Today I made a bow from a board. I started with a 1x3 piece of red oak, and ended up with the bow seen in silhouette in the photo on the right. It’s an American flatbow, similar to what many Native American tribes (including some Inuit) used. In mine, the upper and lower limbs don’t have quite the same shape and it has a lower draw weight than I had planned on, but I think it was a good first attempt at bow-making.
The hardest part is finding a board that has straight grain lines running all the way down the face of the board. You cut and smooth the sides first (it’s about 1½” wide at the handle and gently tapers to ½” at the tips) then begin tapering the limbs (full thickness at the handle, gently tapering to ½” at the tips). After each thinning the bow is drawn slightly further up a tillering board (a piece of wood with notches cut into it to hold the string) and the shape is evaluated to make sure it’s bending the way you want. My mistake was in thinning the wrong limb too much without making similar changes to the other half of the bow. Once I realized this, I had to remove a bunch of material off the now-thicker limb and wound up with a bow that is easier to draw than intended. Since I haven’t actually shot an arrow from a bow since high school, a light drawing bow is probably a good idea until I’m ready for something more powerful. This one is reasonably easy for me to pull, and shoots sticks very smoothly.
Tools used: I used a rip saw to cut the board to rough dimension, smoothed the saw cuts with a wooden jack plane, made the initial taper with a drawknife, and did the majority of the remaining adjustments with a coffin smoother, an adjustable mouth block plane and a handled cabinet scraper. Probably should have used the scraper more and the hand planes less. Volumes 1 and 4 of The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible were invaluable, and I think I could have used the other two volumes too, if I’d had them. There’s a ton of information in those books for both the beginner, and advanced bowyer. In addition to volumes 2 and 3, I need some real arrows, a target, and more wood for more bows!