Longbow Making — From Yew Log To Finished Bow (Part 1)
Select your wood. Go to a hardware store or an archery store. Only cut live trees if you are sure it is a suitable wood, and are prepared to properly dry the wood. Just-cut, wet wood won't work well. Look for a board that's 6 feet long, 1"x2". Oak and lemonwood are good woods for your first bows.Osage and yew make the best bows, but are difficult to work with. Do not use pine, poplar, or other soft woods.
Check the grain. The board doesn't have to be straight, but you want the grain to run straight, both on the face and the sides. Ideally, the grain should run straight down the length of the board, so that the back of the board is a single layer of wood unbroken by any growth rings. It's unlikely that you'll find such a board at lumber yard, so get a board with as few defects as possible.
Use a pencil to roughly draw the shape of the bow on the wood: For a longbow, you want it long and narrow taper to the tip. Follow the natural grain.
Glue on your second piece of wood now, if you plan to use one. It will be far easier to shape the two together.
Rough out the shape of the bow with a saw. To save a lot of time, you can use a jig saw to rough out the shape, or stick with a draw-knife, spokeshave, or coarse rasp. Rough out only the sides. Remember, don't cut anything off the back.
Create your tillering board. Take a 2"x4" board 3 feet long.
In one end, cut a 1" inch deep notch across the board (the short way). On the side of the board from the notched end, use a tape measure and mark off every inch, starting from 10 inches all the way to the end. Note that 20" is actually going to be 19" because you've carved a 1" notch.
Tie a string from one end of your stave to the other. Stand the tillering board upright and rest the bow in the notch. Push the string down. Since you haven't begun carving the belly yet, it won't bend more than a few inches.
Carve and shave the belly of the bow with your chosen tool. Taper towards the tips of the stave. Don't take too much wood off at once. Every so often, go back to the tillering board and ensure that the limbs are both bending evenly. You can use a belt sander here which will save a lot of time, but it can also lead to big mistakes happening rather quickly.
Make your nocks by cutting 1/8" slits angled down on both sides of the top and bottom of the bow.
String the bow (with the tillering string). From one end, look down the length of the bow and ensure that the string runs through the center of the bow. If you carve one side too much, the bow can twist and pull the string off-center.
Check the weight of the bow now and then. If carve too much, there's no going back. You want to aim for a specific weight at a specific draw length, and stop when you get close.
Carve the string nocks. At each end of the stave, use a round file and file the nocks for the string. They don't need to be too deep, just enough for the bowstring to sit. They should be diagonal, high in the back, low towards the belly.