Longbows are excellent weapons to start your hunting journey with, and they are also good at defense as well.
Be that as it may, building a longbow from scratch is not that simple; it still requires some time, effort, and patience from your end. That said, if you accomplish this task, it can prove to be quite rewarding.
So I’ll be teaching you guys how to make a longbow — particularly a hasty longbow that can be built within a day.
Once you read till the end, I am sure you’ll be able to make a few longbows from scratch easily and even order a new yew stave or osage orange stave for a classic top-quality hunting bow.
So without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?
Tools You’ll Need to Build a Longbow From Scratch
Though a simple longbow can be easily made from a scarring tool and a hatchet, we will need a few more tools to ensure that our bow stands out properly. Here is the list of tools you’ll need, whether you’re an amateur or a seasoned DIYer.
- Marking Tool
- Reciprocating Saw
- Bench vise
- Cabinet’s maker knife
- Wood Splitting Wedge
Note:- Get ready with the tools before starting to prepare your longbow; it will save a ton of time and effort as well as frustration.
How to Create a Longbow From Scratch
So here’s how you can build yourself a longbow from nothing, but ensure that you are ready to put in the hours and effort required to create one, as if you make it correctly, this piece can last you for years without a hitch.
Select the Correct Tree
One of the first steps in making best longbow for hunting is choosing the right tree. However, this is not a matter of concern if we are talking about hasty bows. That said, even if we are building a hasty bow, there are some things to keep in mind.
Firstly, when it comes to trees, there are almost two types: Hardwood and Softwood.
To make a top-notch longbow, you’ll probably need hardwood trees such as Oak, Hickory, Cherry, Maple, Beech, and so forth. As the name suggests, hardwoods are not just strong but also can retain their original shape from the top without even compromising on durability.
Having said that, it doesn’t mean that softwood trees can be rendered useless. You can still make a pretty decent bow from a softwood tree, but they can take a ton of string to follow as well as lose a large amount of strength. The only merit that comes with soft trees is that you can make longbows really quick — like really quick.
Therefore, I’d recommend going for softwood trees for building your bow if you are just a beginner in DIY stuff, as it can save you tons of time. Personally, I created my first few longbows from softwood trees and then transitioned to hardwood, and later on pre-made ones.
The only discernible difference between a hardwood and a softwood tree is the string follow or otherwise known as Set they take. If you don’t know what set means, it is just simply how good a typical bow can retain its initial form.
Note:- But there’s a catch, the set is not our friend, we need the least amount of set in our bows, and thus, hardwood trees are an optimal choice. The reason is, if you string a bow and pull it to full draw, the bow will remember some of the stress it faced while you pulled the string, and so it won’t go back to its original form. Thus, having the least amount of set makes sense.
Let’s come back to selecting the tree now. (sorry for a bit of digression)
For choosing the right tree, you should first understand the right height.
And in most cases, the general rule of thumb is to find a tree with a straight section near the trunk, and it should resemble our height, or it should come to your eyebrow, which is almost just the same.
Note:- You can expand your arms in both directions, and it can provide you with a pretty close resemblance to your height.
So find a tree that is as long as your height and cut it from the ground. You need to ensure that you’re getting as much tree as possible by cutting it close from the ground.
Splitting the Tree and Creating Your Stave
Now that you are ready with the tree, you need to create your stave from this piece of wood. Remember, your stave will be made from the wood inside of your chopped tree, so you’ll need to look at the bottom of the chopped tree.
You can find rings in the tree’s trunk over the portion you’ve chopped. This is where you can figure out which part can be excellent to get the logs.
Generally, what I like to do is to look at the wider ring section of the wood and mark some potential areas where I can nick the wood. This is the easiest way to make a bow, just mark the wider rings with a pencil or marker, and it makes it easier to chase if you make a mistake and haven’t wholly nicked through that ring.
Typically your tree will be around four to six inches, so you have to split the tree into equal halves. You can start by using a hatchet and hammer to break the tree and later scraping it off.
Remember:- It is way better to get one or two staves from your tree than four that are short or unexpectedly faulty. So don’t go too crazy with your splitting, as sometimes you can even split the tree into quarters or even get multiple bows from one single stave.
Once you’ve split the tree, you can use a dull drawknife to remove the bark. Make sure while doing so you are just removing only the bark, as we wouldn’t want to damage the wood.
Note:- You can use a bench vise to hold the tree and remove the bark.
After you’ve successfully and meticulously removed the bark, you have your stave ready.
Season Your Stave If Possible
While since we will be creating hasty longbows, seasoning is probably not something we should be worrying about, but it is imperative if you want a quality bow.
Seasoning your bow means letting it dry so that it comes to the proper water content and equilibrium with the environment. To season your bow, you should leave your stave for about two to three years, or at the very least a year. I know many of you cannot do it right now, but you can cut some staves and store them for a few years before building a bow out of them.
Personally, the one I’ve been using is actually seasoned for three years, and I’ve had multiple staves stocked for over a year.
Shape Your Stave
Once you have your stave ready, it’s time to start shaping your stave. The first step here is to scrutinize your bow for any knots and to mark them out.
While you are making your bow, you need to ensure that you are avoiding as many knots as possible; you can even escape them all and make one, but if not, at least try to doge the largest and the obvious ones in the center.
