how to do it. Just clamp a straight edge along these two marks. These horizontal lines now represent the outline of your bow.

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Now cut off the tip overlay and riser sections from the end of the board, leaving just the 68” section. Cut along these profile lines on this section using a band saw, jigsaw, or handsaw. Be sure to LEAVE YOUR MARK! You’ll trim it down to the line later. By the way, the bandsaw in the picture is a cheapie Delta benchtop model that does the trick. If you have a bigger model, great. If not, buy yourself a new 1/2 blade with about 7 teeth per inch and get your fingers out of the way!

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Clean the mating surfaces of the riser block and bow belly with acetone (fingernail polish remover) to remove all the oils. This is kinda’ overkill, as red oak isn't that oily. But, it certainly doesn't hurt and is a force of habit for me.

Once the acetone is dry, spread a good layer of Titebond III on both surfaces, line the ends of the riser up with the lines marked “Future End of the Glue-On Riser,” and clamp it up. Please use Titebond III. It’s tough as nails, moisture resistant, and cheap. The kid at Menard’s might tell you Titebond II and Titebond III are the same thing, but he’d change his mind in a heartbeat after a broken bow relocates his nose while staring down a trophy buck in a drizzling rain!

The next part is optional. You can choose to add a glue-on recurved tips if you’d like, or you can just skip it and not worry about it. It’s a technique that Tim Baker wrote about in the TBB. If you’d like to try it, cut the tip overlays apart and clean them with acetone. Now, mark a line across the BACK of the bow 6” from the end of each tip. Clean this area with acetone and then put a few pieces of masking tape starting at the 6” mark as shown in the picture below.

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This will prevent glue from getting all over the back of your bow. (You’ll be cutting off a good portion of the belly of the bow later, so you didn’t need to do this when gluing on the riser block.) Now lather some TBIII on both surfaces and clamp.

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Then, let the whole shootin’ match dry overnight, as in the picture below:

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That’s all for Round 2. Be back later for the next part!

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"Walk softly...and carry a bent stick."

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:17

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Dave Bulla
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Cool, I'll be watching this one. Might get the kids to make their own.

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Dave


I've come to believe that the keys to shooting well for me are good form, trusting the bow to do all the work, and having the confidence in the bow and myself to remain motionless and relaxed at release until the arrow hits the mark.

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Greg Owen
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I think I might have to try this one. Never built a bow, but its time to learn. I can also use it to strengthen my muscles. Thanks for taking the time to share.

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Greg >>>>>--------------->
A Traditional Archer and Vegetarian.

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mysticguido
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so far just like I did my red oak bow minus the tips?
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Over&Under
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I think I could even do this!...

Looking forward to the next installment....

(even saved this thread to my favorites so I can reference it later)

Thanks!

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“Elk (add hogs to the list) are not hard to hit....they're just easy to miss" [Smile]

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4est trekker
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Thanks to the administrators for getting this in the right spot. Sorry for the oversight! [jumper]

[ October 28, 2009, 07:07 PM: Message edited by: 4est trekker ]

--------------------
"Walk softly...and carry a bent stick."

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:17

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mysticguido
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Finish your how-to and it will get moved.
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SteveL
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Man those are best photo illustrations of grain I've ever seen. Bar none! I struggled early on picking a decent board and had I had these I would have been way ahead of the game.

Thanks! for the the time and effort to put this together.

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YankeeRedneck
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This is soo cool ! Thanks for posting this I'll be watching this thread and hope to do it on my own. Thanks...

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I love New York

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Stiks-n-Strings
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Gonna get me some wood this weekend.
What other kinds of woods will work for this type of bow?
How do you determine what your projected draw weight will be and adjust for that?
Example: narrower limbs, thinner limbs or vice versa.
Can this type of bow be made any shorter for kids or just someone who likes a shorter bow?
How will it effect it if I back it with snake skin?
Just a few questions.. LOL
Kris

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Striker stinger 58" 55# @ 28
any wood bow I pick off the rack.
2 Cor. 10:4
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Jesse Peltan
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Hickory would also work. You simply shorten or lengthen the bow depending upon draw length. If you back it with snakeskin it will be slightly more durable and slightly heavier.
Posts: 482 | From: Mississippi | Registered: Jun 2009  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
4est trekker
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Kris: I know you've got a target bow in mind, since we've talked a few times. If you PM me I will shoot the specs for your drawlength/weight.

