Introduction: English Longbow

Picture of English Longbow

It was about time I tackled the project of a period-type English Longbow, and with much inspiration and guidance from alanesq's website (http://www.alanesq.com/bsb.htm), I was able to complete a simplified version of the English longbow. 

The final product is about 6' 4" with a low draw weight of about 25 lbs at 24 inches, perfect for simple target shooting. As you can see, I wasn't going for a battle ready, armor-piercing warbow or anything. It looks nice, took about 5 hours to make, and was under 10$. This is the perfect bow for a nice weekend project.

**DISCLAIMER** This bow is, in fact, a weapon! I take no responsibility for how and in what fashion these instructions are used. A bow is dangerous; don't shoot arrows at anything you don't mind hurting or destroying.

For a video of the bow in action, check the link on the last step!

Step 1: Materials

Picture of Materials

This is a VERY cheap project...if you already have the necessary tools, that is. Most, if not all, of the tools and materials can be found at a Home Depot or other similar store. 

Tools:
  Angle Grinder (with sanding attachment)
  Sand Paper
  Hand File(s)
  Clamps (optional)
  Wood glue 

Materials:
  6-7 Feet of 2"x1" Red Oak
  6-7 Feet of 2"x1/4" Pine***
  Twine (for the string)

***I made the assumption, not very educatedly, that a pine "belly" on the bow would handle the compression much better than the red oak, seeing as pine is much less dense than red oak. Well in my haste, I got cedar instead of pine, which resulted in a very useless "belly" that did not handle compression very well. In my last couple of steps I included a picture of the...consequences...of a cedar "belly".

Step 2: Gluing and Initial Cutting

Picture of Gluing and Initial Cutting

The first step is to glue the Pine to the Red Oak. The pine was a little rough so I sanded it a little just to make sure that it would glue well. After that, lather on the wood glue and clamp it all together. I didn't have any clamps, so I used Gorilla Tape to keep the two pieces together while the glue dried.

Once it is all dried, cut it to size; I cut mine to 6 feet 4 inches, but anything around 6 foot is realistic for a longbow. 

Step 3: Marking and Grinding the Sides

Picture of Marking and Grinding the Sides

On your stave, mark out (on the red oak side) the general shape of your bow. My finished bow was about 3/4" wide at the tips and 1 1/2 inch wide at the handle. Once you have marked out the shape, use the angle grinder to grind down to those lines. A bandsaw or tablesaw could be used for this step, however, I do not own nor have access to either one. The angle grinder is incredibly fast at grinding away wood, so it wasn't much of a problem.

Step 4: Tillering

Picture of Tillering

By far the most important step, this will take up the most time and concentration. Using the angle grinder, and sandpaper when necessary, grind down the limbs until they flex evenly. The best way to test this to string the bow and watch it curve by pulling on the string. Be patient during this process, and take you time to make sure it turns out right. 

A couple things you need to avoid:

     Hinges: when you grind too much in one area, the bow will bend more at that spot than on the rest of the limb. In order to fix this, ground above and below this "hinge" to alleviate the curvature.

     The thin pine "belly" will grind much faster than the Red Oak. Make sure you take away just a little bit at a time. 

      Keep your grinding straight and flat; if you grind the limbs at an angle, the bow will torque when you pull the string back.

Some Specs on my bow:
    Handle: Red Oak 3/4" thick, Pine 1/4" thick
    Tips: Red Oak 3/8" thick, Pine 1/8" thick

Step 5: Adding the Nocks

Picture of Adding the Nocks

About an inch or two away from the tips of each limb, use the hand files to make the nocks for the string. As shown in the pictures, these should be angled toward the "belly" of the bow (the side that faces you when you shoot it). 

Step 6: The String

Picture of The String

I know there are plenty of ways to make much stronger and much more historically accurate bowstrings, but I went for the cheap and fast option. My bowstring is quite literally just three strands of twine braided together. While this makes the string a bit on the thick side, I find it still work well on regular arrow nocks. 

My string, both loops included, came to a length of 71 1/2 inches. The two loops on the ends slide into the nocks created in the previous step. 

