Hey, all. I've seen a lot of folks hangin' out by the edge of fire looking in just wanting to build a bow but no knowing where to start. Well, this build-along is for you. I give bowmaking seminars for the students in the traditional archery class I instruct at the high school where I teach. Now, if a bunch of inner city kids can build a bow, then you can too.

We're going to make a cheap, solid, and good shooting "board bow" (i.e. bow made from board lumber rather than a stave or billets.) Even if you’re the poster child for Murphy’s Law, you oughta wind up with a hunting weight bow that’ll render an unsuspecting gobbler as dead as the next stick with a string. This won't require much money or time. In fact, you can buy the wood for $12 on Friday afternoon and be shootin’ the bow on Saturday night. Plus, you'll only need a handful of tools you probably already have or can get access to pretty easily. Well, enough talkin’! Let's get started.


You first stop should be a local lumber yard (Menard’s, Home Depot, Lowe’s, local hardwood supplier, etc.) Head for the hardwood section and locate the RED OAK lumber.

Ignore the walnut, cherry, mahogany, pine, aspen, birch, maple, etc. Just RED OAK. Next, as Tim Baker so plainly stated in the Traditional Bowyer’s Bible (TBB) in his article on board bows, you need to pick a board that has PERFECTLY STRAIGHT GRAIN ON ONE FACE. That grain should run from one end of the board to the other without snaking, waving, running off the edge, etc. Again, you just need ONE face to exhibit this quality, not both. And don’t even worry about the way the grain looks on the sides. Also, be sure you find a CLEAR BOARD (i.e one that has no knots). Lastly, I would hesitate to use a board that exhibits two or more distinct colors, as that second color most often means that board contains heartwood and sapwood. If the transition between the two woods is situated right (or wrong, depending on your outlook on life), the bow can fail there.

You’ll need a 1”x4”x7’ board (which in actuality will be ¾”x3 ½”x7’, and probably come in 8’ lengths, not 7’.). So, start in that stack. Here’s what you’re looking for:

Here’s what you’re NOT looking for:

Here's what you're REALLY not looking for. If you drew this sucker back it'd give you a knockin' you wouldn't soon forget!

If you can’t find a suitable 1”x4”x7’, look in the 1”x6” or 1”x8” pile. Still no luck? Try the next store or come back when their next shipment of lumber comes in.

Now, just one more thing. You want to make sure that you have an appropriate ratio between the early grown (porous part of the end grain) and the late growth (solid part of the end grain.) You want a higher percentage of late growth per annual growth ring. This picture should help. The black line follows the early growth while the green lines indicate the late growth region of a single growth ring.

Be patient! Out of the entire stack of lumber shown above I came home with just two keepers.

I decided on this board for the build-along. It’s 1”x4”x7’ and has a slight reflex to it.

All for this round...see ya next time!

Round 2: Layout and Glue-Up

We’re going to build a 68” pyramid bow with a target weight of 50#@26”/55#28”. It's called a pyramid because the limbs will be shaped like a pyramid when finished. This type of bow is efficient, easy to make from boards, and is VERY easy to tiller. In fact, sometimes they need little or no tillering after the bow is profiled to shape.

Your first task is mark the face with the straightest grain as “back.” This part will eventually face away from you when you shoot the bow and will need the straightest grain possible to maintain its structural integrity as it stretches in tension at full draw. Mark the other face as “belly.” This side will face you when you shoot the bow. Now, on the BELLY side, mark your stave as in the picture below. The section marked “Tip Overlay” is optional and will be described at a later date.

Still working on the belly side, find the vertical center of the 68” section and square a line across the board. Mark this with a “C” for center. Then, square a line at 3” and 5” from both sides of your centerline. I mark the 3” lines with extra dots so I can keep everything straight in my little pea brain. Your stave should now look like this picture (minus the green lines running horizontally along the stave, which we’ll get to shortly).

Now, mark the horizontal center of the stave on your center line. If using a 1”x4”, this mark will be at 1 ¾”. (Remember, the 1”x4” is really ¾”x3 ½”). Now, mark 1 ½” above and below this mark to give you a total of 3”. Now, do the same thing on the vertical lines located 3” to either side of your center line (the ones I marked with dots). Connect these two lines along these marks as in the picture above.

Now, at both ends of this 68” section, find the exact center of the board, which again will be 1 ¾” from either side assuming the board is true. (Check just to be sure!) Now, put a mark 1/4” to either of this mark, which will give you a 1/2" width overall at the tips. Next, connect these marks with the lines your drew between the dotted lines. Here’s a picture of what that’ll look like:

Now, here’ a picture of how to do it. Just clamp a straight edge along these two marks. These horizontal lines now represent the outline of your bow.

No cut off the tip overlay and riser sections from the end of the board, leaving just the 68” section. Cut along these profile lines on this section using a band saw, jigsaw, or handsaw. Be sure to LEAVE YOUR MARK! You’ll trim it down to the line later. By the way, the bandsaw in the picture is a cheapie Delta benchtop model that does the trick. If you have a bigger model, great. If not, buy yourself a new 1/2 blade with about 7 teeth per inch and get your fingers out of the way!

Clean the mating surfaces of the riser block and bow belly with acetone (fingernail polish remover) to remove all the oils. This is kinda’ overkill, but I used to work for an old cabinetmaker who swore you had to do this to get a strong joint with red oak. And if he caught you not doing it, he just pain swore.

