Saturday, March 24, 2012

Build a Bamboo Survival Bow in 30 Minutes

Bamboo has been used for millennia to make fine bows. It is tough, straight grained, very flexible, and easy to work. Bamboo is used for backing on many traditional laminated bows. This bow is neither fine, nor traditional, nor laminated; but it is quick and easy to make, and it works.

To build this bow you will need a nice large cane of bamboo. The walls of the cane should be at least three-eights of an inch thick, and the cane need s to be about five or six feet long. Pictured below: Bamboo for bow making

Use a hatchet, or heavy knife to split the cane in half. Pictured below: top, Splitting bamboo; bottom, two pieces of the split cane

Now take one of the pieces of bamboo and use your hatchet or knife to split off the sides and narrow the part that you will use to about two inches in width. Pictured below: top, Splitting off sides; bottom, two inch wide stave

Use you hatchet and knife to shape the front profile of the bow. It should be about two inches wide in the middle and taper to about one inch on the tips. Pictured below: top, Shaping bow with the hatchet; middle, tapering the limbs; bottom, finished profile

Next you can use your knife to carve a couple of notches in each end for the bowstring. Pictured below: Carving notches

Now it’s time to make the handle. Cut a stick that is about an inch to an inch-and-a-half in diameter and about a foot long. Taper the ends of the stick as shown below. Pictured below: tapering the handle stick

Carve out any joints in the area where the handle will rest then test the fit of the handle. Pictured below: top, carving out a joint; bottom, handle resting in place in the cane

If the handle fits you can take some cordage and wrap the handle to secure it in place. In the illustration below I am using some yucca cordage that I had made earlier, but you can use para-cord, a shoelace, or anything else that you have. Pictured below: Wrapping handle

All you need now is a bowstring. I used some more yucca cordage for my bowstring. Pictured below: Finished bow, strung and ready for use

This particular bow, which is only about a quarter inch thick, is not all that powerful, about twenty pounds; but thicker bamboo will make a more powerful bow. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this bow to try and take a rabbit, coon, possum, or other small game. Pictured below: Bamboo bow at full draw


Michael Degorter said...

Does the bamboo need to be dried (if so, how?) or can I just pluck a piece out of the ground and get to it?

Also, must the bow be split straight down the middle or can one give it a more lopsided cut to increase power?

Sensible Survival said...

You can make a bamboo bow like this using green bamboo. The idea is that this is a quickie survival bow and in that situation you would not really have time to cure the bamboo. If you cure the bamboo it will make a more powerful bow. I have a friend that has a bow he brought back from Korea that is made of bamboo with a sinew backing. It is a very good bow. I am currently curing some bamboo to make a bow of this type. As for leaving the bow wider, I am not sure. The curved sides would be under a lot of compression, but if the wood holds up to the compression it would definitely add power. It would be worth a try. If you do this, I'd be interested to know what the results are. Hank

Sensible Survival said...

To cure bamboo I put the whole canes up in the rafters of my shop and just leave it for a few months. I don't split it until after it is cured. Seems to work fine. Hank

marin said...

What I accidentally found out when I was testing My bow was that if you split the bow ends in half then it bends better even if it is dry

Michael Kenyon said...

I was thinking I could double up on the bamboo to increase power. I would think by placing one shoot inside the other, stacked the back of the outside piece to the front of the inside one. Also you can use smaller bamboo reeds to make arrows with

prasad said...

but my bow broke when I tried to tie the string. 2 times

Paige Van Etten said...

What inch size do I need? 1 or 5 in.?

Sensible Survival said...

The larger the diameter of the bamboo, the flatter and thicker your finished bow will be. Use the largest bamboo that you can find. Hank

ShadowedSun said...

what type of bamboo would be best to use?

ShadowedSun said...

What type of bamboo is best to use?
what type are you using?

Sensible Survival said...

I'm afraid I don't know specifically what type of bamboo this bow is made from. The stuff just grows wild here in East Texas. It is a frosty green and grows up about 15 or 20 feet tall and maybe three inches in diameter. Sorry I can't be more help.

Bryce Li said...

My bow broke, since it was way too thin

garrett bavosa said...

It looks like u bent or warped the bamboo. How did you do this