Step 7: Congratulations

Picture of Congratulations

String it up and you're ready to shoot! I feel safe pulling back to 24 inches but I have recently gotten back to 28 without any difficulties....except for the strange ripples in the cedar (see picture for clarity). Apparently the cedar I accidentally used is not capable of taking the compression on the "belly" of the bow. So, lesson learned: make sure you get pine, not cedar, for your "belly" :)

A video of the bow in action:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Az3Q5sS86U

Comments

ninja of suburbia (author)2011-07-21

Props for making the attempt to make a bow, but you seem to have mixed some things up.

The belly is the part of the bow that rests against your palm. A good longbow is traditionally carved from a single piece of yew. The bow is carved in such a way that the heartwood forms the belly of the bow, and the HARDER wood thus resists the compression and adds a vicious snap to the bow while the sapwood forms the arms and the back of the bow, providing the main launching force. Once again, YOU DO NOT WANT A SOFT WOOD FOR THE BELLY OF THE BOW. But other than that, well done.

Partly true. The english longbow was actually traditionally made of ash. Perhaps a noble's nicest hunting bow was made of yew, but yew trees were fairly scarce, and still are today. All the rest of the info was spot on, however. I have a yew stave and am doing as much research as i can before I carve it into a bow. (it is wood meant to be a bow, it just never got made into one. Lucky me!)

JackC3 (author)zelback12015-04-19

The English grew Yew trees specifically for long bows. They were not scarce in England during that period, not by a long shot (lol). Just like later the whole of England had English Oaks growing everywhere for building Royal Navy vessels. To this day it is illegal to fell an English Oak for they still belong to the state. It is still law for every Englishman to do Longbow practice each Sunday, even though people don't bother, the law has not been amended since that period.

yup, your'e right, my bad. besides that, yew has a nasty tendency to twist as it grows, resulting in an unusable twisted grain.

JackC3 (author)2015-04-19

I wondered who the hell would make a period English Longbow out of wood other than Yew or Ash and now I have found my answer. If the arrow cannot go through plate armour at 250 yards, it is not a period English Longbow.

robolimbo (author)2015-02-11

I use angle grinders to make my bows as well. They hog off wood very fast!

robolimbo (author)2015-02-11

I use angle grinders to make my bows as well. They hog off wood very fast!

robolimbo (author)2015-02-11

SO nice to see someone making wooden bows with an angle grinder! It makes ring chasing so much faster! Keep up the great work!

anibioman (author)2011-06-13

when tillering do you just sand the belly?

no it removes way to much wood to quickly. use a rasp and go slow. 1 extra rasping and your bows tiller can be destroyed or the draw weight can be reduced drastically.

hanelyp (author)anibioman2013-03-05

The back of the bow is under tension, so unbroken wood fibers running the length of the bow are important for strength. Removing material from the belly, under compression, seems safer to me.

kerrman75 (author)2014-04-21

do you know how you could increase the poundage up as high as you want?

oneofakind3 (author)2014-01-31

Yew is one of the best woods to use.

TN777 (author)2013-11-30

I made a bow like this, but not near as big. I used a bamboo tomato stake and twine. Shoots good. Now I just need actual arrows.

survivalist at home (author)2013-11-29

Don't use pine. Very soft wood.Hickory and bamboo are your best choice

anbu94 (author)2013-08-15

Use hickory for the bow

Imcrazydude (author)2013-04-30

Actually u can use aromatic cedar which is actually a juniper for the belly

Imcrazydude (author)2013-04-24

I mean thin

Imcrazydude (author)2013-04-24

Also you shouldn't use soft woods when making a bow

Imcrazydude (author)2013-04-24

Yes that would work very well just cut the hickory very then.

jrussell26 (author)2013-03-31

Would a red oak bow backed with hickory be a good combination?

mathieulj (author)2011-05-30

Good job. I made one like this using a hand plane and sandpaper a little while back. One thing I want to add though (forgive me if you mentioned it and I didn't see). Pine is great for starting out since its cheap and easy to work with but I find (as do others) that it is a very poor wood for bows. It works but the end result has more power and lasts longer with other woods. So by all means, start with pine, but keep in mind you'd be better off with another wood once you get the hang of bow making.

