Homemade bow build along
I am going to show the steps in making this bow for my son. This will be a build along sort of thread
This bow will be a reflex/deflex Long bow. It is a hybrid combination of a longbow and a recurve. Longbows are typically straight when unstrung and recurves are still curved even when unstrung. This bow will look sort of like a recurve while unstrung and like a longbows when strung.
Here is a pic I stole off the web to give you an idea of what I am going for.
The woods I am using for Josh's bow are the same ones I use to make knife handles. For the most part, they are South American hardwoods. The riser will be made from Bubinga, Bloodwood and good old American hard rock maple from a tree my Dad cut many years ago. Sort of a legacy piece of wood, cut by my Dad, Made into a bow by me and finally used by my son. I will also use some of the Maple in the limbs.
this is the order in which I will stack the layers.
Most S.A. hardwoods have oils in them that make gluing difficult, so I use acetone to clean and degrease. Blood wood and purple hear are some of the oiliest. You can see the orange oil in the basin of the sink. It took a long time to clean that sink. I should have sprayed it with pam first.
Once cleaned, I used a hacksaw blade as a scrapper to rough up all the gluing surfaces. Epoxy does not like smooth surfaces.
The glue I am using can be purchased at a number of bow building web sites. This is a two part epoxy that gets stronger if cured under a heated condition. This is important because if you leave the bow in a hot car on a sunny day, The glue had better have been cured at a high temp to keep the bow from de-laminating.
It mixes like any other epoxy.
Make sure to cover your work surfaces with wax paper or plastic wrap. It is hard to clean up any spills. Then simply butter both sides of the surfaces to make sure you have no dry spots that will later separate.
I use spring clamps because C-clams will get loose during the heating process when the glue oozes out. (trust me, there is a lot of oozing) Spring clamps keep a constant pressure at all times.
I then take the riser and put it in a preheated oven. Bake for 8 hours at 180F until a nice golden brown and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream .
When it comes time to glue up the bow itself, I will build an oven box that is 6 feet long as the bow will not fit in the oven. I will heat this box with 100 watt light bulbs.
Fast forward 8 hours and a few more hours for a slow cool down period and the riser is all glued up. The rubber tips of the clamps need to be pried from the glue.
Next, I ran the block through my table saw to square it up and remove the excess glue.
Then I drew the riser pattern on the wood and cut it out with a band saw and sanded the fade outs on a drum sander.
This glue is a flexible epoxy. Normal hardware store epoxy would crack and break if bent like this.
Make sure to use only enough glue for the job at hand. A little goes a long way.
I now need to make the form that I will use to glue the bow on and I need to make the heat box.
Before I can go any futher with Josh's bow, I need to build the form that the bow will be glued together on. There are a lot of ways to go about this and forms can be made many ways but I chose a way that seemed easy to me.
I bought a nice straight 2 x 10 and traced the form that I came up with onto the wood.
Then cut it out with a jig saw.
I then went over the entire length of the curve with a square to make sure there were no twists in the form. Any irregularities were taken out by sanding.
In order to keep the form straight over time and in the heat of the oven box, I screwed a few 2x4's along both sides. They will also act as feet to keep the form from tipping over. Next, I covered the entire curve with a piece of 1/8th inch thick by 1 1/2 wide aluminum strip. This will make the the curve a much better surface to build the laminations on and it will be more repeatable should I want to build more bows from this form. This form will build bows up to 70 inches in length. This bow will be a 66 inch model.
I need to drill a bunch of clamp holes along the curve for the spring clamps.
I spent some time today, making the clamp holes in the form. When I assemble the bow, I plan to use spring clamps to compress all the layers of wood, fiberglass and epoxy together.
I drilled big round holes and then used a jig saw to square up the side of the hole closest to the top surface. This will give the clamps a little more room.
I will use one clamp on each side of the limb. Like this.
I also got a package in the mail today from Old Master Crafter of Waukegan, IL. I ordered the wood laminations a few days ago and these things showed up a lot faster than I was told they would. (Great Service) It does not look like much for about $60 but what it is, is 6 taper ground action wood strips that are .065" thin on one end that taper at .001" per inch of length. The strips are 36 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. they came protected by two nice looking strips of Zebra wood. I will use them for knife handles at a later date.
