Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Finishing my first longbow

Here are some more pics of my first longbow build. In my last post I had roughed out the shape of the bow. Now came the all important tillering process. I started by putting the bow on a tillering "tree" and hanging twenty pounds of weights from it.

This was enough weight to start bending the bow. The goal is to have a very even bend across the length of the bow. You don't want any flat spots or sharp bends. You can see that the left arm was slightly more bent than right.

I continued shaving off more wood and adding more weight. Until I got to this point:

Oops! Look how much the left arm is bending. I took off too much wood. And this was with thirty-five pounds instead of the forty I was hoping for. In order to even out the arms I had to take more wood off, resulting in a bow that only drew thirty pounds. 

Here is the bow after tillering and sanding. Now it was ready for the final finishing process. I did take it out for a few shots at this point in time and was very pleased.

And here is the final bow (In the hands of my lovely assistant, Amelia)! It still need a proper string and arrows, but I am very happy with how it came out.

A detail of the handle. I pained the back (the part facing away from the archer) black and then added a swirling yellow design to it. The back was covered in glue-soaked paper to prevent splinters and cracks from developing when the bow was drawn. The paint job was to improve the brown-paper look. The handle is wrapped in glue-soaked hemp twine. You'll see a notch right above the handle. This is called the arrow rest. Not all bows have them, but American longbows usually have them, so I put on on. 

The final product "braced" with some nylon cord. Now to get some arrows and put it into action!

69" (nock to nock) Red Oak "American" longbow backed with paper.
30# draw weight at 28" draw

Making this bow was loads of fun and I will definitely be making another ASAP!



  1. Awesome, but slightly less awesome than a sequel!

  2. Getting there, Sean. November, I hope.

  3. Looks sweet! What's next - a Mongol recurve bow?

  4. Thanks for the comments. Just finished the second bow (minus the artwork). It is a 45# longbow.

    In the near future I do want to make a recurve with fixed horns.

    I'm going to be doing this for a long time.

  5. Fixed horns, you mean fixed horn tips on a recurve bow ? Or do you want to make the real thing? The real Hadde bow, a Horn, wood and sinew laminated bow. If you want to know about that.. read Adam Karpowicz Ottoman Turkish Bows, Manufacture and design.

    1. Hi Bob,

      Instead of fixed horns I should have said static limbs. I'm not ready for a laminated horn/wood/sinew composite yet. That is my ultimate goal as a bowyer.

      I will try sinew soon. I have some hunter friends who are going to collect sinew for me this falll.

    2. Might I suggest you also look at the finnish-ugaro- two-woods laminate traditional bows
      - so called- Saami bows for inspiration? In essence these are a bit D-shaped longbows with siyahs (i.e. the rigid tips that go with a composite recurve horsebow. You see this same type of bow also in the Maciejowski bible (13th century france)

    3. Sounds exactly like what I want to do next. I'll check it out. Thanks!

    4. I am really curious how your project will turn out. I have a bow of such a design in my collection, My Atalanta Bow,and that has become one of my favourite bows.