Making an English Longbow

By Sam Harper

The glue-up

Before gluing anything up, I want to first make a few pencil marks so everything comes out hunky dory. Specifically, I want to make sure that the bow is straight. Here's how I do that.

First, I find the dead center of the bow. I've already marked the midpoint on the belly of the bow, so I just wrap that line around to the back of the bow. Then I want to find the center of the width. That is easily done using a ruler. Now I've got a cross at the bow dead center on the back of the handle.

Next, I lay a string along the back of the bow and hang weights off the ends. I used squeeze clamps, because it requires no tying.

I make sure the string runs straight through that center mark I made. Then I try to get the string to hit about the same place on either end of the bow. Once that is done, I make a mark at either end of the bow where the string is.

Some people just draw a line all the way down the back of the bow, but I don't think that's necessary. All I need to get the backings right is mark the center of each end of the backing.

Then when I glue everything up, I make sure the mark on the backing lines up with the mark on the end of the bow.

August 11, 2005

This morning, I glued up the bow. In fact, it's in the oven right now. Before gluing it up, I did a dry run. I clamped the bow up just as if it had glue on it to make sure I had all the clamps I needed where I wanted them. That way I avoided panic later on while actually using glue.

I used a 2x6 to glue the bow on. I put stands under the board so I could put clamps under it where the handle goes. I put in a little reflex so that when I tiller later on, there won't be any (or much) string follow. Hopefully after tillering, the bow will be straight. Here's the bow all glued up.

That's Aristotle checking everything out to make sure I didn't botch it. Notice that I wrapped everything up in saran wrap. That keeps the glue off the clamps, me, the board, and everything else. I probably should've put tape on the hickory backing to keep glue off of it, but I didn't. I also should've wiped everything down with acetone before applying the glue, but I didn't.

To apply the glue, I used this handy dandy doohicky and put glue both on the osage and on the hickory.

It's a seam roller I got from Lowes. This is the first time I've used it, and it makes gluing a lot easier than the way I used to do it. I used to use a paint brush with the bristles cut short so it would be stiff. Before that, I'd just use a wedge of wood.

Here's a closer look at the handle.

I put those two pieces of wood under the handle so I could put the clamps between the bow and the 2x6 farther out. It also helps regulate how much reflex I put in the bow.

Before putting the clamps on, I wrapped tape around everything in six different places. That helped to keep everything from sliding around while I put the clamps on.

My hot box gets to about 160F, and I usually leave bows in there for six hours. Gluing is my least favourite part of making a bow.

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