Last summer, one of my oldest and dearest friends proposed that we create for ourselves an excuse to hang out more often. We both have young kids and rarely make the time to see each other anymore and I thought it a brilliant idea. He insisted – being a man of rather formidable stature – that we do something with our hands, something manly. We passed a few ideas around, asking other friends if anything interested them too, and soon decided that we should go a bit out of our comfort zones and attempt to create a bow… from scratch (gallery below).
Full disclosure – from the outset, I was the naysayer, thinking the process would be far too challenging, time consuming, or expensive, Not to mention, none of us was very into archery. This pessimistic mindset is what I started to refer to as the “Bowmaker’s Paradox” (In archery, the “archer’s paradox” refers to the concept that one must aim slightly off-target to account for the bend of the arrow). My friend and another mutual friend of ours, who understood in far greater detail the process of bow making, convinced me that it would be worth the effort. Indeed, rather than let an opportunity to see good friends and make something awesome, I joined them in the build.
In the end, it was both a challenging and time consuming endeavor, but each of us made our own bows for less than half the cost of a hand made bow in an archery store. I’ve heard many times in life, “The greater the challenge, the greater the reward,” but honestly until the moment I first shot an arrow across my friend’s yard, I hadn’t truly experienced such a moment in this way.
There is no feeling quite like the pull of a powerful bow. No doubt, it is uncomfortable at first, but once you understand the sheer force with which your arrow strikes its target, you realize that you’ve turned a dead tree into a rather formidable weapon. Archery is a great hobby, and there’s even a market for handmade bows!
As an aside, I myself use this bow for leisure, not for hunting, and certainly not for survival. Nevertheless, I live in an area where foxes, coyotes, and mountain lions are not just creatures of myth. Should the need arise, it would be a rather practical tool to, at very least, dissuade a would-be predator from devouring one of my animals.
The lesson learned in this case was that my concerns (however valid) were far dwarfed by the sense of pride and accomplishment over the finished product.
All-in-all, the process took us about 6 months (working 2 days a week, 2-3 hours a day) but only because we chose to take our time, do everything by hand, and be meticulous with the fine-tuning of each bow. I believe the total cost of supplies was around $70-80, but again, we bought wood, glue, carbon fiber (for the backing), surform rasps, bow strings, etc.
If you would like to build a bow of your own, I highly recommend the brilliant red oak bow tutorial from Poor Folk Bows. It is run by a young man who really knows his stuff and provides every single little bit of information – from selecting wood to applying the finishing touches.