The Halloween Bow

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:

2015-10-31 10.30.32For 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:

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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:

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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.2015-10-31 12.17.56

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:

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Here’s the bow strung:

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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!

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details! 


How to Create Your Own Three Piece Takedown PVC-Fiberglass Bow Part 2: The Fourth of July Bow

A few months ago, I wrote up a little post about making a PVC fiberglass rod takedown bow and made an associated video.  That post has since been turned into a magazine article, which you can find in this month’s (July/Aug 2015) copy of Backwoodsman magazine, quite possibly my favorite magazine of all time and a great one for those that like to tinker with things and enjoy the outdoors.
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So I decided to do a redux of my original design with the goals of increasing the draw weight, getting an idea of the speed, and improving the appearance.  Without further ado, I present the Fourth of July bow (finished around the Fourth of July – happy belated Fourth for US readers – adorned with red, white, and blue).
IMG_6204IMG_620315 - 315 - 2IMG_6199The design is similar to the one I wrote about before, with a central PVC riser that fiberglass rods slide into.  This time, I added additional strength to the core by using three pieces of telescoping PVC: 1/2 inch pipe fitted into a heated piece of 3/4 inch pipe fitted into a heated piece of 1 inch PVC pipe.  I used a longer piece of 1/2 inch PVC than I did before, hoping the added resistance would increase the weight a little.  I also painted the riser metallic blue, added a grip, and an arrow rest for more comfortable shooting (before, the arrows were shot off the hand).  The fiberglass rods were wrapped in star-spangled duct tape that I think I found in a dollar store.

Sometimes I wish I had shorter arms, making buying shirts and finding arrows easier.  But, alas, I don’t, and sometimes a bow that works well for someone with more normal arms is uncomfortable for me.  For this one, I ended up sacrificing the draw weight a little in favor of comfort, figuring that the longer piece of PVC I used for the handle would still add more draw weight than what I had before.  I deflexed the handle of the bow (making it curve in) a bit to make it more forgiving to shoot (less likely to shoot up in weight in the last few inches, a.k.a. “stacking”).  At a 32 inch draw, it still pulls a modest but respectable 40 pounds and is comfortable even for my organutan arms.

I was curious to see how fast it would be, so used a phone app chronograph to get an idea of the speed.  I think there’s probably some variability in how well these apps work (they cleverly use the sound of the bowstring twanging and the sound of the arrow striking the target to estimate the bow speed), but they probably give you some idea.  Using 446 grain arrows, or about 11 grains per pound for this bow, here were some of the results:

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So between 190-200 fps according to this app with that weight of arrow (446 grains) – on the higher side for the bows I’ve made with PVC, but given this one has light fiberglass rod limbs (capable of moving faster with a thinner profile than heavy PVC), I guess it’s not too surprising.

Interested in making one of these for yourself?  Go for it!  You can do it in a few hours, and even if you mess up, you’re only out a few bucks, making it easy to give it another go.  It’s pretty easy, though: check out the last video for a walkthrough, and see the parts list in my last post or in a copy of Backwoodsman magazine (where to find it).  Let me know if you have questions!

bow hunter

Before you go: want a free podcast on the creation of this takedown PVC-fiberglass rod bow?  Click the picture above for more details!