Introduction: Making a Simple Laminate Longbow

Picture of Making a Simple Laminate Longbow

This is a short guide on how to make a VERY simple laminate longbow. If at the end of this tutorial, you have any questions that are not answered, or you would like more detailed instructions on how to make a longbow, check out

Step 1:

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Step 1
Cut the laminates using a circular saw or a band saw. The dimensions of the belly laminate should be about 75" by 1 1/2" by 1", and the dimensions of the back laminate 75" by 1 1/2" by 3/16". The grain of the back laminate must run straight down the length of the board and be uncut.
When shooting a bow the belly side is towards you and the back is facing away.

Optional belly woods: Yew, osage, lemonwood, ipe, oak and more.
Woods for backing: Hickory, ash and more.

Step 2:

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Step 2
Glue the laminates together using the strongest wood glue you can find, then use clamps and alike, to clamp the laminates together. Let the glue dry.

Glue recommendations: urac 185, smooth-on, UHU plus endfest 300 and Casco actually makes a two component boat glue that also works. Important! Always mix the glue well.

Step 3:

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Step 3
When the glue is dry, mark out the bow. Draw a straight line down the centre of the bow stave, and with reference to the line mark out the width of the bow.

Width: 1 3/16" at the centre and then let it taper evenly down to 1/2" at the tips on both sides.

Thickness: 1" at the centre and then it taper it down to 1/2" at the tips (Important! Only taper the belly side).

Step 3 1/2
Cut the belly tapers and then cut the back tapers (In other words, simply cut along the lines you just drew).

Step 4:

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Step 5
Shape the belly of the bow like it is shown in the photo and carefully take the edges of the back laminate. A rasp works fine for this job.

Step 5:

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Step 6
Make some temporary nock grooves using a 5/32" round file.

Fit a temporary bow string and slowly start bending your bow. If and when the bow bends nicely carefully draw it a little further, if any stiff areas present themselves, remove a little wood from these areas and NEVER from the weak areas. Continue like this until the bow bends nice and evenly throughout the entire length of the bow. If the bow is too strong you need to remove wood from the entire length of the bow, but be careful you do not remove too much. Important! When doing this work only remove wood from the belly side of the bow, not the back.

Step 6:

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Step 7
Sand the bow and apply the final touches to the nocks.
Last apply a varnish and fit a bow string and you are ready to start shooting.


Ghost Wolf1 (author)2016-10-31

What is the best woods to use

i've heard that yew is the most common to use, due to it being strong but flexible. but other types work just fine

Zach S.B (author)2016-09-17

Where is a good place to buy bow strings long enough for a 76" bow (i.e. 73")? Most every place I've looked has only stocked up to 68".

highjacked (author)2011-11-12

What's the draw strength on this bow?

SavannaK4 (author)highjacked2016-09-14

It depends on the thickness

Longbows were originally drawn back to the ear or farther, while most other bows were pulled back to the eyes. Longbowmen required 10 years of training in order to build up the muscle in their drawing arm. A typical longbowman could fire 12-15 shots in a minute, with very high accuracy. In this way, they were actually more effective than the muskets which were coming into use. However, you didn't need 10 years to train a person to shoot a gun, so longbows were used only in England, and only for a very short window of time (around a century, if memory serves).

In any case, there is no measure of how much power the bow has per say, unless you know exactly how far back you draw it every time, and you know the equations based on your bow, the type of wood, the string, your draw length, etc.

Also, native american style bows were usually shot "instinctively", which is a different style. The bow arm is pushed forward while the arrow hand is pulled back to the area of the chin or corner of the mouth. One fluid movement and then released when 'instinct' said it was on target. The bow was not held in the pulled position for more than a second.
The hold position seems to come from a military background where archers worked in groups rather than a hunting style where they worked alone. For most native traditions the range was much closer than modern hunters would believe. 3 to 10 feet being the range for a honorable kill of the animal. "the arrow would enter the animal before the fletching/feathers passed the hand." It takes good stalking or hiding/camouflage/scent masking skills compared to a tree stand shot at 50 feet. A different skill set for a different time and tradition.

