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Making your own bow part 6: Construction of a laminated reflex-deflex longbow



Figure 1In the sixth article in this series, Cleve Cheney gives instruction on how to construct as reflex-deflex longbow.

Up to this point we have made a curing oven and a laminating press and now we can get down to the purpose of it all – making an actual bow.
You will now have to order the following bow making materials from Bingham Projects. Unfortunately unidirectional fibreglass strips are not available in South Africa. You can order directly on the Internet and pay by credit card. Bingham provides excellent service. The web address is: www.binghamprojects.com

Materials to order from Bingham Projects

  • Blueprint plans for a 68-inch longbow reflex / deflex (Stock number: 301B3)
  • 68-inch longbow limb lamination kit – two strips Bo-Tuff E Glass; one pair tapered laminations, three pairs parallel laminations. (Refer to the on line catalogue to decide on what type of wood you want and what colour fibreglass). You must also specify the poundage
  • Epon Versamid 3/4 pint epoxy (Stock number 406)
  • Dacron string one-pond spool, colour black (Stock number 1708)
  • Monofilament thread (Stock number 1710)
  • Pressure hose and plugs / valve

Tools and materials which you can source locally

  • A good piece of wood for the bow handle. The size you will need is 435 x 45 x 40 mm
  • 1 roll cling wrap
  • 1 roll 50 mm wide masking tape
  • 1 roll insulation tape
  • 1 tin Cobra floor wax
  • Assorted grit of sandpaper
  • Assorted wood files (flat, half round and round)
  • If you have access to a belt sander this will make your job a whole lot quicker, but you can manage with hand tools.

You will have a blueprint to work from. From the blueprint trace a copy of the bow limb shape and handle shape (riser). Transfer these to a thin sheet of formica to make templates. (Figure 1.) The tip of the riser must be paper thin. It should not be over 1,6 mm thick 25 mm from the tip and not over 6,3 mm 50 mm from the tip. This insures flexibility of the riser tips (figure 2). These templates can be used in future if you wish to make more than one bow. Now take the template for your longbow handle (riser) and a piece of wood of your choice. Trace the outline of your handle onto the piece of wood and cut the handle out on a band saw. To get the ends to a very thin taper take a large drum sanding disc and sand the tips down as shown in figure 3. With the handle now roughly shaped we can turn our attention to the lay-up of the limb laminations.

STEP 1: Cut the strips of fibreglass and wood veneers that are going to come on the front (face) of the bow so that they fit between the brass pins on the lower half of the bow mold. NOTE: The number of strips you will be using will depend on the poundage of the bow required and will be specified in the material you order from Bingham Projects

STEP 2: Depending on the shape of the riser the strips of fibreglass and wood veneers that are going to come on the back of the bow (the part that faces you) might have to must be cut to fit between the brass pins and the part shown in figure 4

STEP 3: Cover the smooth sides of the bow glass laminations with masking tape to protect the surface from glue. See figure 5.

STEP 4: Remove the top half of the mold, hose and metal pressure strip. Apply Cobra floor wax polish to the part of the top and bottom mold that will be in contact with the bow. This will prevent epoxy sticking to the mold. Now apply clingwrap to both surfaces and tape in place. This is also to insure that the bow will not stick to the mold itself.

STEP 7: Lay out the fibreglass strips and wood veneers in the correct sequence that they are going to be laid up. Warm the epoxy glue for better mixing.

STEP 8: Mix according to the instructions on the containers. For Epon Versamid this is one part hardener to two parts resin. See figure 6. Work on newspaper and use disposable gloves. Working with epoxy can be a messy business.

STEP 9: Use a piece of the fibreglass that you cut off to apply an even, thin layer of epoxy on one side of the fibreglass strips and on both sides of the riser and subsequent wood strips. See figure 7.

STEP 10: Lay up the epoxied fibreglass, wood strips and riser in the order shown in figures 8 and 9.

STEP 11: Using insulation tape, tape everything together as shown in figure 10 and cover with clingwrap. Place the metal compression strip on top of the clingwrap.

STEP 12: Next comes the deflated fire hose and the top half of the form. See figure 11.

STEP 13: The top form is bolted onto the metal strips. See figure 12. The final layup now looks like figure 13.

STEP 14: Inflate the rubber hose to 60 pounds per square inch (figure 14). The laminations will be forced together and excess epoxy will be squeezed out the sides. Make sure there are no visible gaps between the laminations or between the handle and laminations.

The form is now placed in the heating box with the temperature set at 800C and left to cure for six to eight hours.

To be continued..

About the Author

Cleve Cheney

Cleve Cheney

Cleve Cheney,  hunting and environmental editor of Africa’s Bowhunter is a very well known figure in bow hunting and in conservation circles in South Africa. Cleve Cheney has been in conservation for 27 years, of which 20 years were spent with the National Parks Board – most of it in the Kruger National Park. During the time spent in the Kruger National Park Cleve culled no less than 50 elephants with a rifle and he has hunted most African game during culling operations.

Cleve has also been an avid bow hunter for 22 years and he has an extensive technical knowledge on bows, arrows and broadheads. Cleve is also an accomplished bowyer and has built many recurves over the years. He began offering bowhunting education courses more than 15 years ago. Until recently, Cleve was a lecturer at the South African Wildlife College where was a lecturer and instructor. He has a diploma in Nature Conservations and a MA degree in animal Physiology. Over the years Cleve has written more than a hundred articles on tracking, hunting, survival skills, and bow and rifle hunting. He started an 18 month long professional hunters course at the SA Wildlife College where he trained the first group of professional hunters.

Cleve has trained many bow hunters and his educative articles on how to hunt African game, as well as many other articles on different aspects of archery bow hunting an bush skills has been published in Africa’s Bowhunter, Game and Hunt magazine, Universal Hunter and many other magazines. He has been the lead article writer for Africa’s Bowhunter for more than 14 years.

His book on tracking, The Comprehensive Guide to Tracking: In-depth information on how to track animals and humans alike, is probably the most in-depth study on this subject available. For those who want to learn more than the basics, this book is a treasure trove of tracking information, insights, methods, and knowledge. The book is divided into logical sections: teaching yourself to track; understanding wildlife behavior; identification of tracks and signs; gait patterns and pressure release; blood trailing; tracking specific animals; track, stalk, and approach; bird, reptile, and invertebrate sign; man tracking; and dangers in the bush.


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