Stonehopper (author)mathieulj2013-03-04

If you are going to use pine remember to make it wide and flat

zelback1 (author)2012-10-02

I would like to post a comment added onto another page, but that I believe gives very sound advice.
1 Sep 3, 2012. 6:01 AMChrisMBows (author) says:
For the back of the bow you need a type of wood that is strong in tension and for the belly of the bow a type of wood that is strong in compression.
Examples of these types of wood are mentioned in step one.
Oak will also work for the back of a bow.
Avoid pine wood, it is not very reliable for a bow.
Chris
Thanks Chris, and you're right.
I recently looked into the theory of pine as a bow wood. using a computer program meant to be used to design houses for areas with high winds and heavy rains. Using the tension simulator, I determined that pine is noted to be one of the softest woods for use in construction, and under extreme tension, it has a tendency to warp and lose its shape. Because it is a conifer and is a soft wood, it is not meant for heavy duty construction and is really, (I concluded) only used because there are so many pines in the world and they are very cheap. Plentiful wood = plentiful building. The lumber expert down at the local materials distribution site told me that hard-woods such as oak and ash would be the best choice if I was looking for a wood that would be both durable, and have that vicious *SNAP* that you look for in a bow. Upon my own attempts to find out how to shape my yew stave into a worthy longbow, I have also discovered that most woods should be backed with something just to take the tension of compression off of the back. This is done because even the most eligable of woods for a bow has to deal with frequent periods when the tension is double or sometimes triple what it would be when strung, but not drawn. Use a bow enough, and it will start to develop "Character" in the limbs such as but not limited to: discoloration, stress lines, lifted splinters, flaking, creaking when drawn, and lessened rebound when loosing an arrow. I have known this before, but it became extremely clear and important to me one night when I watched my girlfriend's bow explode in her face when she drew back too quickly. It was a miracle that she recieved no injury besides a few splinters in her fore-arm. In terms of backing, I have more experience backing a bow with sinew made from the tendons of a large animal. This is extremely effective when using an already powerful bow, as when I backed my 65 pound hunting bow, I found that I had to bulk up some more to draw it. I believe it made it top out around 78 pounds. 5 layers of backing, laminated oak, 6'2" at 28 inches of draw. Please note that if you live in a moist, humid, or chilly environment or in a place that rains frequently, you will not want to use sinew as your backing. This is because moisture, even as little as is in the air, destroys the hide glue that is used to secure the sinew, and this can cause the sinew to begin to flake off or in extreme cases, peel away from the back of the bow. If this has happened, I do not reccomend drawing the bow. This is because there will be significantly more tension in the area where the sinew has peeled away than on any other point in the bow. Too much in one area and suddenly you're holding a stick of TNT when it explodes.

Always remember that a bow is still a weapon very capable of causing injury or death even when it does not have an arrow in it. Dry firing, over drawing, or extreme cold weather can cause your bow to be a dangerous item even when leaning on the wall. If you want your bow to maintain its spring and keep the string in good condition, I highly reccomend unstringing and storing it in a cool, dry place between each use. do not simply leave the string on the bow but take it off and hang it in an upright position with no wieght or tension on it. When storing your bow, I do not reccomend leaning it upright against a wall as over long periods of time this can cause minor warping and can eventually make the limbs uneven. Instead, the bow should be stored horizontally by hanging it on the wall or by placing it in a hard-case. Maintain your bow and check both the condition of it and its string often, and especially before each use. Wax your string any time there is even a slight chance of moisture where you will be using it. Make sure you do not draw the bow and point it at anyone, even if it is not loaded. Keep in mind that failing to maintain your bow could lead to personal injury, or the injury of others.
Sincerely yours,
Zelback1

Stonehopper (author)zelback12013-03-04

Hickory makes a very nice back for bows made of most woods including Osage Orange which has many of the characteristics of English Yew. Most of the long bows in the corn stalk shoot at the Cherokee Homecoming are backed with Hickory (the most competitive anyway). It requires use of a glue that can handle the humidity esp in the Southeast which can be very humid come hunting season.

