How to Make a Hunting Bow

Posted by By at 31 January, at 20 : 09 PM Print

How to Make a Hunting Bow

This bow can be made in one day from materials readily available in regular home improvement stores. The design is based off of bows used by eastern woodlands Indians and can be made with a draw weight of up to 50lbs. Any heavier than this will produce excessive set in a bow of this design which will reduce overall efficiency. That being said, if tillered to a draw weight of 45-50 lbs, this bow is capable of taking any North American game in the hands of a skilled hunter.
1×2 Red oak (or other species in the list below)
Super glue
Sand paper (110 and 220 grit)
Tool box lining (optional)
Super 77 spray adhesive (optional)
Twine (optional)

I’m making this bow from a 1×2 red oak board. I chose red oak because it’s readily available in my area. There are a number of other options that will work though, including:

Hickory Black cherry
Pecan Red cedar
Sugar maple Birch
White ash Black walnut
White oak

Regardless of the species you choose, you will need to pick a quarter sawn board. This means the grain of the wood runs straight up and down the bow. It’s important that the grain is straight and doesn’t veer off the side of the board, or the bow is more likely to break.

Draw knife

Hand plane


Sanding block

Tillering stick (home made – scroll down for picture)

Bathroom scale

Power hand plane (optional)

Orbital sander (optional)

Band saw (optional)

I utilized power tools while making this bow to speed the process along. They are not in anyway necessary however. In fact, using hand tools will likely be a benefit to a an inexperienced bowyer as it forces you to slow down, reducing the chances of error.

Once you have selected your tools and materials, you are ready to lay out the profile and cut it to shape. The bows’ layout is relatively simple as you can see in the drawing below. I cut it to shape using a band saw, but if you don’t have one you can use a draw knife, hand planer, and rasp to shape it. After the profile is complete,  use super glue to attach wedges to the back of the bow at either end. This creates the nock which holds the bow string in place.

Hunting bow 2_Page_1IMG_0790

Hunting bow


With the profile done and nocks glued on, you can start tillering the bow. The first stage  is called floor tillering. You simply put one end of the bow on the ground while holding the the other end in one hand and pressing down in the middle with the second hand to observe bend in the bow. First observe one end and then flip it around to examen the other end. Make a note of which parts need to have material removed. I use a powered hand planer and orbital sander to remove the bulk of the material for the tillering process, but you can always use a draw knife, hand planer, and rasp to accomplish the same thing.

Once you reach a certain point, you will move to a tillering stick. My tillering stick is pictured below. It’s made from a 2×4 and has a notch in the end to nestle the bow in place and notches every two inches along the edge of the board to hold the string. Using the tillering stick allows you to step back and see your bow from a distance during the tillering process. When you first move to the tillering stick, use a string that’s the same length as the bow or a little longer. When you are able to draw the bow 28″ using the long string, switch to a string of the correct length to finish tillering the bow.


When you use a tillering stick, place it on a bathroom scale. This will allow you to gauge the draw weight of your bow. It is important to never draw the bow past the intended finish draw weight to prevent causing excess set. Set is the amount of curvature in the bow when it is unstrung and is measured by placing the bow on a flat surface and measuring the distance to the belly of the bow in the mid section as pictured below. An idle amount of set is 1 1/2″ or less. Anything 3″ or greater is considered excessive and will probably not preform well.


The general shape you are trying to achieve is a D style tiller. The handle should bend slightly, the mid section of the upper and lower limb should have the most bend, the the last 6-8 inches of each limb should be fairly straight. While not a perfect, the following picture shows generally what you’re shooting for.


Once the bow is tillered, the finishing process can begin. First get rid of all tool marks by sanding it down with 110 and 220 sand paper, than proceed to use your chosen finish. For this bow, I used Fiebing leather die because I had it on hand and I like the way it looks on this wood. You can use stain or go with a natural finish if you prefer. The important part of the finish is the top coat which protects the bow from the moister in the air. Anything on the market is suitable for use for bows, but it’s important to use enough coats to provide the protection the bow needs. For this bow, I used a water based, satin, top coat and applied three coats.

The final step is to make a handle for the bow. This step is optional. In fact, the eastern woodlands Indian bows that this design is based off of generally did not have handles. With that said, I decided to go ahead and add a handle to provide my hand with a little extra comfort. I started by wrapping a 3″ wide piece of toolbox lining around the bow two times. This is made from a rubbery material and will help the hand absorb some of the shock. I secured the toolbox lining with 3M Super 77 spray adhesive and then wrapped over top of it with twine. I used these materials because it’s what I had on hand. There are several other ways you could go about it.


Now that you’re finished just ad a bowstring of your choice and break it in. I recommend getting a flemish twist string 64 inches long. Finding one locally might be a challenge, but you can purchase them online at 3Rivers archery. Finding the right arrow spine can be a bit frustrating and requires a little trial and error as there are many variables involved such as draw weight, arrow length, arrow head weight and more.Use the spine chart at 3Rivers and start experimenting.

I hope this has been helpful and that you enjoy the project. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


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