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. 

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

  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".
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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 zelback14 months ago

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.
JackC34 months ago

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.

robolimbo6 months ago

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

robolimbo6 months ago

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

robolimbo6 months ago

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

anibioman4 years ago
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.

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.
kerrman751 year ago

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

Yew is one of the best woods to use.

TN7771 year ago
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.
Don't use pine. Very soft wood.Hickory and bamboo are your best choice
anbu942 years ago
Use hickory for the bow
Imcrazydude2 years ago
Actually u can use aromatic cedar which is actually a juniper for the belly
Imcrazydude2 years ago
I mean thin
Imcrazydude2 years ago
Also you shouldn't use soft woods when making a bow
Imcrazydude2 years ago
Yes that would work very well just cut the hickory very then.
jrussell262 years ago
Would a red oak bow backed with hickory be a good combination?
mathieulj4 years ago
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.
If you are going to use pine remember to make it wide and flat
zelback12 years ago
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.
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,
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.
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.
wodloo3 years ago
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.
So your making the planks and all
Ecnester1172 years ago
Did you make the bow any thinner than the stock? Or did you only shave the width
Besides during the tillering
Pusstjulio3 years ago
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.
Ecnester1173 years ago
Would poplar work as a belly instead of pine
Ecnester1173 years ago
Really good bow. If I used only four ft of pine would it still work well for the belly?
bubblegum124 years ago
how far does it shoot?
yellerakern4 years ago
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.
smallebee4 years ago
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.

bowmaster4 years ago
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.
kstarr4 years ago
I have a load of nomal oak do you think it would be suitable?? gr8 instructable :) thanx 64
paintboy3604 years ago
Does the bow need to be oiled at all?
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.
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