How to Build a Self-Bow

traditional archery bows

How to Build a Self-Bow

The self bow, commonly referred to as a simple bow, was one of the earliest tools humans learned how to make. It can be found in primitive cultures where mastery over its craft has been essential for survival.

These can be constructed from either one piece of wood or a composite of several. As they require little skill to construct, they’re more common among primitive cultures than longbows which require more expertise.

Self-bows can be made from a variety of woods, such as ash, maple, hazel, oak and yew. While yew is the most common choice for self bows, other more widely available woods like ash or maple also work well.

First you will need to find a suitable tree for your bow. Make sure it’s straight and symmetrical with no cracks or splits (which make it harder to cut to size). Some trees work better than others for bowmaking, such as yew or oak; however, keep in mind that some don’t withstand tension or compression well.

Select a quartered log that measures between 10-12cm across and 150-180cm long. Cut an outer curve that faces away from you – this will be the ‘back’ of the bow.

Next, use a sharp knife or rasp to scrape away wood from inside of the belly until you reach a line running parallel to where your splits were made. This should be an even thickness across all limbs – about one” on either side of that line.

Once your stave has been made, you can start designing the bow design. Keep in mind that the length should be approximately 2.3 times your desired draw weight; in other words, a narrow bow can have wide limbs while one with wider dimensions must use narrow limbs.

Once your design is in place, use a string to test how well the bow bends under light pressure – this will let you see where tillering has taken place. When satisfied with how it bends, begin reducing its weight by taking away wood from its belly.

Tillering is an essential step in crafting a self bow. By decreasing its weight, you ensure that its limbs bend evenly to full draw at your target weight. To assist with this process, use a tillering stick with notches cut at 5cm intervals or stretch out the bow to check its bend consistency.

Continue removing wood until the limbs are bent evenly to full draw at your desired draw length, and then you can start stringing. Be mindful not to draw it too far beyond its target weight as this will put too much strain on the bow and may lead to string follow.

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