Once the acetone is dry, spread a good layer of Titebond III on both surfaces, line the ends of the riser up with the lines marked “Future End of the Glue-On Riser,” and clamp it up. Please use Titebond III. It’s tough as nails, moisture resistant, and cheap. The kid at Menard’s might tell you Titebond II and Titebond III are the same thing, but he’d change his mind in a heartbeat after a broken bow relocates his nose while staring down a trophy buck in a drizzling rain!

The next part is optional. You can choose to add a glue-on recurved tips if you’d like, or you can just skip it and not worry about it. It’s a technique that Tim Baker wrote about in the TBB. If you’d like to try it, cut the tip overlays apart and clean them with acetone. Now, mark a line across the BACK of the bow 6” from the end of each tip. Clean this area with acetone and then put a few pieces of masking tape starting at the 6” mark as shown in the picture below.

This will prevent glue from getting all over the back of your bow. (You’ll be cutting off a good portion of the belly of the bow later, so you didn’t need to do this when gluing on the riser block.) Now lather some TBIII on both surfaces and clamp.

Then, let the whole shootin’ match dry overnight, as in the picture below:

That’s all for Round 2. Be back later for the next part


Kris: I know you've got a target bow in mind, since we've talked a few times. If you PM me I will shoot the specs for your drawlength/weight.

You can use other woods such as hickory, ash, red oak, etc. I'm just sticking with red oak here since it's easily obtainable and can provide those following this thread with a predictable bow (which by the way will be 50#@26"/55#@28").

You were right about narrowing and/or thinning the limbs. This bow will be uniform in thickness throughout its length (minus the fades), and the limbs will taper uniformly. Narrowing the limbs uniformly can lower poundage, and vice versa. Thinning the limbs can lower poundage, and vice versa. I'll try to cover this in later posts.

Yeah, you can shorten this bow up. My turkey bow of this style is 64" in length and pulls 44#@26". My son's bow (which I posted under "A Boy and His Bow") is also of this style but is not much over 48 inches. Generally, as you shorten the bow up you'll want to widen the limbs at the fades to minimize set and string follow. I'll bet tons of folks on this site have made pyramid bow. Maybe we could get a thread going with specs for pyramid bows so folks can have a running start at hitting their target weight and drawlength. Thoughts?

Snake skins will help protect the back from the elements, although I've never experienced an appreciable increase in draw weight when a bow is backed with them.

All for now. Hope to post two or three "Rounds" tonight!


Round 3: Truing Up the Bow’s Edges and Shaping the Recurved Tips

Well, here’s what the whole package should look like after you unclamp it. Note that the riser goes on the belly and the recurved tip overlays (if you’re doing them) go on the back. If you added the overlays, you first need to roughly trim them flush with the sides of the bow as in the following picture:

Remember the tape you added to prevent the glue from smearing? Here’s the nice clean result:

Next, you need to true up the edges of the bow down to your mark (which you left when cutting it out, remember?) I use a Stanley Surform rasp, although a block plane, long file, or even sandpaper wrapped around a flat piece of wood will work. You want to make sure the sides end up square to the back and belly and that it is perfectly straight along it’s length. Here’s a picture to help:


Now it’s time to shape the recurved tips. Your first step here is to shape the upper (back of the bow) profile. I made a very simple jig using a French curve as shown in the picture below. The jig need only be accurate on the top side (back of the bow side), which is up in the picture. You will trim the belly side later using a different jig. The recurved tip should gradually fade from the straight line of the bow’s back to the graceful curve at the tip. No abrupt changes or the bow will fail. Just study the picture and use your eyeball to judge the transition. Sure wouldn’t hurt to do a couple of tests on some scrap boards just to be sure you’ve got your ducks in a row! (Note: At this point, I know a lot of you are thinking one of two things: (1) “68 inches is too long for a recurve,” or 2) “Those are reflexed tips, not recurved tips.” You’re both right. By most standards, they’re actually abruptly reflexed tips.)

Now trace the profile along the top (back of the bow), remove the jig, and cut to shape using your bandsaw, jigsaw, or coping saw. Remember to LEAVE YOUR MARK! When first cut, it should look like the following picture. Notice the little bump at the transition between the glue-on tip and the back of the bow, as detailed in the second picture. You want to leave yourself some wood there, as cutting into the back of the bow will create a headache (figuratively and possibly literally!)

I like to use a small rasp/file combo with one flat side and one round side to take the tips down to the mark. I finish it off using a sharp knife as a scraper to remove all tool marks. If I’m in a hurry (which is not a good thing when building a bow, but is my usual mode of operation) I use a sanding drum that I chuck up in my cheapie drill press. You'll notice the grain isn't straight on the curved tip anymore, but that's okay. These will be doing very little work and are part of a laminated section, which will naturally be stronger.

Be back next time for Round 4: Shaping the Side Profile. Thanks for following!


Round 4: Shaping the Side Profile

Now it’s time to shape the side profile (i.e cut the limbs to thickness.) This is the only quasi-difficult part of the build-along, although minimal woodworking skills tempered with PATIENCE will give you success!

For a 50#@26”/55#@28” bow at 68 inches in length, the thickness of each limb should be 15/32”. (If you want a bow that’s heavier, make the thickness a full ½”. If you want a bow that's lighter, you can take off wood later, and so stick with 15/32". In any case, we’ll get to tillering to your intended draw weight/length later.)