I placed the thick end of one piece next to the thin end of another so you can see the taper
Each limb will get three of these tapers and one strip of parallel thickness Hard rock Maple that is from the piece of wood my Father cut so many years ago. This is the same piece of wood that I used in the riser.
On the front and back of each limb will be a thin layer of Kingwood and then clear fiberglass. All of this will be assembled with the same epoxy I used to make the riser but first I need to assemble an oven box.
Here is how I built the oven box for the bow form. I will spare you the details since it's just a box made from scrap plywood that was left over from another project. I will say that It is 12 inches high and 22 inches wide and 74 inches long. By removing 6 screws at each end of the box, I can reduce the box to four individual panels for easy storage.
You will also notice that the box has neither a top or bottom. The reason for not having a bottom is so that I can bring the box to the form that will be covered in oozing epoxy and many clamps (creating a challenge to move) I would rather bring the box to the form.
With the box complete, I assembled the heat source that I will use to raise the inside temp of the box to 160F. A trip to the Home Depot for the supplies ran me about $30.
The first step was to get rid of those pesky warning labels. Nobody reads them any way. The extension cord company knows I am not going to read the label in English so why would they expect me to read it in Spanish? I hope the extension cord labels are not like mattress labels. I would have to spend time behind bars for removing them.
Once I cut the extension cord into bits, I wired the light bulb bases together in series so that one plug would power them all.
A quick test revealed that I had had paid attention in shop class.
I placed the form between the two light bulb boards and brought the box to the form. My Son will need to help with this part as the box is a bit long to handle alone. Everything fits nicely.
The cover of the box will be an old closet door from our last house. It is hollow so it is light enough to move around and it was free.
I drilled a hole in the door and inserted the probe of a thermometer. This way, I can keep tabs on the temp inside the box without opening it and letting the heat escape. My wife won't be cooking a turkey for a few months anyway.
After two hours with the bulbs on, the temp never got above 135F. I will replace the 100 watt bulbs with 150 watt bulbs and add two additional bulbs to the boards
The next test will include covering the oven box with a canvas to trap the heat better. I think 2 extra bulbs should do the trick.
The next step will be to make a test bow out of scrap material so I get the feel for the assembly process and so that I can check the glued up trial piece for any warps that I will be able to correct before wrecking a bunch of expensive woods and fiberglass. It is a piece of mind exercise.
In order to evaluate the bow form, I built a mock up. I bought a pine, 2 x 6 and cut it into strips that were .065 thick.
Before gluing the strips together, I protected the form with two layers of tape. It will be easier to remove and replace the tape then it will be to try and chip away any excess glue from the form.
Next, I covered the surfaces of the form with plastic wrap to keep it clean.
I used yellow wood glue for the mock up. It did not require the oven box. Once all the layers were covered in glue, I used clamps and strips of rubber inner tube to compress the layers.
In the center section (where the riser will be) I added a few extra strips.
After 24 hours, I removed the clamps and the plastic wrap. There was no "Spring back" or relaxing of the wood strips. I then took the mock up and reversed it on the form to see if it was symmetrical and it fit the form equally in either orientation
I checked for twists in the limbs and found none.
I then placed the riser against my chest and grabbed both limb tips and began to flex the bow. Since I did not have any fade outs and the ridged glue does not like to flex (and the pine had many knots) both limbs broke
This allowed me to nest the limbs and look for any twists or differences between the two. Everything looked good.
I think all is ready to assemble Josh's bow. Now I just need to find the time to actually do it. Since I will want to baby sit the oven box for the 8 hours that it will cook
So, enough waiting already. Time to glue this bow up. I promised a local grade school I would give them a few hours on Friday so I took the whole day off and worked on the bow in the afternoon.
I laid out everything I needed since the dry run a few days ago. Then I put both quart containers of the epoxy in a basin of hot water to warm them up a bit.
Next, I cleaned all the wood and glass surfaces and laid them in the order in which I would glue them.
