Ever notice how the cool action heroes all use bows and arrows these days? Katniss Everdeen, Legolas, Hawkeye, Lara Croft...Now you can join their ranks with this step-by-step guide to designing and building your own bow out of old cross-country skis!
I made this pair of bows at the artist residency, Grin City Collective, in Grinnell, Iowa.
Skis are an excellent material to use for the limbs of a bow. First off, they are uniform. You won’t have to worry about inconsistencies in the material; you can expect both limbs of the bow to bend equally.  This also eliminates the tedious process of tillering the bow.  The front of the skis also already have recurved tips.  All of this means using skis saves a lot of time.

What you’ll need: Materials
Skis – cut down to become the limbs
Lumber – to be carved for the riser.  Either a large block (at least 3"x3"x20") or scraps will do.
Couple of bolts, washers and wing nuts – to attach limbs to riser
Nylon twine (or any low-stretch string)- for the bowstring

What you'll need: Tools
Hand drill with assorted bits
Chisel and hammer
Wood rasp or file
Assorted sandpapers
Wood finish
Glue or spray adhesive

The following tools are not required to make the bow but will make the process a lot easier if you decide to make a more complicated riser (handle) for your bow.
-Tablesaw                -Band saw
-Hacksaw                 -Planer
-Drill press               -Belt/disc sander         

Skis ~$10 at a yard sale or Goodwill. 
Lumber  -- scraps
Hardware --  less than $4
Twine -- $3 for a roll