Here’s a simple principle to keep in mind: In general, when you double the WIDTH of a piece of wood it will be twice as strong. If you double the THICKNESS of the wood it will be eight times as strong. So, you have more room for error when trimming the front profile (i.e. side tapers) than when shaping the side profile (i.e. limb thickness). Go slow, and as Norm Abram says, “Measure twice, cut once!”

Here’s a gauge I made to mark the limb thickness. Nothing fancy:

You run the inside of the notch against the back of the bow while holding a sharp pencil or extra fine point marker against the edge of the jig. You don’t want a really fat line, as this allows more possibility for error. This jig will allow you to draw an even line 15/16” from the back of the bow. (Note: Make sure your jig is no wider than 1/2” in thickness as it can create accuracy problems when tracing along the curved edge of the recurved tips, if you’re doing those.) I mark both sides of each limb. Here’s the jig in action:

You want to stop the line about an inch shy of the edge of the glue-on riser. You don’t have to be exact.

Next, you’ll need to build yourself a fade-out jig. As before, I used a French curve and made sure the transition between the 15/32” mark and the start of the fade-outs was very subtle and smooth. (Please note that you want the bow at full thickness at the point where the limbs are full width, which is right along the original line you marked 3” off of center before doing the glue-up.) I usually start the curve of the fades approximately 1½” from the edge of the glue-on riser. This ensures that the bow will not take a great deal of set here (i.e. permanent deflection), which would be manifested greatly at the tips of the bow. Here’s some pictures of the jig and the layout line:

I put two marks along the side profile lines. The one closest to the riser tells me where the fade-outs will begin. The one closest to the tips is 1” from the other mark and tells me to start squaring the board up on the edge of the riser block as opposed to the edge of the bow’s limbs. This sounds confusing, but you’ll understand when you start pushing the bow through the saw (if you’re using a bandsaw). If you cut the fade-outs while holding the board flat along the bow limb’s edge, your fade-outs would come out crooked, because the bow’s limbs are tapered and will lift the riser block up off of the cutting table. I won’t say anymore about that, other than it’ll probably make itself clear when you get to cutting it out. Here’s my marks:

Because my bandsaw is so small, I have to add an auxiliary table to give me enough space to lay the rise block against when it comes time to cut the fades. I just make a cut several inches into a scrap piece of FLAT plywood, MDF, etc. and clamp it to my table. Here’s the get-up:

If using a bandsaw, make sure the table is square to the blade (which again, should be brand new or close to it.) Starting at the TIP of each limb with the waste side (belly side) facing inward toward the saw, cut the sucker out! You want it oriented that way so you have plenty of room for the board to clear when you maneuver it through the fade-out cuts. Go slow and give the saw plenty of time to clear the wood. When you get to that mark 1” tipside of the beginning of the fade-outs, remember to VERY CAREFULLY tip the board back toward you and rest it squarely on the riser block as you finish the fade-out cuts. As always, LEAVE YOU MARK! If you’re not sure of your bandsaw skills, leave a little more than your mark. You can’t put wood back! If all goes well, here’s what you’ll end up with:

If you don’t have access to a bandsaw, just send me a PM and I’ll give you a couple of other options for shaping the side profile of the bow using simple hand tools and a lot of elbow grease!

That’s all for Round 4! The next step is truing up the side profile and checking the initial tiller.


Well, I've spent more time processing pictures and posting these threads than actually building the bow, which is why they're coming one right after the other. Anyhow, here's the next installment:

Round 5: Truing Up the Side Profile and Checking the Initial Tiller

Now it’s time to true up the thickness of each limb by bringing them down to your thickness mark (which you remembered to leave, right?). I do that by using a Surform rasp, a round and flat rasp/file combination, a flat-edged drawknife and hunting knife used as scrapers, and sandpaper. I use calipers set to 15/16” to gauge the thickness of the entire limb, slowly removing wood until the entire limb (save for the fade-out region) is uniform in thickness. The fade-outs are trued up to the guide lines since the calipers would be useless here. Once the fades are close, I use my fingers to feel them and make any adjustments my eyes missed. Here’s some pictures of the tools and the process, including some of my 3 year old son's laying on the floor:

Ignore the fact that in this picture the handle is already profiled to shape. I took the picture out of order

When you've gotten the limbs to a consistent 15/16" thickness and have the fades trued up, it’s time to round over the edges of each limb. I like to use a file to break the edge and get it roughly rounded, and then I take a strip of sandpaper and work it back and forth like a shoe shiner uses a rag. Once I get it to about the radius of a pea or a pencil, I sand lightly with the grain to remove the sanding marks. I really like those 3M foam sanding blocks for that task, especially after they've been used and broken in a bit. One final note: I like to round the edges about 1" into the riser block on the back of the bow. I've had a couple of bows blow here when I didn't do that. Theoretically the bow should not be bending here anyway, but when the back undergoes tension it goes on a wild hunt for the weakest point in the limb, and the pressure could creep its way all the way back into the riser my. Just my $.02.