RichardP28 (author)cblackwell2016-02-16

I seen a similar shooting style applied to a slingshot, and it dramatically increased power on impact. I wonder if that was same for native American bow shooting. I want to guess and say they didn't have 60-75# bows like we do now. And also the arrow construction was different entirely, being ultralight in the back, weight loads up most in the front. Most had foreshafts that where friction fit, designed to search from the arrow if the animal hit brush. That was for recovery, but may have added to the ballistic potential of those arrows. If I have a choice, that's how I make mine, and seems they fly pretty darn good, and last longer. Can be a few grains heavy, compared to modern arrows but they hit like a truck. I like it most because I can change tips on the fly, and in a second or two. I would love to learn how they made the bows though

One small correction: Longbowmen used back muscles just as much as arm muscles, both are required to use such powerful bows.
Other than that everything you said was right on.

ChrisMBows (author)highjacked2011-11-16

40-60 pounds - it is really hard to say because it depends on which type of wood you use, your bow making style and skill:) If this is the first time you make a bow, it will probably be lower than 40 pounds before you are done with it.

As mentioned, the draw weight also depends on your draw length (the distance from the back of the bow to the string when you draw the string back to shoot the arrow). On average when target shooting, this distance is 28" and most people use the corner of the mouth or the cheekbone as an anchor point.

scorpman (author)highjacked2011-11-13

longbows do not have a set draw length like a compound bow. You pull it back to the length you need. The father you pull it back, the harder it get.

Mrjamfunkalot (author)scorpman2011-11-13

Actually there is a draw weight to longbows. The draw length on average runs about 28" and the weight is measured by placing the bow on a suspended scale and pulling down to that distance. Based on the thickness and number of your tapered laminates including the length of your bow there will be variations to this weight. Material also plays a roll. Indeed there are different drawing distances based on who is pulling it back but the draw weight is measurable.

Hessmannn (author)2016-08-09

does it work with teak as backing and oak as belly???

snelgrave101 (author)2016-07-29

A formidable weapon , under rated today because of more fearsome weapons , but when the nuclear war happens all the guns will soon run out ammo and those in possesion of a longbow will be kings amongst men.

iacchus (author)2012-11-01

Hello, well done instructable & wonderful e-book (exactly what I've been searching for). My question is on fletching; arrows today have fletching that is slightly turned so the arrow will rotate during flight. Is this truly helpful in the arrows distance & impact?

RichardP28 (author)iacchus2016-02-16

Fetching is a world in its self. Some say it helps stability, but to much twist may affect how it clears the bow on launch. Good way to set fetching is two nuts, that fit over the shaft. Nuts have six sides, so you can perfectly line up the feathers in perfect thirds, even if you add a twist. And you will get the same pitch on all three feathers

ChrisMBows (author)iacchus2012-11-01

Thank you for the kind words.
Offset or helical feathers on an arrow will make the arrow spin when it is in flight, just like a bullet shot from a rifle. If there are any inconsistencies in the the flight path of the arrow these inconsistencies will be spun in all directions, making the arrow more accurate.
I am quite sure that this style of fletching arrows do not make the arrow fly further, it is much more likely that it has the opposite effect, though I have not done any testing.

thebowyer (author)2012-12-31

how long is the handle of this bow?

ChrisMBows (author)thebowyer2013-01-13

I wanted to make this instructable as simple as possible so there is no handle as such on this bow. The common length of a handle on this type of bow (a bow that bends through the full length of the bow) is 4" and the handle is offset from the centre of the bow by 1", making the lower bow limb shorter than the upper.

RichardP28 (author)ChrisMBows2016-02-16

That explains a bit. I always wondered about the offset, why is it offset, and could it be centered?im aiming for a good hunting bow, so I am trying to get all the details sorted out before I start the build

RichardP28 (author)2016-02-16

Can I get the dementions emailed to please?

MrMxylptlyk (author)2015-12-06

hello friend. I am wondering if I can use the lepage wood glue for gluing together the laminate. thanks.

MrMxylptlyk (author)2015-12-05

beautiful!! that's a lot for this bow! could you please make a more complete list of compression vs stretching wood (belly and backing) or point me where I can find such a list? thanks.

