Introduction: Make a 'natural Elbow' Boomerang

Picture of Make a 'natural Elbow' Boomerang

For many years I’ve been designing, making and throwing boomerangs. At the beginning my booms were made of plywood, a cheap and easy to handle material – all you need is some plywood, a jigsaw and some sanding paper. Boys grow up, and men always want more. So I wanted to make my projects a bit more exciting and discovered a whole new world: natural boomerangs, or better ‘natural elbow’ boomerangs!

Natural elbow boomerangs are made of elbows you can find on almost every tree (you can also use natural ‘Y’s’). Actually living in the outback of Southern France, I’m working with the local species: Holm oak (Quercus ilex) and Olive (Olea europaea). In this Instructable I’ll show you how to make a boomerang made of Olive. You’ll see, the making of this kind of boomerangs is really great fun and once you started with it, you’ll never more touch plywood again.

All you need:
- pocket saw
- grafting wax
- polyurethane glue
- manual saw
- vice
- plane (electric is highly recommended)
- jigsaw
- sander
- sanding paper (from 80 to 600)
- safety gloves, goggles & ear plugs
- natural oil

Step 1: Find a Natural Elbow

Picture of Find a Natural Elbow

First approach: ‘I’ll go out for a ride and I’ll see what I’ll find’. Not bad at all, go sniffing in the bushes and I’m sure you’ll find something.

Second approach: choose your wood species, find the right trees and check them for elbows. If you’re looking for Sequoia-stuff you’ll need a telescope and some climbing equipment. The advantage of Olive is that it’s a small species with lots of potential booms easy reachable from the ground.
If you’ve got the chance to find a dead tree you can skip the next step.
Look for branches with a diameter of 10 cm (3 inches) more or less. The more it’s curved, the better. Cut the branch with your pocket saw, cut the elbow from the branch and hide the waste-wood – or take it all with you. Don’t forget to put some grafting wax on the wound you’ve left.

I found this one a year ago in an old and forgotten orchard in Southern France.

Step 2: Let It Dry

Picture of Let It Dry

Fresh wood is not suitable to handle directly. You’ve got to dry it, of course. To fasten this process I usually peel off the bark with a knife and seal both ends of the elbow with polyurethane-glue. You can also use candle wax. This prevents the wood from drying too fast and cracking. Give it some time – one year is perfect – and store it in a well ventilated place. Do not put it in direct sunlight or on a radiator. The slower it dries, the better.

Note: two different elbows are shown in the pictures. One peeled, one not.

Step 3: Preparing the Elbow

Picture of Preparing the Elbow

Our elbow is finally dry and we’re ready to go. It doesn’t look very well yet, but inside this piece of wood three boomerangs are hidden. Before going to slice the elbow into pieces we have to prepare it, this means that we’re going to plane it to have a flat surface on both sides with a thickness that’s almost the same everywhere. Use an electric plane and don’t forget safety gloves, goggles & ear-plugs.

Step 4: Slicing

Picture of Slicing

The bigger the diameter of the elbow, the more slices you can make of it. I usually try to saw boards of 1 cm thick (1/3 inch). Secure the elbow in a vice and slice it with a manual saw. I don’t recommend electric saws. Circular saws are too difficult to handle, too dangerous as well and I don’t have great souvenirs from jigsaws. A good old well-cutting saw will do the job very fine. In this phase you’ll be submerged in the wood smell. Every species has its own flavor, but I’m sure there’s nothing better than the smell of fresh cut Olive-wood: a mixture of grapes and cherries!

Step 5: Designing

Picture of Designing

Now you’ve got at least one slice from your elbow, time for the real work. You don’t have to think a lot, the tree has done this job for you. Look accurately at the wood structure and benefit from the possibilities it gives you. Let your imagination go, draw some basic lines and get back to work. Never forget: the tree shaped your boomerang, all you do is fine-tuning its job.

Step 6: Shaping

Picture of Shaping

In this phase you’re using sander, jigsaw and plane. To remove small sections you can use the sander (I fixed mine in a vice). For the rest you can use the jigsaw. During this step you can always adjust the shape of your boom (first I wanted to make an asymmetrical boomerang but I changed my mind and went for a pure traditional shape).
Optional: When this shaping is done you can pay attention to the thickness (I always make my boomerangs thicker in the middle). Use a plane for this.

