loading
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
Handsaw
Clamps
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         

Cost?
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".
<p>awesome thank you for sharing ..now I have to learn how to make arrows</p>
<p>Made it</p>
<p>Made it</p>
<p>Hey, watch out for that shadow guy, he looks pretty ominous. Any who, I'm not sure why any one would mess up a perfectly good pair of skies like this (unless you were tired of breaking your leg on the down hill bunny trail) {just kidding} but this is a really a cool idea. And it looks nice too. Great job , thanks for the share, glad you didn't mention &quot;RAMBO&quot;, he's a bum. Semper Fi.</p>
<p>Hey, watch out for that shadow guy, he looks pretty ominous. Any who, I'm not sure why any one would mess up a perfectly good pair of skies like this (unless you were tired of breaking your leg on the down hill bunny trail) {just kidding} but this is a really a cool idea. And it looks nice too. Great job , thanks for the share, glad you didn't mention &quot;RAMBO&quot;, he's a bum. Semper Fi.</p>
Neat project, I've been wondering what to do with my old skis.
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!
<p>Shorten the limb that bends too much, an inch or half-inch at a time, and/or narrow the width of the stronger limb by sanding the edges where stiff, until it curves in a good tiller. (Length, width &amp; belly thickness can all be reduced with care, but never reduce from the back). A bow that looks visually lopsided, but bends evenly, will work just fine. (There are Japanese bows with top limb double the length of bottom limb and very low-set handles.) Most important are a well-distributed bend and a strong undamaged back. Make sure to sand evenly to keep the string properly centered.</p>
<p>PS: Yoshinok is correct that a crackling noise is a very bad sign that it probably is damaged. Unless the noise is very faint, it would be safer to get rid of it.</p>
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!
How do you get the templat to be 20 inches
<p>rule of three or open the jpg file with photoshop and change the canvas from 18 height to 20 inches height and increase the size of the jpeg</p>
<p>I've made a number of these thinking I was the only one to do so. Paracord is usually fine for the string, but will wear out at the nock, and replacing it is cheap enough. I've achieved a 50# pull by using one set of youth ski tips, and two adult tips and winding them together tightly (using a lever) with paracord, thus foux laminating them together, but allowing them to slip slightly against each other when flexed. I tried strips of duct tape but after a while, the duct tape would fatigue from the flexing. The winding has held out much better. For the riser, I used a 1X2 piece of oak laminated to a 1X2 piece of maple - super strong! This bow, with my homemade duct tape fletched arrows gives me more pleasure to shoot than my compound bow....well....equal I suppose. Now I'm working on a reverse draw crossbow prototype.</p>
Hi. Is anyone who made this still available here? <br>I wanna start making this so need to ask some questions from some expert.
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
<p>Hey Javelin_ACR</p><p>I'm not Dan but am willing to chime in. The riser needs to be made of something strong and light weight and safe. By that I mean something that will not fracture and possibly cause you injury. Laminated wood is generally the choice but could be metal such as steel welded in a box shape (hollow inside) but maybe cast aluminum or better yet magnesium. You could make it lighter weight by machining out excess materials that don't contribute to the design. </p>
Thanks you for taking the time to tell me your opinion! I haven't done a lot of homemade weapons building so I really enjoy hearing other peoples opinion on my ideas because I would prefer if things didn't blow up :) I was thinking that using the lost foam casting method would allow me to create a riser with some hollow spots above and beneath the grip. Then I would not need to do as much cutting and filing to get rid of the excess metal with out needing any machines other than a hand-held corded drill. Once again thank you for your opinion and information.
<p>Hey Javelin_ACR</p><p>I'm not Dan but am willing to chime in. The riser needs to be made of something strong and light weight and safe. By that I mean something that will not fracture and possibly cause you injury. Laminated wood is generally the choice but could be metal such as steel welded in a box shape (hollow inside) but maybe cast aluminum or better yet magnesium. You could make it lighter weight by machining out excess materials that don't contribute to the design. </p>