Another thing is to chase the rings — especially if you are creating your longbow from an Osage, so find out the rings, and take off those rings by securing the stave with a bench vise and removing them with a drawknife.
Rings are basically light and dark, where dark rings are the ones that you need to get rid of. Most of the time, you’ll find around three to four rings on the bark.
Take out those rings one at a time, and once you’re completely done, it’s time to draw the profile of your bow.
To keep a simple yet effective design, you can find the center of your bow and draw the handles after that. Once done, you can taper the widest part and create a shallow taper to the tips of your bow.
Tip: What I generally like to do is either create a shape of my bow on paper, cut it perfectly, stick it to my stave, and then draw around it to get my perfect shape. This way, the paper acts as a template, saving you a lot of time.
The other way around is by taking a bow (if you’ve previously made one, or you have one around at the time of building) and marking the shape on my stave.
Make sure that you are not getting all used up to the design; what’s important is to keep it simple and symmetric.
Cut Your Stave
Once you have drawn the shape of your bow and the stave, it’s time to start cutting it down accordingly. You can do that by using either a hatchet or a drawknife with a bench vise and remove the unnecessary wood.
Note:- If you are using a hatchet, ensure that you are not excavating huge chunks out; keep it short and shallow. Lest should you ruin your stave, you can start over with another stave and make sure not to repeat the same mistake.
You can even use some power tools such as bandsaw and get things done way faster, but if you are building it the first time, I’d say stick to it the old-fashioned way as it gives more thrills and feels.
Nocking Your Bow
After you have nicked your stave and got the shape you wanted, it’s time to attach the string without it sliding over.
For that, you’ll need to use your vise again, and a pencil with a knife. Mark a ⅜ inches point on both the ends of your bow’s tips.
That’s where the nock will start; use your knife and start filing around a 40 to 45-degree angle. Make sure that you are not going too deep with the nock, and it should be deep enough to handle the string.
Once you are done with this, it’s time to handle the most crucial part of all….
The Facility of Tillering
Tillering is an art and perhaps the most important part after you’ve shaped your stave to your desired bow design.
You might have seen the curve of the longbow from the tips to handler or fulcrum; that’s the curve you get by tillering your bow.
That’s what we’re going to do, start by removing some unnecessary wood from the belly (the part of the bow that faces you while shooting). You can do that by using a bench wide and a paint scraper or cabinet scraper; keep removing the wood till your bow starts to bend smoothly.
Well, there are two typical ways, you can tiller your bow, and one of them is Floor Tillering.
Here you will stand the bow on the ground vertically and hold the upper limb with one hand and the handle with your other. Now start bending the bottom limb; if you are able to bend it smoothly, it means that you’ve removed just the amount of wood from the belly. If your bow bends very easily, you might have removed too much wood and made it thin, so you’ll have a lower draw weight.
On the other hand, if your bow doesn’t bend at all, it means it requires some scraping to do, just as I’ve mentioned above with a vise and a paint scraper.
Once your bow starts to flex on the ground, repeat the same process with the other limb. You need to ensure that both the limbs bend evenly when you pull the string.
The other method is tree tillering, where you string the bow and use a tillering stick to increase the draw of your bow.
To make a tillering stick, you will need to grab a two by four inches stave and cut a U shape on the top, big enough so your handle can rest there snugly.
After that, you will start by cutting notches on your stick, and you should leave an inch space between each notch and mark the inches with increments (such as one, two, three, etc.) by measuring from top to bottom.
Once your tillering stick is ready, now you have to stand your tillering stick with a supporting wall or tree and place your bow’s handle on the top of the U shape or your tillering stick. After that, meticulously draw your string and rest it in each notch for a minute.
Keep increasing the draw weight by resting the string on the next notch after a minute, and you should stop when your bow’s draw length is around 28 inches. So when you hit the 28-inch mark, you’re good to go.
The primary purpose of tillering is to ensure that both the limbs are evenly bending, and once you reach this stage, you should use your bow and draw it to find which of the limb is stiffer than the other.
Once you figure this out, use that limb in the bottom of your bow.
Finishing Up with Your Longbow
The last step is to sand your longbow with sandpaper to get a better measure. You can also apply some bow wax to ensure that your bow can handle some water. Personally, I don’t use it and leave the way they are done.
You can even use some saint polyurethane with three coats of gloss polyurethane and let them dry for a while.
Once done, you can use this bow to hunt and enjoy. Make sure to store the bow in a cool and dry place; also, unstring the bow if you are not using it.
Always, always make sure that you are not aiming at someone or a person, period.
You see, creating a longbow from scratch is a fun and enjoyable process, and if you are doing it the first time, it’s literally exhilarating. A longbow can last you for years if you properly make it.
Once you’ve made a few bows from zero, you can skip specific steps according to your leisure and style. You can even invest a gazillion of hours working on the design and make a top-notch bow with a classic look.
With that being said, I hope that you enjoyed this guide and learned probably a few things from it. If you have any troubling qualms, hit them in the comment section down, and I’ll be happy to get back to you.
Till then, Keep Shooting and Keep Hunting!
My name is Walter Williams, and I’m a bowhunting addict. That’s right, I said addict. After my father gave me my first Samick Sage bow at age 17 my love for this hunting discipline has continued to grow.