The Flat Bow is the easiest of all bows to make, and is, therefore, an excellent type for the beginner to attempt. It presents fewer problems than the making of a long bow, yet the finished bow is entirely satisfactory and a worthwhile weapon in every respect.
The Flat Side of the stave is the Back. The side with the handle riser is the Belly. Caution: Do not attempt to bend your stave until you have tapered the limbs on the sides and belly, as described below, otherwise the riser may pop off. If it should loosen, take it off, smooth off the surface of the riser and stave, glue it back into place with casein glue. Use rubber strips cut from an old inner tube to hold it in place while the glue is drying.
Since a 5'6" Flat Bow is the proper length for the greatest number of archers, let us begin with that size stave. The Flat Bowstave you get from us will look like that shown on Plate 3.
It will be 5'6" long, 1½" wide and 5/8" thick in the limbs. The handle riser or thickening piece will be glued in place and be sawn to the approximate shape of the finished handle. At this point it will be 1½" thick, ample bulk to result in a stiff middle.
The back of the bow is left flat. Smooth it up with a sharp hand plane set very fine. At each end of the stave, measuring from side to side, place a dot. These marks will be 3/4" from the edges. Measure off ¼" from each side of the center mark and make two more dots. Eighteen inches from each end of the stave draw a line across the back. Connect the ends of this line with the two dots which are ¼" from the center point. Plane off the wood on either side of these lines. This gives the limb taper. See Plate 3.
Note: Sometimes your stave will not be absolutely straight, but may have a side warp. In this event the above measurements would not hold, because it would then be necessary to take off more wood on the side toward which warp curves, i.e., the concave side. When you finish tapering the limbs, however, each should be a long, narrow, triangular figure measuring 1½" wide just above the handle riser and continuing this 1½" width for about a foot, then tapering to ½" wide at the ends of the stave.
The Belly side of the bow is tapered from the handle riser, where it is 5/8" thick to ¼" at the ends—just a slight taper. Then round off all the corners on the belly side, so that the cross section is a low, flat arch.
The handle of the Flat Bow is accomplished by making an abrupt, sharp dip in the riser, rounding off the corners and working the wood into the limbs. A coarse file is good for this work. Plate 3.
Next comes the notches for the bowstring. These may be cut into the wood, or be of stag horn, cow horn, or metal. Plate 3 shows how the ends will look when the notches are cut into the wood. A round, rat-tail file 8" long is excellent for this work. If you wish to embellish your bow with cow or stag horn tips, the ends of the stave must be carefully tapered and rounded into a cone that will snugly fit into the horn bow tips. Be very careful not to force the wood into the horns, or a split will result. Work slowly and carefully, and when the horns fit perfectly, glue and pin in place.
Put the loop of your bowstring over what is to be the top limb of the bow in such a fashion that the string lies along the belly. Slide the loop down a few inches below the notch (3½"), lay it out straight along the bow and fasten at the bottom with a bowyer's knot (timber hitch). After the bow is strung or braced the string should be 5½" from the top of the handle riser.
When your bow is cut out, and before you apply the final finish, it should bend evenly in both limbs and its shape should be a segment of a circle with a flattened middle of about 6". One of the commonest faults of amateur bow makers is that their bows are stiff for about two feet in the middle. Too much wood is cut from the upper limbs which leaves them too weak. The result is that only about 24" of the whole bow does the work of bending. This sets up undue strain on your weak limbs and breakage occurs. Plate 7.
The following measurements are taken from finished flat bows of Lemonwood. The lengths of the bow and weights are given, but since bow-making is non-dimensional, these tables are not absolute. In other words even though you might work closely to these figures, the bow may or may not be the weights given. It is better to leave a bit more wood all around, and then scrape down to the weight you wish.