Need a gift for a birthday party? Be the hero with the kids when you bust out a homemade bow and arrow set that actually works, is safe, and doesn't break. Sturdy PVC pipe and 1/16" steel cable for the bow, and a wooden dowel capped with a rubber foot does the trick! Budget $10 for parts and 45-60 minutes for assembly. (7 year old boy not included.)
Step 1: Get the Stuff
Get the supplies at your local hardware store.
5' of 1/2" schedule 40 (cheap stuff) PVC
2 1/2" PVC 45 degree bends
5' of 1/16" steel wire
2 #8 fender washers
2 sheet metal screws or similar wood screws
2 screw-on rubber bumpers or hammer-in plastic feet for stools (1/2" to 3/4" diameter)
1 48" wooden dowel 1/4" or 5/16" diameter
1. The rubber bumpers are heavier and make higher performance arrows. For tots you might use the lighter plastic feet.
2. To cut the wire use diagonal cutting wire clippers like the kind built into needle nose pliers . Anything else will leave undesirable sharp frayed ends. (Remind the hardware store employee who cuts your length of wire.)
3. If the rubber bumpers come with fat stubby screws, you will want to replace them with longer thinner wood screws (see picture).
Pliers with wire cutter (not shown)
Ruler or tape measure
Screw driver or socket driver
PVC primer and cement
Step 2: Cut the PVC for the Bow
Use tape measure (or ruler) and a marker to mark two 6" lengths of PVC.
Mark one 40" length of PC. Mark the middle with permanent marker for aligning arrows
Cut PVC segments with a hacksaw. (My son shows how it's done.)
Use a knife to scrape the cut edges clean.
Tip: This is a longbow. If you try to make the bow shorter it will be much stiffer and harder to bend, and not as fun. Kids like to make a full draw with the bow. As long as the bottom tip of the bow doesn't touch the ground when the child's arm is extended, it isn't too tall.
Step 3: Glue the PVC Together to Form the Bow
Wipe the outside of the last 1/2" of each 6" PVC segment with PVC primer--careful it stains!
Prep the the inside of the 45 degree bends and both edges of the 40" section as well.
Let it dry for a minute or two.
Apply PVC cement to the primed edges and twist the PVC pipes into the 45 bends.
IMPORTANT: When you assemble the bow, quickly lay it flat to make sure the joints are not crooked. You have about 10 seconds from the time you insert the glue-laden pipe into the 45 degree bend to adjust the angle.
Step 4: Drill the Ends and Insert the Wire (bow String)
About 1/2" from the end of the bow, drill all the way through the pipe with 1/8-3/16" drill bit (for the wire).
Nearby, on the outside of the bow, drill another smaller hole less than the diameter of your sheet metal screw.
Do the same on the opposite end of the bow.
Feed the wire up through the fat holes, bend it into a loop and feed it back into the PVC pipe through the SAME hole. Use your pliers to push the sharp end of the wire to slide into the PVC pipe so it can't poke anyone.
Use a sheet metal screw and fender washer to anchor the wire loop against the outside of the bow.
Do the same for the other side of the bow. Before you make the loop tight, bend the bow so that after you screw down the fender washer the wire will have sufficient tension.
Step 5: Make the Arrows
Don't mess with feathers. They will only get destroyed. Your arrows only need a blunt tip to weight the front end and a vee-notch at the back to fit against the bowstring.
Cut your dowel in half with a hack saw.
Prepare the dowel to receive the screw-on rubber foot or hammer-on plastic foot (e.g. for bar stools) by drilling a pilot hole.
IMPORTANT: If you don't pre-drill the dowel to receive the screw or nail that holds in the blunt "arrowhead", the dowel will crack.
Drill a hole down the length of the dowel. Be careful and use a small drill as a pilot, then widen if necessary to avoid drilling out the side of the dowel with a fat drill. Screw or hammer the foot onto the tip of the dowel. (OK, so my son didn't actually do the drilling...it was just a posed photo.)
Tip: If you use the white plastic foot, dip it in glue before you hammer it in. If you use the rubber foot, use a long narrow screw to avoid cracking the dowel instead of the short fat screw provided in the package.
Cut a v-shaped notch at the back of the arrow with the hack saw.
Step 6: Use It Right
Teach your son, daughter, nephew, or niece about bow and arrow safety.
1. Never nock (load) an arrow unless everybody is behind you.
2. Never draw and release a bow (dry-fire) without an arrow--prevents damage to bow.
3. Never aim at a person or animal.
4. Provide proper instruction and supervision and a target.
I just show them how to load an arrrow (see photo) and then let them do the rest. Depending on the length, tension and weight in the arrows, they will travel 20-50 feet, suitable for backyard archery fun!