Step 1: Skis

The skis used in this Instructable are cross-country skis. The bows turned out to be between 20-26# @ 28” draw.   Bows made from downhill skis will be much stronger due to the increased rigidity; I've heard reports of folks achieving >60# with downhill ski limbs. My initial goal was to make a more powerful bow but for some reason its really hard to find downhill skis in Iowa. 
EDIT: I have since made a bow from downhill skis.  This bow is 58# @ 28".
Hey man great build with nice instructions. Do you think that it would be possible to make the riser out of cast aluminium using the lost foam method? I would love to hear your opinion. Thanks
Thanks!! It was a really fun project I actually built the middle from a 2x3
<p>You know, it's a lot safer, and almost as cheap, to get yourself a real hunting bow on ebay.</p><p>I started prepping recently, and realized I'll need a means of both defense and hunting, should &quot;SHTF&quot;, that has a means of reusable or easily replenished ammunition. So I started with a Compound bow, I purchased a 1980's Browning Bushmaster Camo Deluxe S9C 29-31 inch Draw, 50-70 lbs Draw weight, all for less than $50 including S&amp;H... 40-45 lbs is enough to take down a Deer/Elk... 50-60 you're looking at surviving a bear attack. 70+ and you're taking home Moose for your meals. So it's current settings 50 lbs draw weight, isn't where I want it, I'm going to take it to a shop and have the strings inspected and if they can be, adjusted to 70lbs, otherwise I'll need new strings, because there is slight fraying, other than that, the bow is in peak physical condition for a 30 year old bow, it's ready to hunt with.</p><p>I go into all this, because it just shows you, that you can in fact get a survival bow, for less than $100. You'll just need to spend more, if you plan to become an avid hunter. So far I've spent about $160 that includes arrows, Ghillie suit, wrist guard, quiver, release, and bow. I still need new sights, biscuit, and front stabilizer. All of which you can get in a combined package, which is why I've saved it for last. It's $50, so a total of $210, if you want to become an avid hunter, around $110 if you're just getting the bow, arrows, and quiver. And it's much safer, all these materials are intentionally designed to make up a hunting bow.</p>
I don't agree that it's cheaper. I made the bow from leftover oak board that we used for the kitchen table. I bought The skies on a yard sale for aprox. 7$ and the nuts and bolts for 10$. And The (bad) string were from some old fishing equipment. (i know the bolts are expansive, I live in Sweden). You can see my bow in The comments above
<p>But if I buy a bow, I get absolutely zero of the experience in making my own bow out of the materials around me. If I buy it, I don't have a cool conversation piece that will likely work just as well as your store-bought bow, which is made out of the same, or at least similar, materials as other bows. And on top of that, if I were to really take prepping seriously, I'm not only going to buy a whole bunch of supplies in preparation for something to happen; I'm going to prep my ability to survive with the materials around me in case those things I buy go missing, are stolen, break, etc. What good is your $100 bow if you can't use it and you don't have a firm enough grasp on how to make another one? Sure, your bow was cheap, but my experience and knowledge is priceless.</p>
Daniel, This site is generally for those who enjoy being resourceful, creative, and inventive. It's for the makers, creators, and non-consumers. <br><br>It's not primarily intended for the discount sportsman shopper. Perhaps you missed the point??
Followed your guide and i must say im really satisfied. I did not have The proper tools to make it but i put some hours into it and it turned out allright. The only thing that isnt good With the bow is my string, it's too thick so The arrow starts to wobble. And perhaps The skies could be shortned a bit for improved strength. Otherwise it was an awesome guide
<p>cool! i am trying to get my boy scout troop to build these, wish us luck!</p>
<p>I started out by using &quot;0&quot; steel wool to rough up the plastic sufaces of the limbs.</p><p>Then I did the following:</p><p>1. spray black primer on both surfaces.</p><p>2. spray a light tan base color (matte finish for all colors) across the entire surface.</p><p>3. light brogwn strips randomly sprayed.</p><p>4. light and dark green randomly sprayed.</p><p>5. took long blades of grass and used them to mask off a light color over a dark area and a dark color over a light area.</p>
<p>I did this too but was thinking that the only real way to finish this off is by going Redneck on it! Camo Duck tape and away you go LOL This bow is a blast to shoot too :)</p>
<p>I see you used the regular skis instead of XC skis. Does yours come with the metal tips? How heavy is the pull? </p>
These were children's downhill skis, about 36 inches long. All plastic with a foam core and no metal edges; do have a fish scale pattern on the belly of the limbs.<br><br>It pulls 30 pounds at 26 inches and 33 pounds at 28 inches. I regularly shoot at 28 inches.
great project, I finished it in about a month (+1 week aquiring the skis) <br><br>I picked up this leather from a store, and I'm stumped on how to attach it to the riser. Help!
