55LB Lara Croft, Tomb Raider Bow Halloween Prop




About: I'm the kind of person who's mind doesn't stop. Literally, I take medication to fix that just so I can sleep at night. I have an unhealthy obsession with making things and believe, firmly, in sharing what I ...

A bit of a caveat to start; This is a real working bow. Tho it was designed as a Halloween prop, it is still capable of inflicting serious injury if used improperly. Don't carry this around in public, don't let children handle it and don't fire it outside of a designated area. Safety first.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me for some help with her Halloween costume. She wanted to replicate the clothing and weapons of Lara Croft from the game, Tomb Raider, and asked for assistance in building the bow. One of the stipulations was that it had to be as realistic as possible since she would be participating in a costume contest and standard paper mache craft just wouldn't cut it. She also wanted the bow to be fully functional and able to fire arrows. This presented itself as a fantastic challenge for me. Not only would I make it fully functional, but I would make it powerful enough to hunt large game such as deer, much like the video game itself. This would be a real bow.

Now stick bows, tho functional aren't very dependable. Because of their construction they're usually full of weak spots and can fail pretty dramatically. More than that, they aren't very powerful, at best reaching 20-25lbs. It then occurred to me that the game takes place in South East Asia, in the Devil's Triangle where bamboo is plentiful and a bow created there would, most likely, be crafted out of this material. In survival, bamboo is known as 'nature's fiberglass', meaning that it is not only flexible, but also strong, allowing for the creation of a bow that is both dependable, and quite powerful.

The arrows, in the game, appear to be wooden with what looks like turkey fletching (even though turkeys aren't indigenous to Asia). Now when crafting arrows, there are considerations such as spine and weight, but I figured these issues wouldn't be of concern to shipwreck survivors in the Devil's Triangle, and so I decided to simply go with hardwood shafts using 'simulated' turkey fletching. They would be accurate enough for our needs.

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Step 1: Tools and Supplies


  • coping saw
  • sharp knife
  • torch
  • groove file
  • paint brush


  • four 3/8"-1/2" bamboo sticks. roughly 66" long
  • Thick white cotton or nylon rope, roughly 30'
  • White clothes line rope, roughly 10'
  • 3/8" hardwood dowel, Can use cedar for authenticity
  • Turkey or goose feathers
  • socket style broad head or field points
  • natural or synthetic sinew/waxed cotton string
  • 5 min. epoxy

Step 2: Bundling the Bow

Bundle your bamboo shafts together. You'll notice that one end is slightly wider than the other so when you lay them out, flip two of the shafts around so that each end of the bow comprises of two wide ends and two narrow ends. Now offset the ends slightly so that they aren't perfectly lined up. If you look at Lara's bow, it looks haphazardly put together so that the ends don't line up exactly. Once you get your shafts lined up satisfactorily, wrap a bit of electrical tape around them to hold the shafts together as you bind.

Now mark the middle of your bow and measure 4" above and below it. This is the length of your grip. To wind the grip create a large U shape over the center of the bow like picture #1. Next start winding your rope tightly around, covering the U shape starting at your upper 4" mark and finishing at your lower 4" mark, leaving a 'tail' end of the U shape sticking out. It should look like picture #2. When you reach the bottom of your grip, cut the extra rope off and feed what's left through the eye of the U shape you made. When you pull the 'tail' it should draw the U under the wrap, taking the extra rope in with it such as Pictures # 3 and 4, then cut the length you pulled on and tuck the rest under the grip. When it's complete it should look like picture #5 where you can't tell where the rope begins or ends.

There are 4 more bindings on the bow. Two of them are roughly 13" above and below the grip and are roughly 2-3" wide. The other two are at the ends of the bow and are the same width. Use the same hidden end method of binding that you used when creating the grip.

If you have any questions on binding, feel free to ask in the comment section and I'll try to clarify as best as I can.

Step 3: Stringing the Bow

For the bow string I wanted something that was strong but thin, however it also had to keep to the makeshift image of the bow, so I decided on some white clothes line. Clothes line is relatively strong and less prone to stretching than most rope, but also thin enough so that an arrow can be nocked on it.

