Introduction: Crafting a Bow for Wilderness Survival

Crafting a bow from scratch for moderate term Wilderness Survival
This instruction is not simple or short, but can yield one or more powerful nature made weapon.
As in any survival situation, the first thing you need to do is assess if you have the proper tools to use and make the things you need to make.
Presuming you have a descent outdoor knife will suffice for this instruction.
To make a functioning Bow, one you expect to use for hunting either rodents or birds, you'll need a bow strength of 25 to 30 lbs draw. If your plan is for larger game you'll need to adjust accordingly up to a bow capable of 55 to 70 lbs draw, which is not for the weak or faint of heart.
So you're stranded in the wild, with your clothes, shoes and a knife. You've gotten your shelter, fire and water needs in order and it's time find food.
If you find yourself in tropical or subtropical climate you may find it harder to locate a big game material supply for your bow, but you can use long Palm branches because of their fibrous nature. You should choose a palm with 5 to 8 foot fronds (branches) and cut through the base of the frond near ( 8 to 10 inches) from the tree as possible; this provides the best full base to work with. Using a palm frond means you use the frond from the side not it's natural bend, they're too weak otherwise. The technique once a branch is selected is similar for crafting the bow explained below.
If you find yourself in more moderate climate zone you should look for what are called hardwoods. Ash and Yew are at the top of the choice chain if you can spot them.
You should read up on how to find the differences in trees when you get a chance.
Soft and brittle woods can't handle the stress of a good bow and you won't want the dissapointment of your bow snapping in two in a crucial moment.
Altogether these instructions can be completed in a few hours once you've mastered the steps. Unfortunately reading them makes it seem awfully involved and time consuming.

Step 1: Steps 1 Through 10

Step 1:
Choose the right material.
Select a living tree or branch of a living tree for your bow. Sapling trees my not be long or thick enough so you should look for a tree or branch that is about 12 or 16 feet in total length.
The diameter at the center point of your base stock should be small enough for you to hold naturally, not too small and not so big you need to cut it down significantly. Cutting and trimming will happen but too much will weaken the main shaft.
I recommend you practice making a smaller bow say one about 50 inches long, or just about the typical length of a human head from top to chin less than 5 feet. For most this is an easily manageable length.
Step 2:
Clear away the noise.
You'll need to strip and trim all branches and leaf twigs from your base stock to find the relatively straightest section.
Step 3:
Choose the best part.
Survey the full length of your stock and find the most consistent diameter section for the length of bow you're crafting.
This is typically a point about 20% from the base to just under 30% from the tip.
Create bark cuts to identify your bow base from these references.
Give it one last look to be confident in your choice as this will begin your cut down crafting work.
NOTE:
It is possible to a quick bow by strapping several saplings together but that is a different lesson; here I'm assuming you want to make a bow and use it for more than a few times, and have good results with your game.
Step 4:
Find your length.
You should have a bow where your main cut down marks create a base between 50 inches and 96 inches (8 ft) that has a standard diameter, circumference that your hand will wrap around fully, or very close to fully.
Your fingers should overlap at least a little or you may be cutting into the strength of the bow when finishing the bow.
Check to see if the base a has a natural bend or bowing from growth. if it does mark the opposite side of the bend as the back of the bow and the bend side as the front.
Step 5:
Cut down the excess.
You will now being fashioning the bow. Cut down your base stock to create you main staff by whittling away the excess ends beginning at your cut down marks.
ONLY REMOVE THE ENDS YOU'VE MARKED TO BE CUT AWAY, DO NOT CUT INTO THE MAIN BOW STAFF YET.
The point here is two fold, you need a manageable bow length and you don't want to jeopardize the integrity of the main shaft. Whittling is simply slicing away the layers, cutting from the cut down marks away from the base section while allowing the wood fibers not to splinter and weaken.
Step 6:
Rough smoothing of the base.
Find two rocks about the size of a regular tomato or small apple, clash them together to see if they crack or crumble, if not your good to start roughing you base. One rock will do. If for some reason you have sandpaper you're just going to use the sandpaper.
Starting at either end from either side, use the rock to roughly grind down blemishes and bumps from your base. When finished you will have a long smooth staff that will soon become your bow.
NOTE:
You can replicate the steps to this point to make a great set of spears too (yet another instruction).
Step 7:
Find the center to balance your bow.
You now have a staff with a very slight bend of your chosen length. You now need to locate the center point of the staff. This may take a few tries depending upon the length of your staff and your measuring metod.
An easy meaduring method is to use a shoe or boot string since you can't bend you staff in half without breaking it; a belt can also be used for measuring. Short of string or belt, using your arm length from tip of you middle finger to the same point in your armpit and then using your hand for smaller measures.
NOTE: Always use the same arm and hand when using body measures because humans are not identical symmetrically speaking.
Using your belt or shoestring measure from the tip of one end of the staff to a point near the middle, or what you think is the middle. Put a small mark where that is; using the same length of string or belt mark to a similar point from the other end. if there is overlap or a gap between points, using a smaller section of string, measure the difference then fold the string in half and mark that addition or subtraction from you initial measure and you should be a dead center. Voila...
Now that you have the center point, mark between 4 to 6 inches from the center pint toward either end from the center and mark your handle points. Use the 6 inch from center for longer bows from 65 to 80+ inches, 4 inches from center for those smaller.
These measures will provide an 8 inch to 12 inch handle area of the bow.
Step 8:
Fashion your bows front edge.
Creating the front edge will help in binding the bow for string while allowing it to become flexible under use and avoid twisting and splintering.
With your staff and knife in hand working from the front side of the staff, at the point of your upper or lower handle marks, begin shaving or whittling down the front side of the staff.
The point here is to create a flat surface from the handle all the way to the tip on just one (the front) side.
You will be shaving down the staff approximately 3/8th of the diameter of the staff as you work your way toward the tips. The amount you cut away from the center compared to the ends should not be the same volume but the same relative volume.
The tips should not be half the width or diameter as they will be two weak when strung to hold up under anxious use.
Once you've huen down the front edge use your rock(s) to finely sand down to get a smooth flat edge.
Step 9:
Fashion the bow string points.
At both ends of your newly created bow, you should measure 1 1/2 to 2 inches down from the tip and place a small cut mark on both the left and right edge of the front edge.
The cuts will be shallow on either side (left or right, NOT front or back) of both ends if the bow.
The cut marks should be started from the front side cutting toward the back side at a roughly 30 to 45 degree angle. From front to back side the cut should look like it's angled down from the top front side of the bow the back side of the bow.
The cuts will be made just deep enough for the bow string to hold smoothly in.
A good technique is to take a shoestring, tie a slip knot and wrap the loop around the end of the bow pulling down on the excess string at the angle you need and making small cut marks where the string rides.
You can finish the string guides with small cuts and using a stone to smooth sand the roughness down.
Step 10:
A hand hold and arrow guide (knock) is needed.
With the shaped and smoothed bow you now need a way to hold it and insure your arrows will hit their target.
You should be able to tell if you bow is balanced by simply laying it across your open palm at the center of the staff. If it tetters to much one way or the other you just need to find the spot where it tilts the least by moving it one way or the other.
The point here is if unblanced you'll get fatigue and result in missed shots.
After locating the best center pointment you'll be making a few alterations to the center handle. Remember your handle is between 8 and 12 inches at the center if your bow.
Place your non-dominant hand (there's a technique for determining this) about 1 inch below what you've determined to be the balance center of your bow. Hold the bow out in front of you with the staff running vertically.
Crafting the handle.
Mark where the webbing of your thumb and thumb wrap around the center of the bow and runs along the sides and back of the bow. Also mark where the bottom of your hand, the butt of your hand and wrist run along the ssme angles.
Take your knife and shave down the center of the bow between these marks no more than 3/4 to 1/2 inch at the back side and taper it as it wraps around the center shaft. You should feel it become "like" a handle. Sand this with the stone for smoothness.
Craft the knock.
Whether you're right or left handed (donimant) will determine the side of the knock, typically the opposite side as you dominance. Cross over siting produces a binocular focusing effect for accuracy.
Approximately 1 1/2 to 2 inches above the handle above your knuckles line (where they extrude or stick out), you will be making a horizontal cut approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch along the line above your knuckle line. This cut will run from 1/4 of front center edge of the bow to 1/4 the back center of the bow. Approximately 1 to 1 1/2 inches above this cut you will be slicing down from the same side a wedge from the center of the handle. This small wedge cutout is then sanded smooth and provides the arrow rest for your bow.

