Monday, July 9, 2012

A Comprehensive Guide to Bow Making

Here it is folks, Guy Taylor, the man behind Greenman Archery has provided me an excellent, comprehensive guide to bow making. He has generously allowed me to post his advice to me here. Happy reading! 

"Tim Baker is a leader in the art of wood bowyery (is that a word?). Way back not that many years ago when everyone was using compounds and only a few people were using fiberglass laminated traditional bows, Tim was beginning to learn how to make wood bows.

Wood bows used to be all there were. Then fiberglass came along and it changed the archery world. But now a lot of people like you and I are becoming interested in the wood bow again. Forward, into the past!

Tim Baker is one of the principal authors of the Traditional Bowyers Bible series of books. One of the things he really loves to do is to introduce new people into making their own wood bows. To do this he likes to use an easily available piece of wood: a red oak board from Home Depot, or Lowe's. He's written a couple sheets on how to make the bow. Here are links to them:;f=2;t=000043and

I am including both of these links in the chance that there may be slight differences that could help explain some point or another.The most important thing for making this bow is to get a good board. Follow Tim's instructions for choosing a board with the right grain. If the grain isn't good, the bow stands a very low chance for success.

Second most important is good tiller. Tiller is getting the two limbs to bend evenly along their length and evenly to one another.

Your trimming plane will work for making this bow but it will take a while longer due to the small amounts of wood that it will remove with each pass. If you can get ahold of a spoke shave you may find it more useful. I've seen Tim make a bow in 30 minutes using a spoke shave on a red oak board. He's a professional, don't try to go that fast yourself. Take your time. It's easy to take wood off but it's develish difficult to put it back on.

The osage billets you got could probably have made a good bow but they would have been for someone far more advanced than where you are at now. They should have been glued together with a Z-splice and appropriate glue. This older thread on PaleoPlanet shows the complete process. He began with billets just like you did:

Reading that thread you'll also see how he chases the back of the bow so there is one single growth ring along the whole back from one end to the other. This is absolutely critical with osage orange, if it's not done the bow is guaranteed to fail. I'm guessing here but I think you may not have known about that. No shame in not knowing, you are starting in a virtual bowmaking knowledge vaccum.

If you go through with this red oak bow you'll eventually need a bowstring so you can begin bending the limbs and ultimately shoot the bow. Let me know when you need it and I'll be happy to make one and send it to you. I'll make one with a loop on one end and a bowyer's knot on the other. Using the bowyer's knot allows you to adjust the length of the string as the bow progresses and then use the string for everyday use when the bow is finished".  

Thanks again, Guy!

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