You can use other woods such as hickory, ash, red oak, etc. I'm just sticking with red oak here since it's easily obtainable and can provide those following this thread with a predictable bow (which by the way will be 50#@26"/55#@28").

You were right about narrowing and/or thinning the limbs. This bow will be uniform in thickness throughout its length (minus the fades), and the limbs will taper uniformly. Narrowing the limbs uniformly can lower poundage, and vice versa. Thinning the limbs can lower poundage, and vice versa. I'll try to cover this in later posts.

Yeah, you can shorten this bow up. My turkey bow of this style is 64" in length and pulls 44#@26". My son's bow (which I posted under "A Boy and His Bow") is also of this style but is not much over 48 inches. Generally, as you shorten the bow up you'll want to widen the limbs at the fades to minimize set and string follow. I'll bet tons of folks on this site have made pyramid bow. Maybe we could get a thread going with specs for pyramid bows so folks can have a running start at hitting their target weight and drawlength. Thoughts?

Snake skins will help protect the back from the elements, although I've never experienced an appreciable increase in draw weight when a bow is backed with them.

All for now. Hope to post two or three "Rounds" tonight!

--------------------
"Walk softly...and carry a bent stick."

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:17

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stickmonkey
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awesome build thus far [clapper] keep it up [thumbsup]

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Time is the crucible of a man's integrity.

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4est trekker
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Round 3: Truing Up the Bow’s Edges and Shaping the Recurved Tips

Well, here’s what the whole package should look like after you unclamp it.

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Note that the riser goes on the belly and the recurved tip overlays (if you’re doing them) go on the back. If you added the overlays, you first need to roughly trim them flush with the sides of the bow as in the following picture:

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Remember the tape you added to prevent the glue from smearing? Here’s the nice clean result:

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Next, you need to true up the edges of the bow down to your mark (which you left when cutting it out, remember?) I use a Stanley Surform rasp, although a block plane, long file, or even sandpaper wrapped around a flat piece of wood will work. You want to make sure the sides end up square to the back and belly and that it is perfectly straight along it’s length. Here’s a picture to help:

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THE NEXT STEP IS NECESSARY ONLY IF YOU ARE ADDING RECURVED TIPS!

Now it’s time to shape the recurved tips. Your first step here is to shape the upper (back of the bow) profile. I made a very simple jig using a French curve as shown in the picture below (I would be happy to e-mail you this jig, along with the fade out jig on page two in PDF format. Just send me a PM with your e-mail included.) The jig need only be accurate on the top side (back of the bow side), which is up in the picture. You will trim the belly side later using a different jig. The recurved tip should gradually fade from the straight line of the bow’s back to the graceful curve at the tip. No abrupt changes or the bow will fail. Just study the picture and use your eyeball to judge the transition. Sure wouldn’t hurt to do a couple of tests on some scrap boards just to be sure you’ve got your ducks in a row! (Note: At this point, I know a lot of you are thinking one of two things: (1) “68 inches is too long for a recurve,” or 2) “Those are reflexed tips, not recurved tips.” You’re both right. By most standards, they’re actually abruptly reflexed tips.)

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Now trace the profile along the top (back of the bow), remove the jig, and cut to shape using your bandsaw, jigsaw, or coping saw. Remember to LEAVE YOUR MARK! When first cut, it should look like the following picture. Notice the little bump at the transition between the glue-on tip and the back of the bow, as detailed in the second picture. You want to leave yourself some wood there, as cutting into the back of the bow will create a headache (figuratively and possibly literally!)

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I like to use a small rasp/file combo with one flat side and one round side to take the tips down to the mark. I finish it off using a sharp knife as a scraper to remove all tool marks. If I’m in a hurry (which is not a good thing when building a bow, but is my usual mode of operation) I use a sanding drum that I chuck up in my cheapie drill press. You'll notice the grain isn't straight on the curved tip anymore, but that's okay. These will be doing very little work and are part of a laminated section, which will naturally be stronger.

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Be back next time for Round 4: Shaping the Side Profile. Thanks for following!

--------------------
"Walk softly...and carry a bent stick."

"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col. 3:17

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