Introduction: Red Oak Pyramid Bow

Picture of Red Oak Pyramid Bow

I'd been involved in archery and bowhunting when I was younger, shot an old PSE wheel bow, chased deer around the woods of New Hampshire. But life intervened and archery took a backseat. Anyways, some how I got a bug in my backside to build a bow over spring break.  I did a great deal of reading over at paleoplanet, tradgang and primitive archer, and I'd suggest anyone who chooses to follow this instructable do a fair share of reading over there before proceeding.

So, let's begin, shall we?

Step 1: First, a Confession

Picture of First, a Confession

This wasn't the first bow. No the first bow was built using these old Pop Mech plans. However, it was powerful weak, only 20lbs at 28"s. So after further research i found the description of pyramid bows. Not wanting to design another weak bow, I entered the dimensions of the Pop Mech bow into Solidworks and recorded the displacement under a 20 lb load. I then designed the the new bow in Solidworks such that an applied load of 50 Lb resulted in the same displacement as the other bow.

Step 2: Select Your Wood

Picture of Select Your Wood

The easiest wood to begin with is red oak, as it's available at any hardware/lumber store. I selected a 1"x3"x8' board with the straightest grain I could find, as well as the widest growth rings and greatest weight relative to other boards in the stack. You will have to dig through the pile, you might need to visit several stores, it's worth it, bad wood, bad bow, bad injuries.

Step 3: Laying Out the Bow

Picture of Laying Out the Bow

Begin by inspecting the wood, check for any splinters, cracks, knots, if you can work around them great, if not, go get another piece. Slice a inch off one end and then cut a 70 inch portion off, that will leave a 25 inch section.
Take the 70 inch portion and locate and mark the center of each end, snap a line, or use a straight edge to make a line down the plank between these points. Now mark the center of the board. Label the center very clearly. The bow is symmetrical so layout is easy.

The handle is 4 inches long, one inch wide and centered.
The "wedges" are 2 inches long and 2.5 inches wide.
The limbs are 30 inches long and go from the wedges to a width of 3/8ths inches.

Got that? Pretty simple.

Step 4: Cut and Thin the Limbs

Picture of Cut and Thin the Limbs

Cut out the limbs, i made a simple jig and used my table saw, took two seconds. Now thin the board down from the stock size to 7/16ths inch. I used a surface planer, you could use a hand plane (yuck) or a table saw to split the plank to thickness. 

Don't cut out the handle area yet.

Step 5: The Handle

Picture of The Handle

as is, is too thin, your bow will break there. So we are going to make it thicker, but we also need a smooth transition to the limbs.
Start by cutting the saved 25 inch piece to 9 inches. Now using your table saw carefully feed the piece back an forth across the blade while raising the blade in small increments. the feather edge should be tangent with the highest point on the blade. you can make a simple sliding jig to ease the process, I didn't, but would recommend it. Also I used a 7 inch blade, a 10 inch would have made nicer fades.

Don't worry about getting a perfect paper thin edge, but get close, now you can glue the handle piece to the bow and let it dry at least 24 hours, and then cut out the handle.

Step 6: Now the Scary Parts Start

Picture of Now the Scary Parts Start

Right now you have a bow shaped object, and you have to start working it into a bow. Start by easing all the corners, this will help prevent "lifting a splinter" when you start flexing the bow.  After that, cut a couple of thin wedges from scrap and lash then one inch from either end of the limbs.
Now make a heavy long string from some cord and we can start working the bow.

Step 7: Tillering

Picture of Tillering

Here's where it really get's scary, we are gong to start bending the bow to get a smooth curve. We need a tillering stick, i just took a 3 foot piece of 2x4 and cut slots every inch, suboptimal, but workable.

So put the bow on the stick and start pulling it back, you want a smooth even curve, you can see my outer limbs are too stiff, so I'll scrape the belly (string) side to thin them. Keep working until you have a tiller you're happy with.

If at ANYTIME you hear cracking, STOP, get a new piece of wood and go back to step one.

Step 8: Attach the Nock Wedges

Picture of Attach the Nock Wedges

I liked the nock wedges over cut nocks on narrow limbs like these, so being chicken, I spot glued the nocks an inch and a quarter from each end, lashed with hemp twine and soaked with titebond glue. and they still moved when I first strung the bow!!! Fortunately just a 1/16 and symmetrically so I didn;t have to fix it, but that gives you an idea of the forces involved here.

Step 9: Finish

Picture of Finish

After finish sanding I coated the whole thing with a wax finish I use on my firearms called variously "gunny paste" "one third finish" etc. a mix of BLO, beeswax and turpentine. Finally, you can wrap the handle with hemp twine, but I like the bare wood..

Very pleased with the result.