Alright, it's time to see if that stick in your hand works anything like a bow! We need to check the initial tiller on the tillering tree using a tillering string. (If you don’t have a tillering tree and string, search this site. There are some great references for building your own.) Here’s a picture of the initial tiller:

Well, the left limb is a little bit stronger/stiffer than the right limb. Actually, that’s exactly what I was hoping for. (That's sounds like I'm covering a mistake, but really I'm not ) I tried as much as possible to get both limbs to an even and uniform thickness. However, I almost always make a slight error, just enough to render one limb slightly stronger than the other. (Search "positive tiller" on this sight for a description of why this is often a good thing.) Suffice it to say, this bow will most likely draw evenly along both limbs when drawn in the hand if I make the stronger limb the bottom limb. We’ll just have to see! If for some reason your bow looks perfect at this point, good for you. We’ll change that later on

That’s all for Round 5. See ya’ soon. Again, thanks for following!


Round 6: Rough Shaping the Handle

I make the handle ¾” wide at its center, if not just a touch more. You might be able to find a lid, pot, or bucket that fits the radius. If not, just use a compass like I did in the second picture below. It takes a little bit of trial and error, but is not difficult in the least. (Note: the riser block looks curved in the picture below, but it's just an optical illusion from the camera.)

Once you get it marked out, cut it to shape on the bandsaw or with your coping saw.

The next thing I do is cut a very shallow radius in the belly of the handle, being sure to end the radius exactly at the fades and to leave the handle 1¼” thick in the middle. I take the piece that I cut off and glue it to the back of the handle as an overlay. This gives the handle a more rounded feel. Here’s a picture to help explain:

After the glue dries I remove the clamp and trim the handle overlay flush as in the picture below:

That’s that! The next step will be to check our draw weight, add the nock overlays, and shape the tips. We're gettin' close to done!


Round 7: Checking Short String Tiller/Draw Weight, and Adding Nock Overlays

I like to add temporary nocks using a wooden wedge secured with masking tape to transition from the tillering string to the short string. NOTE: For a great tutorial on making a quality Flemish string and jig, visit the following site:
Make sure you wrap the temporary nock really well or it will want to slide down the limb on you. If that happens, you’ll change the tiller of the bow. I always place a mark on the back of the bow where I want the nock to rest so I can see if it’s moving or not.

I check the tiller on the tree using the short string, and it looks almost identical to the initial tiller check we did with the tillering string. Satisfied for now, I want to check my draw weight. I’ve learned two rules about tillering that have saved me a lot of time and headaches. 1) Never pull the bow further than it is tillered correctly, and 2) Never pull the bow past your intended draw weight. I will now go back and forth between the bow scale and tillering tree balancing these two rules as I seek to find what my draw weight is at 26”. If the tiller gets out of whack on the way there, I stop and retiller by scraping the stiff spots, pull the bow 30 times to give the wood time to settle, and then recheck the tiller. In the case of this bow, I don’t have to do any retillering and I find that the draw weight at 25” is 51# (or a projected 54#@26”). Perfect! But “WAIT”, you say. Didn’t I just break rule number 2 above? Kind of, but here’s a little trick. I don’t actually pull the bow to 26” just yet. I like to hit my target weight at 1” shy of the intended draw length. That gives my a few pounds to play with as I do the final shaping and sanding on the bow, and allows the wood to settle a little bit as I shoot it in.

Now, if you don’t have a bow scale, here’s a handy little setup I often use. I take a bathroom scale, a 36”-40” long dowel or square stick, and a small square scrap of plywood and make my own. I attached the stick upright to the plywood using screws. (In the one in the picture, I used a fortsner bit to countersink a hole to receive the end of the dowel. I then glued it and screwed it to the plywood) I make a notch in the top of the stick to hold the bowstring and then make marks on the stick at 24-31 inches from the top in one inch increments. These will tell me the draw length of the bow (I measure to the back of the handle.) When I place the string in the notch and pull down on the handle of the bow, the weight is transferred through the stick onto the bathroom scale. Simply read the poundage on the scale and VIOLA!

Now, if you want to get really accurate, you can make a fancy calibration system as shown in the following picture (ha ha!)

I simply set the gallon water jug on the scale and adjust it to 8.34 pounds, minus the weight of the stick. As stupid as it sounds, I have a couple custom wood/glass bows that I bought that read dead on for their draw length using this method!

The next thing I want to do is add nock overlays. These allow you to cut a groove more deeply into the tip, which keeps the string in place better. They also can add a bit of decoration. I’m using coco bola, although you can use any dense hardwood, including osage. I true up one face of the nock overlay using sandpaper on a flat surface. These overlays are just about 1 1/4" long.

You then need to flatten the very end of the bow tips on the back side to accept the nock overlays. They must mate perfectly, so take your time. When you’ve got a good match between the overlay and the tip, clean the mating surfaces with acetone, especially if using a tropical hardwood. When dry, lather both surfaces with TB III and clamp it up. (If you don’t want to add nock overlays, just search this site for various pictures of bows [self bows in particular] that have more traditional nocks.) You'll notice that I butted masking tape up against the tip overlay. As I did before, I add this tape before the glue-up so that it doesn't smear all over the back of the bow.

Once dry, shape the tips to your satisfaction. Dutchwarbow has posted some really beautiful tips on his buid-alongs, so I encourage you to look at his designs. Here’s how mine turned out:

I use a small round file to rough cut the string grooves. I don’t cut all the way through the overlay, and I angle the grooves at about 45 degrees on the sides. When they’re fairly smooth I take and heat a roofing nail with a torch and burn the grooves smooth.

