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Build a Recurve Bow Keene NH

The bow is laminated with thin strips of wood and fiberglass (Fig. A) . They're bent and glued together with epoxy using a plywood form. You don't need a zillion clamps to squeeze the forms together, however.

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Build a Recurve Bow

Build a Recurve Bow

I got my first bow for my fourth birthday. It was plastic and thank heavens the arrows had rubber tips because everything within a 30-ft. radius was fair game. These days I exercise better judgement and only shoot at designated archery targets, but my fascination with this ancient technology is as strong as ever.

Several years ago I built my own wood and fiberglass recurve bow from a kit. The “recurve” refers to the way the bow curves away from the shooter at the tips. This gives the bow more snap when the arrow is released. Building the bow was almost as exciting as shooting it. Since then I've built several bows, each with a feel and character of its own. They're beautiful to look at and fun to use. There aren't too many woodworking projects you can play with outdoors!
A bow may look complex, but the kit I used makes it pretty straight forward (See “Bow Kits,” below) . In this story, I'll show you how to make a bow from one of these kits. No specialized tools are required, but you will need a bandsaw and an oscillating spindle sander to shape the bow. A drum sander in a drill press can substitute for the spindle sander.
The bow is laminated with thin strips of wood and fiberglass (Fig. A) . They're bent and glued together with epoxy using a plywood form. You don't need a zillion clamps to squeeze the forms together, however. The kit's manufacturer has a better idea: to apply clamping pressure, you inflate a fire hose with a bicycle pump. Then, you place the assembly in a shop-made plywood box equipped with incandescent light bulbs. The bulbs provide the heat necessary to cure the epoxy. The result is a one-piece recurve bow with incredible strength and flexibility.

PHOTO 1:
The first step in bow building is to make the form for gluing the bow laminations. The form is composed of four layers of 1/2-in. plywood glued together. One layer is a template cut to the exact shape. The other pieces are cut oversize and trimmed to match later. A notched trowel makes a great glue spreader.

PHOTO 2:
Flush trim all the form layers with the template layer. The top half of the form is built in the same manner. 

BUILD THE FORMS

1. Use the full-size paper patterns from the kit to lay out, cut and smooth one layer of plywood to  use as a template for  the upper  and  lower halves of the form (Fig. B) .
2. Rough cut the other plywood layers about 1/8-in oversize.
3. Glue the layers together using 1-3/4-in. screws as clamps (Photo 1). Use a wet rag to clean away any squeeze out on the template edge. You will need a smooth surface for the bit bearing to ride on in the next step.
4. Once the glue is dry, use a router with a flush-trim bit to trim the other pieces even with the templates (Photo 2).
5. Drill a 1/4-in. hole in the center of the lower form and drive in the steel riser index pin (Fig. B) .
6. Glue the reverse...

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