Introduction: Building a Laminated Long Bow
Welcome to my world. It seems that I'm always searching for ideas to help in my woodworking, metal working, and now CAD/CAM CNC machining. The learning never stops. This Instructable has been in the making for some 20 years. As a young adult interested in woodworking, I always wanted to craft a functional bow, recurve or long. I researched a few manufactures for parts long ago, but stuck with Bingham Project based out of Utah. What struck me, was that after 20 some years, the video instructions are no different. Just DVD instead of VHS. So this is my attempt to update the info/process with a few tricks and tips along the way. I have to admit that after building 4 of these with my boys, I'm looking forward to making more with my students at school. Its just so much fun to shoot them.
Step 1: Where to Begin?
The first hurdle that I had to clear was, purchasing the "kit" of materials from a supplier. My Long Bow Kit came from Bingham Projects out of Utah. The kit includes the hardware for the mold, and DVD instructions for building the laminating oven, mold and bow. The full scale templates are also included. If you choose another vendor, just make sure you have access to the information, but best of all, get all of the pieces. I will not cover building the oven or molds, as that is self explanatory in the DVD from the company.
A. Bow Laminate set (specify Draw Weight in Pounds)
B. Flexible Epoxy
C. Riser block wood (your choice) 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" x 18"
D. Glue for riser block (can be epoxy, but must be heated)
E. (2x) 4'x8' x 1/2' OSB or plywood (Oven box)
F. Electrical wire, switch, and light fixtures
G. Butcher paper (something to protect your table)
H. Saran wrap
J. Blue tape, heat tape, and regular masking tape
B. Circular saw
C. Table saw
D. Band saw
E. Long straight edge
F. Spindle/Drum sander
G. Belt sander
H. Files (flat & rat tail) or Rasps
I. Sand paper (60-400+ grits)
J. Coping saw
L. Stir Sticks
M. Air Pump
N. Saran wrap
O. Tape (heat resistant and regular)
1. Build mold, make sure bottom surface is "Square" all the way across.
2. Build the oven, and make sure the mold fits inside.
3. Build the riser block
4. Laminate all parts
5. Make center line & template outline
6. Cut limbs and riser handle
7. Sand, sand & more sanding (60 grt, 80, 100, 150, 220, 320, 400,...)
8. Test and make modifications
9. Apply finish and enjoy
Step 2: Build Your Riser Block (handle).
Building the riser block for your long bow really gets you started in thinking about what your handle shape will feel like in your hand. The traditional shape is a little more "block" like than what I created. You can keep is simple to just one piece of wood, or add accent stripes, or go completely wild. For my second bow I chose to try an ambitious 3D illusion. The idea came from Andrei, of MTMwood in Russia. All I know is that his YouTube channel is really cool and he has a very creative mind. He's also an incredible woodworker.
I would make the suggestion of practicing with a couple of scrape boards and make a small section. If you get it right the first time, just make it big enough so that you can use it. The length of the block should be 16"-18" long. This also depends upon your mold. Our mold was about 16" in the center section, which produces an awkward bend in the tip of the riser block. I wanted a bigger riser block, so I modified the mold (more sanding).
Step 3: Build Your Mold & Oven
This task is the least glamorous, but if you have your riser block built you will be highly motivated for getting it done. Follow the directions based upon the company from which you buy your supplies. I only have a couple of notes for each. Build the mold first, from a laminated 12" wide beam. This is far easier than trying to glue up sheets of plywood. I went to the local (serious) building material supplier. Here in Colorado, I went to Alpine lumber, found and cut to length the section that I needed. Easy as that. I don't believe Home Depot or Lowe's carry laminated beams, but I could be wrong. Use the template to lay out the pattern and then cut. Make sure to keep the jigsaw blade perpendicular to the board. Otherwise you will have a big job in truing up the curved surfaces.
The only trick with the oven box is making sure to build it large enough for the mold. The pressure tube will stick out on each end of the mold, so that is why you will want a slightly longer box.
Step 4: Ready to Laminate the Pieces
This is where you need to double check you plan, and double check again. I don't know how many times I laid everything out in front of me, mentally going through the steps. The pot life of the epoxy is fairly long in the sense that, you should be done mixing, laminating, fixturing clamps and applying pressure in under 60 minutes.
For the laminating, there are a couple of tricks that help the process. One, add a layer of saran wrap on the top and bottom on molds. Use blue tape to help keep it in place (learned that the hard way). Two, once all the laminates and riser block are in place on the lower mold, quickly tape the riser in place. Then it won't slip and slide all over the place. Three, tape the upper laminate to the the big bend of the riser block. They will want to slide down from the top edge if you are not careful.
Step 5: Step 5: Template Work
The first step for preparing to cut, is finding the centerline of the bow. There are a couple of different ways, but feel free to choose what you are most accurate with. Be careful handling the bow once out of the mold. Some of the epoxy will have very sharpe edges. You may want to run a file or rasp over the edges to "soften" the touch. Or you can wear gloves too.
Step 6: Step 6: Bandsaw Work "A"
The bandsaw helps reduce labor time in shaping the limbs. However, you do not have to use one. It will take a lot of "elbow grease", but a surform file will work just fine. The trick will be to clamp the bow securely on its side so that is does not slide around, or flip over.
Step 7: Step 7: Bandsaw Tips
The second video clarifies a couple of tricks for symmetrical measurements and alignment. Just make sure you do not remove the tape. It is perfect for drawing on as well as a protective cover for the fiberglass. No nee to scratch that.
Step 8: Step 7: Contouring/Shaping
This stage is a difficult one for me. I'm excited about finishing the bow and heading outside to shoot. However, attention to detail is pretty important. I found myself going back and forth with the Surform rasp, file and sanding blocks. Changing shape and fine tuning the "feel of the grip" is time consuming. But when it is done, you will have a truly custom long bow. I did not use a thick, store bought Spar finish yet.
I oiled the riser, went out and shot a few arrows, and then headed back to the barn for a little more sanding. I get to a 600 grit and find that it feels really smooth to hold. Some may say a finer grit is necessary, but personal preference is really the key. If you are putting a leather wrap around the handle, smoothness and finger contours may not be on the top priority list. Nevertheless, take a chance and build your own personal long bow. Find a local archery shop, and take it in for a little critique from the Pro's. We received valuable feedback from a couple of different guys.
Our next build will be a take down recurve bow.