To start, I created a loop in one end, passed it over one end of the bow, and around all four sticks where it rested on the wrap. This is the top of our bow. Next, just above the center, toward the top of the bow make a knot like picture #2. In the game, the knot is actually more in line with the top of the grip, but our string will stretch and the knot will move.

To tie the bottom you'll have to force a bend in the bow. There is a stance used when stringing a bow this way which I demonstrate in picture #4. The grip of the bow is set behind the knee of one leg, and one end of the bow is rested on the front ankle of the other leg. The opposite end of the bow is then pulled forward, thereby bending it so that the string can be tied off.

Tying The String;

To tie the string, refer to picture #3. Wrap the string around the end of the bow, then down around the string. Next reverse direction and repeat. Do this 2 or 3 times, then finish by making a few half hitch knots around the string itself.

Step 4: The Arrow Nock

When you look at the end of your arrow shaft, you'll see the grain all runs in one direction. For strength, you should cut your nock in the opposite direction, going across the grain of the arrow. Mark it with a pencil. Using a groove file, file out the nock until it's roughly 1/4" deep. Use your file to taper the end of the arrow a bit and clean up the groove.

Wooden arrows aren't terribly strong, and could actually split when being fired, so one way lithic people would strengthen them was to bind the nock using some sinew or other natural fiber. For this project, I didn't want to waste my supply of real sinew, so I used synthetic that was purchased from Tandy.

Step 5: Creating Your Fletching

I didn't have many turkey feathers left, so I opted to create my fletching using Canada Goose feathers and white paint. They wouldn't pass close scrutiny, but would be more than passable from a distance.

To create your fletching first cut the quill off the end of the feather, then cut the tip down till it is roughly 4-5". Next, scrape the spine of the arrow down using your knife. This will reduce its width letting the fletching sit flatter making it less likely to interfere with the bow when shot. Once the spine is scraped, use your knife and split the feather down the middle separating it into two halves.

Next trim 1/8" of the barbs from each end of fletch leaving the end most tip of the spine bare. This creates a platform for binding the fletch to the shaft of the arrow.

Next you need shape your fletching, but first you should identify which way they need to be mounted. The barbs of the feather angle in one direction toward the tip of the feather and away from the quill. This is how it will be mounted to the shaft, with the fletch angled toward the nock of the arrow. It's important you mount them this way as fletching them backward could cause improper flight and interference with the bow.

Once you've identified the mounting direction, trim down the fletch, using a sharp knife ensuring all the barbs are even and of the same length. For additional aesthetics, you can cut the barbs at the nock end on a downward angle so that your finished fletch looks like the one in picture #7.

**optional** When fletching, it's preferred to use feathers from the same wing of the turkey. That's because there is a natural twist to the feathers, and it marks a huge improvement in flight when they all curve in the same direction on the arrow.

Step 6: Fletching Your Arrows

Your fletching should start between 1.5-2" below your nock. Your fletching should be evenly spaced a third of the way around the shaft, however there is a specific orientation, in relation to the nock that they need to be.

**Note** There are some pretty specific and professional ways of mounting fletching, but for our purposes as a prop bow, we're not going to worry about perfection. For one thing, you can create a jig which is basically a piece of leather with a hole in it the size of the shaft, and slots cut into it at precise 1/3 spacing that is used is used as a guide for mounting your fletching. I may cover this in a future instructable if there is interest, but for this project we'll keep it simple

Now the first fletch should be attached at 90 degrees to the line of your nock. This is so that, when on the string, one fletch points outward and the other two create a V shape against the bow, preventing them from interfering or catching on the bow affecting the shot.

Start by wrapping around the shaft with your sinew, then lay your fletch into position and continue wrapping, adding the other two fletchings and binding the end. Finish with a couple of half hitch knots. Next, do the same with the other end of your fletch, lining them up properly and finishing again with a couple of half hitches. At this point it should look like Image #1.

Next you need to bind down the feather. Start by making a couple of binds on the bottom end of the arrow. As you move up through the fletch, use the tip of your knife to seperate the barbs so that your string can sit between them. Try to keep your wraps even. When you get to the top of your fletching, finish with a couple of half hitch knots and cut off the excess string. If you used artificial sinew or waxed thread, you can use your torch to melt the tips to prevent the thread slipping.