Step 7: Profiling - Basic Boomerang Aerodynamics

Picture of Profiling - Basic Boomerang Aerodynamics

Back to the table. A boomerang is a set of wings put together in a certain way. Wings are profiled, and flattened towards their ends. To understand why and how boomerangs behave, you’ve got to know some basic principles.
Boomerangs do not just go away and come back. The main reason they do so is that they turn very fast around their axe after being thrown. While throwing a boomerang the right way, you’re giving it the necessary rotation. This movement is counterclockwise (for a right-handed boomerang), the leading edges (steep wing-sides) cutting the air, just like airplanes, birds etc. The rotation gives them uplift, and the setting of the wings causes a spin. This spin forces the missile to flow not just right away. Translated: your rocket is coming back home. Get these basics in mind while setting the profile or download the picture. This drawing-thing isn’t exact science, sanding and feeling will do the rest.
Shaping the profiles is sanding, sanding and especially sanding: heavy (electric) sanding with coarse grain at the beginning and manual sanding with finer grains to finish. This phase is pure instinctive, so try to make the best wing-profiles you can get. And take your time.

Note: I never throw away the sawdust and woodchips because it’s perfect stuff to smoke fish.

Step 8: Oiling

Picture of Oiling

Your boomerang is almost finished now. All you have to do yet is giving it some protection. Some prefer varnish, others epoxy… I prefer natural oil. Nothing is more exciting than putting the oil on your hands, warming it up and giving the fresh made boomerang its first massage. Rub away the oil excess with a piece of cloth and give it a second treatment the day after.

Step 9: Throwing!

Picture of Throwing!

Your boomerang is finished, ready to give it its first flight? Wait for the following Instructable and thanks for watching!


Gregbot (author)2012-01-21

Thank you!

bricobart (author)Gregbot2012-01-21

You're welcome!

micraman (author)2012-01-21

That is really awesome! Beautiful!

bricobart (author)micraman2012-01-21

Thanx micraman, nice to see that there are other beings to appreciate this kind of work ;-)

Kiteman (author)2012-01-21

Oh, that is truly a thing of beauty.

Thanks for sharing!

bricobart (author)Kiteman2012-01-21

Thanx Kiteman, the pleasure is mine!!!

rimar2000 (author)2012-01-21


I Always wanted to do something so, and always let the opportunity pass. I have also done many boomerangs, the former were galvanized, quite thick and extremely dangerous. I keep at the attic a "trimerang" done in plywood, 3 mm.

bricobart (author)rimar20002012-01-21

Thanx rimar! Making natural booms has become part of my life and a pocket saw is always in my backpack. Nothing worse then spotting an elbow and saying 'Oh god I forgot it at home!' ;-)

calaman (author)2017-05-08

Cant wait to try this with the 100y.o+ river gum (eucalyptus) in my back yard. Has some beatiful elbows in it. Thanx!

Kazion (author)2016-01-04

Visually very appealing, and I agree about oil vs other finishes.

Add in that its a thrown weapon (of sorts) that comes back...boomerangs are AWESOME...

Looks like its time t o dust off the bandsaw and go cut some tree limbs into artwork...

Great `Ible!

bricobart (author)Kazion2016-01-04

Awesome to see that my first I'ble is still alive 'n kicking! Thanx for the compliment, go for that bandsaw and good luck with your search for elbows mate!

HaroldH7 (author)2015-11-07

Hi Bricobart, very nice tutoral! I have to say you are wrong on 2 things. Drying an elbow for 1 year is not perfect. If you dry naturally, then it more or less takes 1 year per cm each side. If you were to slice the elbow in a 6cm piece it will take approx. 3 years to dry. It also depends in which period you cut the wood, winter is normally the best time. Also less than 100° angle will result in less spin is not correct. A lot competition boomerangs have an angle much less than 100°. It has more to do the kind of airfoil you give. I see you are from Belgium (I'm from the Netherlands). Would like to meet you one day and talk about boomerangs and woodcrafting :-)

HaroldH7 (author)HaroldH72015-11-07

I meant 1cm each side per year.

NicolasG11 (author)2015-09-04

what is the angle of boomerang

bricobart (author)NicolasG112015-09-05

Try to get something between 100° - 120°. Take less & it won't spin, take more & it will spin too slow to stay in the air. The only way to compensate the last problem is to make the wings longer, but then you'll have to throw harder.

