Instructables

Need some help making a home-made bow? (Aspen?)

Hey, I'm new here, and not quite sure if I'm posting in the correct spot.. I've been wanting (and trying) to make a bow for the past few days, without much success.. I live in Montana, and these are the trees I don't have too many trees near me, but I have Aspen, some sort of Willow (though I tried with a thick branch, and it snapped pretty easy), and Evergreen. Which would be the best to use? Would it be better to make it freshly cut, or semi-dead (or just left out for a few days to dry)? I've watched many bow-making tutorials, I got a few things from them, but they weren't using any tree that I can use. Approximately how long should the branch be? And how thick? The Aspens around me have a lot of knots (is that how you spell it, meaning a tree knot, not a string knot?), should I cut them off? or will it weaken the bow? What type of string should I use (preferably not too expensive)? I tried a string similar to kite string, only it was thicker and stronger, but it stretched too much. And finally (I think), should I peel the bark off, or leave it on? Thanks for any help! Any help/tips that I didn't ask for would be great. p.s. I'm 14.

Nesbitt114 years ago
Check this out, if the wood isn't flexible enough, try steaming it. Get a plank of wood and hammer nails partially into the wood, the nails should make the shape of the wood on both sides. ' Then what you do is heat a can of water about the size of a baked bean tin and make a small hole for the steam to come out, then move the surface of the bow all along the hole so it is is flexible enough. Then fit it into the nails. leave it to dry overnight then ply out the nails. the bow should retain it's shape and be flexible enough to use. hope this helps i am planning to do a full instructable on this in the near future.
NachoMahma6 years ago
. Try searching for "bow", "arrow", &c and then use the filters on the left side to "drill down."
. Look in one of the archery groups. If you don't see what you need, ask in one of their forums. archery fun looks like a good place to start.
. For a quick & dirty bow, a stout, fresh limb is probably OK, but if you want anything approaching a "real" bow, you'll want to use seasoned, knot-free wood from the trunk. You'll need to consider such things as grain orientation, but that's beyond me. If you can't find the info you need on Ibles, try Google.
. My gut feeling is that hardwood trees would work best. I'm not sure where an Aspen fits in on the "hardness" scale. As a rule of thumb, the slower the tree grows, the harder the wood.
mojobo1 (author)  NachoMahma6 years ago
Ah, I must be blind.. I looked all over Instructables, and didn't find that page. I'm not really looking to make a really nice, long-lasting bow. I just like knowing how to make things, because I basically live out in the middle of nowhere, and go hunting every year. Though, I always have a bow/gun with me hunting, so I wouldn't need to make a bow unless it broke, but being anywhere from 10 to 200 miles away from anywhere, it would be nice to make a bow. So it's mainly for survival knowledge.... And fun. I basically just want to be able to cut a limb (or just a small tree, and just use the trunk), and use the round limb/trunk as a bow. One of the main problems I'm having, is the trees around me aren't very good for this purpose. I've tried with a really thick willow branch, but it snapped when I tried to put the string on.
. I don't think you're going to get much of a bow using green wood, no matter what type of wood it is. I can't see it being able to develop enough power to be called a survival tool, ie, enough to kill a rabbit past point-blank range. Green wood does not hold its' shape well when stressed - as soon as you string it, it will start taking the new form and losing power.
. You may be able to take a branch and dry it over a fire, but cracking/splitting/brittleness becomes a worry. Plus you may not have fire in a survival situation.
. But I'm definitely not an expert on this kind of stuff. If you can't find what you need in the Instructables and Groups, try PMing Pat Sowers - IIRC, he knows a bit about archery. If he doesn't know, try some of the survival web sites.
I wouldn't say freshly cut is very good, a few days old hardwood is a good bet,
mojobo1 (author)  whatsisface6 years ago
Well, I don't have access to hardwood.. And as I said in my other comment, it's mainly for survival training. So I couldn't buy hardwood at the store, if I need it for survival.
Rishnai6 years ago
Solid, quality wooden bows are made from trunk wood (I believe it is the heartwood that they use, but I'm not 100% on that), which has been left to season for several months. Therefore, you won't be making a 'proper' bow. I had to cut down a whole bunch of evergreen trees on my property a couple of years ago, and kept some of the trunks (3-4 inch diameter) to try and make bows out of. I tried some new, and the rest with various amounts of aging. Nothing particularly effective came out of those experiments. I was using Ponderosa pine for that. It may be possible with different size wood, or different drying, or less ineptitude, but it didn't work for me. I think my trees were too old. I've been having a lot of aspens die on my property lately, too, so I'm considering trying to make something out of those. It's possible that you should start with wood that didn't die on its own. In the past I've made walking sticks from them, but no bows, which is my next project. I don't know if the Montana forests have the "proper" wood for bowmaking, but for survival purposes, one of 'em should work. You will want a fresh, springy piece of wood. Not too big. You want to try to get one knot-free, but if you must have knots, you can live with that. A sapling about two fingers wide would be good. Pines seem to sprout in a huge hurry to just the right size in the Colorado mountains during wet spells, so I'll assume that those would be available to you. If you can't find a sapling, find a soft branch, the kind that if you walk past it it'll whack the person too close behind you really hard. Hardwoods seem to do that more often than pines, but I guess aspens do that, too, to a lesser dgree. Pondersoa pine branches will either splinter or cover you in sap in my experience. They seem to have the wrong texture. Any leafy tree should do for the branch technique. As for aspens, I think you will need a sapling for your purposes, but aspen saplings, though springy, are narrow. Go ahead and try it, though. You're going to want the longest knot-free section that you can get, from the sound of the aspens around you. The overall length will depend on the springiness of your wood and the draw length you will use. It's really an art, but as a guide I'd say about the length from your knee to the top of your head. Longer than a compound bow, and shorter than an English longbow. A large part of it seems to be slicing the bow shape out of your blank tree trunk/branch. I know that you have to cut only out of the inside edge, never off the front edge, and only enough that you can draw your bow comfortably. Other than that I'm not really an expert bowyer, and the directions you've found probably cover it. You'll want to remove the bark. Don't cut the knots out, cut them in. In other words, leave the bow wider/thicker where there's a knot, and live with the lumpyness. Oh, and never dry-fire the bow. But I bet you knew that. ;) As for string, I know that strings are pretty much all a fancy-schmacy composite now. I would say use a string that you can afford and tighten it regularly. You'll lose some power to the stretch, but without getting expensive I don't know of any good material that won't stretch. I've used shoelace a few times, but it did require regular tightening.