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How to make an English longbow

Updated April 17, 2017

The English longbow was a powerful bow used in hunting and warfare. Made of yew and often more than 1.8 metres (6 feet) long, the English longbow was instrumental in the Hundred Years War. English longbowmen readily faced off against heavily armoured knights. The longbow is armed with a 76 cm (30 inch) arrow that was capable of piercing heavy armour. It is quick to reload and can be used with basic knowledge, although skilled use requires training.

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  1. Cut a yew stave to use as your English longbow. The stave must be matched to the size of the user. A bow should be long enough that, when bent, the bowstring can reach back to the archer's ear. This produces an English longbow anywhere from 1.7 m (5 1/2 feet) to 2 m (6 1/2 feet) in length. Select a stave that is flat on one side and rounded on the other.

  2. Take the yew stave and slowly bend it into the shape of a "D." The inner side of the "D" is the rounded side of the wood. Soak the stave in water or steam it. Bend it a little at a time, but not too far. Repeat the process until the desired shape is achieved. This may take some time. The difference in the curvature of the two surfaces will ensure that the bow springs back when pulled.

  3. Make two cuts, or nocks, near each end of the bow. The nocks are the slits that hold the bowstring. String the bow by tying the ends of the bowstring to the two nocks. Bowstring can be natural string or synthetic fibre. The important thing is that is must be able to snap back sharply into place when pulled. When at rest, the bowstring should be completely taut.

  4. Collect oak or ash sticks to use as arrow shafts. These sticks should be rounded and perfectly smooth. Strip off the bark and remove any projections. Cut small nocks, or slits, along about 23 cm (9 inches) of the base. Attach feathers, or fletching, to the nocks. Screw an arrowhead down onto the other end. You can also sharpen the end with a knife and char it in a fire. The charring hardens the point. This is not traditional for an English longbow, but will save you the trouble of finding or making an arrowhead.

  5. Tip

    Steam the yew wood by using a garment steamer, kettle, or pot of boiling water.


    Do not aim the bow at any person or fragile object. The English longbow is a very powerful and dangerous weapon.

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Things You'll Need

  • Yew stave about 5 cm (2 inches) thick
  • Bowstring
  • Oak or ash sticks 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick and 76 cm (30 inches) long
  • Goose or turkey feathers

About the Author

Brian Adler has been writing articles on history, politics, religion, art, architecture and antiques since 2002. His writing has been published with Demand Studios, as well as in an online magazine. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Columbia University.

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