Making a Fiberglass Laminated Bow

By Sam Harper

Now to the glue-up.

The glue-up

There are a couple more things you need to do the glue-up. You're going to need some pressure strips. I use rubber and aluminum.

You could subsitute cork for the rubber. The rubber and aluminum distribute the pressure of the clamps, and keep it constant. The rubber you can get at Lowes or Home Depot. Go to the flooring section, and you'll see these strips of rubber about four feet long, two inches wide, and with a lip on one edge. Get two of those, then cut it down to three feet, and cut the lip off, leaving at least an inch and a half width.

You can also get the aluminum at Lowes or Home Depot. It comes in strips where they have the rest of the aluminum and steal strips. It's 1.5" wide, and comes in various lengths. Get whatever turns out to be the cheapest. You can always cut it to size with a hack saw. I got two of them four feet long and cut them to three feet with a hack saw. Don't be intimidated. Aluminum is surprisingly easy to cut. Be sure to get it 1/8" thick. Do not get it 1/16" thin. That's too thin and won't distribute the pressure properly.

Some people also put rubber or cork strips between the bow and the form, but I just put them on top of the bow.

You might want to do a dry run before the actual glue-up. Make sure you have everything laid out like you want it, that you don't accidentally have the pencil side of the lams showing through the fiberglass.

Once you've done the dry-run, some people like to put everything upside down in the hotbox, turn on the hot box, and then take out one piece at a time to apply glue. Preheating the lams is supposed to help the glue adhere. Preheating is optional, though. I don't do it, because I had some lams warp on me doing that. You don't have to worry about them warping during the glue-up, though, because the clamp pressure will prevent it. Also, remember when we spliced those two lams together? I've had those come undone during preheating, too. So I just don't preheat anymore.

Now let's mix the glue up. I measure my glue using 3 oz. paper cups. I fill one with glue and one with the hardener.

The cups don't have to be Mickey Mouse, but it doesn't hurt. Now squeeze the cups so that you get everything into the blue plastic bowl. When you put it all together like that it sort of looks like the inside of a Cadbury Cream egg. Mix it up really well.

Now tape some wax paper to whatever you're going to use for a table. I use two pieces of bamboo flooring, and set that on the counter in my kitchen with the form behind it. Lay some plastic wrap over the form so that it extends past both ends. Don't use "Sam's Choice" plastic wrap. My name is Sam, but it's certainly not my choice. The stuff is excellent on food, I suppose, but I've used it on the last three bows and will never use it again. The stuff comes preloaded with static cling, and then it seems to sort of melt around the bow in the hot box. Taking it off is like pealing skin from a sunburn. It's difficult and takes forever. Use something else that doesn't cling quite so effectively. I use Hy-Top. It's horrible for food, but it's great for bows.

Okay, now I want to tell you the procedure I use to glue the bow together. First of all, if you haven't already done so, you need to find the center of the bamboo and put pencil marks on the edges.

1. Lay the six foot piece of glass on the table. Lay the spliced lams in front of that (closer to you). Lay the bamboo for the core in front of that (closest to you).

2. Apply glue to the fiberglass. I dab it on with my stirring stick, then use a seam roller I got at Lowes to spread it from end to end. Be sure there are no dry spots.

3. Apply glue to the spliced lams. Make sure once again that you have them oriented right and don't glue them on so the pencil marks will show through the fiberglass.

4. Pick up the spliced lams, flip them over, and put them on the fiberglass so that glue and glue go together. Center it, too.

5. Apply glue to the other side of the spliced limbs that are sitting on the fiberglass.

6. Apply glue to the bamboo.

7. Pick up the bamboo, flip it over, and put it on the spliced limbs, glue on glue. Make sure the center mark on the bamboo lines up with the splice on the spliced limbs.

8. Apply glue to the other side of the bamboo.

9. Pick up the whole thing and put it on the form. Make sure the center pencil mark on the bamboo lines up with the center pencil mark on the form.

10. Apply glue to the underside of the riser.

11. Put the riser on the form. Make sure the center mark on the riser lines up with the center mark on the bamboo and the form.

12. Put a folded paper towel on the riser, and use your 6" c-clamp to clamp it on. With this part, it helps greatly if you have a lovely assistant. One of you can hold both ends of the riser and lams, keeping everything lined up, while the other tightens the clamp. If you don't have a lovely assistant, there are two other ways. One way is to attach, by glue or screw, some guides along both sides of your form. They will keep everything lined up. The guides can be aluminum, wood, or whatever. The other way is to just tighten in increments while you keep making minor adjustments to keep everything lined up. You'll get glue on your hands for sure. What I like to do is put a piece of plastic over the fades so I don't get glue on my hands, then on the clamp. Speaking of which, the whole reason I had you put that paper towel on the riser is so you don't accidentally glue the clamp to the riser.

13. Lay the right-hand piece of belly fiberglass and belly lamination on the table in front of you.

14. Apply glue to the fiberglass.

15. Apply glue to the lam. Make sure you're gluing the correct side!

16. Put the lam on the fiberglass, glue to glue.

17. Apply glue to the other side of the lam.

18. Apply glue to the right side of the riser fade.

19. Pick up the lam, flip it over, and put it on the right-hand side of the form.

20. Repeat steps 13-19, except do it with the left-handed stuff.

21. Wrap the plastic wrap around the bow.

22. Wrap some masking tape around a couple of places on the limbs. That helps keep things from sliding around too much.

23. Put the rubber on the bow.

24. Put the aluminum on the rubber.

25. Start putting on the clamps. I start at the highest spot.

Then I work my way to the fades. Be sure to keep checking the alignment. Don't put too much pressure at first. I alternate from one side to the other. This is especially important when you start applying clamps to the fades, because if you apply them to one side, the riser will slide out of alignment. So apply them with little pressure to one side and the other alternating. Also, be sure none of the plastic wrap gets between the laminations on the fades. I just sort of pull it out as I'm applying pressure.

26. Once I have all the clamps from the high spot to the fades, I begin tightening them, alternating from one side to the other and going in increments until I have it fairly tight.

27. Begin applying clamps from the high point to the end on both sides, and tighten them in increments as before.

It's not necessary to alternate the different sides like I did. I just do that for balance.

28. Now put that in the hotbox and cook for six hours. You can use the c-clamps for handles when you pick it up.

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Dremel tool:

1/8" x 1.5" x 48" aluminum strip:

3 oz. paper cups:

seam roller:

3", 4", and 6" c-clamps:

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