Start & practice wilh a small one - not bigger than 30cm diameter - and go bigger when you feel the moment right.

Good luck!

AndreB15 (author)2015-07-10

HI My compliments to you, I've made MANY boomarangs, but have never started at the tree, I can just imagine how much work this was, it looks awesome - what did the turning radius end up being? a Job very well done!! :-)

sivertrot (author)2014-10-05

we are not mates

StickMaker (author)2012-01-22

Looks super and I plan to make one. Got a VIDEO to show how well yours works?

sivertrot (author)StickMaker2014-10-05

no thanks

bricobart (author)StickMaker2012-01-22

Hi Stickmaker, thanx for commenting! I didn't test it yet but I'm planning to do so and I promise you there will be a video!

benq (author)2012-01-22

cool. you should ad a video of it in action

sivertrot (author)benq2014-10-05


bricobart (author)benq2012-01-22

I will, I only have to find a soft underground like a football field for its maiden flight because I don't even want a scar on it ;-)

DanR3 (author)2014-09-21

Great Instructable, Bricobart... ;) A tip... Cut the fresh wood, and finish shaping... Then dry out the wood, in an oven,( at 100-150 degrees celcius...?)

Or, like the aboriginals, in the ambers from a fire, just wetting the boomerang frekvently, in a bucket of water... "This make the boomerang last 100 years"... Without waiting a whole year... But, do not scorch the wood, of cause... Just wet it, and heat for a couple of minutes, to dry surface... Wet again, and dry the surface... perhaps ten times, in ambers...

xwania (author)2014-01-03

Thank you very much for sharing and it looks really good

bricobart (author)xwania2014-01-05

Thanx mate!

PACW (author)2013-12-10

Very nice. Looking at the picture I want to hold one in my hands! Not to throw, just to enjoy the wood.

graydog111 (author)2012-01-22

I have made 'rangs for 15 years. I make them out of "Baltic Plywood". It is a 5 ply plywood; not the normal 3 ply. It is much easier if you are just wanting to fly them. They can be beautiful also. The wood can be bought at a specialty wood store and I have bought 6 pcs. of 2x2ft. on eBay for a good price. A jig saw is also a good tool to have to cut out the initial shape.

My biggest accident was when I threw two at once. One came back and I caught it. The other hit me in the mouth. I lucked out and did not get any broken teeth, just a small scar. They are worlds of fun.

bricobart (author)graydog1112012-01-22

Hello graydog! This kind of accidents happened to me as well, especially when throwing face to sun. I remember I boosted up a plywood boom called 'Beat's Mini' - still my favourite plywood boom ever - to a 'Beat's supermaxi'. This maximodel measured 60 cm (almost two feet) from tip to tip. It hurt me right in the front of my head and one eyebrow didn't appreciate...

graydog111 (author)bricobart2012-01-23

Hi bartolo, I can appreciate waiting for the wood to dry. I make walking canes as well from Bois D'Arc (pronounced "bo-dark", a very hard dense wood also known as Osage Orange).  

You can see one here:  <Blogspot>
and here: <eBay review>

With this wood, I cut off a 3 inch lower horizontal limb and the tree sends out a new shoot that grows 8 or 10 feet in one year, making an elbow. I can then cut this off and cure it for one year. It makes a one piece cane and handle that is very strong. Bois D'Arc cannot be stained, but can be carbonized with a torch and then polished to a shiney black finish. Nice article. Beautiful boomerang. Have fun.

PACW (author)graydog1112013-12-10

At the risk of offending I would like to direct your attention to an old Ray Wylie Hubbard song called 'Choctaw Bingo'.
If moderate vulgarity offends you please just forget I ever said anything. . . .
If you are not easily offended and want to hear B'dark wood mentioned in a country song you may be pleased.

bricobart (author)graydog1112012-01-23

Very nice! And I never heard about your 'Bois d'Arc'. I didn't some research yet but did you know that the translation of Bois d'Arc 'Bow wood' means? Any relation with bow-making?
I'm always interested in what I call 'Yak-Proof' wood and I guess your wood deserves this adjective ;-) You know, I love making knives as well and recently I discovered that one of the hardest wood species in Europe not Common oak or whatever oak is but a shrub: Erica arborea or Tree heath or 'French bruyère'. This plant produces extremely hard and heat-resistant roots, often used to make smoking pipes. I'll use it to make knife handles. Found one two months ago and it's patiently drying...

