How to Make a Bow and Arrow

Want to play Robin Hood? Get in on the action with these steps.

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Up next in Wilderness Survival Skills (40 videos)

Conquer the wilderness with the survival tips in these Howcast videos. You'll learn how to make fire, build a shelter, boil water with hot stones, make a bow and arrow, avoid poison ivy, purify water, track animals, make a solar still, tan a hide, sharpen a jackknife, avoid a snakebite, tell directions without a compass, and much more.

You Will Need

  • Saw
  • Knife
  • Tape measure
  • Tree
  • Scissors
  • Thick nylon twine
  • Knowledge of knots
  • 25" long 3/8" dowel rod
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Candle
  • Matches
  • Heavy card stock paper
  • Superglue
  • Targets
  • Sandpaper (optional)
  • Thin straight branches (optional)

Steps

  1. A bow and arrow is not a toy. Pointing it at someone could result in serious injury.

  2. Step 1

    Make the stave

    Find a straight or slightly curved live branch about 4 or 5 feet long with a 1 to 1 ½-inch diameter. Choose wood that flexes without cracking. Use a saw or a knife to cut the branch from a tree, then whittle off any smaller branches and knots.

  3. Step 2

    Carve the notches

    Make a horizontal, ½-inch deep groove an inch from both ends of the branch on the outside of its natural curve. Then, carve out the wood between the grooves and the ends, forming two notches. This is the stave, or wooden part of the bow.

  4. For a more finished look, whittle the bark off the stave, sand it, and wrap twine tightly around the middle as a grip.

  5. Step 3

    Prepare the twine

    Measure and cut a piece of twine about 6 inches shorter than the length of the stave. Tie one end of the string securely around one end of the stave, on the notch. Tie a slipknot on the other end of the twine, forming a loop.

  6. Step 4

    Get in position

    If you're right-handed, hold the string-free end of the stave in your right hand and the slipknot in your left. Rest the other end of the stave against the outside of your left foot. Step over the stave with your right foot. Reverse this position if you're left-handed.

  7. Step 5

    Bend the stave

    Bend the end of the stave towards the slipknot, using the leg that's in front of the stave as a fulcrum. Slide the loop of the slipknot around the notch and gently release the stave, forming your bow. Remove your leg from between the stave and the bowstring.

  8. Loosen the bowstring whenever you're not using the bow to keep it from getting too loose.

  9. Step 6

    Make the arrow

    Sharpen one end of the dowel rod with a pencil sharpener. Light a candle and run the point through the flame it until it turns black to harden the wood. Carve a small groove in the other end of the rod for the string.

  10. Whittle small straight branches into arrows if you don't have dowel rods.

  11. Step 7

    Make the feathers

    Cut heavy card stock paper into three right triangles an inch wide and 2 inches tall. Fasten them to the base of the arrow with superglue.

  12. Step 8

    Shoot

    Now all that's left to do is test out your DIY bow and arrow with a little target practice! Bull's-eye!

  13. Bone arrowheads dating back to 61,000 years ago have been found in South Africa.

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