DIY ASH FLATBOW With Minimum Tools and LOTS OF FUN!

Introduction: DIY ASH FLATBOW With Minimum Tools and LOTS OF FUN!

About: 17 year old tryna find their way through this confusing universe. I love making and learning stuff so if you have any suggestions for a project please let me know! :D

First off, I want to say that I'm not a professional, I just love going outdoors and doing stuff I've never tried, so please forgive my lack of technicality or profound knowledge.

I attempted making many bows in the past, but they never worked. First, because I had no idea what I was doing, and second, i didn't have the right materials. I tried using sticks and saplings and PVC pipes and eucalyptus wood (which instantly broke and banged the stars out of my head), but nothing really worked. UNTIL... We recently moved to an old house with quite a few wood sheds, I immediately started looking in there, and in the middle of a firewood pile I found a nice looking piece. I had done quite a bit of reading on bowmaking before that, and this piece seemed to have the characteristics it needed. 20 hours of manual labor and sore hands later, I couldn't believe it, it actually worked and looked beautiful! I took it to a local woodworker and found out it was ash wood, a quite common wood. It certainly isn't as good as osage or others, but it works!

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Step 1: What You'll Need

- 1.6 meter long piece of dry ash wood (dried for at least a year or two, check with local woodworkers or lumber yards, they might just have the perfect piece)

- Tape measure

- Superglue (optional)

- Bowstring

- Wood rasp

- Round file or small handsaw

- Sharp working knife


Step 2: Choosing the Right Wood

It has to be dry. Some people say it needs to dry for 10 years. But I definitely do not believe that is necessary. 2 years is just fine. It needs to be straight, as straight as possible, and have straight grain. No knots or wavy things. Also, try to find one that's already debarked. It's kind of a pain to take it off once it's dry. It doesn't have to be a log, it can be square, rectangle, or any other shape, as long as you have enough material to be able to get what you need.

Step 3: Shaping the Wood

(Figure 1) With a sharpie, I marked out where the rings are on my log. I chose to use the ones that are the most uniform with no wavy lines. Then I marked out the piece i wanted to use, which was a quarter of the log. Normally you would use one that was already chopped into a stave and THEN dried, but this was the only one I had on hand.

With the help of an axe, a big hammer and a couple of wooden wedges, we split the wood with quite much ease. It didn't come out super straight, but nothing that can't be done without a good sharp hatchet.

Now, my wood is 1.6 meters long, which is a good size (in my opinion) for most regular sized adults and teenagers, but a quick google will tell you to what length bow you need for your height. If you're making it for a kid it would obviously need to be much shorter.

Step 4: Chasing Rings

With the tape measure, mark out the exact center of the wood with a sharpie on the belly side of the bow (the side that would be facing you when shooting it. Then mark two lines, one 10cm above the center line, and another below it. This is the handle part. You'll be leaving that part untouched until you're pretty much done with the limbs. Now, you have to decide, will you chase the back for a ring? Meaning, with a draw knife or a good rasp follow one of the rings on the back to have one even layer (to prevent cracking), or just use the natural layer right under the bark. Obviously if you have a previously cut piece of wood it would be hard to find one with an untouched natural layer, but if your cutting your own log, this is possible. The only problem with the latter is that it wont be perfectly smooth and you can be left with a bit of a wavy bow, which is what i did for this one and i wish i would of chased lower. (I also made one where it wasn't one even ring {see the figure 3 for an idea}, and it works wonderfully, didn't crack once, but i haven't done this with woods other than ash, so if you're using ash wood it should be safe to used layered rings to make it straighter). In picture number 4 the red outline is of the rings you would need to use if your wood were cut in a square.

If you have a draw knife, use that, if not use a hatchet to get to a rough shape and then a rasp and sandpaper to smooth it out.

Step 5: Rough Shaping

With a string or other straight object, mark a line down the middle of the wood, to determine where you need to shape the sides. On both sides of the middle line, mark out another straight line, 1 1/2 inches wide. This is the rough outline of the limbs. You'll take them down further later, but this is rough work, so it's much better to go slow and safe. With the hatchet, axe away till you're flush with the outer line. Take your time.

AGAIN, don't cut into the middle of the bow where the handle part is.

Turning the bow to the side, using the red outline in figure 5, mark a line 1/2 an inch from the back. Now chop all that wood from the belly side.

Go back to belly side, and following figure 6, outline two more lines that taper towards the ends. The width at the ends should be around 1 1/2 inches.

Now you can go to the handle part and chop off from the belly leaving around 2 1/2 inches thickness, and give it the basic shape from figure 6. I find it easiest to do this with a sharp sturdy knife and a rasp.

Step 6: Handle and Arrow Shelf

You've probably cut or filed out the marking of the middle of the bow along with the two other handle marks, so go ahead and mark those again. Decide which side of the bow you want to be on the top, this shows you where to put the arrow rest, that little shelf looking thing you see on bows where the arrow rests so it doesn't pinch your hand. You can do without one if you'd like.

