building a board bow



New member
first i must say this is not my idea, my old bow building forum had this posting in it and i thought it was a great idea. so i cannot take credit for this information. second, the bowyers den, my old home has sadly been erased. xsorbit didnt pay their dues so the mother company shut the site down and ERASED more than a few thousand posts. a few hundred of which were purely build alongs from oak board bows to warbows and horsebows. :cryingeye
anywho. here goes.

first thing you want to do is find a good piece of quartersawn lumber. in quartersawn lumber the end grain is straight across the thin part of the board. the grain from the top, long view cannot turn sharply off the board if you are not backing the board or are backing with fabric.

most hardwoods will work. oak red and white, hickory, ash, elm, ipe (brazillian walnut) brazillian teak. you get the point. hickory and red oak are usually inexpensive sturdy woods. there was a HUGE list on the bowyers den with specific gravity and properties of tension and compression, but i only remember a few basics.

clamps, surform rasp or large farriers rasp , 4 point half round rasp and sandpaper are basics. (The Bowyer's Bible 1-4 are excellent resources as well)

you can go from there to as expensive as you want, bandsaw, belt sander, routers etc. but you can make many bows with just the rasps and sandpaper.

a tillering stick is ok.

but i prefer a tillering tree. having it mounted to something makes me feel a little more secure and you can mount a pulley to it if you want to be WAY away from it while initially bending.

the tillering stick or tree should have a notch or mark every inch or every other inch all the way down to 26-30 inches depending on your draw length. (i tiller one inch past my draw)

this is really up to the bowyer. i have seen beautiful d/r bows with auto lacquer for finish. crisco rubbed on, let set and rubbed off. i usually use $1 cans of clear spray paint and do 10-20 coats to make a good shine.


if you want to start with a basic shape, google vintage projects bow plans (i cant submit a link until i post more than 10 posts), or similar. they have great free layouts to begin with. remove wood from the side that will be facing you. that is called the belly of the bow. leave the back alone for now. once you have the shape roughed out floor tiller the bow. rest one end on the floor and hold the other. with your free hand push the riser (handle) the direction it will be bending.

once you have the wood to this point you can put it on your tiller tree with a long string (wont be tight strung).

tillering is taking wood from where the bow isnt bending as much, and leaving the limb alone where it is bending more. pull the string till taught and check where you are on the stick. you want to pull 3-5 inches past this to see the bend in the limbs. it should start just past the riser and continue to the end of each limb the distance that you stop from the tip depends on preference.
once you take some wood from the belly where the bow isnt bending as much. put the bow on the tiller tree and look at the bend again. take your time doing this, rushing this can cause major set in the limbs (limb tips not returning to where they started) and this can rob arrow cast. continue long string tillering untill the tips can bend down evenly about 6-7.5 inches. you can now put the short string on.

there is a great site on this process if you google "tillering 101"
again after i get more than 10 posts if it lets me edit in the web addresses i will.

once you have the bow at brace height check the tiller. if its off i usually put it back on the long string and tiller further.

if tiller looks good pull it down 3-5 inches mark where you need to remove wood, unbrace remove wood and put back on the tiller stick. when you pull it to the same mark this time pull it 30-50 times to this mark before hooking it there and assessing the bend again. this is called exercising the bow. make sure you exercise the limb every time you check tiller, this works the wood in and helps prevent the limbs exploding at a further draw. (i know this is time consuming). once tiller looks good at that spot exercise to the next mark on the tree. and continue. once to your draw length and exercised i then shape the hand hold and arrow shelf, if any, on the riser.

always shoot the bow at 1/2 draw 50-100 times before pulling and shooting full draw to minimize stress on the limbs. some people do 50 at 1/2 draw, 50 at 2/3 draw then shoot full draw. if the limbs begin to look off tiller during this process go back to the tiller tree. once broken in finish to your liking.

more good sites to google *for now*
sam harper bow
ferret's board bow building

i hope this is somewhat insightful, if i botched anything or have missed anything (the original writers page has been deleted so i had nothing to go off of) comments, critiques and arguments are welcome. reguards.



New member
well its not going to let me edit the post, sorry for jumping this one back up. found one more thing to add. this jig can be used to bring from a board all the way to brace height or beyond.

and those websites i couldnt like before are

same harpers red oak board build How to make a red oak board bow
tillering 101 Tillering 101
ferret's board bow instructions Ferret's Board Bow Instructions

hope this is helpfull, by the way i googled all the images on the previous post, if any of these images are yours and you do not want me to reference them you can pm me or post it here.