How to make recurve bow limbs

Written by max quigley | 13/05/2017
How to make recurve bow limbs
A recurve-style bow. (Men bow shooting. Amateur competition in the sanatorium image by Igor Zhorov from

Recurve bows were known as the weapon of choice for most eastern armies in the Middle Ages. They are synonymous with characters like Attila the Hun and Genghis Khan, whose hordes of invaders used this weapon to devastating efficiency. Recurve bows are simply bows whose limbs bend away from the archer. This type of construction harnasses massive force in the limbs. Recurve bow limbs are easy to make with just a few tools.

Measure out a 1.5 m by 7.5 cm (5 foot by 3 inch) piece of yew wood. Determine the centre of the stave where the handle will be. Allow the handle to be at least 7.5 cm (3 inches) long. Make sure, however, the limbs on both sides of the handle are the exact same length as each other.

File the limbs, using the rasp, to 2.5 cm (1 inch) wide by 2 cm (8/10 inch) thick at the base, and 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) wide by 7.5 mm (3/10 inch) thick at the tip. Do this on both limbs. The limbs are what generate the power behind the arrow, so they must have quite specific dimensions, depending on how powerful you want your bow to be.

Cut the shape of a curved recurve bow out of the wooden board. This will later act as a mould for the bow to be shaped on.

Soak the bow's limbs in simmering water for 30 minutes. Once the limbs are soft, clamp them onto the wooden board mould using heavy-duty clampers and leave it to dry. The limbs should have set into the desired shape by the time they are dry.

Cut notches at both ends of the tips. These notches will later accommodate the string.


You can make the limbs seperately and not as part of one single bow. They can be attached to one central handle. Make the limbs in the same way as described above.


Wear a respiratory mask and eye protection while filing: wood splinters can damage lungs and eyes.

Things you need

  • 1.5 m by 7.5 cm (5 foot by 3 inch) piece of yew wood
  • Heavy-duty clamps
  • Wooden board, 1.5 m by 90 cm (5 by 3 feet)
  • Large boiling pot
  • Rasp

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