Okay, all we’ve gotta’ do now is finish shaping the handle, check the tiller while drawing the bow in the hand, add a stain (optional) and finish, install an arrow shelf (optional), and wrap the handle (optional). That’s an easy stretch to the end, and we’ll be done in no time! Take care, and thanks for following! See you next time.


Round 7: Finishing the Handle Profile and Checking In-Hand Tiller

Well, this round is pretty simple. I use a rasp, file, and then various grits of sandpaper/sanding pads to round the handle to a comfortable grip. I give special consideration to the area that will become the arrow pass, being sure to remove plenty of wood on the belly of the handle in the region so the arrow approaches the handle at a less severe angle. To make the handle symmetrical, I do this on both sides of the top and bottom. Also, if for some reason the tiller ever changes on the bow and the top limb ends up stronger than the bottom, I can just flip the bow over and keep shootin’! Or, as is sometimes the case, I’ll end up giving the bow to a lefty. All in all, it’s nice to have the handle finished so either limb can be the top limb and both righties and lefties can shoot it.

I then take a knife or razor blade and scrape the handle to give it a smooth finish. Lastly, I take a smooth piece of antler and burnish the entire bow. By that I mean rubbing the antler over the surface of the bow (especially the back) hard enough to compress the fibers together and give it a smooth feel. Although it does have cosmetic benefits, it can also be the difference between a functional bow and a tiny splinter raising on the back that eventually renders it nothing more than fancy kindling. (You can use just about any hard, smooth, rounded object for burnishing. I’ve used baby food jars, glass guitar slides, and glass bottles.)

Here’s some pictures of the finished handle.

Here's a picture of the back profile of the bow:

Alright. We’re gonna see how the bow’s tiller looks when drawn by hand. I’ve decided to post a video so you can actually see the limbs working, rather than as a static picture. (A special thanks to Art B and Jawge for their help a couple of weeks ago in teaching me the importance of judging final tiller while pulling the bow by hand. Thanks, guys!) One note about the video…I say it’s pulling 54 #@26”, but I misspoke. It’s actually 52#@ 26” after the final sanding. That leaves 2# for settling in. Not bad! Anyhow, here goes…and sorry about that stupid look on my face

Well, it ain’t perfect, but for 12 bucks and a coupla’ hours of work we’re in pretty good shape. I’m going to leave the tiller right there. The next step is staining/sealing the bow, adding an arrow pass, and then wrapping the handle. We’re gettin’ close now! All we need is a good set of matched arrows and we’ll be eatin’ venison for Thanksgiving!


Round 8: Staining and Sealing

I used a variety of homemade stains, my favorite of which are made from berry juices, inks, and denatured alcohol. This particular stain is a simple aniline stain that you can get in powdered form and cut with denatured alcohol. It dries very quickly and can be sealed shortly after applying. Here’s how it turned it:

Before I seal the bow, I go ahead and cut shallow stringer nocks just behind the bowstring nocks. Again, I burn them smooth with a hot nail. I use a simple stringer with a loop tied at each end.

I then seal the entire bow with at least 3 coats of lacquer. I use it because it’s cheap dries within minutes (dries, NOT cures!), and can be applied with a cloth. No, it’s not waterproof, but it does build up in the grain nicely and seals in the stain. After the 3+ coats have sat for a couple of hours, I buff it out with 000 steel wool. Then I rub the entire bow down with either mink oil or SnoSeal, both of which are leather waterproofers. (Alternately, I’ve used warmed beeswax). You can apply another coat each hunting season to keep your bow dry and protected. Yes, there are better products available, but this method is cheap, easy, and effective (which is the whole point of this build-along). There is no finish that will completely encase your bow in an impenetrable shell, so I like to use a finish that I can easily reapply as needed. Just be sure to let the mink oil cure out for a day or two as it does have a distinct smell that dissipates as it dries.

Round 9, comin' up...


Round 9: Finishing the Handle Part I

We’re going to put a floppy-style rest on this bow, although you could just shoot off-hand and skip the whole thing altogether. I first cut a piece of leather as such and trim/burnish the edges. I also take it to the drum sander and taper the pointed (bottom) side down to a feather edge.

You can search for hours on how to best locate your arrow rest. I just always go with what feels right to me. It’s your call. When I find “the spot,” I tape it to the handle with masking tape.

I take a strip of leather and superglue one edge down and then wrap it spirally up the handle, overlapping each wrap slightly.

I finish it off by tapering the tag end and gluing it down flush. I rub some mink oil into the handle, which gives it some moisture resistance and also adds a nice patina. Here’s the result (This pictures show the arrow pass, which we haven't added yet. That's round 10)



Round 10: Finishing the Handle Part II

Now we need to make the leather arrow plate. I slice a piece of the same leather used for the floppy shelf with a razor blade. I want it thin so it doesn’t push the arrow any further away from center than necessary. Then I shape it as shown below and apply it with either carpet tape or superglue.

Here’s the result:

In order to prevent the floppy rest from binding the arrow and to provide my hand with a placement indicator, I cut a small wedge like this….

and insert it between the pass and shelf like this…

Now, shoot the bow in and fine-tune your nocking point. Once satisfied, weigh the bow and indicate the weight@drawlength. I do it as such:

By the way, here’s the first three arrows I shot with this bow at 12 yards…I was pleased!