Tango-Oscar-Mike (author)2012-12-30

I've been looking into the making of bows for four years now (if not longer). I found out that there are some woodtypes that are very good for archery. Elm, Ash, Oak, Birch, Maple, Yew and robinia (for our friends in the US, Black locust) all make fine flat and/or longbows. Pine is actually one of the weaker woodtypes. to make a bow stronger, I would use bamboo on the "back". For the bowstring, if you really want to use natural materials, use linen or cotton. If you want to use sythetic materials, use fastflight or another string meant for archery. But well done anyway.

wodloo (author)2012-04-02

nice bow im currently carving a bow from some sticks in the bush i see how that works but it will be completely hand crafted so if you dont want to take your time making it i suggest not.

Ecnester117 (author)wodloo2012-09-29

So your making the planks and all

Ecnester117 (author)2012-09-28

Did you make the bow any thinner than the stock? Or did you only shave the width

Ecnester117 (author)Ecnester1172012-09-28

Besides during the tillering

Pusstjulio (author)2012-09-03

Great job looks good and yours is better than the first couple I made
Just broke one made out of swamp oak "followed all the rules heart wood on the belly sap on the face extra bent and dried missed a knot now I have a long and short bow.

Ecnester117 (author)2012-07-17

Would poplar work as a belly instead of pine

Ecnester117 (author)2012-07-17

Really good bow. If I used only four ft of pine would it still work well for the belly?

bubblegum12 (author)2011-06-28

how far does it shoot?

yellerakern (author)2011-06-24

nice bow.i am a newbie with all this computer stuf.this is my first time on this website i find it great.i also am in the process of makeing a bow.it's not my first,i gave away a fiew to kids in our family and show them the dangers of such.i have 4 pieces of hickory that is ready.i cut a 7 foot hickory log and split it in 4 pieces,they are dry now and i will begin saturday on my project.wamt to use this bow season for deer,will keep in touch.yellerakern.

smallebee (author)2011-06-14

the ripples are where the seadar is spliting in the only direction posible. i dont advise doing this often as the damage may add up and fail unplesantly
10$=7£ verry good build.

bowmaster (author)2011-05-30

Very nice, I have wanted to make a bow for some time now. If you want to make it more authentic YEW should have used a different wood.

kstarr (author)2011-05-30

I have a load of nomal oak do you think it would be suitable?? gr8 instructable :) thanx 64

paintboy360 (author)2011-05-27

Does the bow need to be oiled at all?

whitewolf88 (author)paintboy3602011-05-29

not necessarily, but it will look nicer and be more weather and stain (ie dirt) resistant. if you use a laminated technique it'll bring out the different grains in the woods.

paintboy360 (author)whitewolf882011-05-29

Ok,
thank you!

splazem (author)2011-05-29

Very cool. I love archery.

randomhand (author)2011-04-28

Aren't English longbows exclusively yew tree wood? Isn't it a standard longbow if its not yew? i have heard lemonwood makes a good longbow

Caym (author)randomhand2011-05-27

i think the difference between an english and standard is that the english if you look at a cross section is in the shape of a D

cap n crunch (author)randomhand2011-05-27

they were primarily yew but other woods were used such as elm and ash

leendertbob (author)2011-01-10

Find out which wood can be compressed and which wood can be stretched.
It's all on Google and you know what wood to use to get an English longbow.

Anhan12 (author)2010-12-15

maple is my favorite wood for making bows. i made a maple bow a couple of weeks ago for only 13 dollars, and thats with a 6 dollar string from gander mt, so the bow only cost 7 dollars!

503sPzAbt (author)2010-11-15

Is it possible to use poplar, cherry, or white ash inplace of pine? I've heard this a few times but I am not sure this is true.

Don,t try this at home (author)2010-10-05

Can i have the dimensions of you bow i need to know the end of it were you string it how thick that is and how wide.

The tips of the bow (where the string is strung) are:

3/4 inches wide
1/2 inch thick

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