Introduction: 3$ Bamboo Longbow

Picture of 3$ Bamboo Longbow

here is a quick and easy project for the budding archers among us.
make a bow ,terrorize the local wildlife{dont really though}.
useful for survival situations.

Step 1: Materials List and Overview

good day folks today im going to show you how to make a longbow out of bamboo garden stakes.
this material shows up every spring in the seasonal sections of dollar stores and walmart gardening centers.if your lucky and have bamboo or river cane growing near you the your price just dropped.
a bow like this is not going to take down a deer but in a survival situation being able to make a light bow out of available materials may just give you the edge you need to not die of hunger.

materials required:
2 packages of 48"bamboo garden stakes{20 pcs) ................$1 each
1 Roll dollar store jute twine.........................................................$1
Total $3
roll of hockey or electrical tape
glue to coat bindings
tape and glue are not 100% necessary for this project .

tools required:
but a pocket knife or small finetoothed saw wont go astray{even a sharp rock}

Step 2: Arrange the Materials

Picture of Arrange the Materials

first thing to do is pick through your sticks.
select the best and straightest ones you have
line them up from thickest to thinnest {this will save you from the first result i got)
make 3 even piles choosing an even cross section of all sizes of cane.
i selected six sticks for each bundle and discarded two{the numbers of sticks are optional but more means stronger}
in 2 piles line up the sticks with the thicker ends all together.
in 1 alternate between butts and tips

Step 3: Tie Off the Ends

Picture of Tie Off the Ends

take one of the two aligned{bias} bundles and even up the ends{thinnest section}.
tie it very tightly about 1 inch or so from the end.
then about a foot or so down the shafts tie it again very tightly.
repeat with the other bias bundle.
so what you should have now are two bundles of sticks tied near the thinnest ends.

Step 4: Next Step

Picture of Next Step

now take your two bundles, turn one around and interleave them into each other until the ends come within an inch or two of the second bindings.
now bind the bundles an inch or two below the ends.
what you have now could be used as a weaker bow with a bit more wrapping.
but we want to make it stronger again.

Step 5: Beefing It Up

Picture of Beefing It Up

now take the bundle left over{the ones with the alternating ends}
and lay them on the bundle evenly {the ends should line up between the first set of bindings an the tips}.
tie them off very tightly and wrap the whole bundle in several places with the twine.
wrap the middle section to form a handle.
and {i cant stress this enough} make all bindings as tight as you can .
the energy stored in the bending wood should not be allowed to dissipate by sticks flexing away from each other.

Step 6: Nocking and Stringing

Picture of Nocking and Stringing

to form a "nock" wrap some twine around each end to form a knob that your string wont slide down over.
i wrapped mine in hockey tape but you can also dip it in waterproof glue to keep it together.
the string should be 4 to 6 inches shorter than the overall length of the bow unstrung try to avoid stretchy cord as this will steal power from the bow.
i used a leftover endless loop type string {made from nylon net twine} that didnt pan out { too flexible} on a 50 lb oak bow i made last winter.
for the draw weight your going to get here you can use a couple of strands of the jute twine twisted together.

Step 7: Uh-oh

Picture of Uh-oh

when i strung the bow i heard a sickening crunch and got to do my homer simpson impression yet again.

so what happened?
i didnt grade the piles before i selected the bundles and all the skinnier ones ended up together.
so i had to cut off the busted end and pull that bundle out untill the end was in proportion to the rest
then retied it .
as you can see the string is now too long for this bow but it worked well enough to try it out
it draws 20 lbs or so {maybe a bit less its hard to tell}.

