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?
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Step 1: First, a confession

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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BowMan8911 hours ago

cam somone post all the measurments more specifically

AnthonyH193 days ago

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 :)

is it accurate when you fire?

jeffcole3 months ago

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....

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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.
nanotwitty2 months ago

It 's great project, I will try to do it


Knightfamily3 months ago

made it and it was awesome thank you

I would love to see photos of the "camo" finish!
arashfoladi3 months ago
Joe Torres7 months ago
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.

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

jholt5 Joe Torres7 months ago

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.

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?

usmang26 months ago

have a look at this website very good for woodworking http://woodguide.net/

gcaces2 years ago
hey, i know this is out of the topic, but is mahogany a good bow wood?

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

Silent_Shadow11 months ago
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

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

Andrew LB1 year ago

If you want a protective finish that will give the look of your wax/turp/blo mixture, while preventing sweat from raising the grain, I'd recommend getting a bottle of Birchwood Casey's Tru-Oil and hand rubbing it into the wood. (make sure you wear nitrile gloves). I usually pour a bit into the cap of a used water bottle and dab a finger in it and get to work rubbing it into the wood (you want to create heat from the rubbing action) till it's absorbed, working in sections to prevent it from building up on the surface of the wood. I recently refinished a friends bow for him and it turned out very nice.

Oh... and if you want to speed up the process, before each coat of Tru-Oil spray a tiny bit of Armor-All (yes.. the crap i'd never put on my car) on your gloves so they get slippery, and rub the wood down, followed by the above Tru-Oil method. Someone over at RimfileCentral told me about it yet nobody can seem to figure out the original source. My theory is that some guy with a Tru-Oil finish applied Armor-All to a shotgun or rifle prior to going out in bad weather with the intent of protecting the wood. He ended up dinging the finish while out that day and touched it up with some fresh tru-oil only to find it dried in 5 minutes instead of a few hours. And no joke, that's seriously how fast it dries. Armor-All works like a catalyst and some sort of reaction occurs.

Here's a couple examples of how Tru-Oil looks on Walnut. The first is my Browning Auto-5 16ga (circa 1928) which I refinished and re-checkered after I gouged the crap out of it climbing a fence while running from a bull (long story). The other is a pair of custom grips I made from a block of Pao Ferro (Bolivian Rosewood) and hand checkered. You can build up the finish further but I like the feel of the wood.

MarkS22 Andrew LB7 months ago

You say those grips are custom made, how did you get the S&W logo on there? Those are some beautiful grips I would like to get some like that, where can I find some?

swagbucket8 months ago

would you do any extra shaving on the limbs to try and adjust the poundage on the bow or do you just leave it as is?????

love it

obi wan kaoni10 months ago
seanwhalen1 year ago
Great plans! I made this last summer. It was a fun and easy project that took me all of one afternoon. I used a piece of red oak salvaged from a job site. The photos were taken before I stained it. I used a red oak stain and finished with polyurethane. The bow has held up exceptionally well. I use it on average maybe twice a month, just shooting at a small target in my back yard. It is surprisingly powerful. I had to reinforce my homemade target because it kept blowing arrows straight through the back and into my shed.
kelsch1 year ago

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

kelsch1 year ago

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

12010041 year ago

wouldn't the grain split apart? I'm making a flatbow out of osage and I'm getting the back down to one growth ring. Just wondering.

this is brilliant and i just rang the wood shop up to order a peice of maple how ever i think its going to be 5inch thick can i still run with that or would it be better to buzz it down to 3inch and if it were to stay at 5inchs would that increase the poundage on it ?

It's very interesting the way you've cut the bow.

Looking at the end grain, where you can see the rings. you've cut across these instead of going with the rings.

Hey it works, but it definitely a different way to do it.

ElCubano1 year ago
If you paint this like Katniss' s bow it will look badass!
thinking about making this, anyone know what would be the best wood for this project?

maple or yew

Osage Orange/bodark/bois d'arc, how ever you call it, is some of the best wood for making bows. Hell "bois d'arc" is French for wooden bow. If you can find a knot free length of the stuff, GET IT.
yew.....its expensive and rare so dont bother.......orange osage,lemonwood are easyily available in the USA i believe...........basically any dense hardwoods are capable of making reasonable bows..........ive read oak with a hickory strip glued on the back works well.............
The best wood for making bows is dead wood, Oak is the next best thing.
where might I get deadwood? what is it anyway?
read the comments

Is there any more simpler tools that I can use besides a table saw?

also hickory, ash, elm, and oak.

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