How to make homemade bow and arrows

Updated February 21, 2017

Before World War II, young boys played cowboys and Indians by making their own homemade bow and arrows. Not much equipment was needed for hours of fun and if an arrow or even the bow broke, it was simple to replace. After the war, unfortunately, these homemade bows and arrows were replaced with plastic and suction cups.

Cut a tree branch approximately 3 1/2 – 4 feet long. The branch should be at least 1 inch in diameter. Use the saw to remove any limbs from the branch. If desired, use the pocketknife to peel the bark from the branch. Hickory, Ash and Oak branches make the best bows.

Cut a triangular notch in each end of the branch. Cut a piece of string 1/2 foot shorter than the branch. Tie the end of the string around one end of the branch, run the string through the notch and pull taunt to the other end of the branch. Tie the end of the string around the end. This completes the bow.

Cut smaller straight tree limbs. As on the bow, cut a triangular notch into one end.

Cut a double arrow shape out of cardboard or old roofing shingles. Wrap the arrow around the end of straight limb and tie securely with string. This completes the arrow.

Center the notch of the arrow on the string in the centre of the bow. Pull back the string, while holding the arrow, and when you can pull back no farther, let the arrow fly.


Arrows with asphalt shingle arrowheads were very popular for play before World War I. As plastics and other materials were developed, the shingles fell out of favour.
Building your own bow and arrows can be a great scout project or other educational project.


Children should be taught never to shoot a bow and arrow directly at another person. Although these are toys, they need to be used with respect for others.

Things You'll Need

  • Saw
  • Straight tree branch
  • Smaller straight tree limbs
  • Sharp pocketknife
  • String
  • Heavy cardboard or roof shingle
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