Step 10: Addendum

Many people have commented on "backing the bow', this involves gluing a fabric such as linen, burlap, denim, silk, etc or rawhide or sinew to the back of the bow. With the exception of sinew, these backing do not improve the performance of the bow and are more an insurance policy that if the bow fails it will not result in a catastrophic detonation. So, having said that, if you feel uncomfortable with the risk attendant to an unbacked bow, by all means apply a coating of titebond, lay on a layer of fabric and two more coats of titebond wood glue and then trim when dry.

And now for something completely different, fruit at 8 paces.

Step 11: Just an Update

Picture of Just an Update

So, it's six months on.  The bow has held up well, I've been hunting with it several time, unsuccessfully, but that's not the bows fault.  After all this time it's developed about an inch of string follow, nothing to worry about. The weight is still up there above 50lbs, I measured it before the season just to be sure. I did have one small problem, the first day of hunting was ninety degrees and one hundred percent humidity, I sweated so much the grain raised on the handle, that was a quick fix with a bit of sanding.

I also added a "razzle dazzle" bit of camo by zigzagging painters tape on the bow, and rubbing in burnt cork, followed with another wax coat.


andrewty (author)2017-05-20

UK builders:

It is illegal to hunt wirh a bow anywhere in the UK.

Not birds, not animals, not fish. Nothing can be hunted with an arrow.

Crossbows are illegal for hunting.

Target points are OK for target shooting.

As far as I know all other points are illegal.

beutiful26 (author)2017-04-05

can you make a bow and arrow string out of nature not store bought? if so what can you use?

Noahj25 (author)beutiful262017-04-14

from there you can either make your own bowyers knots, or make a flemmish twist bow string

Noahj25 (author)beutiful262017-04-14

yes you can. Go outside and find a tree or sapling with fiberous bark.

Marekot (author)2017-02-24

What kind of bow string do I use and where can I find it?

TabithaS17 (author)Marekot2017-03-03

B50 cord works well, you can find premade Flemish Twist strings made
with B50 on ebay for about $8.00. They have instructions for measuring
your bow etc. so that you order the right length.

J SquaredA (author)2016-08-25

Excuse me sir,

Great 'ible, by the way.

I was wondering if you had any thoughts on how to create a bow made of 4-sheet thick plywood. I have some 5/8" and 15/32" plywood left over from another project I was constructing recently and I was wondering if I would be able to make a bow from that. It's not the best grade plywood, however I thought that some bows are made by laminating pieces of wood together, and I thought maybe I could replicate this by using plywood.

Here are the product descriptions if you need them:

Thank you!

joshkuper1 (author)J SquaredA2017-01-03

I Do not think that ply wood would be a good wood for bow building. It has very little bending ability and it is expensive. I would suggest you to buy a plank of oak, osage, hickory or other hard woods.

J SquaredA (author)joshkuper12017-01-04

Okay great. Thank you.
I plan on including this in my projects for this summer. I will try and pick up some red oak at home depot or somewhere.
Once again, thanks!

joshkuper1 (author)J SquaredA2017-01-05

no problem

steadfast1984 (author)2016-10-15

Still have the bow I made based on this one. works great, aged well, still has lots of power. I made it 6 years ago.

robbiesrestorations (author)2016-07-22

What was the length of the bow string?

JosephK84 (author)2016-07-06

Primitive archer?

Because aw yis

I made It

steampunkpotato (author)2016-04-16

Do you think oiling the bow or waxing it would prevent it from talking on water and warping?

Yes, I used what's called 1/3 finish. Melt beeswax, mix 1/3 boiled linseed oil, 1/3 turpentine and 1/3 melted beeswax. Stir will and keep in a sealed jar. To use, scoop some out, rub it into the wood with your hands, let sit until it gets hazy and wipe off with a rag. Finish most of my rifle stocks the same way.

that's kind of the point of finishes like that..things like shellac and oils like teek and tung oil are water barriers. so yes. it'll help. stop it from being soaked? no.

JeremyF31 (author)2016-01-16

Has anyone ever used hedge Apple wood

JeremyF31 (author)JeremyF312016-01-16

I'm not understanding the handle area is there better pictures or illustrations

Gabedini (author)2016-01-14

Another backing that works well and also looks sort of interesting is fiberglass drywall tape. If you put three layers of that on you should be good to do. It's also quite cheap and easy to work with. (idea credit:

VladM3 (author)2016-01-04

Looks very nice. I wasn't sure how something like red oak would perform, but obviously it does pretty well.

I learned my bow making from literally whittling Popular, Willow, Ash, whatever I could find around my home as a child. Most failed, but some were awesome. I've always dreamt of making a proper looking bow. I may just try the red oak.

mchau2 (author)2015-12-29

hm... do you guy prefer aiming without sight? maybe quick addon for attaching sight? is super glue with tight string good enough?