<p>Your local hardware store has exactly what you need. I made this bow and when it was time to attach it the limbs. The hardware store sold me some thing called an anchor. you drill out a pilot hole and thread this bugger into it.. Screw your bolts into them. Just like that your done :) If you really want to get anal about it you could squeeze in a dab of glue but these guys are not going to come out!</p>
<p>This is very cool project. I just happen to have some old ski's that were given to my kids a few years ago,but I'm all thumbs,and very little brains,and not sure how to go about making the riser?It's probably best to read on,and I'll probably find out.</p>
<p>Do you have drafts or plan for the riser of your bow?</p>
<p>Thank you for sharing this awesome project! Thanks to you, I taught my dog to fetch arrows I shoot. Here's a link to the post on my blog where I also shared your project and a video of my dog fetching the arrows:</p><p>http://www.breza.co.uk/products/make-your-own-bow-out-of-old-cross-country-skis/</p>
Great instructable, but I've got a bit of a problem, can anyone help? when I load the bow, one ski has a much more severe &quot;bend&quot; to it then the other. it also creaks a bit. I'm afraid to pull it back in case it breaks. anyway to reinforce the skis? do I need a different set? thanks for the help!
Good on ye to ask. &nbsp;You're right -- one of those limbs is bending more than the other.<br> <br> I'd stop shooting with those skis. The tiller being off (the limbs not bending evenly/where they should) is not great to begin with, but I've found its more of a problem with these ski takedowns.<br> <br> <strong>Problems with improper tiller:</strong><br> <ol> <li> Hand shock/vibrations in the bow. &nbsp;The limbs are unevenly strained and will come back to &quot;rest&quot; at different speeds when the string is released. &nbsp;This will make the bow unpleasant to shoot and inaccurate.&nbsp; <li> One limb is being put under greater strain than the other. &nbsp;This can eventually cause the over stressed limb to fail. &nbsp; </ol> <strong>Problem with improper tiller with ski bows:</strong><br> Same as above &nbsp;but... The skis are supposed to be uniform -- same strength in all the congruent areas. &nbsp;Assuming that your riser design is symmetrical and that the nock point/shelf is near the center uneven bending is alarming. &nbsp;This means one of the limbs is weaker and that probably means its been damaged. &nbsp;The creaking sounds almost certainly confirms this.<br> <br> Nothing is more unpleasant/dangerous than having a limb break while being pulled. You REALLY don't want that to happen, trust me. So, if the creaking is from the limb, which I suspect it is based on the fact the bend is asymmetric, I'd say that you should get rid of the skis and fashion new limbs for this bow.&nbsp;<br> <br> Good luck and I'd love to see how you get on!
<p>How would you go about painting the skis?</p>
I really like is project
What are the dimensions of the riser? I am thinking of just using a 2x4 for the wood for the riser.
my riser cracked
<p>Did you use a softwood like pine? That would likely be the cause. While the author didn't name anything specific besides scraps. Best to use hardwoods.<br>Maple, oak, ash, poplar or if you want art work mahogany. There are many others. And so you know ash is light weight and poplar not much heavier will both take staining well.</p><p>After making your riser be sure to give it some protection. A water proof sealer would be best. West Marine expoxies are well priced and will keep it safe and looking great. If you don't have one near you go to your hardware store for Thompson's wood deck water sealer. </p>
<p>I used Douglas Fir. The major flaw was my design. </p><p>At some point I will use those other woods listed, when I get more money :)</p><p>On the other three I have, I stained them, then three coats of lacquer. </p>
<p>I had the same thing happen with mine <br>when I was experimenting. I tried to make the riser lighter and <br>thiner. The reason why mine broke was because the grain of the wood <br>and broken (I guess that what you call it) As you can see with the <br>arrow rest. Not having the grain run along the entire length of the <br>riser weakens it. </p><p>Using the authors earlier designs, I was able to finish this riser today. </p>
<p>Loved the project, and it turned out beautifully. Now, all I need to do is learn how to shoot a bow! Yup, the plans and instructions here were so enticing that I have now made a bow before learning how to shoot one properly!</p><p>I used a pair of wood core dynastar downhill skiis ($7 at the Salvation Army), and the 2-bolt pattern. My riser was made from hard maple - leftover slats of hardwood flooring from a house I used to live in. I used a surface planer to square and level the wood, and to strip off the layer of finish before gluing. </p><p>I haven't quite finished the sanding and finishing on the riser, but I have strung it up and find it's quite nice (if a bit heavy, overall.) I haven't measured it properly yet, but I have had someone who actually shoots a bow on a regular basis confirm that it's at least 50# draw at 28 inches or so.</p><p>I plan on staining the riser darker and then using varathane or the like to seal it.</p>