Step 8: Ammo and Improvements

Picture of Ammo and Improvements

if you have any sticks that are really straight when you start save them for arrows.
i didnt have any straight ones so i made an arrow from a 30"length of 3/8 dowel with duct tape fletchings and a .38 cal cartridge case pressed on the end for a point
it will fire real arrows but the ones i bought for the 50lb oak bow are too stiff for this bow for them to be perfectly accurate.
well i hope you enjoyed this i know i did.
as for improvements and embellishments here are a couple of ideas to try
1 for a stronger bow use heavier pieces of bamboo but not too heavy,or you can cut off the smaller sections of the bamboo and have the bundles farther apart and use more backing sticks

2 wrap everything real tight

3 use a better grade cord for the bindings than i did{this stuff smells like tar and was probably recycled ships cable} speaking of recycling you can twist up your own twine if you want using the rope maker i submitted last winter {recycled cord recycled instructable lol}
4 if you cant get bamboo or rivercane try willow shoots or the suckers {small shoots} of any hardwood tree.
even a bundle of dowels will work. or warped arrows even.
1 do not point this at anyone or anything that you might damage you could put someones eye out or kill a family pet so dont.

2 if you need to use it for survival go ahead i know some good recipes for squirrell.
as for hunting well id check the regulations in you area first as minimum draw weight requirements would restrict this one {here the regs are 35lb and up for small game and 45 lbs and up for big game.{not to say you cant make a legal hunting bow this way just that this one isnt heavy enough}

3 also bamboo splinters easily if cracked and the splinters are sharp if you need to cut it good sharp pruning shears would be best and sand down the ends

thanks for looking


Tset Tsyung (author)2013-06-03

Hi LennyB,
Having some trouble with the nocks... I've made the main bow but the nock keep sliding down the body as I string it. To be fair even the main binding slip but I made sure that ALL bindings and nocks were down very tight. So much so that the bamboo was creaking as I was tying it... any ideas how to stop the nocks from moving?

lennyb (author)Tset Tsyung2013-06-04

i ended up taping the seams and nocks with black hockey tape.
glue also comes to mind dip the nock end of the bow in some wood glue and let it dry at least a day before stringing it up.
also if you have one heavier bit of bamboo sticking up you can try a pin nock where a pin through a loop is all you use i havent tried it myself yet{at least not with bamboo}.
my description of it is a little thin so google it in images youll see it there.
hope this helps

WilliamB79 (author)lennyb2015-10-24

Raw hide bindings are the way to go if one can. ( I use raw hide).

Tset Tsyung (author)Tset Tsyung2013-06-03

P.S. Thanks for this cool project!

AJMansfield (author)2012-12-29

A real bamboo bow is actually carved from a branch from a bamboo plant. Of course, the plant must be quite old before it is big enough for that, but bows made that way are among the best in the world, outperforming yew and even most synthetics.

WilliamB79 (author)AJMansfield2015-10-24

Not completely correct. Research the bambo bows that the Chinese had around 850AD. Pretty much just like this bow but hefty. And they used them in peace and in war.

serm.tanakul (author)2014-09-02

My folding bow from tent poles and paracord rope.

JonathanNoldin (author)2013-08-31

how well does it shoot?

lennyb (author)JonathanNoldin2013-09-01

not as well as a proper store bought bow ,but better than throwing the sticks at a target, lol.
the biggest issue with it was it broke on the third day that i used it.
i made a much better one from old tent poles later that worked a bit better because it wasnt as chunky and didnt break.
next one is gonna be made from fibreglass driveway maker poles.
some people have even made the from old arrows.

shoppe1 (author)2011-06-25

where do u buy the bamboo stakes in indianapolis IN

noobie605 (author)shoppe12011-07-14

Just go to lowes, or even walmart in the garden section, i live in terre haute IN by the way so i know lol.

shoppe1 (author)2011-06-25

where do u buy the bamboo stakes

Reinu0 (author)2011-05-28

Can i use duct tape insteand?

lennyb (author)Reinu02011-05-28

if thats what you want to use sure go ahead.
it should work just as well

bceballos (author)2011-05-19

can cotton twine work?

lennyb (author)bceballos2011-05-20

not very well
but if it doesn`t stretch too much or break you might get away with it

nunzilla555 (author)2011-04-16

I just made a bamboo longbow from my own design, but I found with the large body the arrows tend to fly to the side. Any ideas on now to fix this?

