Making an English Longbow

By Sam Harper

August 12, 2005

Roughing it out

I thought for sure that when I got off work this morning, I'd be able to spend all day making bows. But sleepiness overcame me, and I didn't get started till about 5:30 PM. That's okay, though. There's always tomorrow.

Last night before going to work, I unwrapped the bow. Here's the springback I had a few minutes afterwards.

And here's how it looked.

I cut out the excess with a band saw.

Today, I cleaned it up with my belt sander. Here's how it looked after cleaning it up.

At this point, I came to the realization that I had not tapered the osage thin enough. I should've gone with 1/4" afterall, instead of 5/16". That's okay, though. I can thin it down some more with the belt sander.

But before that, I want to rough out the "D" shape. Here are my instruments of destruction--a belt sander, a Stanley surform rasp, and a couple of wood rasps.

And here is my strategy for roughing it out. First, I just want to take off the corners. I'll do that with my wood rasp, because it's quicker. I'll do the rest with the belt sander. I also want to radius the edges on the hickory backing so it will be less likely to lift a splinter later on. I guess that means the surform doesn't get to play today.

Here's how I hold the bow while rasping it.

That's right; I just clamp it to the chair and rasp between the arms. Then I move it over to rasp some more.

I wasn't sure how to take a picture so you could see the shape of it, but this was the best I could come up with.

The "D" is not as steap all over the bow as it is at the tip. It will be even more shallow as I thin the limbs while tillering.

I didn't round out the handle all the way. The handle is thin enough as it is. The bow will bend in the handle, and I don't want it to bend more than necessary. I just rounded the corners so it will be comfortable enough to hold.

Speaking of the handle, remember this?

If you think about it, that joint could easily come loose if the handle bends, and that would lead to a very unhappy Sam.

But I'll deal with that tomorrow. Also coming up, I'll show you my secret weapon for tillering. You will all want to run out and get one.

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