As a side note, here’s another handle style. It's wrapped with hemp cordage (from Wal-Mart) over a leather-covered wooden shelf. The pass is split leather. I apply a watered down Titebond III solution to the cordage with my fingers which waterproofs it and interlocks the fibers.


Round 11: Final Pictures and Thoughts

Here’s a couple of pictures of the finished product. I don’t have any at full draw, but if you watched the video earlier in the thread it hasn’t changed. It came in right at 50#@26” after shooting it in.

Here’s a couple of pictures with it next to my turkey hunting bow. That bow is dyed with homegrown raspberry and blueberry juices mixed with ink and cut with denatured alcohol.

Just a couple of final words. I hope that at least someone has gained the confidence and enough information to get their first bow built. It’s a cheap and easy project that you can do in a weekend. This particular bow is overbuilt by most standards, and comes in slightly heavier in physical weight than is most efficient (I’m referring to the Mass Principle as discussed in Volume 4 of the Traditional Bowyer’s Bible). However, the wide limbs allow more wood to do the tension work, thus adding a margin of safety that the bow will not raise a splinter and fracture. The longer length allows it to be pulled to 28”, and perhaps a bit more. You could always narrow the limbs some and compensate by making it a touch thicker to keep the weight up. This would reduce mass, but the further you go in this direction the more the moisture content, tiller, grain, early/late growth ratio, etc. will need to be spot on. (That turkey bow above is 44#@26”, measures 64” ntn, and weighs 18 ounces. It sure is nice to carry, as you hardly know it’s there. It also shoots slightly above average in speed for its weight @ drawlength.)

At the end of the day, a bow is a bendy stick with a string. Is this the prettiest bow? Nope. The fastest bow? Nope. But I haven’t met a turkey yet that stopped me mid-draw and begged me to shoot him with a prettier bow. “Dead as a doornail” is dead enough for me, and if I can do it for $12 and three or four hours of work, I’m in!

Good luck, ya’ll, and if you build one please post some pictures. Thanks for following! God Bless.

"Walk softly...and carry a bent stick."


Thanks, everybody. I appreciate the kind responses, and really enjoyed doing this build-along. I would be REALLY interested in seeing the pictures of any bow ya'll make as a result of reading this thread. I would be DOUBLY interested in seeing what you harvest with that bow! Looking forward to seeing some pictures!


That being said, I can offer you some suggestions on getting close to your intended weight per draw length, and encourage any bowyers with pyramid bow specs to offer them up for comparison. But first, I wouldn't make your bows 56"-60" long. Here's why. As I stated in my previous post, I use the following formula for determining minimum bow length:

Bow Length=((Draw Length x 2) x 1.15)+1

For 30# at 26" bow, I'd make it 61" long MINIMUM (60" ntn). For the 45# bow I'd make it 64" long MINIMUM (63" ntn). Now, say you come up short in weight and need to pike it (shorten it to increase draw weight.) Generally you shorten both tips 1" to gain 5# in draw weight. It you've built the bow at the margin of safety, you don't have much to play with. Plus, we're working with unbacked red oak, not osage or hickory, both of which can take more abuse.

BUT (ah, the exception) you can always use the glue-one recurve to add a few pounds (up to about 5#) at the given bow length if you come in too low. So, you've built the bow at the margin and come in under weight but haven't done the glue-on recurve tips, simply the add them and your weight will go up. If you've already rounded the edges at the tips on the back of the bow (which would not lead to a good joint) just bevel them like you would when adding tip overlays, only over a longer run.

So, for my overall recommendations (which I hope others can chime in on). Again, I have a hard time nailing a draw weight/draw length out of the air. These are specs from bows I have built; but again, they're GUIDELINES! Adjust as necessary.

30#@26" = 62" overall (61"ntn), 2.5" at the fades, 1/2" at the tips, 13/32" thick. If you come in heavy, you can just scrape the belly evenly on both sides to drop the weight. Too low? Pike it a little (assuming you haven't added the recurved tips yet).

45#@28" = 66" overall (65" ntn), 2.5" at the fades, 1/2 at the tips, 7/16" thick.

Both of these assume the same riser/fade layout as shown in the build-along.

Sorry this got so long. I hope it answers your questions and gets you started in the right direction. If you don't hit your target weight, then don't hit me either! Heck, as cheap and quick as it is to build these things, you'll have a rack full of bows to give away if nothing else!

PS The specs for my son's bow you inquired about are: 47" ntn, 2 7/8" at the fades, 1/4" at the tips (yikes!), 9/32" thick, 25#@22". The glue-on recurved tips are more like miniature siyahs (found on a horsebows).



One update: The formula used above to determine the length of the bow is what I used to unbacked red oak bows. If using higher quality woods and/or backing the bow, you obviously can make it shorter. A lot of bowyers use this formula:

Bow Length = (Draw Length x 2) x 1.1

To explain, that means take your draw length, double it, and then add 10%. I add 15% plus 1". Some bowyers add 20%.

I made the bow in this build-along 68" for an added measure of safety because it's red oak, it's unbacked, and I expected a lot of first-time bowyers to follow along. Hopefully some of them are busy at work and will post their pictures soon. Looking forward to it!


