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» Trad Gang.com » Main Forums » The Bowyer's Bench » The "So You Wanna Build a Bow?" Build-Along (Page 2)

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Author Topic: The "So You Wanna Build a Bow?" Build-Along
4est trekker
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Round 4: Shaping the Side Profile


Now it’s time to shape the side profile (i.e cut the limbs to thickness.) This is the only quasi-difficult part of the build-along, although minimal woodworking skills tempered with PATIENCE will give you success!

For a 50#@26”/55#@28” bow at 68 inches in length, the thickness of each limb should be 15/32”. (If you want a bow that’s heavier, make the thickness a full ½”. If you want a bow that's lighter, you can take off wood later, and so stick with 15/32". In any case, we’ll get to tillering to your intended draw weight/length later.)

Here’s a simple principle to keep in mind: In general, when you double the WIDTH of a piece of wood it will be twice as strong. If you double the THICKNESS of the wood it will be eight times as strong. So, you have more room for error when trimming the front profile (i.e. side tapers) than when shaping the side profile (i.e. limb thickness). Go slow, and as Norm Abram says, “Measure twice, cut once!”

Here’s a gauge I made to mark the limb thickness. Nothing fancy:

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You run the inside of the notch against the back of the bow while holding a sharp pencil or extra fine point marker against the edge of the jig. You don’t want a really fat line, as this allows more possibility for error. This jig will allow you to draw an even line 15/16” from the back of the bow. (Note: Make sure your jig is no wider than 1/2” in thickness as it can create accuracy problems when tracing along the curved edge of the recurved tips, if you’re doing those.) I mark both sides of each limb. Here’s the jig in action:

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You want to stop the line about an inch shy of the edge of the glue-on riser. You don’t have to be exact.

Next, you’ll need to build yourself a fade-out jig. As before, I used a French curve and made sure the transition between the 15/32” mark and the start of the fade-outs was very subtle and smooth. (Please note that you want the bow at full thickness at the point where the limbs are full width, which is right along the original line you marked 3” off of center before doing the glue-up. This is NOT aesthetically pleasing to most, but it is easy and ensures there's plenty of wood in the area that a lot of first bows fail.) I usually start the curve of the fades approximately 1½” from the edge of the glue-on riser. This ensures that the bow will not take a great deal of set here (i.e. permanent deflection), which would be manifested greatly at the tips of the bow. Here’s some pictures of the jig and the layout line:

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I put two marks along the side profile lines. The one closest to the riser tells me where the fade-outs will begin. The one closest to the tips is 1” from the other mark and tells me to start squaring the board up on the edge of the riser block as opposed to the edge of the bow’s limbs. This sounds confusing, but you’ll understand when you start pushing the bow through the saw (if you’re using a bandsaw). If you cut the fade-outs while holding the board flat along the bow limb’s edge, your fade-outs would come out crooked, because the bow’s limbs are tapered and will lift the riser block up off of the cutting table. I won’t say anymore about that, other than it’ll probably make itself clear when you get to cutting it out. Here’s my marks:

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Because my bandsaw is so small, I have to add an auxiliary table to give me enough space to lay the rise block against when it comes time to cut the fades. I just make a cut several inches into a scrap piece of FLAT plywood, MDF, etc. and clamp it to my table. Here’s the get-up:

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If using a bandsaw, make sure the table is square to the blade (which again, should be brand new or close to it.) Starting at the TIP of each limb with the waste side (belly side) facing inward toward the saw, cut the sucker out! You want it oriented that way so you have plenty of room for the board to clear when you maneuver it through the fade-out cuts. Go slow and give the saw plenty of time to clear the wood. When you get to that mark 1” tipside of the beginning of the fade-outs, remember to VERY CAREFULLY tip the board back toward you and rest it squarely on the riser block as you finish the fade-out cuts. As always, LEAVE YOU MARK! If you’re not sure of your bandsaw skills, leave a little more than your mark. You can’t put wood back! If all goes well, here’s what you’ll end up with:

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If you don’t have access to a bandsaw, check out page 12 for a method for shaping the side profile of the bow using a few simple hand tools and a little elbow grease!

That’s all for Round 4! The next step is truing up the side profile and checking the initial tiller.

