Mr. Rebates

How It’s Made — Traditional Asiatic Composite Hunting Bows

Video Rating: four / five

This video is an excerpt from The Discovery Channel's "How It's Made" program on "Traditional Bows" and featuring bowmaker Rodney Wright. There are a number of very sexy looking finished bows shown, including several laminated from contrasting pieces of timber. I have to say I'm a sucker for contrasting woods -- no matter what the item is -- so I enjoyed watching this rather slick video.

The video begins by explaining that, with the invention of the bow and arrow, mankind transformed into efficient hunter gatherers. Nowadays, with the subsequent invention of supermarkets and commerce in Western society, the need for hunting one's own food is no longer a requirement. However there are still plenty of people who use bows for recreation -- whether it be for hunting or participating in archery competitions.

The program shows the basic construction of a longbow, made from six laminations of cherry wood. While not exactly the traditional way to make an English-style longbow it is, nonetheless, an effective method -- especially when it comes to Asiatic-style bows. A composite bow is a bow made from two or more different materials laminated together and held under tension. The different and distinct materials are used in order to take benefit of the properties of each type.

An Asiatic composite bow normally uses horn on the belly and sinew on the back of a wooden core. This method of construction generates a lot more power than wood itself for the identical length of bow. The overall strength of a composite bow is comparable to a larger one with a much longer draw-length, though it also has a comparable or greater quantity of energy delivered to the arrow from a considerably shorter bow. Some Mongolian composite bows are known to have produced a draw weight of almost 160 lb!

First the cherry is sliced into six pieces about 1/4 inch thick (6.35mm) using a bandsaw, then the strips are thicknessed by using a wide-belt sander, carefully tapering the ends with each pass. The tapering helps to give the wood some flexibility which is useful in both the laminating process and the finished bow. A handle is then cut from a piece of what appears to be Indian rosewood, though its hard to tell from watching the video. This handle piece is again cut by using the bandsaw.

Super-adhesive glue is then spread on strips of fiberglass as well as the tapered strips of cherry. As the glue will set in less than an hour, the bowmaker needs to work quickly during this process. The strips are layered, with the fiberglass buttressing the cherry at either end. Next, the tapered handle section is glued in, followed by another layer of cherry and fiberglass. The outside of the assembly is then covered with masking tape to protect the bow from scratches as it goes into the former. Sideways keys help to position the form and also stop the glued laminates from wandering and slipping out of kilter as the pressure is applied. A heat strip assures that the glue will dry quickly and cure properly, and a special inflatable compression hose keeps even pressure over the length of the laminations.

An hour later the bow is removed from the form and is now ready for shaping. The profile of the bow is drawn on the laminated pieces using a fiberglass template, and the rough shape is then cut out on the bandsaw. A notch is cut for the "arrow shelf", then the handle is trimmed -- making it a little wider at the middle for comfort. The string nocks are then filed at each end using a metal jig and a round file. Fiberglass and moose horn are then glued at each end for added strength. Once dry, the nocks are then reshaped by filing and sandpaper.

Now another piece is glued over the handle to improve the look and feel, clamping the work together while the glue dries. Three hours later the handle is sanded and ready for the next step.

For a comfortable grip the handle is wrapped in a piece of leather which is then stitched with thread known as "artificial sinew". In centuries past this thread would have been made from real animal tendons but modern materials will now suffice. The bow is then marked with the makers name, the serial number and the draw weight of the bow. This particular bow will hold about 20 kilograms in check when its drawn.

A Flemish string jig is then used to measure out the length of the string accurately. Essentially a wooden jig with nails in it, this workshop aid speeds up the process of making the bow string which is always, we're told by the narrator, four inches shorter than the bow.

After cutting with a utility knife the nylon string is then waxed to make it easier to work with. 16 strands of nylon, 8 black and 8 white, are carefully measured, cut and twisted into a braid with loops at either end. The string is then hooked on the nocks of the bow. Finally the finished bow is tested out on a piece of unsuspecting fruit!