1. is .050 clear glass
2. is .020 kingwood vernier
3. is .090 thick hard maple taper (two pieces glued together to make one long piece)
4 and 5. is .065 thick hard maple taper (two pieces glued together to make one long piece)
6. is a piece of hard maple .060 parallel from the piece of wood my Dad cut. (two pieces glued together to make one long piece)
7. is .020 kingwood vernier
8. is .050 clear glass
Missing from the picture is the riser.
Fast forward to a completed glue up with the warmed epoxy. Due to the mess and the fact that I was working alone, I did not slip out of my sticky rubber gloves to take pictures along the way. What a slippery mess to work with. I used a combination of spring clamps and rubber inner tube strips to compress all the layers. I had more C-clamps at the center (on the riser) but I took them off once I realized that they stuck up higher than the sides of the box and the cover would not lay flat. So much for a complete dry run. I should have tried the lid of the box also. Oh well. live and learn.
Here is a close up of all the layers and all the extra glue that oozed out. I also learned that I used too much glue. I think I could have built two bows with what came out from between the seams. Once again. Live and learn.
Here is the oven box doing it's job of keeping the bow at around 160F. I will unplug it before I go to bed and let it slowly cool down over night.
It was a day of ups and downs on the bow project. It took a solid hour to free the bow from the form. Removing the spring clamps was easy, The epoxy covered strips of inner tube proved to be a bit tougher. The form cleaned up easy because of all the tape I used to protect it.
The bow was a little tougher. The extra epoxy was everywhere and held bits of the inner tube captive.
To save on a mess in the shop (and because it was a nice day) I took the bow out to the back patio behind my shop. The breeze would blow all that nasty fiberglass dust away.
I learned that I need to place a layer of plastic wrap between the last layer of glass and the aluminum pressure strip. I didn't do that with this bow and needed to sand away the excess epoxy to free it from the bow. This also gave me my first look at the glue lines between the layers of wood.
after sanding both sides I could pry away the aluminum pressure strip.
Then I just had to peel away the tape to see how the Kingwood looked under the clear glass.
And the other limb.
and finally the back of the bow. Everything looked good.
Then I worked on the riser. there was a lot of epoxy to remove.
The risers looks good and so do the skive cuts that joined the strips of maple
I then made a line on each end of the limbs that was 34 niches from the center point of the bow. (68 inches overall length) I used a fine tooth hacksaw to cut the ends off.
Both ends measured the same thickness.
Then I used the washers to string the bow before I cut the string grooves.
Here is is strung but with a bow string that is too long so the brace height is only about 5 inches. I used the string from my longbow. It is the only string I have for that bow. (that is an important point that will be realized a bit later.
To check for limb twist, I wanted to look at more than just saw cuts at the ends of each limb so I took a carbon fiber shaft and taped it in place on each limb. I made sure they were at 90 degrees to the limb.
With the washers in the measured center of the limbs, there looks to be no twist in the limbs.
I marked the centerline of the bow along the entire length and used a strip of wood to mark a straight line for the limb taper toward the string nocks.
Just as I was marking the last line on the other limb, all hell broke loose, Something whacked me in the finger and the bow jumped up off the table. When I figured out what it was, I had to search high and low for both washers. The bow string (my only string for my bow) had broke. My guess is that I left too sharp an edge on the inside of the groove and it cut through the string. Now I have no string for either bow. Time to scramble and locate a 64 inch string for my bow and a 63 inch string for the new bow.
Today was a better day. If there is such a thing as a good time for a string to break, I guess I am lucky. I have a lot of work to do before I need a string again.
I used my belt sander with a 50 grit belt to grind down the limbs to the lines I scribed.
Next, I marked the location of the string grooves in the ends of the limbs.
Using a chainsaw file I made the beginnings of the string grooves. This will help me locate the tip overlays. when they are installed, I can finish the grooves.
For the overlays, I want to use Bloodwood and antler. The Bloodwood will match the accent strip in the riser and the antler is just something I wanted to try. I had a section of antler left over from a knife handle I made. I will use the longest tine as it has no pithy core. It is solid all the way through.
Using the belt sander, I created a flat spot on the antler that will run against the rip fence of my table saw. I am using a carbide tipped finish blade so I get less chipping and a smooth cut.
I made the strips about an 1/8th of an inch thick.
