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How to make a bow
Part 2 of 8
making a man's bow

The First Step.—We will assume that it is desired to make a lemonwood bow suitable for a man of average strength or, say, of 45-pound weight. A good 6-foot stave should be procured at least 1⅛ inches square.

Examine this stave carefully and decide which of the four sides is to be the back of the bow. This is not so easy to decide as with a yew stave, where the flat of the grain of the more recent wood growth (sapwood) forms the back. It takes close examination to note the grain of lemonwood and, to a certain extent, it may be disregarded because the stave generally comes with a sufficiently straight grain in the square. It is difficult to put into words the basis of selecting the side which is to form the back of the bow. What appears to be the best side should be the one chosen. If there is little difference in this respect, sight down the stave and note if it has any bend. If it has, choose that side for the back which is concave, or forms a slight hollow. This will produce a reflexed bow or one in which the limbs bend back slightly. It will help to counteract the forward bend of the limbs or following of the string after the bow has been shot a while. It may be stated here that following of the string proceeds only so far in a lemonwood bow and is not progressive; also it is not due to chrysaling, from which fault this wood is practically immune.

Laying Out the Back.—Having chosen the back of the bow, plane it smooth. Make a mark c across the exact center of the stave, Figure 6. Make another mark d 1¼ inches above this center and another one e 2¾ inches below it. The space de will form the handle or grip of the bow. Now draw a center-line ab along the length of the back. An accurate way to do this is to stretch a taut thread from a to b and with a sharp-pointed pencil place several marks a long the back squarely under the thread without disturbing it. By means of a straightedge, draw a line through the points.

Next, divide the upper and lower limbs ad and eb into six equal parts, 1, 2, 3, etc., and use these division points for laying off the taper of the bow across the back. Continue to use a sharp pencil and accurately mark off a width of 1⅛ inches at d and e, halving this width at the center line.

FIGURE 6. Steps in Laying Out and Shaping the Bow
FIGURE 6. Steps in Laying Out and Shaping the Bow

Similarly lay off 1⅛ inches at 1 on the upper and lower limbs, 1 116, inches at 2, 1 inch at 3, ⅞ inch at 4, ¾ inch (scant) at 5, and 916 inch at 6. Connect these points with lines, which now outline the shape of the bow, back view.

Shaping the Sides.—Remove the excess wood from the sides of the stave with drawknife and plane. Be especially careful to take light cuts with the drawknife to avoid the chance of cutting too deep. Use the plane to smooth the sides down to the penciled lines but no farther for the present. The hand clamp will be useful in holding the stave to the bench. In using clamp or vise, it is good practice to insert strips of soft wood between the stave and the jaws as a precaution against injury to the fibers of the bow under construction.

Tapering the Belly.—Turn the stave on one side. Extend the marks d and e to this side and lay off a depth of 1⅛ inches from the back toward the belly along each of these marks. One and one-eighth inches is to be the preliminary depth of the bow from back to belly at the handle. Continue the marks designated as 1, above and below the handle, to the side, and lay off a depth of ⅞ inch from the back toward the belly along both of these marks. Draw lines from d to 1 on the upper limb and from e to 1 on the lower limb. Mark off a depth of 916 inch, from the back to the belly, at each end of the stave (points 6, 6). Connect 1 with 6 on both the upper and the lower limbs.

Turn the stave on the other side and duplicate all marks made on the first side. Remove the waste wood beyond the line 61de16 and we have the rough outline of the bow as viewed from the side. The dip in each direction from the handle, caused by the lines d1 and e1 are intended to keep the handle rigid in the finished bow and thus produce less of a jar when the arrow is loosed or shot.