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How to Build a Sapling Self Bow

By Dan Spier


Traditional archery is full of new skills to learn. It generally starts with learning to shoot a traditional bow, and then maybe how to tune your own bow and build your own arrows. Many archers stop there. But there are others who have a desire to learn how to build a bow. The easiest bow to to build is a self bow. This bow is made from one single piece of wood that you can harvest yourself. A sapling self bow requires less tools and is less experience to build than a fiberglass limbed bow. TBG member Dan Spier was thoughtful enough to document his process of sapling self bow building for a recent TBG newsletter. We share this valuable information freely on our Website so you can see what types of information to expect in the newsletter as a TBG member. In this step-by-step guide to self bow building you'll learn the basics in making a serviceable self bow from trees in your own backyard. The entire process and photos are below.




Find a nice straight hickory sapling, at least 3" in diameter. Cut it at the straightest part--at

least 72" long.













Cut an extra one just in case. Smaller one can be used for a bend through the handle bow.














Find the center point and mark.















Mark handle area 4", and

fades 2" past handle.














Trim belly off one side of the bow, starting at handle. Taper toward tip, leaving at least 1/2" thickness at the tip. Repeat on other side.




Now trim off the back of the bow, making

sure to keep the limbs straight. You

should be about 3/4" thick at the fades

down to 1/2" thick at the tips. The handle

area can be kept round or flattened.


Make yourself a form like the one pictured. We will use it to straighten the sapling.





Clamp the bow with the belly facing you to the form. The wood is wet and will bend fairly easily at this point. Make sure you clamp it to both the base and the back of the form. Let the bow dry for about two weeks.



When the bow feels dry, it is time to saw out the profile. I like an American flat bow style. But you can use your own pattern. I have

made a pattern as you see here. It is 1 3/4" wide at the fades. It then narrows down to 1 1/2" 11" from the tip. From there, it narrows to 1/2" wide at the tips.





Now narrow the handle area and begin to work on the thickness. The bow should start at 5/8" thick at the fades and should

taper down 1/4" to 3/8" thick at the tips.


Still a little crooked.





Back to the form.


This time we will clamp and heat to straighten bow.













Now, take the bow out of the form an file in some nocks. Note the pith on the belly, showing the center of the sapling. This will NOT weaken the bow at all.

















This next step really strengthens the bow and makes it shoot fast. Put it on a form like this and clamp some reset (backward bend) in it. Heat it 30 passes every ten inches, holding the heat gun about 2" above surface. Don't scorch it though. Let it cool at least three hours.



Now some walnut oil stain.



An antler tip arrow rest, counter-sunk and superglued.


Make a string and brace it. Pre-tiller


Looks pretty good.


Now, put her on a tiller stick or board and start removing all the stiff spots until it bends nice and even.


Wrap the handle with some nice leather.



That’s it. Try this some time. It is a lot of fun.


Now you have a nice shooting bow made from backyard woods. You will love these little darlins.

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