lennyb (author)nunzilla5552011-04-18

that depends on how thick it is.
usually an arrow if its properly flexible for the draw weight used will flex around the middle of the bow and go straight.{although it will whip side to side in flight}
but if the middle of the bow is too wide it cant or if the arrow is too stiff same problem.
a lot of designs have the mass at the middle of the bow wider front to back instead of round like bamboo bows usually are.
also if you are using storebought arrows designed for a compound or other heavy draw bow there probably not spined correctly{matched flexibility}.
hope this is helpfull.
let me know how you get on with it.

handyman22 (author)2009-10-05

hey i was just wondering if you could give an opinion, I have tried to make a bow and am going to attempt to make a type like yours also, but i was just wondering what kind of rope/string i should use for the launcher rope, people say nylon string is the best suited for a bow, but do you have any other recommendations? i would like to have a string that can increase the range and accuracy. thanks

son of s8an (author)handyman222011-01-29

Hemp string will last for a long time...
but it is sometimes hard to get it , depending where you are

lennyb (author)handyman222009-10-08

i just used twine for this one.
for a more powerfull bow dacron string or any good strong string that doesnt stretch much.

popomaster (author)2008-10-01

so just to clarify, when you said to tie off the thinnest ends of all the sticks, do you mean the thinnest sticks? or the thinnest ends. I just don't want it to break. also, should the ends of the bow be all thin ends of the sticks? or should i make the ends, thin, fat, thin, fat, etc. please reply soon. thank you

lennyb (author)popomaster2008-10-01

generally i have the thinnest ends towards the ends of the bow and the butts in the middle(for the sticks that extend to the ends) the ones in the middle that dont go to the ends i alternate the tips. i broke bows like this several times before i got one to stay together and that broke eventually . it may be that i was using an inferior grade of bamboo but dont expect it to last as long as a properly made wooden one{even they break too i broke my favorite red oak longbow just yesterday}. the good thing about this type bow is how little money you have to spend to get a shootable bow. enjoy and please feel free to write a version of your build as an instructable.

superdave5481 (author)lennyb2008-10-26

I had a thought while reading your instructible. Why not use some fishing poles. The ones made of fiberglass might be better. People throw awqay fishing poles all the time. I have a hard time getting rid of them as I am a packrat. I might even try it after my try at making a laminated bamboo one.

lennyb (author)superdave54812008-10-26

sure fishing poles should work. so will fibreglass rods like those driveway markers. even old arrow shafts could be lashed together to make a bundle bow . i think several tearling hardwood saplings might work too but i havent tried it ... yet. if you make one from fishing poles take some pictures and post it

wonton (author)lennyb2010-05-18

 driveway markers!!!  did i just hear that from another instructables member about making a bow and arrow.  this instructable reminds me of my past so much.  i once made a bow out of a single driveway marker and some string and as an arrow i used a bamboo tomato stake like you did but with 2 big nails duct taped to the tip.  my brother killed a bunny and a tiny bird with it.  haha.  my mom almost kicked our asses. but it was worth it.  that was our first experience in archery

lennyb (author)wonton2010-05-18

i have seen references too driveway markers on other websites and instructables.
its not an original idea of mine.
i wanted to try it out this year but all the driveway markers i could find were steel or iron rod.
and the bamboo in the garden centres this year is even worse than when i made the bow in this instructable so no go there.
guess im gonna hafta go scootin in the woods for a nice maple sapling or 2

Thundertydus (author)lennyb2009-04-15

I Have the same type of bamboo as you do at my 5 minute away rona, i have a hunting license and have been hunting with a rifle, but i want to try killing small animals with a bow (You never know when theirs an unexpected zombie apocolypse and then whos prepared when you have no ammo?) and im wondering how many rods i should use? Or if i should use something else entirely

Depending of the diameter of the material you would use more or less. My experience tells me that the bamboo reeds will fail after a period of tine by breaking near the area that is receiving the most bending stress. It might be best to have 3 to 4 going to each limb of the bow. If you want a really strong bow go to this website: bowstick archery. they have answers and material. by the way, a bow that breaks while being drawn back is fairly dangerous to you. Be carefull. It is better to make a laminated bow from hickory backed with bamboo. You would be happier with the results, trust me. Some of the reeds that are avaliable are going to be brittle and more prone to failure. Good luck!!!