As eluded to in earlier posts, the bow built in this build-along is slightly overbuilt. I think what I'll do in the next few days is narrow the bow at the handle (per Nick's suggestions ) and also at the tips. Both areas are left beefy for safety, but if some of ya'll want to drop the bow's mass a bit, increase the speed a few fps, reduce hand shock (if there's any, which might be the result of too light an arrow), and give the bow a few more curves, this'll give you some options.

Also, I've been asked to provide a template for the glue-on recurve and fade radiuses. I'll do that. If you just want so send me a pm and include your e-mail, I'll send you a PDF with both of them on it. As a handy little trick, a 10" diameter (5" radius) circle cuts the radius at the fades beautifully. In fact, I'll post some pictures this weekend of how to use a radial arm saw with a 10" blade to simultaneously cut the bow to thickness and cut the fades.

Thanks again for following this thread. Hope it's helpful. I know I'm learning a lot


Here's a slick way to take the limbs down to thickness and cut the fades at the same time providing you have a FLAT BOARD (i.e. one without any crown/bow to it). I used it on a pair of kids' bows I built tonight for the children of the family that lets me hunt turkey on their land. I have a great old radial arm saw (1960's Craftsman) that I recently refurbished that really gets the job done:


I set up my bow blank as before. Here's what this one looks like. Note that I will be cutting the thickness (side profile) before I cut the width (front profile). I did it just the opposite in the bow I built earlier in this thread.


I turn the saw 90 degrees and set it up to rip. The distance from the blade to the cutting table will be the same as the finished thickness of the limbs, plus 1/64". I clamp on an auxiliary fence, check both the fence and the blade for square, and I'm ready to roll:

I start with the saw blade lined up with the outer 1/8" of the edge of the bow opposite the fence and make a pass until I get to the red line. I pull the board out SLOWLY and CAREFULLY so I don't bind it. Then I flip the board around and make the same pass on the other side. Then I move the saw 1/8" closer to the fence and repeat the process.

When you've reached the fence, your bow will look something like this:

And you will look something like this:

What's slick with this particular board is that I can rip it down the middle and get two 1.5" wide bows out of it, which will be just right for the little kiddos!

The beautiful part is that a 10" saw blade cuts a very graceful fade radius. This setup also works fantastic if you use a stacked dado head, but your radius at the fade will be much shallower. And whatever you do, do NOT try this with your table saw! It's a whole different shootin' match, and you'll lose!



Here's the handle I did for the kids' bows above. It's more of a bulbous handle that some people were inquiring about. I don't particularly like the way it feels, but it looks great and works well for kids as it gives them something definite to grab to keep their hand in the right place. My fancy layout jig is my trust old can of lacquer:

The heavier your bow, the wider and thicker you'll need to make the narrow parts of the handle. Also, I can cut into the back of the bow only because it's a non-bending handle and it doesn't move there. As long as I leave enough wood in the handle, it'll remain rigid, and therefore not be subject to tension, and thus won't break. But you've got to make sure there's NO movement for about 1" tipward of where you start dipping into the back on each limb. For safety, it's a good idea to just add a beefy (i.e. thick) handle overlay on the back of the bow and then cut into that.

I haven't finished the bow yet, but you get the general idea, eh?


Sometimes I wrap it, but usually I'll mold and stitch a leather grip around it. You can use the rest I did, use a simple floppy rest, add a wooden shelf, etc. The nice thing about this handle is that the bow is narrower where the arrow makes contact than in the build-along bow, making it more center shot.



Regarding the handshock:

1) With a non-centershot bow, you really need to shoot arrows that are lower in spine weight than your draw weight. I usually go around 5-10#, sometimes even 15# lower in spine weight. This could be the source of your handshock alone, as the arrow won't bend gracefully around the handle during release. Rather, it slams into the side of the handle. 160 grains is a healthy point, but I'm not sure it's enough to offset a 50# spined shaft. How's the arrow flight at say, 15-20 yards?

2) When you've got properly spined shafts, be critical of the total mass of the arrows. 10 grains per pound plus is where you'll be transferring nearly all the energy of the bow into the arrow (that is, and NOT into excess vibration that causes handshock). I would say that arrow tuning is the most important and most forgotten about aspect of tuning wooden bows.

3) At the same time you're checking your arrow set up, check the tiller. Make sure it's even at full drawn when DRAWN IN THE HAND. The tillering tree won't tell you much, as it can't mimic your hand placement, grip, draw, etc. Small adjusts here can take a bone-jarring bow down to a sweet shooter in a hurry...with proper arrows, that is.

4) If full-draw tiller and arrows both check out, try this step. If you've built the bow to exactly the dimensions I gave in the tutorial, it will be overbuilt by some degree. I would first gradually narrow the width SLIGHTLY in the outer 1/3 of each limb toward the tips. This will reduce outer limb mass and have little effect on tiller, as the bow doesn't do that much work in this region. A LITTLE here can go a long way. However, if you take off too much, you'll end up with a whip tillered bow, or worse yet one with a hinge or that will fail altogether. But don't be shy about it. Remember that wood is 8x stronger in thickness than in width.

5) Failing all of that you could consider trapping. There is enough wood in the bow to allow it, I believe. However, I rarely trap bows in this way, so I would not be the best resource for this. (I often use "heat trapping" [i.e. tempering the belly] which serves a similar purpose to back trapping, but is achieved through other means.)

