How To Make A Flat Bow

How do you make a flat bow? The flat bow is another name for the bow originally made by native Americans. It was named for its relatively flat beam like profile when unstrung. We will make ours in the primitive fashion using primitive tools.

You'll need the following tools.

  • Mallet
  • Machete
  • Medium knife
  • Bowstrings
  • Straight dry limb
  1. Select wood. You want a relatively thick straight limb or post which is dry. A dead fall is preferable, if you use a live limb it will have to take time to dry. Many woods will work, but hickory, ash, and osage orange are the best.
  2. Split and select your wood. Use machete to split it into quarters. Select the piece which is straightest without any cracks, warps, twists, or knots for your bow stave.
  3. Mark handle area. Find the center of your wood and mark it out for the handle. This will be the thickest part of the bow front to back. Everything from here will be worked flat side to side from the handle, and tapered towards the tip widthwise.
  4. Rough out your bow. Use the machete to rough out your bow. The belly, or back of the bow which is the flat away from the archer should be made from the inside of the stave, closest to the center of the wood and the first growth rings.
  5. Carve your bow. Using the machete carve the handle portion of the bow. This will be narrow in cross section and wider front to back. From the handle section on to the limb tips use the machete or large knife as a plane and flatten the limbs and then taper them side to side from handle to tip. What you want to end up with is a thick bow from this stage.
  6. Create string notch. Using the smaller knife to cut a groove around the tip of the top and bottom limbs to create the string notches.
  7. String bow. Using a long string, string the bow so that it is slightly bowed.
  8. Tiller the bow. Work very slowly and work top limb and bottom limb alternately and the same amounts. Use the machete as a plane and slowly thin the limbs. Occasionally pull back the bow and observe that each limb is flexing exactly the same.  When you have the poundage, or draw weight you desire you can stop.
  9. Finish the bow. Once you have the bow to your desires you can final finish it. You can sand it smooth, stain or varnish it, or leave it primitive. Wrap the handle and you are finished.
  10. String Bow. Using the short string you can string the bow. The flat bow should not flex under full draw more than half its length,  take this into account when selecting strings.

Enjoy your new flat bow. Do not worry if your first attempts end in failure.

 

 

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