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26 Responses to How It’s Made — Traditional Asiatic Composite Hunting Bows

  1. crabid on December 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    The woman called that a longbow, surely it’s not.

    When I think longbow I think Welsh longbowman, and their bows are about the same height as the person shooting them. I just had a look on wiki and the draw weight of such a bow ranges from 400-800N (about 40-80kg), which is a far cry from 20kg.

    I mean if you’re going to do a documentary…

    • Herman on November 3, 2011 at 9:45 am

      The draw weight of a bow is dictated by its tillering, not its type.

  2. AirTimeSkates on December 11, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    nice recurve

  3. 0magnum88 on December 11, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    WTF !!!! 0:32

  4. RockPop1337 on December 11, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    i like Intro music

  5. graffitivideos95 on December 11, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    love this show (:

  6. rrichmondboy on December 12, 2010 at 12:02 am

    bow and arrows are older than cavemen you dickhead ..get ya weight up Africa dumbracistshitblock

  7. stfuhr on December 12, 2010 at 12:11 am

    @guapman11 @guapman11 You can buy real sinew from a bowmaking supply store like Bingham Projects or 3RiversArchery

  8. TheNerdableVidGuy on December 12, 2010 at 12:34 am

    @guapman11 You Kill A Deer Open There Leg And At the Bottom near The Hooves You Cut The Tendons Off the bone And Dry Them To Make Sinew.

  9. JohnAnguloVEVO on December 12, 2010 at 1:22 am


  10. versatilechicken on December 12, 2010 at 1:42 am

    this show is nice but i hate the puns

  11. guapman11 on December 12, 2010 at 2:07 am

    @ybotn hey dude what animals do you use for sinew string, i need to know a good animal to take down without too much fuss or wasting animal meat

  12. MyfoodtastesIRONY on December 12, 2010 at 2:59 am

    These aren’t traditional; traditional bows didn’t have arrow rests or fiberglass.

  13. lucio5445 on December 12, 2010 at 3:30 am

    @Marthike9122 im not stupid….idiot!

  14. weaponsfreak1 on December 12, 2010 at 3:48 am

    that apple got smoked…lol!!!!

  15. Bjo15 on December 12, 2010 at 4:25 am

    @Marthike9122 Homo sapiens (Latin: “wise man” or “knowing man”),

  16. Marthike9122 on December 12, 2010 at 4:52 am

    @lucio5445 Homosapien means human, not “homo” retard.

  17. BenjaminPipic on December 12, 2010 at 4:54 am

    why don’t they show how to make a bow caveman style so i don’t have to buy like 10 thousand dollars of equipment

  18. MrOutdoorBoy on December 12, 2010 at 5:09 am

    i tould make it but now-a-days we have that kid of cherry wood that thin but know alot of people dont have bow molds and all that compressor crap

  19. mQtek on December 12, 2010 at 5:18 am

    So beautiful bows he makes. The thing called a bow today is not a bow, but a fucking machine doing all the work for you. To bad.

  20. YangyStyle on December 12, 2010 at 6:02 am

    the procedures are much too complicated! even if people have all the materials it will still be too hard to make it, skills and experience are more important than materials.

  21. Guafi777 on December 12, 2010 at 6:24 am

    @azza44100 “compound” bow use pulleys. composites use different layers of wood.

  22. MrPasssword on December 12, 2010 at 7:16 am

    he shot the apple in the head

  23. deckflip on December 12, 2010 at 7:18 am

    @ybotn not bullshit for a guy who trys to make 3 a day

  24. caleb5665 on December 12, 2010 at 7:48 am

    @ybotn how much is one

  25. ybotn on December 12, 2010 at 7:51 am

    im my opinion this is a really amazing process but kind of bullshit using all these modern tools.i make and sell bows (and im 15)and the whole process includes first a hatchet,then a knife and then i sand it.animal tendons and sinew for for string and i sometimes back it with rawhide depending on what the buyer wants…

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