I hope this helps you. You can get a sweet shooter out of this bow, no doubt. Take it slow and methodically. I like to keep notes as I go when tuning a bow. Also, do you have silencers on your bow? They dampen vibration, which is the culprit anyway. You could also be critical of your string (too thick or thin?), nock placement (too high or low?), release (are you plucking the string?), bow-hand grip (are you torquing the bow?), etc. Keep us posted! You'll get there.



Question 1: Yes, I focus mainly on the side of the board that will be the bow's future back. It's a technique described by Mark Baker and one that produces bow after bow for me. The grain on the back won't change when making the bow. Looking for perfect grain on the edge of the bow is fun and all, but will nearly ALWAYS change when you make the bow because you're shaping the profile of the limb (i.e. narrowing it). Again, Mark Baker describes this in detail and with much more clarity than I can here. I will try to post a direct quote from him in the next few days if I have time. You might need to remind me.

Question 2: When you use 1" dimensional lumber (actually 3/4" thick) and glue on a riser of identical thickness, the joint between those two pieces of wood falls midway up the radius of the fade. Therefore, it's not receiving as much stress because it's thicker there and isn't bending as much. However, if you were to plan the stave the thickness first and then glue on the riser board, your fade would start precisely at the glue joint, and would receive tremendously more force. That is, you've got the most amount of pressure (since the inner third of the bow limb does the most work) concentrated on the thinnest edge. This feathered edge of the riser board will break away and fail under the force. Another way to say it is, the further you go up the fade out radius, the less force is being exerted on the wood. So, the higher your joint between the riser block and bow blank is, the less stress it has to endure.

Question 3: The recurved tips add a slight increase in performance by placing the tips closer to the zero line between deflex and reflex. The further the tips are to being even or even reflexed beyond this line, the more energy you store during the draw. Let's take two identical bows. Both are osage flatbows with the exact same dimension and pull 50#@28". However, bow A has 2" of string follow while bow B has 1" of reflex at the tips. Although they pull they same weight, bow B will have more cast because it's storing more energy. That is, the limb is doing work sooner in bow B than in bow A.

Hope these answers help. I'm not the best at explaining things. Let me know what I need to clear up!


Many are asking what to do if they don't have a bandsaw. (In actuality, the bandsaw can be a tool that can spell the end of a bow...or more!...in a hurry if not used properly. However, it can also knock a bow out in a blazing hurry if used correctly.) SO...for those of you without a bandsaw, and for those not comfortable with its use, here's what I recommend to take the limbs down to thickness, cut the fades, and shape the handle.

I would assemble a tool kit consisting of a drawknife, Stanley Surfom rasp (or similar), a 4-in-1 rasp, a flat-bladed knife or cabinet scraper, sandpaper, steel wool, and a coping saw.

To take the limbs to thickness and rough out the fades, start with the drawknife, but TAKE IT SLOW! You can tear wood up in a hurry with a drawknife. When you get close to your taper lines, dig in with the Surform rasp. These things can take wood off in a hurry, but do so in a much more controlled manner. They will leave behind a slightly gouged surface, so follow that up with your drawknife or flat-bladed knife used as a scraper, or a dedicated cabinet scraper. This is where you can true the belly up and make sure it doesn't have a crown (i.e. radius). Follow that up with some sandpaper (optional) and steel wool, and you're set!

Use the coping saw to rough out the handle. Then continue with the 4-in-1 rasp. Hit it with some sandpaper, and finally steel wool.

I also like to burnish the entire bow with a round piece of glass or metal to give it a nice appearance and keep inhibit splinters from raising on the back.
Many folks have asked how to shape the profiles of their bow without using a bandsaw. So, here's a little description of how I do it. This is a maple pyramid bow that I just started. Go ahead and lay out the bow as described.

The first thing I do is cut the fades and along the thickness taper for about an inch with a coping saw as such:

Next I shape the THICKNESS (side profile). I use a sharp hatchet and go WITH the direction of the grain. If you go against, you'll tear out wood past your line. Generally, you'll work one limb towards the grip, the other away from the grip. I start by angling the sides from the middle of the belly down toward the thickness line. This will leave a crown on the belly. Here's a few pics of that process:

Then I knock the crown off to flatten the belly out:

The next thing I do is cut the front profile (limb tapers). I do this before truing up the limb thickness so that I don't have so much wood to work. I use the hatchet to get it close, then a Stanley Surform rasp and block plane to true it up:

Then I have to redraw the side profile (limb thickness) line:

I use the Surform rasp and to flatten and true up the belly, then round the edges of the limbs and it's ready for tillering. Total time from beginning the layout to getting it on the tree was 1 hour and 45 minutes. Didn't take long at all, and sure cut down on the dust in my shop! Just keep your hatchet sharp and your fingers clear.

PS: I find that I have much more control with a hatchet. A drawknife works fine, too, but I just don't have enough finesse with one to work a board stave with it.


The shelf is another piece of wood covered with leather that is glued onto the side of the riser. This horsebow would NEVER accept a cut-out shelf, nor does it need one. Yes, I've made bows with cut-out shelfs, but to be honest with you, that's best left for glass and laminated bows. Wooden bows are a different beast. And don't assume bows with shelves cut into them shoot better or more accurately...false. It's the arrow that's the key. I would suggest adding a floppy rest to your bows like the ones shown in this build-along or the pictures below. Much safer, easier, and better-suited to a wooden bow.

But, just for your reference, here are two with cut-out shelves: