Building a Board Bow #1: A Wood Bow is dreamed up.

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Blog entry by wildbill001 posted 06-13-2011 11:36 PM 11680 reads 3 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Building a Board Bow series Part 2: The bow takes shape »

Several years ago I got re-interested in archery via a garage-sale purchase of a very used compound bow. That led to the purchase of a better used model and eventually and even better and more powerful bow, though still used.. Unfortunately, my shoulder gave out about 6 months after that. The doc said I had to lay off shooting for “a while” and IF I was able to get back to it, use a very light draw-weight (less than 40#). SWMBO suggested I give it up all together. So, the new, used bow went up on Ebay and I nursed my shoulder for the next few years as it turned out.

Shortly after I signed up on LJ, I ran across a project post by another member showing a wood bow he built using just a 1×2 piece of red oak. NEVER would have dreamed that was possible. “Everyone knows” you have to build a bow out of a piece of yew, right? Well, turns out “everyone” is wrong. Not only that, with some careful work I should be able to build a bow for just a few bucks that also has a light draw weight.

So off to google-land and I start researching. Turns out quite a few folks are building what are called board-bows using red oak that they get from the local big-box store. And even more surprising to me, the bows are holding up. Since this looks do-able, inexpensive, I decide to give it a try. Worst case I end up blowing about $8 for a piece of red oak.

My goal was to build a pyramid-style bow with a 35# draw @ 27” (my draw-length). Pyramid-style means that the limbs of the bow look like a pyramid or elongated triangle. I also decided to make it about 69” long.

Here are some pics of the wood I ended up with:


What will be the back of the bow:

Glued a piece of canarywood to the handle area to make it a bit beefier

Now that I know a little more than I did before I started, I can say that it turns out this piece was not a great choice. Grain runs off the edge in a few places which can lead to splintering and breakage. But, as I later found out, not always.

More to come tomorrow.


-- "You can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their back" -- Unknown

4 comments so far

View AkBob's profile


201 posts in 2570 days

#1 posted 06-14-2011 05:21 AM

I look forward to seeing your end product. Sounds like a fun project.

View Blair Helgason's profile

Blair Helgason

169 posts in 3437 days

#2 posted 11-08-2011 08:45 PM

I too will be building a board bow soon, probably over the winter. A friend and I have been planing on starting for a while but life got in the way. We have a few nice pieces of maple floor boards to practice on then we’ll see what we can find. From the research that I’ve done so far, it seems like you can build a pretty decent bow out of almost any hardwood. The trick is finding nice straight grains and being open to the possibility of adding backing such as linen or bamboo. You’re already much further than I am, good luck!

Question 1: Have you heard of any one who has tried to use engineered bamboo for a board bow? I’ve asked around but haven’t had any luck. It seems worth a try, the grain of course is super straight and is quite springy considering that it is a laminate. What do you think?

Question2: Have you shot traditional bow before? You mentioned compounds but I’m curious. I’ve been shooting a Martin #45 recurve. It was fairly inexpensive but I love it. My friend has a Bear #50 longbow which feels completely different and I would assume, much closer to what these board bows will be like, that is, if we can even get them to shoot without exploding!

-- Blair

View wildbill001's profile


111 posts in 2665 days

#3 posted 11-09-2011 06:35 AM

Well, I’ve only built 3 board bows so far, all from Home Depot red oak, so I am far from an expert. However, from what I have read I’m not sure laminated flooring would work. The issues are tension and compression. The back of the bow (the wood facing away from you) is put in tension when you draw the bow. The belly is put in compression. So while the oak veneer on the floor board may handle the compression on, whatever is on the back side will be in tension and more than likely will fail. I’d suggest going to the local lumber yard/big-box store and getting some nice straight grain oak 1×3 and going from there.

There is a LOT of information on the web about board-bows. I would suggest going through:

first, then;f=125

I also used a lot of the information found in this youtube video series

Go slow and be prepared for your first bow(s) to break. From what I understand I was/am real lucky that my first bow has survived.

As for the traditional, yes. I discovered that I was actually a pretty good shot many, many years ago when I was in the scouts. Started out with a traditional bow and shot that for many years. Got away from archery for a while then found a compound at a garage sale for something like $20 which got me started all over again. Seeing Sam (poorfolkbows) build a useable bow from a piece of red-oak got me all fired up again.

Let me know how it goes for you.

Bill W

-- "You can tell the pioneers by the arrows in their back" -- Unknown

View Blair Helgason's profile

Blair Helgason

169 posts in 3437 days

#4 posted 11-14-2011 09:02 PM

Sorry the floorboards are solid maple, no lamination. The first question was about engineered bamboo but I would assume it would have the issues. Thanks a lot for all of the links!

-- Blair

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