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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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Well, I've spent more time processing pictures and posting these threads than actually building the bow, which is why they're coming one right after the other. Anyhow, here's the next installment:

Round 5: Truing Up the Side Profile and Checking the Initial Tiller

Now it’s time to true up the thickness of each limb by bringing them down to your thickness mark (which you remembered to leave, right?). I do that by using a Surform rasp, a round and flat rasp/file combination, a flat-edged drawknife and hunting knife used as scrapers, and sandpaper. I use calipers set to 15/16” to gauge the thickness of the entire limb, slowly removing wood until the entire limb (save for the fade-out region) is uniform in thickness. The fade-outs are trued up to the guide lines since the calipers would be useless here. Once the fades are close, I use my fingers to feel them and make any adjustments my eyes missed. Here’s some pictures of the tools and the process, including some of my 3 year old son's laying on the floor:

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Ignore the fact that in this picture the handle is already profiled to shape. I took the picture out of order [Smile]

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When you've gotten the limbs to a consistent 15/16" thickness and have the fades trued up, it’s time to round over the edges of each limb. I like to use a file to break the edge and get it roughly rounded, and then I take a strip of sandpaper and work it back and forth like a shoe shiner uses a rag. Once I get it to about the radius of a pea or a pencil, I sand lightly with the grain to remove the sanding marks. I really like those 3M foam sanding blocks for that task, especially after they've been used and broken in a bit. One final note: I like to round the edges about 1" into the riser block on the back of the bow. I've had a couple of bows blow here when I didn't do that. Theoretically the bow should not be bending here anyway, but when the back undergoes tension it goes on a wild hunt for the weakest point in the limb, and the pressure could creep its way all the way back into the riser my. Just my $.02.

Alright, it's time to see if that stick in your hand works anything like a bow! We need to check the initial tiller on the tillering tree using a tillering string. (If you don’t have a tillering tree and string, search this site. There are some great references for building your own.) Here’s a picture of the initial tiller:

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Well, the left limb is a little bit stronger/stiffer than the right limb. Actually, that’s exactly what I was hoping for. (That's sounds like I'm covering a mistake, but really I'm not [bigsmyl] ) I tried as much as possible to get both limbs to an even and uniform thickness. However, I almost always make a slight error, just enough to render one limb slightly stronger than the other. (Search "positive tiller" on this sight for a description of why this is often a good thing.) Suffice it to say, this bow will most likely draw evenly along both limbs when drawn in the hand if I make the stronger limb the bottom limb. We’ll just have to see! If for some reason your bow looks perfect at this point, good for you. We’ll change that later on [biglaugh]

NOTE: I would truly suggest making one of Eric Krewson's tillering gizmos. It is simple, effective, and will help produce a finely tillered bow. Please not that it will NOT work on the outer third of the bow's limbs if you've added the reflexed limb tips. Click the link below to view his thread on making and using one.

http://tradgang.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=125;t=001047#000000

That’s all for Round 5. See ya’ soon. Again, 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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dutchwarbow
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this is an excelent buildalong so far!!
amazingly clean work, great!

Nick

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in the old days religion had it's use to keep nations together. Today, religion tears nations apart.

Nick

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Art B
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Some great info there 4est.

"However, I almost always make a slight error, just enough to render one limb slightly stronger than the other."

If you will check and see how your boards "stands in the tree" then you will always know which limb is most likely going to be the strongest (trunk end). That's the very first thing I do before laying out a bow. ART

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4est trekker
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Art B: Never heard that before. That's some great info that would come in handy. How can you tell which end of the board is the trunk end?

So, if the trunk end is stronger, then perhaps I haven't been making errors like I thought, eh? Well, I wouldn't give myself that much credit! [biglaugh]

--------------------
"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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If you've been following this thread, I edited Round 5 to include a crucial step I had forgotten to mention. You MUST round the edges of the limbs before checking the initial tiller. Again, I inserted this step in the post above. (Thanks for the advice, Razorback. I appreciate it! [thumbsup] )

[ October 29, 2009, 07:57 AM: Message edited by: 4est trekker ]

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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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Igor
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Great thread - you make a board bow build look easy!

I appreciated all the work that goes into the build along process.

thanks

><>
Glenn

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding In all your ways submit to him and he will direct your paths

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4est trekker
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Round 6: Rough Shaping the Handle

NOTE: Please see the update later in this thread that describes how to make a more aesthetically and ergonomically-pleasing handle. While quite functional, many find this one uncomfortable and hard to tune arrows with.

I make the handle ¾” wide at its center, if not just a touch more. You might be able to find a lid, pot, or bucket that fits the radius. If not, just use a compass like I did in the second picture below. It takes a little bit of trial and error, but is not difficult in the least. (Note: the riser block looks curved in the picture below, but it's just an optical illusion from the camera.)

