Traditional bows by Steve Thomson

Steve Thomson


Handmade longbows & re-curves using bamboo and choice hardwood

Making Bows


How bows are made 

Material Choices:  Right now I am using only bamboo and choice hardwoods in making my bows.  My experience in using glass has been very limited.  That could change in the future, Who knows?  Soon I'll be using sinew for backing some shorter bows. 

The bamboo is selected, cut, split and sorted specifically for bow making purposes. (see: bamboo for bows)  The hardwoods need to have a good straight grain through the full length and be free of twists.  I like to see good tight growth rings and when the log is split, orient the split so that section has even growth rings.  That way when I cut out my strips the growth rings are uniform in space and properly aligned.  Also the types of wood need to be dense with a specific gravity value of 0.50 or higher.  Depending on the type of bow eg: longbow or shorter recurve, and what the bow is used for eg: hunting, target shooting or long distance shooting, this will influence the choice of hardwood used. 

There are basically 3 choices of core materials for each of the bows I make. 

The first choice is to go solid wood.  This could be a solid piece of Osage for a long bow and then back it with bamboo.  This is also the least costly choice for a bow core. 

The second choice is to combine different woods into a core and laminate them in a vertical manner. 

The last option is to go with a composite core of bamboo and hardwood.  This is a premium core and offers superior performance in smoothness, speed and power.  Special attention is given to the orientation of wood grain and power fibers to optimize performance.

 Hardwood       Bamboo        Hardwood


All the cores and bows are glued together with a 2-part epoxy glue of extremely high quality.  I use the rope and wedge method to glue the pieces of a core together and for gluing & settling curves of all my bows.  It’s a method taught to me by Jaap and the only one I use.  This method allows for a high degree of flexability for all types of bows and allows you to see the glue lines so adjustments can be made to align pieces, tighten a spot and so on.  Then the piece goes into the hot box to cure the glue.  After the glue is cured, mainly hand tools are used to finish the bow.

An all natural bow has a very different “feel” to it, then one made from synthetic materials.  There is a “life” in the limbs and to me there is a very intimate connection made between the archer and their bows.  You have to experience it to know exactly what I mean.  These bows require more care and attention than a glass bow.  Each bow I sell goes with instructions on how to properly care for your investment.  Bamboo doesn’t like dry air below 30% R.H.  Cracking may occur.  Leaving your bow in the hot sun could cause damage, extreme cold will cause the limbs to stiffen, as the fibers shrink.  So gradual stretching of the limbs will help to loosen the fibers and allow you to draw the bow without damaging the limbs.  Slight adjustments cam easily be made to reset a curve or align the tips.  Not a problem.  And small scratches can be fixed with light sanding and re-spraying with polyurethane.  With nominal care a wood & bamboo bow will last for many years with outstanding performance.


Photo album of making bows & arrows.


Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
Copyright © 2005 Traditional Bows by Steve Thomson
Last modified: 08/04/07