In order to get the best adhesion with the epoxy, I needed to rough up the shiny surface of the clear glass. I used a hacksaw blade as a scraper. I did the same to the bloodwood and the antler.
I used the same epoxy, I used for the rest of the bow build.
I used only one bulb under each tip and some of the left over insulation from the hot box. Not much I can do except make the tillering tree.
With the antler and Bloodwood overlays glued in place. I began shaping the tips. I still have the very first fiberglass longbow I ever owned as a kid. It is a 25 pound bow and I wanted to make the tips of the new bow look something like my old bow.
I sanded all the edges flush and continued the string grooves I had already started.
I wanted to add a medal to the bow's riser and I used a hat/lapel pin that I got at the last Wisconsin Bowhunter's Annual convention. Being that I am a Director for the WBH, I though it would be a nice touch.
I drilled a shallow hole for the medal so that it would sit below the surface of the riser.
It was a good fit.
I then masked off the riser and cut away the tape covering the hole. I used two layers of tape so that when I used a putty knife to level the epoxy, It would sit just higher than the riser and allow me material to sand away to make flush.
When the epoxy cured, I sanded it so the epoxy was level with the wood.
I kept on sanding until I had the whole bow smooth with 320 grit sandpaper.
I then cleaned the bow with a tack rag and then wiped it down with denatured alcohol. I masked off the glass because I want to finish the riser with tung oil.
I applied the Tung oil using the same "Brush" I used to apply the super glue to the bloodwood.
I rubbed in a healthy dose of the tung oil and after it cures, I will give it two more coats. I will then use 400 grit and steel wool to smooth out any lines and give it two more coats.
I have a lot of time in between coats of Tung oil so I am getting a head start on making some of the accessories Josh will need for the bow. The first thing he needs is a bow stringer.
I took an old bungee cord that I had removed the hooks from because I needed them for some other project and I cut off one end.
Then I trimmed off one side to create a flat surface. The flat is the surface that will contact the bow limb when being used. It took two cuts to get it where I wanted it.
The other end of the stringer will slip over the limb. This part, I made out of a piece of scrap leather.
I folded it in two and punched the stitching holes
Then sewed it using white, braided, waxed line.
Then I added a grommet for the rope to attach to.
Both ends were then connected using a strong nylon rope.
To use the string, On end is slipped over the lower limb tip.
And the rubber end is placed on the upper side of the other limb. The knot is tied far away from the rubber end to allow for clearance for the bow string to pass through.
I had Josh try it out on my old longbow since the Tung oil was still wet on his. One hand lifts the bow and the other hand slides the loop of the bow string into the string groove on the limb tip
With the string finished, I moved on to a limb tip protector so that nice white antler limb tip won't become damaged when he sets the tip in the dirt.
I started with two thin pieces of suede leather and stitched them together to make a nice tight fit over the limb tip. I then cut a long slot in the back side for the bow string to pass through.
It is a tight fit and that will keep it from falling off.
I then trimmed away the extra leather around the outside and tried it with the bow string in place.
I still need to make a string keeper, an arm guard, a finger tab and a case for the bow as well as a set of arrows.
I received the shafts in the mail so I can now start the arrows for the bow. In the mean time, I had a little time to make Josh an arm guard to go with the new bow.
I used 5 Oz. tooling leather for the face and 4 Oz. Buffalo for the backer.
I added a little tooling with his initials.
And made some antler buttons.
I used a dark red/brown stain and attached elastic/bungee material to hold in in place,
In the spirit of this homemade bow project, I wanted to make josh a finger tab to go with the arm guard. At some point I will need to make a quiver as well. I traced the shape of my homemade finger tab for Josh's and cut out 3 of them from some medium thickness scrap leather.
I then stacked the 3 and used brass rivets to hold them together.
I then began to focus on the arrows for Josh's new bow.
I bought Gold Tip Traditionals because of the wood grain look. Paul at Badger arrow turned around my order in record time.
After capping the back 9 inches of the shafts with white lacquer, I started cresting the shafts using a color scheme that resembles the riser. I will write Josh's name on all the shafts.