Drakeman1 (author)2015-12-02

I made a bow too I put it in my hair everyday it looks lovely. I dont know how you could fit that bow in your hair :O

TreyZ9 made it! (author)2015-12-01

I made this bow, the quiver, and the arrows (5 field point and 1 broadhead). The bow has a draw weight around #40, the grip is a faux leather with felt. This was my first attempt at making a wooden bow.

DeniseT11 (author)2015-10-01

My arrows are wobbling in air can you tell me best arrow rest diagram?

JeffL42 (author)DeniseT112015-11-13

It's not your rest. If they're wobbling up and down, you need to change where you're nocking then on the string. If they're wobbling left to right, you're arrows are too stiff(left) or two flexible(right) relative to the weight of the bow.

llumination (author)2015-10-09

What kind of bowstring did you use. Also what did you do for the arrows?

mhtowneii (author)2015-09-16

SudhanshuS4 (author)2015-09-09

AnthonyH19 (author)2015-07-27

So I got to the tillering step. I was wondering how thin the limbs should be at this stage. Currently, my limbs are 31" and .75" thick. The wood does not seem to be cooperating and it is very hard to bend.
Any help is appreciated. Thanks in advance :)

Norode (author)AnthonyH192015-08-14

Built a bow about a year ago out of Red Oak. The step that can help you and the one that was not explained well enough, was the taper. From the handle to the tip of the bow should be a smooth taper. 1/2" to about 5/16". If it is just one piece of flat wood the bow will be very stiff and not willing to bend where you want.

kelsch (author)2014-06-17

when you are "Tillering" the bow how and when do you know to stop? do you just guess? please help!

AnthonyH19 (author)kelsch2015-08-08

This is very late but I hope it at least helps someone out there. I am also a rookie so pardon the lack of vocabulary and sorry if the information is not accurate:

When tillering, never pull past the weight limit you intend your draw to be. if your tiller length is not optimal and you've reached your intended draw length, scratch some wood off the belly.

BowMan89 (author)2015-07-30

cam somone post all the measurments more specifically

AnthonyH19 (author)BowMan892015-08-08

I deviated from the actual design a bit. still cannot affirm if it works, but currently in at the tillering stage:
I took a 72" and a 12" piece of .75" x 3.5" of red oak from a local HomeDepot.
I used a planer and got each piece to .5" thick

Limbs: 31"
Handle: 5"
Habdle Wedges (x2): 2.5"

I'll try to keep this updated!

Shahroz Jededia (author)2015-05-19

is it accurate when you fire?

jeffcole (author)2015-04-17

Thanks for the instructable. I modelled my first version on yours but had a major failure. It broke at 29lbs. I used Tasmanian oak. I am about to start on version 2. Here goes....

Jo-dan (author)jeffcole2015-05-16

Did you have any luck? I also live in tassie and was planning on doing this build but wasn't sure about the availability of the wood or if Tasmanian oak would have the same properties.

Knightfamily (author)2015-04-25

made it and it was awesome thank you

The_Black_Hole (author)2015-04-24

I would love to see photos of the "camo" finish!

arashfoladi (author)2015-04-19

Joe Torres (author)2014-12-27

I've been looking for red oak and couldn't find any, is there another type of wood I could use?
the problem is that I can't find it in my city (Mexicali, Baja California, México) and I really want to make a bow.

Chuckcass (author)Joe Torres2015-03-30

you can use white oak,hickory,(my choice),maple,(native Americans in my area and in your area ) Osage

jholt5 (author)Joe Torres2014-12-30

Look for mexican rose wood/bocote, chechem, cocobolo, purple heart or ziricote. All of those are woods that grow in mexico/central america and would be acceptable/good/exceptional bow woods.

tim.mullins.5686 (author)2015-03-26

A quick question about Yew. It happens that we have a ton of it growing on the West End here. But it's green naturally. Seasoning? How long?

usmang2 (author)2015-01-27

have a look at this website very good for woodworking

gcaces (author)2013-04-15

hey, i know this is out of the topic, but is mahogany a good bow wood?

Ignorant_train (author)gcaces2015-01-06

Since mahogany is a hardwood it should have the same effect, however it is a more decorative wood and may cost more.

Silent_Shadow (author)2014-08-18

How do I tiller it? Please help I'm a newbie...

Go to the site poor folks bows. The guy that has the site has a very detailed tutorial on how to tiller a bow. What ever you do DO NOT SOAK THE BOW !!! Building a bow takes time and patience. Short cuts = fire wood

swagbucket (author)Silent_Shadow2014-11-26

the easiest way i found was to soak it before you try to shape it... although there is a possibility of lifting a splinter as it dries... it makes the process a lot easier

About This Instructable




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