Learning how to make a large bow, also called a long bow, sounds deceptively easy. In truth, it is a long and complicated process that involves finding the right piece of wood to carefully shaping and curing the wood. The result is worth the effort once you have mastered how to make a large bow (long bow).
- Patience – If you do not have this, this is not the project for you.
- Rasp or planer
- Sharp knife
- Sandpaper – coarse and fine
- Choose your wood. The traditional wood is yew, but for beginners, the easiest wood to work with is lemonwood.
- Cut stave from tree. A diameter of at least three inches is needed and a length of sixty to seventy-two inches is needed to make a large bow (the long bow). This can be obtained from cutting down a sapling or a thick limb that is free of knots.
- Peel off bark carefully. You do not want to cut into the outer growth ring.
- The wood should be ready for tillering. Only the belly (not the bark side) of the wood is tillered. This is the step where the wood is rasped and sanded to a uniform width (about an inch thick or so) and flexibility everywhere except the handle on the side that used to be the inside of the tree. There is no set way to achieve this, it is different for everyone. Rasp a little, flex the bow, check for uniformity, and rasp/sand some more moving to the finer grain sandpaper as you approach the proper width.
- Allow to cure rasped side down tied to a pipe with weights (or bricks) for at least two weeks in a warm dry space. Coat the ends where cut with glue to prevent wood splitting during curing.
- Draw a straight line down the center of the sap wood (where the bark was).This is the back of your bow. Allowing the center line to be center, draw an outline which has a beginning width of one and a quarter inch at the handle and extends for a distance of a foot above and a foot below the center. Let this outline taper in a gentle curve to the extremities of the bow, where it diminishes to three-quarters of an inch.
- Seal wood with a good moisture resistant sealer. Lard was what was used originally for this, but Tung oil and Boiled Linseed oil work just as well and tend to store better.
Tips: A vice is an excellent way to secure the bow during tillering. It is possible to adjust draw weight up by shortening the limbs. Draw weight (resistance to pull) is increased by about five pounds for every inch of limb removed.