Bamboo Recurve Build Along

By Sam Harper

The background story

Several years ago, I made this recurve bow with bamboo on the back, bamboo flooring on the belly, and cedar in the core. Although you can't tell from the picture, there was also a 21 inch power lam. I can't remember what I made that out of.

The riser had Osage, padauk, and zebra wood in it.

The form I used to glue it up on was made out of a 2x6. This is a picture of the actual form I used to make this bow:

The bow turned out surprisingly well, so I gave it to my good friend, Sam Loper. If I remember right, it came out to about 50# at 28".

Since that bow turned out so well, I decided to make another one for myself. I used the same materials in the limbs and the same form, but things went awry. First, I glued the bow to the form and did some damage to the form in my efforts to get it free. Second, whereas the first bow had perfectly aligned tips from the get go and hardly required any tillering at all, the second one was a mess. The tips were so misaligned that I couldn't even keep a string on it. I gave up on it and set it away for a year. Since the bow was so much trouble, and since the form had warped a little, I threw it away.

A year later, I decided that rather than leave the bow indefinitely to collect dust or throw it away, I'd experiment with it and see if I could fix it. I didn't expect it to work out. One of my neighbors who had bought two of my bows wanted me to make him a recurve, which I didn't want to do. So I showed him the failed bow, told him I was trying to fix it, and that if I succeeded, he could have it.

I was so surprised when I succeeded in fixing the bow, that I posted it on the Leatherwall as The bow that lived, which for those of you who are not in the know, was an allusion to the failed attempt of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's attempt to kill Harry Potter.

The Bow that lived did not have quite as nice of a tiller as the first one.

However, I was pretty happy that it was a bow. See the smiley face?

Since I had offered to give this bow to my neighbor with the thought that it most likely wasn't going to work out, I was a little disappointed that I had offered to give it to him. I wanted to keep it for myself. But it was too late. My disappointment was somewhat alleviated because of how delighted my neighbor was to be getting such a fine bow for absosmurfly free. His day was made, and that was enough for me.

Since the making of these two bows, I've been asked a number of times to do a build along. I haven't done it in all this time because I struggled with both bows. The hardest part was bending the bamboo backing. I'll explain in a little bit what the problem was.

But I decided to try another one. The first time I made one of these, i was just winging it. I didn't have any formula about how I was going to make the form, where I was going to cut things, how thick my laminations were going to be, etc. I used bamboo because it's difficult to break. Bamboo flooring is really a great material to use to make experimental bows. It's cheap, and it doesn't break easily. Since I didn't write down all the specs from the first two bows, I'm pretty much going to be winging it this time, too. But I'll let you know all the specs as we go along so in case you want to try this yourself, you won't have to wing it.

Thankfully, I at least have that picture where I labeled the dimensions of the form. That will help.

to be continued...

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