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Making your own bow – Part 4: Making laminated bows – tools and materials
By Cleve Cheney
Making your own bow and then shooting your creation is one of the most gratifying pursuits that can be undertaken. In this series of articles we are going to walk you through the process of making a laminated recurve or longbow right from the beginning until the moment that you can release your arrow from your own "home grown" bow.
Don't try and take any shortcuts. This can lead to disappointing and expensive failures.
If you are patient and follow the instructions you are in for a very exciting experience. We will begin by looking at the materials and tools we will be using. This first few articles will show you how to build the equipment you will require for manufacturing laminated recurve or longbows and where to get the materials. I was a little intimidated when I made my first bows. It all seemed so complicated. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was much easier than I had expected. In the previous articles on bow making primitive bows we found out how to make bows using just a bare wooden stave. This is in itself a very satisfying undertaking but now we will take a step further and be using more advanced materials to create bows with better performance than "selfbows" but that still retain that special look and feel of a "primitive" bow.
In the follow-up articles we will look at the layup process. This is the potentially tricky bit where we must work carefully and methodically.
Once the bow comes out of the layup process it looks a bit of a mess. Don't panic. Hiding below the layers of masking tape and hardened epoxy that has squeezed out of the compressed laminates is a beautiful bow waiting to be revealed by careful sanding and filing.
As we go into the shaping phase which requires some elbow grease and, if you don't have a belt sander some good old muscle power, you will see your creation beginning to emerge. It just gets better as the sanding process progresses. What looked like something you might have wanted to initially consign to the rubbish bin starts looking like a real bow. Now is the time to exercise patience. Yes I know you will want to fix a string to your bow and bend it. Don't! Not just yet. There is a process called tillering that must be tackled before you can add the final touches and finally nock that first arrow.
The finishing process is where you add all the "bells and whistles" to make the bow look good. It's the cherry on the cake. And finally, when you get to shoot your bow you will experience something that can only come from having handcrafted it yourself. Now let's go to the tools and materials.
The bow-making materials you will be using are tried and tested and are the same as those found in expensive bows that have won national and regional championships and that have bagged world record big game trophies.
One way of avoiding discouraging failures is through a wise choice of bow weights. Remember that recurve and longbows to not have the "let-off" in peak weight that is made possible through cams and pulleys in compound bows.
A ninety pound draw weight compound with a let-off of 65% will have a holding weight of 58, 5 pounds. The holding weight of a ninety pound recurve or longbow will be 90 pounds (usually at 28" of draw) and will increase if drawn back even further. A 45-50 pound recurve or longbow will be reasonably comfortable to shoot and it is suggested – especially with your first bow to opt for a 45 pound draw weight.
Construction of the bow laminating oven
When you glue laminations together with epoxy you have to cure the bow in an oven so this is your first task.
- 4 - 2150 x 440 mm pine planks of 25 mm thickness
- 2 - 380 x 440 mm pine planks
- 4 - light sockets
- About 4 m of electrical cable
- A hot water geyser thermostat (must be able to be set at between 65 – 800C.
- 4 – brass hinges
- 4 – 250 Watt electric light bulbs
- White wood glue
- Silver paint (heat resistant)
- Wood primer and sandpaper
You will require the following tools: A saw, hammer, drill, drill bits, clamps, paint brushes and screwdriver
Building a curing oven
You will be gluing thin laminations of wood and fiberglass together with epoxy which will need to be cured at a constant temperature and for this you will need to make an oven box with a heating source that can be controlled by a thermostat.
Construct an open box with the pine planks as shown in figure 1. Use screws and glue to construct the box. Clamps are advised during the glue-drying process.
Now attach a lid with four brass hinges
Drill a hole through the side of the box just big enough to insert the stem of the thermostat. See figure 2. It can be held in place on the inside of the box with Prestik (see figure 3).
The next step is to screw on three or four light sockets (three in the lid and one on the side), wire them in series with the thermostat and screw on two hasps onto the lid. Paint the inside of the box silver. See figures 3 and 4.
That's it, you now have an oven. In the next article we will construct a laminating press for a longbow.
About the Author
Cleve Cheney, hunting and environmental editor of Africa’s Bowhunter is a very well known figure in bow hunting and in conservation circles in South Africa. Cleve Cheney has been in conservation for 27 years, of which 20 years were spent with the National Parks Board – most of it in the Kruger National Park. During the time spent in the Kruger National Park Cleve culled no less than 50 elephants with a rifle and he has hunted most African game during culling operations.
Cleve has also been an avid bow hunter for 22 years and he has an extensive technical knowledge on bows, arrows and broadheads. Cleve is also an accomplished bowyer and has built many recurves over the years. He began offering bowhunting education courses more than 15 years ago. Until recently, Cleve was a lecturer at the South African Wildlife College where was a lecturer and instructor. He has a diploma in Nature Conservations and a MA degree in animal Physiology. Over the years Cleve has written more than a hundred articles on tracking, hunting, survival skills, and bow and rifle hunting. He started an 18 month long professional hunters course at the SA Wildlife College where he trained the first group of professional hunters.
Cleve has trained many bow hunters and his educative articles on how to hunt African game, as well as many other articles on different aspects of archery bow hunting an bush skills has been published in Africa’s Bowhunter, Game and Hunt magazine, Universal Hunter and many other magazines. He has been the lead article writer for Africa’s Bowhunter for more than 14 years.
His book on tracking, The Comprehensive Guide to Tracking: In-depth information on how to track animals and humans alike, is probably the most in-depth study on this subject available. For those who want to learn more than the basics, this book is a treasure trove of tracking information, insights, methods, and knowledge. The book is divided into logical sections: teaching yourself to track; understanding wildlife behavior; identification of tracks and signs; gait patterns and pressure release; blood trailing; tracking specific animals; track, stalk, and approach; bird, reptile, and invertebrate sign; man tracking; and dangers in the bush.