How to Make a Flat Bow

Updated February 21, 2017

Flatbows are wide-backed wooden bows first used by the Native Americans living in the Northeast. Flatbows are the simplest type of bow to make, but remain one of the mainstays of many modern archers. This article will discuss the technique of crafting your very own flatbow from start to finish.

Begin crafting your flatbow by procuring an Osage orange bow stave (basically a bow blank) from any one of numerous bowyer supply venues and shaving it down to a square on each side. Cut the stave to length (58 inches to 64 inches tall) at this time as well.

Find the middle of the bow and measure three inches above and below this mark. This area will be the handle of the bow. Carve it and shave it the way you would like it.

Find the mid-point of the bow lengthwise and mark it with a pencil. Measure 1 inch on either side of this line at the top of handle you just drew out. This will be the widest point of the bow.

Measure 1/2 inch on either side of the center line at the tip of each end of the bow. Now connect this mark with the mark above your handle. This is a rough layout of what the bow will look like.

Now, using the drawknife, shave the bow down until it is a little over an inch thick on the "belly" (the side that faces you when you shoot). Use the rasp to shape your handle according to your specifications.

Once you have the bow "roughed out," it is time to begin tillering (the process of continually bending the bow until you reach the desired draw length).

An easy way to tiller the bow is to have someone else draw the bow back a little bit at a time so that you can watch the arc of the limbs. If you discover a hinge (soft spot in the wood) or a hard spot, remove wood with the rasp so that the limb will bend evenly and gently.

Tiller the bow until you have reached your maximum draw length (somewhere around 28 inches). Once the bow is tillered it needs to be sanded smooth and sealed with a polyurethane based finish. Put a leather grip on your handle and enjoy years of shooting fun.


Have patience with the tillering process. It can be long and tedious, but remember to measure twice and cut once.

Things You'll Need

  • Osage orange stave
  • Draw knife
  • Wood rasp
  • Clamp
  • Tillering stick
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