How to make a wood recurve longbow

Written by missy farage
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How to make a wood recurve longbow
Create your own longbow using these simple steps. (red arrow ant bridge image by Jose from

The longbow, defined as a bow longer than 4 feet, has secured its place in history as a deadly weapon in the hands of a skilled archer. Whether you are a practicing archer or a medieval enthusiast, designing and creating your own longbow is a challenge that will reward you for years to follow. But before you begin, make sure you choose a wood that is easy to work with. Yew and ash, renowned for their strength and flexibility, are the best woods to use for a longbow.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • 6-foot by 3-inch by 3-inch piece of yew or ash
  • Pencil
  • Coarse rasp
  • Sandpaper
  • Draw knife
  • Bowstring

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  1. 1

    Draw out the design for your longbow on the 6-foot by 3-inch by 3-inch piece of lumber. Typically, the longbow is 3 inches wide and 1.5 inches in depth at the handle, thinning down to only 1/2 inch at the tips. The width of the handle is smaller than the rest of the rest of the bow, roughly 2.5 inches wide, to create a grip. Measure your hand when determining the length of the handle and mark the tapered width appropriately.

  2. 2

    Use a coarse rasp to take away the excess lumber, cutting out the bow's shape. Once you have defined the shape of the bow, use sandpaper to smooth the wood and curve the edges of the bow.

  3. 3

    Create the bend in the bow by holding your hand on one tip of the bow and placing the other tip securely on the floor. Slowly press on the bow to see which way the wood naturally bends. This is called tillering. Slowly bend the bow to make sure it bends evenly. If it bends unevenly, use the rasp or sandpaper to remove wood from the bow's body until it limbers and bends more evenly.

  4. 4

    Use a draw knife to cut notches into the sides of the bow 1/2 inch from the tip. The notches should cut 1/4 inch into the wood. Do the same for the other tip.

  5. 5

    String the bow. Slip one looped end of the bowstring over the notched tip. Place the stringed end on the floor, grasping the other end of the bow just below the notch. Press downward on the longbow, bending the wood until you can fit the other loop into the other notched end.

Tips and warnings

  • For a more durable finish, apply 3 to 4 coats of polyurethane finish. If desired, you can create a leather grip and arrow rest for the bow.

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