Medieval bows and arrows were powerful weapons of war. In an age before gunpowder, they offered one of the few possibilities of fighting at long range. Medieval bows and arrows provided a role for the common soldier. The English longbow was particularly famous. Nearly the size of a man, this longbow was capable of inflicting terrible damage on armoured knights.
To make a medieval bow and set of arrows, begin with a strip of wood about 5 cm (2 inches) wide. Medieval longbows were made of yew. Yew has just the right amount of tensile and compressive strength. The wooden strip should be about 1.8 metres (6 feet) in length. Take the strip of wood and soak it or steam it. Bend the wood as it softens. You must gradually pull it into the shape of a bow.
Cut nocks near each end of the bow. Nocks are slits to hold the bowstring. Take the bowstring and attach it to the nocks. Almost any flexible string may be used as a bowstring. Traditional bowstrings were made of lengths of linen or hemp that were twisted first one way and then back again the other. They could also be made of sinew or leather. Modern bowstrings are often of Kevlar or Dacron.
To make arrows for your medieval bow, use thin rods of ash or poplar wood. These rods should about 76 cm (30) inches long. Sand them down so that they taper from 12 mm (1/2 inch) thick at the head to 9 mm (3/8 inch) thick at the nock end. Grind down the head still further to make a place to hold the arrowhead. The arrow will fit over the end similar to the way a cap might fit over a screw or nail.
Make your medieval arrow heads out of small pieces of iron. Heat them at a forge and bang them into shape on an anvil. Hammer the sides thinner than the main body of the arrow. Form the lower portion of the arrow into a hollow tube that can fit over the head of the arrow shaft. Take the finished arrow and glue it onto the head of the arrow shaft.
Cut a nock into the end of the medieval arrow. The nock is the slit that is placed against the bowstring when the arrow is shot. Goose or turkey feathers form the fletching, or feathers, that attach in front of the nock. To cut these feathers to the appropriate angular shape, attach them to a piece of tape and cut. A fletching jig is used to cut the fletching slots into the arrow shaft. Place these just in front of the nock. Insert the fletching in the fletching slots. Take thin string and tie it carefully around the fletchings. You must pass the string evenly in between the barbs of their feathers. Secure both ends of the string with a little bit of glue. Your arrows are ready to use.
You can make a handle for your medieval bow by binding a leather strip around the middle of the bow.
Tips and warnings
- You can make a handle for your medieval bow by binding a leather strip around the middle of the bow.