GerardD8 (author)2015-11-01

Just for clarification, the belly and back of the bow? When the bow is being fired, is it the belly or the back that faces the shooter?

ChrisMBows (author)GerardD82015-11-02

The belly faces the shooter when the bow is fired.

ryan.barbour.902 (author)2015-01-20

What is the required grain pattern for the back and the belly wood.

For both you want to have a grain as straight as possible, it should run the entire length of the laminate as much as possible. If this isn't the case, and the grain were to run out of the wood on the backing there's a huge chance of tearing/breaking. I've made a bow where the grain runs a bit out of the side and now it twists oddly when I draw. (haven't done a great job on the tillering though)

survivalist at home (author)2014-03-15

what wood did you use ?

This bow is ash and ipe

don.rhudy (author)2014-10-24

A very fine and simple---repeat simple---easy to follow instruction. Thank you folks.


Imcrazydude (author)2013-05-01

Does titebond 3 work for glueing the laminations

yes it does.

ChrisMBows (author)Imcrazydude2013-05-26

Sorry, I do not know this product. I suggest that you try making a small test lamination.

tjohnson84 (author)2013-06-23

it very nice to make a bow.......

Imcrazydude (author)2013-04-23

For the dimensions given whats the draw weight?

ChrisMBows (author)Imcrazydude2013-05-26

about 40 - 50 pounds, depending on how much wood you remove when you shape the bow and which type of wood you use.

Doug1965 (author)2013-02-08

Thanks for sharing this, I really liked seeing this how to. My question is this: I live near a recycling facility for plants and trees. Do the laminate materials need to be from a log or can they be from larger diameter branches?

Also, although I don't have any photos, I have made a long bow from white oak. It's a shade under 7 feet and still isn't finished. I need a backing material and still need to tiller it. The backing material I am considering using is strips of bamboo flooring. I doubt I will find a length of 7 foot bamboo so I plan to finger joint a couple pieces together. Any thought son this.


ChrisMBows (author)Doug19652013-05-26

Larger diameter branched can be used. I have no experience with bamboo flooring, but if you make a splice joint it has to be at the handle region and you should make a handle riser so that the bow does not bend in this area.

samick (author)2012-11-26

trés beau travail

herkavar (author)2012-08-31

It seems that you kind of skipped the whole tillering process.

ChrisMBows (author)herkavar2012-09-03

Yes, you are right, the tillering process is missing. I tried to make the guide short and simple.
If you want to know more about tillering, I have written a book on how to make longbows and other traditional archery equipment and there is a free version which you can download for free at my site. The free version contains a lot of information on how to tiller a longbow:

armored bore (author)2012-07-22

So, you basically need something stiff like oak for the back, and something springy like pine or yew on the front? I'm just trying to think of anything I can get from Ganahl Lumber or Home DesperateDepot.

ChrisMBows (author)armored bore2012-09-03

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.

jmichelin (author)2012-05-27

I eas wondeing how to make a bow out of thinner materials, and i was wondering how thick all you guys make your bows, a laminated english war bow would be neat

ChrisMBows (author)jmichelin2012-05-28

Suggestions for a war bow: 75" - 80" long and 1/2" thick at the tip and about
1 1/4" thick at the center of the bow (the exact dimensions depend on which type of wood you chose). A war bow bends all the way through the handle section (no handle raiser). Making a bow this way will maximise shooting distance, but you will lose some control and accuracy.

mvankan (author)2011-11-14

I think you are missing a few steps.... to make a good longbow anyways.....

fatchumba667 (author)mvankan2012-04-02

Just remember this is an 'ible of a SIMPLE laminate longbow, made easy for people probably who want a neat project for a sunday afternoon or simply learning bow making :)

a4great (author)mvankan2011-11-16

I agree... It would have been nice if he also showed stringing (was a tad confusing).

Hippymike96 (author)a4great2011-12-04

I had some trouble finding that out too

nerd12 (author)Hippymike962011-12-07

easy way to string most bows-
1. hold bow as normal and place lower end in ground
2. attach the slipknot of the string to the lower end
3. grasp the other end of the string and bend the bow down.
4. loop the knot over end.
5. check both ends for tightness (to see if the string is slipping or might when firing

Thats about it!
have fun and play safe

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