graydog111 (author)bricobart2012-01-23

Bois D'Arc was (and is) used for archery bows. My dad had fence posts made of it that were 60 years old and so hard you cannot drive a staple into it. I have several of these trees on my 15 acres. The only problem is they have a 1 inch thorn that will puncture ANY tractor tire. They have a green fruit, called a hedge apple. People use them inside houses to repel roaches and other bugs. Look on eBay for  "Osage Orange", The wood is cheap on ebay.

mayday12 (author)2013-10-09

I've never had a chance to throw a real boomerang, but from my knowledge they're dangerous yet extremely fun. How fast does something like this go when thrown?

bricobart (author)mayday122013-10-09

Depends on the type & the force at which it's been thrown. I've got some models who are really smooth and easy to catch. In all those years I've been throwing I only got two accidents: one by playing at sunset - the sun & the boom right in my face! - and another one with a boomerang who ripped my fingernail off with a bad catch, awww!!!

mayday12 (author)bricobart2013-10-09


meddler (author)2012-02-10

This looks lovely. I was thinking though, for anyone who might try this, if it doesn't quite work out don't despair. You might not have an aerodynamic rang, but you could have a very effective throwing stick. "Rabbit sticks" I think they're called. Just an idea.

CapnChkn (author)2012-01-24

It may be redundant, but the saw to be used in this case, cutting WITH the grain, should be a rip style saw. There should be no angles on the teeth, called FLEAM. Rip saws "chisel" their way through the wood, while crosscut style saws actually slice across the fibers.
"All about Fleam"  Around 1/3 down the page...

bricobart (author)CapnChkn2012-01-25

Never thought about that, but I'll try it that way next time and tell you about the difference. Thanx for the tip!

droo1966 (author)2012-01-24

The Aboriginies of Australia normally use Mulga wood, especially where a root travels along just above the ground and a fire has killed the tree. That's how they taught me and that's how I make 'em. I dont use your modern tools and I find that the Kali (Boomerang in Imanpa, an Aboriginal tongue) I make with only wood and stone are fantastic. Try Fig, it is a very good timber. I have used it to make traditional Boomerangs, Shields and also, when the root shape is right Damned fine spear shafts (of course the spearhead is still made from fire-hardened Mulga)

bricobart (author)droo19662012-01-24

Hi down under! Show us some pictures, I'm curious to see them!
You know, we have a poor boomerang history in Europe, so it's not that bad I use modern tools ;-) I understand that on your continent you're treated as a demon when you're not using stones ;-) Interesting story, by the way!

solserenade (author)2012-01-24

Very nice! I so want to attempt this with Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, and Dogwood. (for starters, ha!)

bricobart (author)solserenade2012-01-24

Very good idea, especially the Rhododendron! I regret very very much that a long time ago - say 15 years - I wasn't yet fan of natural booms because in the Everest-region were many huge Rhodo's!
Say... lucky I wasn't, because they would have called it 'deforestation' there ;-)

GNiessen (author)2012-01-23

Nicely done. How does it fly?

bricobart (author)GNiessen2012-01-23

Thanx, I haven't tested yet but I keep you informed. Its quite heavy so I guess it will rather be a large range boomerang that can be thrown in heavier winds. I'm sure it's perfect for hunting ducks ;-) ;-)

whiteoakart (author)2012-01-22

I don't even care if it flies. That is the most beautiful boomerang I have ever seen.

bricobart (author)whiteoakart2012-01-22

Thanx whiteokart, I'll communicate your comment to the tree who produced it! ;-)

itri45 (author)2012-01-22

Ww! Very Beautiful Boomerangs. I've been plannign to make one myself.

bricobart (author)itri452012-01-22

Go for that, it's really great fun!

tofu4tortoise (author)2012-01-22

This method is great and looks like it produces durable, and beautiful boomerangs. I just hate that I have to wait a year for the wood to dry :(

About This Instructable




Bio: I made a beer mug with only a knife & a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.
More by bricobart:Briar Smoking Pipe / BowlBow Stories - My Experiences With Cross Country Ski Bows'Shave Mouse' Aka Revisited Shave Horse
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