Mark a line one inch above the middle and mark out the shape from figure 7. Cut out the shelf with with a hand saw or a rasp.

Do a little google search for flatbow or selfbow handles, and use that inspiration to shape your handle. You can add another decorative piece of wood to the top of the handle if you have the patience to flatten it out.

Step 7: End Shaping and Tillering

Go back to the limbs and rough them out to just under a 1/4 of an inch. Be more careful now with your cutting so you don't make a mistake and go too far. Then file it down all flush. Once its smooth, make 2 small nocks at the ends for the tillering string. This is not the final shape, you can make the ends prettier later.

Get a piece of paracord the same length as the bow, make two loop knots at the ends and put them around the knocks. Make sure they don't slide out.

(see figure 8) For the tillering (the shaping of the limbs to make them bend evenly), you can either use a "tillering stick", or make your own hammering a large sturdy nail (mine was around 9 inches long) into a post, and around 2 feet lower put in some long screws. Screws keep the string from sliding off way better than nails. Paracord is quite stretchy so you can pull it farther without danger. put the belly part of the handle on the long nail, and stretch the string to hook unto the lower screws, this might be a bit hard if the bow is still quite thick, but it should not break. Now take a few steps back. How does it look? If you straightened out the limbs with the rasp they should be quite uniform in the bend, but if not, take a permanent marker, and mark out the places where it does not bend as evenly as the other side. I've included a couple pictures of how mine was and where I marked it.

Then take it off the post and carefully file out the places you mark. Don't go too far. Keep going back and forth between the post and the rasp, until you get a nice even bend. I don't have a ton of experience on this so I recommend looking at bowyers methods of doing this.

Step 8: Heat Treating

This step is not totally necessary, but i find that it makes the bows better and a bit easier to work with and less prone to cracking. If you find that its hard to bend the wood when tillering, this will help a lot. You can also thin down the bow a lot more if you do this, making a lighter bow.

I don't do this the traditional way, most people do it with a heat gun and dry-cook the wood through, I kind of steam it.

Using a gas stove or a fire, slowly pass the belly side of the limbs over it. Don't touch the flames to the wood though, but just go evenly back and forth. Once they're quite warm, with your rub some water on the limbs, and continue heating it, you'll see the steam coming out. Once it's evaporated, water it a couple more times.

Now go back to tillering and finish giving it a nice shape, and thin it out as much as you want.

Step 9: Sanding

Oh boy. You'll hate hand sanding after this.

With a rough 80 grit sandpaper, go over the entire bow until all the rasp marks are out, this will take a while. Go up to a 120 and sand. Sand till you hate it. Sand till you want to give up, and then sand some more until you feel like you're a master sander. Once you've got all the the ugly rough marks out, start going higher up the grits, I usually finish with a 600 because it leaves it super polished smooth and pretty. I sadly do not have any pictures of these steps because i don't have time to finish it before the contest deadline, but I will post pictures of another bow I made earlier in the exact same way except it's much shorter and thinner because I made it for a kid.

Step 10: Making It Pretty

You can add some little things that make it look really cool, such as a decorative wood on the arrow shelf (i put a piece of dark palm wood which looks great) and tip strengtheners. Little pieces of bone or wood where the strings go. Some people say not to do this because it can slow down the bow, but I do it anyway.

(see figure 10) Your limb ends should look the figure on the left right now.

Get yourself two pieces of wood the same width as the bow tips, whatever kind you like, and flatten one side flush with the BACK of the bow tips. It should be around 1 1/4 inch long and 1/2 inch thick. Superglue them to each end of the limbs.

Step 11: The String

Sadly, I won't teach you guys this step, please look for tutorials specifically on stringing your bow since it's something I don't know much about, and am just learning myself. But you can find really great tutorials on youtube ( THIS IS A GREAT ONE), or if you know of a place that sells premade bowstring, it should be around 6 inches shorter than the bow itself.

With some help (or by yourself if your a strong lad), loop one end of the string around one of the bow tips, and put that side on the ground (some place where it won't slip), and leaning the other side on a table or another higher surface, push down on the handle until it's bent enough that you can slip the other end of the string over the tip.

Stretch it and dry shoot (shooting without an arrow) around 50 times to "break in the limbs", which will make it more pliable and easy to work with.

Step 12: HAVE FUN!

Find yourself some good arrows, it's safer to use store-bought ones rather than sticks as they may go off path and hit someone dear to you :(, get or make a target boar and start shootin!

This is it! I hope I explained myself properly, if not, please just ask in the comments!

Good luck! :D

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    4 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Excellent Instructable!!

    Awesome! I have always thought that it would be cool to make my own bow.

    White Raven Shed
    White Raven Shed

    Reply 1 year ago

    thanks! you should definitely try it out! quite some handwork but it's worth it!