Also I turned the planks sideways so if your facing the bow you will see the thin laminate rows, this also helped add structural integrity aside from it being oak. This is something nearly half of the people that did this experienced a snapping issue; then instant heartbreak afterwards. ?????
<p>I did my laminations the same direction you did, and used Smooth-On EA40 epoxy which seems to be the adhesive of choice for bow makers.</p>
I used my CNC router to make a riser, and have .STL of the entire thing and vectors of the profiles if anyone needs 'em. Original poster seems to not be answering comments and questions so I might make a new 'ible with the files.<br><br>please note that you will need a long bit if you want to use the CNC router. I ordered a four flute 3/8&quot; x 4&quot; long bit by Kodiak USA through Amazon. $26.
<p>I don't wood working experience but I wanted to see my ability in making this fun project. My first bow I used maple/birch wood facing flat on one another. The second I used walnut/birch glued it in a different arrangement shown below. </p><p>Cheers</p>
60# @ 28&quot; 3 oak planks laminated together. I tried to be fancy using three types of wood at first, and ended up using poplar as the support structure then when I attempted to string it the riser snapped in half. Second go of it I made a left handed riser by accident, sadly I knew the difference just too many long nights in a hurry to get back to where I was previously. I also made a patchwork hip quiver and my own oak dowel 5/16 arrows, next on the list is to make 5/16 aluminum broadhead adapters so I can change from field tips to broadhead on the fly.
<p>what type of wood should be used to prevent craking</p>
That quiver is badass! Where did you get it?
<p>I made the quiver. I might get around to writing an instructable on it as well!</p>
That would be awesome! I'm sure that I'm not the only one who'd like something like that
That would be awesome! I'm sure that I'm not the only one who'd like something like that
Also what were your skis made from? I had wooden ones and one of the snapped...
<p>This was a fun project, not sure what the draw weight is. I'll have to find a way to check.</p>
<p>do you use a pair of skis for one bow? also, has anyone made their own arrows? we have chickens and get lots of feathers &amp; I'm thinking..... What type of tip would you use &amp; where would one look for something like that?</p>
Best place to get quality wood dowels is hobby lobby or home depot. You should use 5/16&quot; x 32&quot; oak dowels that go for $0.89.<br>Sand the dowels lightly and if you want aftermarket broad heads take one of the dowels to a bow shop and let them know what you have planned.
<p>Making arrows from dowels is quite tricky. There is an incredible amount of variance in the stiffness of dowels found at a hardware store.</p><p>Here is some advice given by r/ADDeviant on a recent reddit thread:</p><p>&quot;If you start out with dowels, you will go through a hundred, select 30, if you know what you are looking for. Of those, 20 will actually be usable. Of those, 16 will survive the process of straightening and checking. Of those, maybe 4 will suit your draw length at your draw weight. </p><p>If you really know what you are doing (and it can be learned) you can mess with things that affect spine, like length, head weight, and tail tapering, and get more than the 4 mentioned above.</p><p>Weight and length matter less than spine, over normal distances, say, out to 40 yards.</p><p>Other than that, poplar and birch, which many dowels are made from, work great for arrows. Be prepared to heat straighten them and get good at hook straightening. </p><p>And, if a bow is cut to center, it will be less fussy about spine.</p><p>I do make arrows from shoots and dowels, you just need a whole basket of skills to do it right.&quot;</p><p> To shoot accurately you need arrows that are as similar (preferably identical) as possible. Spining, the arrows ability to resist a flexing motion, is critical for accuracy and safety. Here is what happens when you shoot an arrow that is not spined heavy enough for a powerful bow :</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="281" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/WzWrcpzuAp8" width="500"></iframe></p>
based off the picture it appears to be the front of two skis, so you'd need the pair. I'm not 100% sure, I'd honestly like this answered myself.
<p>Exactly. The back end of the skis don't flex nearly well enough to be used. I suppose one might get creative and build a riser out of the unused ski backs. Then it would be truly be a ski-bow.</p>
Best place to get quality wood dowels is hobby lobby or home depot. You should use 5/16&quot; x 32&quot; oak dowels that go for $0.89.<br>Sand the dowels lightly and if you want aftermarket broad heads take one of the dowels to a bow shop and let them know what you have planned.
Awesome instructable! I've been looking in thrift stores for a suitable replacement for my old Wing Presentation II bow that recently delaminated, and all I ever find are stupid old skis. Being a sculptor, woodwork and inventive type, I'm amazed that I didn't come up with this idea myself seeing all the skis that I do.<br>I've just found my next project.<br>
What did you do about the metal trim around the skis
Well done mate excellent bow im in the middle of making my bow at the moment .

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