Step 2: Step 11 Conclusion

Step 11:
Finishing the bend resilience.
Now that the structure of the bow is defined you'll need to temper the flexibility of the bow's staff.
A simple technique is to place the bow on a stable object, rock or fashioned table, and weigh down the ends evenly over a short period of time.
With your bow resting on a surface that allows the tips to hang in open space tie a string around each end that can be tied to rocks or weights of some type. You want the weight applied evenly over each end at the same time to teach the wood to handle the stress.
You don't want to exceed 15 to 20 lbs and you want to build up the weight over a period of about 2 to 3 hours, starting with about 2 to 4 pounds.
After the setting up is completed your bow should be flexible yet sturdy.
NOTES:
Finishing a bow can improve its usefulness over time. Finishing involves sealing, oiling and preparing the wood and protecting the wood from the elements and use.
You can finish a bow over a period of time after making and using it. Once you have an animal kill you can use their oils and sinew to reinforce the bow shafts, coat the handle and knock, and even glue layers on to make it a stronger bow. Mink, weasel, rabbit, squirrel, small deer and some fish provide great sources for making you craft bow last.
NOTE:
Bow strength is determined by how much tension is required and withstood when drawing the bow string back from it's at rest, taught, position. The greater the draw typically means the greater the impact at optimal shot distance.
Optimal shot distance for most bows is considerably inside 50 yds, or 150ft. For typical bow hunters and archery professionals it's 30 +/- yds or 90 or fewer feet. Some claim skills at +70 yds, but in survival mode, the sure thing and your survival is the key.
For big or alpha predator game, that's close, so be sure of what you're getting yourself in to, elk and even stag deer have been know to attack hunters.
Good luck in your outdoor crafts...

Comments

author
wold630 (author)2016-03-27

Looks like a very nice bow! Do you have any photos to go along with your written instructions? Thanks for sharing!

author
jnsnfl (author)wold6302016-04-02

Hi wold630,

I've uploaded the images of to the post for the start to pre-finish to go along with the instructions. This bow was created using a cypress as the main stock. I have crafted similar bows using elm, silver and red maple ( plentiful in FL where I spend considerable time). Typically this work, in a field expedient environment, can be completed start to finish in about 5 to 6 hrs with a good survival knife or combination set of blades. Cheers

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