lennyb (author)superdave54812009-04-16

agreed but the skill level and time required to make a properly made bow are way beyond most peoples skill / willingness level. a bow like this takes 10 minutes and is not suggested as serious archery tackle. also i wouldnt try tp get more than a few months out of one of these bows. as for safety a breaking bow can mess you up bad if you dont have it backed or wrapped to keep it from exploding. the bamboo bows tend to break much more gracefully unless you over draw them by a huge amount. usually a failure will just crunch and not rebound but if you panic and release the arrow you may get yourself in the hand if you have overdrawn. also watch out for the splinters as bamboo can be sharp when my oak board bow snapped off the rawhide backing kept it from fragmenting it just cracked off clean at a hinge that had formed a day or two earlier.

superdave5481 (author)lennyb2009-04-17

You are right! It does take considerable skill to make a laminated bow. And if all you are after is a little use you will be sucessful with the reed bow. And just a couple weeks ago I had split some large sized bamboo and was sliced on the finger as if cut by a razor. Eye protection, perhaps even sunglasses, would be advisable. You can even make your own bowstring with dacron fishing string and wax. There are some great tutorials to be found on youtube. good luck with your endeavors and be careful of the dangers.

sharlston (author)superdave54812009-05-15

if u cant find some go to the piund shop or if your in the america the dollar store and get the 3 metre ones and open them up and put the thickest togetther

sharlston (author)sharlston2009-05-15

i mean pound not piund sorry

popomaster (author)lennyb2008-10-04

ok, thankyou. im thinking about making a short bow with this.

nutsandbolts_64 (author)2010-05-03

you can make a lot of atl-atls with all those bamboo sticks. how much bamboo do you get out of one pack anyway?

lennyb (author)nutsandbolts_642010-05-03

usually 10 sticks or so.
the bamboo the dollar store has this year is shorter though and thinner.
not worth trying just now.
if it were straighter it would make decent darts but its kind of twisty.
i bought some 4 foot x3/8 dowels to make some atl atl darts.
i fletched them with duct tape {later crow feathers} and made points from 308 fmj bullets soldered into cut off cartridges .
looks smooth and sticks into archery targets nicely{when i can hit em}

nutsandbolts_64 (author)lennyb2010-05-04

 lol, ok thanks.

octo137 (author)2010-03-13

you could get a long thick one piece of bamboo and just string it i made one and some arrows in about 5 minutes, and it draws around 50 lbs.

spenfisher12 (author)2009-09-24

I would tie a loop in each and put it in the middle and reverse it over all the bamboo

lennyb (author)spenfisher122009-09-26

that would work well

sharlston (author)2009-05-15

what is the range of this?

lennyb (author)sharlston2009-05-16

i would say with practice that you should be able to hit a rabbit sized target at 20 metres. of course the closer you are the easier it would get.

sharlston (author)lennyb2009-08-02

what about if you shot it in the air at about a 130 degree angle how far would it go?

lennyb (author)sharlston2009-08-02

never tried it but id guess 80 metres or so

marsrover (author)2009-02-03

ok step one should be go to a bamboo clump (mines acrosst the street at a older ladys house she lets me get all i want) then take the saw blade of your knife and make a ring arround the bamboo then snap it over your knee i will be posting how to do the rest very soon (within the feburary month) again use very thick bamboo and you won't have to do all the tapeing and using tiny sticks

lennyb (author)marsrover2009-02-03

must be nice to have wild boo nearby i live in the north and we dont have any here. its dollar store , walmart or nothing

Fredward Sr. (author)lennyb2009-04-21

Yes o so true

the gizmoman (author)2008-11-21

i found a cool web sight on homemade bows (including laminated bamboo backed bows )

lennyb (author)the gizmoman2008-11-23

i have seen that site before lots of good info. thanks for reminding me.

sowrdsman94 (author)2008-10-12

okay uuuummm i didnt get a word of it can't u just make a video i got really confused about all of this.

About This Instructable




Bio: i am a photolab technician and an incurable packrat. i have made swords ,chainmail, crossbows.cameras,bike trailers,kayaks,guitars{slide and electric},knives,various ... More »
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