Every keen archer has dreamt of making their very own bow. One of the easiest traditional bows that you can make yourself is the longbow. We’re going to show you how you can make your very own longbow to use in target practice. Not only can you wow your fellow archers with your accuracy, but you can also impress them with your newfound bow making skills!
Below we will cover the different types of bow, which wood is best for making your own longbow, and most importantly - how to make a longbow!
Types of longbow
There are two di fferent types of longbow. These are self-bows and laminate bows. Both require different techniques to perfect them into your very own longbow.
A self-bow basically means it is a bow that has been made from a single piece of wood. These are probably one of the easier options to start with if you’ve never made your own bow before.
You should try and find a tree that is as straight as possible. It should have minimal branches and defects, as this will make it easier to work with and turn into a longbow. You should ensure that the wood is at least 2 to 3 inches in diameter so that you have ample material to work with. You will need at least 6 feet of wood to work with.
Smaller trees will be much easier to cut to size.
Laminated bows are made by gluing several types of wood together. This typically features 3 layers: a backing, a center laminate, and a belly laminate. The belly laminate is the piece of wood that will face you when you’re shooting it.
These types of bows require more work. You will need to cut the wood to size, plane them, and mark them so that you can ensure the pieces align properly when you glue them together. Apply the wood glue along the length of the layers, then spread this evenly as you would icing on a cake.
Ensure that the markings line up properly when they’re pressed together. Next you will need to secure the laminates together such as with rubber strips. Ensure that there are no gaps between the layers, then attach your bow stave to a former. This is a curved piece of wood that will give your bow the set back it needs for a permanent or semi permanent bend. This gives the bow extra speed.
The stave will need to be clamped to the former and left to dry for 24 hours. Once you’ve attached the clamps, ensure that there are no gaps with glueless patches. If there are gaps with no glue, you will need to apply more clamps to this area. After leaving the bow to dry for 24 hours you can remove it from the former and see if the lamination has worked.
How to make a longbow
Once you have your wood, you can start to work on it to transform it into an impressive longbow. For self-bows, you will need to scrape off any bark and get the wood down to its white core. Coat both ends of the cut wood with wood glue or paint. Next you will need to cut the bow profile using a band saw. The bow will then need to be allowed to dry out for at least 2 months.
Now you need to reduce the thickness of the bow limbs using a scraper or farrier rasp. Ideally you will want to form a D shape. The edge that faces you will need to be curved. You will need to floor tiller the bow limbs until it can flex 4 inches. Tillering will remove wood from the bow so that it can bend into its intended draw length, weight, and shape.
When making a laminated bow, the former helps to give it this bend. Floor tillering involves holding the bow against the ground and applying pressure to the center. This should help you see if it flexes evenly.
You will need to cut in the string nocks at either end of the bow using a chain saw file. You can string the bow with a tillering string to make sure the bow bends in an even arc. You should continue to reduce the thickness of the bow until you can draw it at least 20 inches. You will need to keep going until you can fully draw the bow.
Next you will need to ensure that the bow is worth decorating and finishing. Test it out to see how it shoots. Sometimes certain woods just don’t make good bows, no matter how much the wood has been refined!
Once you’ve finished working on creating your bow, you can start to decorate it. This will include any varnish, handles, or other decorations you want to add to it. This can make the bow more valuable and more impressive overall. Ensure that you stain the bow using wood stain to make it waterproof before decorating. The grip will need to be leather to prevent it from slipping.
The best wood for making a longbow
The best wood for making a longbow is yew wood. However, most bowmakers will have their own preferred types of wood to work with. These can include hickory, hornbeam, Osage orange, red elm, American elm, red oak, white oak, or rock maple.
It’s worth remembering that laminated bows will make use of three different types of wood. Bamboo can sometimes be used as the backing laminate, for instance, whereas a different wood such as purpleheart could be used for the center laminate, and a third different wood such as degame for the belly laminate.
If you’re in doubt as to which wood to use, we’d suggest going for yew to get you started. Or you could ask local bowmakers in your area for their suggestions as a great starting point.
It is super easy to make your own bow from scratch. Remember to reach out to local bowmakers in your area who may be able to help you if this is your first time making your own longbow. They will be able to give you tips on how to avoid common mistakes or how to deal with knots.
With the above knowledge you now have everything you need to go searching for the right wood to create the perfect longbow.