The English Long Bow is the most powerful type of bow, but because it is so hard to make it can take years to make a high-quality bow, but here we will give you some tips to make an easy do-it-yourself model quickly and efficiently.
The English Long Bow
Although it’s just a string attached to a clump of wood, building a longbow is a tradition practiced well over a few hundred years.
The English longbows were heavily used against the French army in the early 1400s. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single longbow that survived from this period.
However, due to the heavy use of this archery equipment, many craftsmen resolved to make their own English longbows. Each was built using different materials, methods, and practices to perfect the craftsmanship.
Today, we are left with a bunch of ways to construct such weaponry. Thanks to modern equipment and supplies being available left and right, building an English longbow isn’t that difficult.
Step 1: Materials & Tools
You probably have most of this stuff laying around, but if not, you can easily find everything you need at your local hardware store. Besides, constructing the English longbow doesn’t require special tools or anything.
Like we’ve mentioned, there’s a ton of types of the English longbow, but today’s guide will be using a specific type of material. You don’t have to use the same type of wood or string, but we’ve found out these materials actually help the stiffness and sturdiness of the bow itself.
- 6-7 feet of 2″ x 1″ Red Oak
- 6-7 feet of 2″ x 1/4″ Pine
- B50 Dacron bowstring, or any type of twine
- Angle grinder
- Sand Paper
- Hand File
- Clamps (Optional)
Step 2: Gluing, Cutting, Shaping
First things first, you need to glue the two types of wood together. To make sure they are actually glued together, you can sand down both sides where you will apply the glue.
Once you finish gluing your stave ( a stave is a piece of wood cut to the correct measurements for making a bow ), make sure to place it under at least a few pounds of pressure or clamp it down for a few hours. If you don’t have access to clamps you can use duck tape to keep the two pieces together while the glue dries.
Now the cutting. This depends on your preference. Anywhere around 6 feet will do the job. For this project, we went with a 6.4 feet long stave.
Step 3: Marking and Grinding the Sides
The glue dried and now you are left with this sturdy clump of wood in your hands. This is where you need to follow the next few steps closely because this is where the difference between a good and a great bow is.
Start with marking the shape you desire. For longbows, it’s usually the D shape. To put it simply, this means rounding the edges of the stave and slowly removing wood from the “belly” section of the bow.
Once you have your markings laid out it’s time to grind down those lines with the help of the angle grinder.
You may also choose to use a bandsaw for this step, however, the angle grinder is much faster and yields better results.
Step 4: Tillering
You are doing great so far! It’s time to dedicate your full attention to this next step. Take your time and approach this step carefully, because if you overdo this step it might compromise the overall strength and integrity of the bow.
This is where a clamp might come in handy. If you have access to one, definitely use it!
Use both the angle grinder and sandpaper to grind down the limbs until they are even from both sides.
Now, after grinding down to a certain point, the next step involves using a rope and pulley hooked to both sides of the stave. Pull carefully and estimate the bend with your eyes.
Don’t over grind and make sure you follow the D-shaped cross-section throughout the entirety of the stave.
Notes for perfection:
If you over grind one spot, you will notice the bow will bend more in that area, however, this can be fixed by grinding above and below to alleviate the curvature from such a small bend point.
This particular design uses two types of wood. Both have different properties so adjust accordingly while grinding. The pine is a softer wood and grinds much faster than the Red Oak. (1)
Take the nocks into consideration. The tips of the stave need to have nocks in order to attach the string. Don’t make your tips so slim, because you might have trouble when adding the nocks.
Also make sure to use a range of sandpapers, transition from using rough to fine sandpaper.
Step 5: Adding the Nocks
Like we’ve mentioned, both sides from the tip of the bow need to be strong enough to endure a little bit more grinding for the nocks. Use the hand files to make small cutouts about an inch or two from the tips. The cut should be angled inward to the belly of the bow.
Step 6: The String
You can decide to use a handmade or a premade bowstring. There are certain benefits to both, but for the sake of this guide, we went the DIY route.
Take three strands of twine and braid them together. That’s it! Depending on the type of twine you have, the string might be thicker than the store-bought bowstrings, but it shouldn’t cause any problems.
Step 7: Congratulations
The only thing left to do is tie down the string to the nocks and you are ready to shoot!
But don’t just use a regular knot for this step. Lookup a “bowyers” knot guide, there are tons of videos on the internet. This knot is perfect for tieing down the string to the nocks.
If you carefully follow this guide you should have a finished bow in your hand.
Don’t be discouraged to try this process a couple of times if you don’t get it right the first time. There isn’t a perfect process for longbow making, but with trial and error, you can come very close to the ideal weaponry from the 15th century. (2)
(1) Red Oak – https://www.britannica.com/plant/red-oak-subgenus
(2) weaponry – https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/social-sciences/weaponry