The fletching will be 4 1/2 inch long LW barred turkey feathers. Since nobody sells 4 1/2 feathers, I bought 5 inch parabolic cut and converted them to 4 1/2 shield cut.
Now the fletching begins.
One down, 11 more to go.
I'm in the home stretch now. The finish on the bow is now hardened. I have the first half dozen shafts fletched, I gave the bow a good rub down with OOOO steel wool to take off the shine and I made the rug rest and strike plate.
For the strike plate, I used 2-3 Oz. leather and for the rug, I used the fuzzy side of some adhesive backed Velcro strip I had laying around.
The leather was from some scrap I had so I needed to add some double sided tape to make it stay on the riser.
I spent a little time today adding a leather grip to the longbow. The finished wood was very slick and needed some texture. I started with a piece of 4 Oz. tooling leather and got it good and wet so I could form it to the shape of the grip. The wet leather is on the right. I gets much darker when you wet it.
While it's wet, it can be formed and shaped and stretched to fit the contour of the riser. Once I had it shaped, I used a blow dryer to dry it off.
So far during this build along, I have been pretty good about taking pictures of each step. Until now. I must be getting tired because I did a bunch of stamping and tooling on the leather but forgot to get pictures of the process. After stamping and cutting the leather to it's final size, I punched some lacing holes. I then applied a coat of rubber cement to both the inside of the leather and the bow's riser.
After lacing, I gave the leather a coat of Neats foot oil to restore the oils lost during the working of the leather and from blow drying. The oil makes the leather even darker. Now, you can see the tooling and stamping I forgot to take pictures of earlier.
Then I took it outside for a picture in natural light.
Well the bow project is finished with the exception of the quiver and and the fact that Josh wants to design and make his own broadheads. It was a fun project and I learned a lot of useful stuff for the next bow.
And finally he got to shot if for the first time.
I then shot the bow through a chorongraph using a 125 grain field point. This brought the total arrow mass to 425 grains. The speed at 28 inches of draw was 174 FPS. This will produce 28.5 Foot pounds of K.E. giving him even more reason to keep any shots on game at less than 20 yards and broadside. This will also be a design consideration when he starts to design the broadhead. All good lessons.
Now, as for naming the bow, We thought on it for some time and kept coming back to the first post where I explained the the bow was being made with a sort of legacy piece of wood. That name stuck. I explained to Josh that this bow is only to be handed down to one of his children. I hope I am around to see that.
It's been fun. THE END.........
Thank you for taking us through that process. It was very clear, concise, and informative. It was also apparent how much love went into the project. You and Josh are very fortunate to have each other. The date on the bow is 2008. Can you tell us about any critters that have been harvested with the bow?
Amazing work. Please post examples of other work you have done. Perfect Winter project.
Originally Posted by bawanna
Your going to want to be careful in how much you encourage me. I think I could crash this site with pictures of projects I have done.
You are a very creative & talented sort of fellow...what an awesome looking bow and accessories you have crafted. Your son is most fortunate to have a Dad like yourself.
Thanks for the kind words.
I shot a video of him using it after I finished. I told him to shot 3 arrows into the target. I had him stand about 5 yards away because I was burning brush in our backyard fire pit and that was where we had to stand to stay out of the smoke.
I told him to fire the 3 arrows and not to talk or look in the camera. His first shot was a dead center hit on the bullseye. The second shot cracked the nock of the first arrow and made it glance out. You can tell by the way he shakes his head that he wants to look at the camera and say something.
Here is my first ever video staring Josh and his homemade custom Longbow.
When I made it for him he was still in highschool and was very busy with all manner of sports so his falls kept him from hunting. I didnt want the bow to sit in the corner when it was made to hunt so he let me use it. I took a buck at 8 yards with it. I used homemade broadheads as well.
Awesome build. Thank you for sharing your work to that level of detail.
How many total hours would you estimate you put into the actual project? How many days were those hours spread over? Prior to starting, how long did you plan the project?
Again thank you for sharing and congratulations on the great work and outcome.
I dont know how many hours since it was so much fun and so rewarding, time sort of stands still (like time spent hunting is not counted in hours) I planned the project in my head and did a little sketching of what I wanted the bow to look like then I jumped right into it. Im more of a doer and figure it out as I go.