<p>Hey Javelin_ACR</p><p>I'm not Dan but am willing to chime in. The riser needs to be made of something strong and light weight and safe. By that I mean something that will not fracture and possibly cause you injury. Laminated wood is generally the choice but could be metal such as steel welded in a box shape (hollow inside) but maybe cast aluminum or better yet magnesium. You could make it lighter weight by machining out excess materials that don't contribute to the design. </p>
OK the bow thing from skis is OK but the dude is awesome
<p>Would it be okay to sand off the paint on the skis so I could paint them my own color?</p>
<p> Sweet instructable!</p>
<p>I've made three of these bows over the course of the past two years, and I've got to say they're great! At 25-30 lb, depending on the riser design, they're great for lighthearted archery fun. </p><p>You're not going to go hunting, and you're not going to make a half-dollar grouping at 20 yards, but you are going to have a wide grin on your face as you and your friends volley fire medieval style at a pizza box.</p><p>I also find these great for first-time adults, who want to try shooting a bow, but who I really don't want to hand my 55-lb compound, or even my 40# recurve. Much less intimidation for the first-timer, and much less worry for me. </p><p>And now for science: I built a rig to test different riser lengths, limb angles, etc... and on that rig i've tested multiple sets of cross-country ski limbs for draw weight. I've gotten a few sets up to about 48 # at about 26&quot;. Some of these are fiberglass exterior with a plastic core and some are fiberglass exterior with a wooden core. The wooden core are significantly stiffer and will yield a higher draw weight at a shorter distance.</p><p>I've only had one set of limbs fail on me, and they failed exactly how I thought they would. I accidentally left one of the bows strung overnight, and when i came back in the morning, the limb had collapsed inward by about 20 degrees. The plastic layer on the bottom of the ski failed in compression, and crumpled under the constant, low load. With the plastic-core fiberglass skis, this is the failure mode that I would expect, as the fiberglass top layer should be very strong in tension. (however, if it is over tensioned, it will fail rapidly and possibly violently.. be careful!) This is why I always un-string my ski bows, and I usually keep their poundage under 30. I'm pretty confident that at this weight, the materials are more than strong enough. As always, remember that you are re-purposing and object that was not designed for this use. If you feel like something isn't right, stop, un-string the bow, and be safe. Wear eye protection, and use common sense!</p><p>Go make a bow!</p>
<p>Yoshinok a beautiful bow thank you for taking the time to share your tutorial with us :)</p>
<p>I have seen this instructable before, either here or somewhere else, and I have the same question as I did before. Can you please post a dimensioned sketch of the riser? I have tried searching online for a riser with dimensions for one, and have never been successful. Maybe it doesn't really matter, but I just work better with dims. It allows me to create what you instruct exactly as you made it, thus insuring I will have a bow that works exactly like it should. If you included a sketch of the riser in the pdf download, I didn't see it in the one that immediately follows the instructable, and the other pdf download, For some reason, I couldn't download the &quot;Custom PDF.&quot; Perhaps I didn't read the instructable correctly, but is the intent to print the riser sketch and just trace it for the pattern? Thanks! Great instructable, by the way!</p>
<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 $110 if you're just getting the bow, arrows, and quiver. And it's much safer, all these materials are intentionally designed to make up a hunting bow.</p>
<p>That is a great heads-up. Sometimes it is great to hunt up what you need and have a great place to buy ready made items, but with all due respect, this site is called &quot;Instructables,&quot; and as such, sometimes it is more about the making than the getting. At least that is the way I look at it. I bought a pair of X-country skis a while ago specifically to do this structable with. Can't wait to get started using this great plan.</p>
I don't agree that it's cheaper. I made the bow from leftover oak board that we used for the kitchen table. I bought The skies on a yard sale for aprox. 7$ 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
Expensive*
<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??
2x4*
Thanks!! It was a really fun project I actually built the middle from a 2x3
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>
<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>

About This Instructable

757,715views

3,727favorites

License:

More by Yoshinok:Throwing Arrows EDC Leather Notebook ¡Cómo convertir tu smartphone en un microscopio digital por menos de $10! 
Add instructable to: