Charly firing a bow

Bow making workshop in Austria

One of the goals I was dedicated to achieve on my bucket list was to learn a lot about traditional archery and bow making and sure it happened

  1. Choosing your wood

    Let’s say, for the sake of argument that you want to build your bow out of yew tree.You need to:
    -Get it from the forest,
    -Cut it to adequate size (between 1.50 m -2 m long)
    -Split the log
    -« Paint the two edges with carpenter glue on 15 cm (2 parts glue for 1 part water) so that cracks do not develop during the drying process
    -Store it for 3 years to get ride of the moisture


  2. Choose your bow
    When choosing your bow, making the right decision at the start is important.

    -① Traditional English longbow: Long, easy to shoot, easy to make
    -② Modern style recurved bow: The only bow allowed in the olympics
    -③ Horse bow: Short bow with 3 curves, the hardest to make but so stylish

  3. Cut your wood to the right size
    -Ludivine making a Longbow need to cut a 160 cm, just above her size with shoes on to be exact
    -Charly, you would have guessed, is taking the awesome looking horse bow and cut out the 150 cm needed for it

  4. Follow your template
    -The bow is thicker at the handle and thinner at the edges.
    -You first need to mark out all the 10 cm marks from the centre of the bow
    -Looking at the template you understand that the width of the diameter decreases with the length of the bow
    -For a horse bow of 150 cm, the diameter is ( in mm) : Handle, 23, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18
    -For a longbow of 160 cm, the diameter is ( in mm) : Handle, 25, 24, 23, 22, 20, 18, 16
    -Note that the longbow is wider than the horse bow

  5. Get to work
    -Get rid of most of the wood with a draw knife until you are within 1-2 cm of your goal
    -Finish it off to the millimeter with the steel file

  6. Be precise
    -Be sure that the wood removed lives you with a flat surface or your bow will turn
    -Mistakes can happen: I was carried away by how exiting using a draw knife was and I scrapped off a millimeter too much in two different places. In this case, do not worry, and note your mistakes. When you do the second limb, be sure to do the same measurements so that your bow is equally unbalanced. This is called a correction.

  7. Bending the membres
    For the recurved and the horsebow, you need to bend your wood.
    Heat makes magic happened
    -Stick the end of your bow between two not moving bits
    -Aim at it with your heat gun
    -You will notice that the wood slowly yield to your pressure
    -When you reach the desired angle, lock it in place with a clamp until it cools off
    -Angle for Horse bow: 110°
    -Angle for recurved bow: 140°

  8. Design your tip
    -You can use a fine round file
    -Start a 3 cm from the end (2 cm for Horse bow)
    -Slight curve on the face of the bow (Basically follow the edge of your thumb)
    -Straight on the sides of the bow

  9. String your bow
    -Note the position of the legs on the picture, this is the best way to string the bow
    -If you have follow the measurements, your bow should be seriously hard to string

  10. Even out your bow
    Bow making is a science that you can perfect over time. this important step is called tillering and allows the bow to be balanced and suited to your own strength
    -First you need to make sure that both member of your bow have the same strength so that it does not snap in half.
    -On a « Bending machine » you get Shit-scared when Gerhard, the bow master ties the string to a pulley and nearly rip appart your day’s work
    -It seems to be fine so you hold on to the rope while he walks to the bow and examine it
    -It is easily seen that the red circle bends too much so material will be removed elsewhere
    -The parts bending less have more material on it, this is where you will use the file

    Note on using the file at this stage
    -Draw a line with the pencil on the bow
    -Use the file to erase that line & do it again
    -Test the bow

  11. Adjust to your own strength
    -From the moment your bow is « finished » it will lose 10% to 15% of its draw weight in the first 200 shots so do not hesitate to make it slightly stronger that what you are used to
    -For the horse bow, every time you remove material, the bow does not know it yet. You need to bend the bow a few times after each fiddling so that it get into shape

  12. Try it out
    -You need to fire 50 shots with is to feel confortable and to test the limb of your bow
    -This is especially important for the horse bow because its limbs might twist a little after the first firing

  13. The arrow rest
    -Another scary part is cutting the arrow rest because you literally saw a third of the bow
    -However once made, life is so much easier for shooting

  14. Customise your bow
    -Use a fair bit of sand paper to remove all imperfections
    -Paint or Varnish. The difference between varnishing and painting: The Varnish soaks in the wood fibres while the paint is only an outside coating
    -Let it dry for 24 h or use the heat gun on hair dryer level
    -Brush with some carpenter glue so that the wood fibers do not crack, peel or do anything unwanted
    -Fine Sand paper

  15. Enjoy life with a new sport

    Charly firing a bow

Thanks a lot to our workawayer host Marion and Gerhard who welcomed us in the foggy November. Gerhard had taught us so much about archery, atlatal, and Leather working it now forms the base of our knowledge on the subject. Marion on the other side, is a Storyteller and a writer of 7 books on fairytales, mythes and legends. Even with my limited German, I was transported by her storytelling.

While we had the chance to learn ll of it as part of the volunteering, I recommend taking part of their bow making workshop (Get on board the 2 days workshop to make the awesome horse bow with the glued on handle, it is just the best).