I happened to be in the store Party City the other day when I came across this:
Billed as a “Native American Bow and Arrow,” it carried a sticker price of $16.99, which I have to say, seemed kind of steep since it was only Native American by way of China and was mainly intended to be a costume accessory. But looking closer, I saw a few interesting things. Despite a rough finish, the central riser was hardwood, and the limbs were bamboo rather than, say, plastic. The arrows were solid bamboo shafts and were likely way too heavy for this little 40″ bow, but it did get me thinking … what if it could be turned into something more than a costume accessory? Could it serve as a functional, rather than decorative, bow and arrow?
The answer is yes, which I’ll detail below, though, to be honest, unless you can find it cheaper than 17 bucks, you’re better off making a bow out of PVC. You’ll get a better, stronger, and faster bow for much less money. But … where’s the fun in that? And so began another wayward project.
Here’s a picture of the bow taken out of the package:
For some reason, the manufacturers used a clear monofilament line (like a fat fishing line or a string from a classical guitar) for the bowstring. Even more bizarrely, instead of cutting nocks in the ends of the bow, they drilled holes in the distal parts of the limbs and threaded the string through that. Kind of a fail, since doing that weakened the limbs, but, to fair, they were never intended to be very functional anyway. However, for my purposes, it also limited the bow’s draw to less than 20″ (15 or 16″, I think, definitely less than the length of the included arrows, which were 20″ long; at that draw length, it pulled about 10#). So all this needed to be changed.
Here was the bow’s profile unstrung:
Not too different from the strung profile, huh? I heated up the limbs with a heat gun and gradually bent them forwards to reduce the amount of deflex:
I thought about recurving the ends more, but with the holes drilled in the ends, the area would be weaker, so I decided against it. I did cut nocks in the ends, extending the limb length another inch and half or so.
There was a central cutout in the riser with an arrow rest intended for a left handed shooter, but since it neither lined up with string nor reduced the archer’s paradox in any way, I got rid of it and reshaped the handle a little to be more comfortable to hold. Then I wrapped it with the cloth strap that came with the bow and wrapped it with a leather thong:
Here’s the bow strung:
It now draws to about 22″ and pulls about 15#. Not going to win an power or speed awards, for sure, but with these minimal changes and a properly matched set of youth arrows, it could actually serve a starter bow for young hands. I’ll save it for my daughter when she’s big enough to use it. Can anyone else think of ways to modify this Halloween bow?
Speaking of which, Happy Halloween, folks!
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