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Once you get it marked out, cut it to shape on the bandsaw or with your coping saw.

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The next thing I do is cut a very shallow radius in the belly of the handle, being sure to end the radius exactly at the fades and to leave the handle 1¼” thick in the middle. I take the piece that I cut off and glue it to the back of the handle as an overlay. This gives the handle a more rounded feel. Here’s a picture to help explain:

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After the glue dries I remove the clamp and trim the handle overlay flush as in the picture below:

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That’s that! The next step will be to check our draw weight, add the nock overlays, and shape the tips. We're gettin' close to done!

--------------------
"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 7: Checking Short String Tiller/Draw Weight, and Adding Nock Overlays

I like to add temporary nocks using a wooden wedge secured with masking tape to transition from the tillering string to the short string. NOTE: For a great tutorial on making a quality Flemish string and jig, visit the following site:
http://www3.sympatico.ca/ragiwarmbear/diy/flemish/flemish.html.
Make sure you wrap the temporary nock really well or it will want to slide down the limb on you. If that happens, you’ll change the tiller of the bow. I always place a mark on the back of the bow where I want the nock to rest so I can see if it’s moving or not.

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I check the tiller on the tree using the short string, and it looks almost identical to the initial tiller check we did with the tillering string. Satisfied for now, I want to check my draw weight. I’ve learned two rules about tillering that have saved me a lot of time and headaches. 1) Never pull the bow further than it is tillered correctly, and 2) Never pull the bow past your intended draw weight. I will now go back and forth between the bow scale and tillering tree balancing these two rules as I seek to find what my draw weight is at 26”. If the tiller gets out of whack on the way there, I stop and retiller by scraping the stiff spots, pull the bow 30 times to give the wood time to settle, and then recheck the tiller. In the case of this bow, I don’t have to do any retillering and I find that the draw weight at 25” is 51# (or a projected 54#@26”). Perfect! But “WAIT”, you say. Didn’t I just break rule number 2 above? Kind of, but here’s a little trick. I don’t actually pull the bow to 26” just yet. I like to hit my target weight at 1” shy of the intended draw length. That gives me a few pounds to play with as I do the final shaping and sanding on the bow, and allows the wood to settle a little bit as I shoot it in.

Now, if you don’t have a bow scale, here’s a handy little setup I often use. I take a bathroom scale, a 36”-40” long dowel or square stick, and a small square scrap of plywood and make my own. I attached the stick upright to the plywood using screws. (In the one in the picture, I used a fortsner bit to countersink a hole to receive the end of the dowel. I then glued it and screwed it to the plywood) I make a notch in the top of the stick to hold the bowstring and then make marks on the stick at 24-31 inches from the top in one inch increments. These will tell me the draw length of the bow (I measure to the back of the handle. This is a whole other ball of wax, and you should familiarize yourself with how to accurately find YOUR drawlength, as well as how to measure drawlength a bow. Use the search function on this site.) When I place the string in the notch and pull down on the handle of the bow, the weight is transferred through the stick onto the bathroom scale. Simply read the poundage on the scale and VIOLA!

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Now, if you want to get really accurate, you can make a fancy calibration system as shown in the following picture (ha ha!)

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I simply set the gallon water jug on the scale and adjust it to 8.34 pounds, minus the weight of the stick. As stupid as it sounds, I weighed several custom wood/glass bows and they read dead on for their marked draw length using this method!

The next thing I want to do is add nock overlays. These allow you to cut a groove more deeply into the tip, which keeps the string in place better. They also can add a bit of decoration. I’m using coco bola, although you can use any dense hardwood, including osage. I true up one face of the nock overlay using sandpaper on a flat surface. These overlays are just about 1 1/4" long.

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You then need to flatten the very end of the bow tips on the back side to accept the nock overlays. They must mate perfectly, so take your time. When you’ve got a good match between the overlay and the tip, clean the mating surfaces with acetone, especially if using a tropical hardwood. When dry, lather both surfaces with TB III and clamp it up. (If you don’t want to add nock overlays, just search this site for various pictures of bows [self bows in particular] that have more traditional nocks.) You'll notice that I butted masking tape up against the tip overlay. As I did before, I add this tape before the glue-up so that it doesn't smear all over the back of the bow.