For authenticity, you can use your torch and make some scorch marks along the shaft of your arrow. This will darken it giving it more of a heated and straightened look. Also, as mentioned before, you can paint your fletching for a more authentic look.

Step 7: Field Point or Broadhead

When installing your point, you should consider what you intend on doing with your arrow. If it's purely decorative you can install the broad head, however if you intend on doing some practice shooting with it, you may want to go with the field point. In the game, however, she does use a diamond shaped field point so for authenticity you may opt to go that route.

To attach your socket, sharpen the end of your arrow either by rotating it on a belt sander, or you can use a pencil sharpener designed for larger pencils. Next mix up some 5 minute epoxy and apply it to the inside of the socket and the tip of the arrow shaft. When you install your point, rotate your arrow on a flat surface and watch it for wobble. If it does adjust it, and continue rolling it until it turns true then allow the epoxy to dry.

Step 8: Final Touches

Lara's stick bow is not clean and new. It's dirty, it's rough and it's worn and so you need to replicate that. Take it out into the garden and roll it around. Drop it into the mud and dirt and rub it in until it starts to look like it was created in South East Asia, in the Devil's Triangle by a cult of survivors in search of immortality.

Step 9: Finished

That's it. You should be ready for that costume contest, then some target practice on the range afterward. Lara's bow is one of the most iconic bows in gaming and pop culture, and as such, the more realistic you can make it, the better it will pass scrutiny of fans and judges alike.

As usual, I hope you enjoyed the instructable and thanks for following.

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    36 Discussions

    Places to buy bamboo; Walmart, dollar store, garden center, home depot, Rona, Sears, etc. Seriously, any place that sells home decorating and/or garden supplies. Price is subject to whatever the vendor sells for. Dollar store will sell a bundle for a buck, while home depot will charge you $5.

    The Rambler

    4 years ago on Introduction

    This is incredible. I love the bow, but I also love how you reconciled the game with reality, bringing in both the looks and setting from the game alongside realistic bow making practices. Fantastic job.

    And in reference to the posibility of an instructable on making a fletching jig, I would most certainly be interested in reading any and all instructables you might write on the subject of bow/arrow making.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice job making a bow that looks great and works great too. This just got me really excited for the sequel.

    Great job. Just one thing, from one ADDer to another, it's a bit long. Kind of had to skim some parts. But it is clear enough for me to understand and possibly even replicate without making my brain hurt too much. Now I just have to stop myself from grabbing the bamboo garden stakes out of the shed and trying it right now. ;-)

    Um, make that the bamboo stakes that I was supposed to put in the shed and just remembered are still sitting outside...


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Really liked this. While I know nothing about the game, it is a well documented and laid out instructable such that, even I knew what and why you laid it out like this.

    On a different note, do you thing the speed and accuracy of the bow would be enhanced by either cordage backing it a la the Inuit and Richard Baugh's article in The Bulletin of Primitive Technology, Vol 1, No 3 or by changing the position of the nocking point (commonly called the handle, though not really apropos for many primitive bows) in relation the the length a la the Japanese Yumi? or both?

    In the game, did she use cured or green bamboo? In my area for the DemoKratic Peoples Republik of California it grows wild, as a primitive bowyer I think I'd like to mess around with this. Again kudo's for a job well done


    4 years ago

    Thanks for the detailed pics! Amazing Job!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    can i use other kind of stick if i cant find them at my local hardware store dont have bamboo?

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    You can. Look for hard wood such as ash, elm, oak or maple. Soft wood will work but your bow will end up more decorative than useful. The dollar store usually carries a selection of bamboo in stock.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    would come in quite handy for the ible after yours on the e-mail....a "BRAVE" princess Merida costume!!


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Cotton and the nylon in your ropes will stretch out. Waxed linen won't nearly to the degree that either of those will. Granted it is more expensive, but your end product would be better. A Flemish bowstring made from linen would be much better.

    Well done by the way. The instructions were clear and I wish the best to your friend in her costume contest.


    I love this! It looks really really good, and it was actually pretty easy to make. The bow tension was a little off for mine, but I might've just done something wrong. This is amazing, please keep up the hard work!

    1 reply

    How thick was you bamboo? Sometimes what you get at the dollar store looks like bamboo but it's river cane which doesn't have the same flexibility.