Throughout history, the recurve bow was one of most prized possessions of a great hunter. Mentions of its strength and skill have riddled historical books and treasures throughout humankind. Homer mentions this weapon in Odyssey. Remnants of them have been found throughout the Roman Empire as far north as Scotland and as far south as Egypt. In this article, we will discuss how to make a recurve bow.

Bow History

Traditional Male Archer - how to make a recurve bow

This style of bow was also used throughout Asia, aiding in the conquers of the Mongols, Chinese and Hungarians. It was a common weapon found in the drier areas and regions of Europe. However, it was often found to be slightly inferior in wetter climates. Because of its use of composite materials and the general need for a certain shape in construction.

It was also a popular choice in North America, especially on the West Coast. With that being said, the availability of effective firearms throughout history has diminished its widespread use in just about every culture. They can still be found today in many hunting circles and those who participate in competitive archery events. In fact, it is the only style of bow allowed to be used in the Olympics to this day.

What is a Recurve Bow?

The Traditional Archer with a long bow in the desert - how to make a recurve bow

A recurve bow is a much simpler style of the bow than the more popular compound bow. The term “recurve” comes from the way the bow curves away from the shooter at the ends. This allows the bow to propel the arrow with more power and energy than a traditional straight-limbed bow. This makes the arrow go farther. It also allows for the overall length of the bow to be shorter yet still shoots the arrow with a great amount of energy.

How to Make a Recurve Bow?

archer in the woods - how to make a recurve bow

What Do I Need?

Making a recurve bow of your own can seem complex. After all, it is a sophisticated weapon of great strength. However, it is not that difficult, but it will take a significant amount of time and a little bit of skill. With the right tools and materials, it can be done quite easily with no professional experience needed. While more modern recurve bows are typically made with multiple layers of fiberglass and carbon fibers, wood is still the material of choice for many recurve archers and fabricators. It is important to note that not just any wood will do.


The material needs to be strong, yet flexible and malleable. It will have a lot of pressure put on it and need to bend with that pressure without breaking or snapping. Hickory, lemonwood, maple, and yew are known to be good wood selections for making a recurve from. From this, you will create your stave. This is what will shape your bow. These can be found pre-made online for you to purchase. Keep in mind that whether you buy them or make them yourself, they will need to be the length you want your bow to be.

There are several ways to gather the materials, depending on your skill and the amount of time you are willing to put into the project. Some people with rather professional skills can simply acquire the wood needed and shape and sand it by hand after stenciling the desired look on to wooden stave. Others can buy a kit or just pieces of the bow.

Shaping Tools

These usually comprise the wood and sometimes fiberglass laminate pieces that make up most of the bow. The riser or handle area of the bow, and the forms or instructions to make the forms used for bending the wooden pieces into just the right shape. No matter what your skill set and therefore the decision you use to make your bow. You will need some sanding and shaping tools.

Cutting Tools

Some who prefer to shape their bows by hand may use a simple draw knife and hatchet. For sanding, these people tend to do it by hand with paper or files. For those who want a little more help and a little less time involved in learning how to make a recurve bow, a bandsaw, and drum or spindle sander is recommended.
Still, with the finishing touches, some sandpaper and a file will be needed. You will also want to use a vice grip or some clamps for holding your project in place while sanding it.

A needed tool no matter how to make a recurve bow is a tiller stick and sting. This is used to season the bow and to make sure that it bends enough when pressure is applied without snapping or splitting. It’s also used in measuring the limbs of the bow and making sure they are equal and not twisted too much.

Tips & Instructions On How To Make A Recurve Bow

Archer draws his compound bow - how to make a recurve bow

As we have stated before, there are several ways how to make a recurve bow. However, it’s important to note that a bow is a personal piece of equipment and can be tailored to a specific person’s body size and length. For example, someone who has rather long arms will need the limbs of the bow to be longer to allow for them to be able to move the bow into a full draw.

Someone who has a bow that is too long for them may not be able to pull it back very far. And therefore the maximum power and efficiency when shooting are lost. This also contributes to how long the arrows will be. This makes it important to know your own draw length and the size of bow needed. Whether you build it all by hand or use more a more modern method way to construct a recurve bow. The process will require some sort of a form to be made.

Clamped The Wood

If you’re shaping the bow by hand from one piece of wood. You will want to have it clamped into or against something that will promote it to keep that shape for a long while. This can be simple pieces with a single curve or bend, or it can be a large structure that holds every angle of the bow and helps to press into shape farther. The same can be said for those making their project with thin laminate pieces.

These pieces will be glued together to make up the bow. This then needs to be put into a form and allowed to dry for several hours if not longer. This causes the wooden laminate pieces to dry together in the shape. That is needed for you to shoot it. After your bow has dried and or been left to sit in a form. You will need to fashion the handle and arrow rest area.

Arrow Notch/Rest

The handle can be made to fit your hand or can have a more standard shape and fit. The arrow notch/rest is the area where the arrow will rest before it is shot through the bow. This needs to be centered in the riser allowing the arrow to fly straight and evenly. Then the ends of the limb need to be notched so that a string can be attachedThese notches can be easily created with a small cylindrical file, like a rat tail.

However, they can be created using a knife and a flat file. They should be angled so that when the bow is lying with the outside facing up. There is about a 70° angle to the tabletop. Now comes the finishing steps. The whole thing needs to be sanded to make sure that there are no slivers of wood that will easily snag on things including your skin. The surface should be smooth all over. This also allows the arrow to fly smoother and easier out of the rest.

Tiller Stick And String

One of the last steps in how to make a recurve bow is to tiller it. This is where you will use the tiller stick and string. The string usually used for this is longer than the string that you will use when shooting the bow. Placed the strings on the bow in the grooves. The tiller stick, on one end, has quite a few notches near each other extending about halfway down the length of the stick.

Place the end of the tiller stick, the side where there are no notches, on the arrow notch or on the rest of the bow. The string is then stretched to fit into one notch on the tiller stick. It is left to sit until the wood of the bow is flexible enough to bend in that direction without the sting being so taught. Gradually, as the wood moves more easily, move the string to a higher notch, increasing the pull on the string.

Here’s A Video About Of The Recurve Bow Making ( Andriano’s Custom Bows )

How Your Bow Is Moving

archery woman - how to make a recurve bow

If this is done slowly and gradually, the draw of your bow will increase and so will its flexibility. Eventually, this will allow you to pull it back as far as you want with a shorter string which gives the bow and arrow more speed and kinetic energy. During this process, it’s important to pay attention to how your bow is moving and if it’s making any noise. Making noise is a sign that it is being stretched too much and may break.

The last step is to finish the bow. If you would like to add artwork or leather padding, or color and stain this is when you do it. You might also want to add a protective coating or varnish. To give it a more polished look and feel and to keep it looking that way for a long time. This will also protect it from scratches and bumps that may happen.

Conclusion On How To Make A Recurve Bow

Archery target ring and out of focus archer with a bow in the foreground during an archery competition. Green background. - how to make a recurve bow

If you enjoy shooting archery, learning how to make a recurve bow could be just as fun. The process is fairly simple and doesn’t take a lot of skill. However, it will take time and focused attention. This is not a couple-of-hours weekend project. This is one that will occupy your time for a few weekends to say the least. The tiller process alone can take months.

But it’s worth it. No matter which method you choose to construct your bow. You will have created a piece of history. Something that is timeless and classic. It’s also something that you can pass down and teach others to use. It can be a great source of enjoyment whether you’re into the art of target shooting or the thrill of the hunt.

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