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Once dry, shape the tips to your satisfaction. Dutchwarbow has posted some really beautiful tips on his buid-alongs, so I encourage you to look at his designs. Here’s how mine turned out:

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I use a small round file to rough cut the string grooves. I don’t cut all the way through the overlay, and I angle the grooves at about 45 degrees on the sides. When they’re fairly smooth I take and heat a roofing nail with a torch and burn the grooves smooth.

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Okay, all we’ve gotta’ do now is finish shaping the handle, check the tiller while drawing the bow in the hand, add a stain (optional) and finish, install an arrow shelf (optional), and wrap the handle (optional). That’s an easy stretch to the end, and we’ll be done in no time! Take care, and thanks for following! See you next time.

--------------------
"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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Great so far. I do like them recurved tips. I may have to try that on the next one I make.
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razorback
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I love a great build-along. I will be off to the hardware store this morning. Got to go to the dentist [scared] so will give myself a little present.
4Est, can you put up an oblique pic of the handle area so we can get a view of all the curves working together. The side curves seem fairly extreme for a comfotable grip. Though I know the details of these are in nthe next installment and with the handle it can be made to personal preference. Can't wait to see the finished bow. [campfire]

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Keep the wind in your face and the sun at your back.

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Art B
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4est, boards are sometimes harder to read than staves because they're cut from larger trees and some are pipe straight. But all tree trunks are naturally tapered to some degree. So if you can see a difference in the growth ring thickness from one end of the board to the other end then you know the bigger rings start at the trunk end.

A ring's radius is another to tell. Larger radius dictates the trunk end and the smaller radius the top.

If all else fails try balancing the board dead center and see if one end is heavier than the other. The heavier side would be the trunk end (I see this in my arrow making where there's a pronounced difference in ring thickness from end to end). Of course you need to make sure the board's moisture content is consistant from end to end. Many of the chain stores store their wood vertically which can cause an unbalance in MC. If this is the case then it would be wise to store the wood horizonally for a period of time before jumping on it.

ART

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4est trekker
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Round 7: Finishing the Handle Profile and Checking In-Hand Tiller

Well, this round is pretty simple. I use a rasp, file, and then various grits of sandpaper/sanding pads to round the handle to a comfortable grip. I give special consideration to the area that will become the arrow pass, being sure to remove plenty of wood on the belly of the handle in the region so the arrow approaches the handle at a less severe angle. To make the handle symmetrical, I do this on both sides of the top and bottom. Also, if for some reason the tiller ever changes on the bow and the top limb ends up stronger than the bottom, I can just flip the bow over and keep shootin’! Or, as is sometimes the case, I’ll end up giving the bow to a lefty. All in all, it’s nice to have the handle finished so either limb can be the top limb and both righties and lefties can shoot it.

I then take a knife or razor blade and scrape the handle to give it a smooth finish. Lastly, I take a smooth piece of antler and burnish the entire bow. By that I mean rubbing the antler over the surface of the bow (especially the back) hard enough to compress the fibers together and give it a smooth feel. Although it does have cosmetic benefits, it can also be the difference between a functional bow and a tiny splinter raising on the back that eventually renders it nothing more than fancy kindling. (You can use just about any hard, smooth, rounded object for burnishing. I’ve used baby food jars, glass guitar slides, and glass bottles.)

Here’s some pictures of the finished handle.

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Here's a picture of the back profile of the bow:

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Alright. We’re gonna see how the bow’s tiller looks when drawn by hand. I’ve decided to post a video so you can actually see the limbs working, rather than as a static picture. One note about the video…I say it’s pulling 54 #@26”, but I misspoke. It’s actually 52#@ 26” after the final sanding. That leaves 2# for settling in. Not bad! Anyhow, here goes…and sorry about that stupid look on my face [biglaugh]

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Well, it ain’t perfect, but for 12 bucks and a coupla’ hours of work we’re in pretty good shape. I’m going to leave the tiller right there. The next step is staining/sealing the bow, adding an arrow pass, and then wrapping the handle. We’re gettin’ close now! All we need is a good set of matched arrows and we’ll be eatin’ venison for Thanksgiving!

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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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Igor
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Looking good!

I like the profile!


Nice work!

Thanks for the thread!

><>
Glenn

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Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding In all your ways submit to him and he will direct your paths

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Dooley
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Great build-along 4est. I especially like the glued on recurve tips. [clapper]
Got a piece of hickory lumber under the sofa I'm gonna try that on.

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I was born at night, but it wasn't last night!

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