What dimensions would make a good Ash self bow?



Hi All

I have a piece of fairly straight grained Ash about 4" x 2" x 7' which I would like to make into one or possibly 2 bows.

I was thinking probably best to make a flatbow, something along the lines of the Holmegaard bow. Mainly because if stone age man could make this I might have a fighting chance of getting it right :).

But would an English longbow style be better?

The thing I'm really looking for help with is getting the correct size, and tapers to cut out the rough bow prior to tillering. Would 2" be too wide?

Any help gratefully received



2” wide in ash is fine, as wider/thinner bows tend to be more reliable in less than perfect materials. You might even consider a pyramid style bow. Be aware however that ash is prone to chrysalling if the tillering is off. Having said that, ash availability is good and it’s usually a reasonable price, so go for it. It is certainly a good wood to make bows from and to experiment with. You should also consider other easily available local wood types such as hazel if you’re in the UK, but make sure any wood you use is well dried and seasoned if at all possible, as you’ll get better results. If you need inspiration I’d suggest joining the forum at Primitivearcher.com. It’s American based, but the contributors are very experienced and happy to share really useful info and feedback if you post pictures etc of your work.


I also meant to add that it’s very hard to give accurate starting measurements for bows as even two pieces of the same wood can vary quite considerably. You might also consider buying the Traditional Archer’s Handbook by Hilary Greenland, which provides some starting dimensions for various bow types, and a lot more besides.

Del the Cat

Well-known member
As Bob says go wide and flat, also keep it long as you can always reduce the length by an few inches later in the process.
2" Wide is a good rough out width, and leave the tips almost an inch wide initially as that will help with stability and give room for adjusting the string line.
DON'T cut the grip to size early on... you can narrow it a little at the grip, but final grip shaping will allow you to fit the grip to the string line rather than vice versa if there are alignment issues.
Thickness depends on required poundage, but I'd expect it to be about 20mm (7/8") thick at the fade tapering in thickness by about 1mm every 6"(for a roughly 45# bow ... but this is just a start point. the thing to do is get it roughed out and then look at it on the tiller... don't try to make a bow before seeing how it flexes)
( I mix metric and imperial measurements as mm is good for small measurements like thickness and inches good for longer!)
A pyramid/primitive style is better than an ELB for Ash (IMO) it is a lower stress and gives a relatively fast bow. My go to field shooting bow is that style.
I recently made a wide Wych Elm primitive and did a few videos of the process which may be of use. I've put the videos into a play list... first one here:-

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Thanks both. I've ordered a copy of the Traditional Archer’s Handbook, and will take a look at that forum. Ash is the only wood I have found readily available at a reasonable cost. I'm still trying to find some hazel. A house I used to live in had several hazel trees in the garden, but I didn't have a use for it back then.

Del we seem to use the same measuring system. When I started school metric was just coming in so I still use both. I find inches and feet work best for anything over an inch, but under that I tend to use millimetres. We should patent that measuring system :)

I'll try to get the rough bow shape cut out on the weekend and let you know how I get on.

Cheers both.