How to Build a Wooden American Flat Bow With Plans

Creating the Bow

    Cut down a very straight small tree, about 5 1/2 feet long and 2 1/4 to 3 1/4 inches in diameter. Remove the bark by scraping it, not craving it, to prevent cutting the wood. Split the log in half, then half again.

    Draw an outline of the bow on the wood and find the center point. Measure 3 inches from both sides for the hand grip. Use a file to taper the wood back. The thickness around the handle should be about 5/8 to 3/8 inch in thickness at the tip. The width of the bow should be tapered back to 2 1/2 inches at the handle and 1/2 inch at the tip.

    Taper the hand grip to a comfortable fit for you. Use scrapers and sanders to finish the design and smooth the bow. Wrap leather strips around the hand grip for comfort.

    Oil the bow with a warm mixture of fat and brain matter, applying it with a cloth to coat exposed areas. Warm your bow by a fire or stove to drive the oils into the bow.

Stringing Your Bow

    Hold your bow with the front face facing downward. Grip the center riser and place the larger pouch of the bow stringer over the tip of the lower or bottom limb.

    Place the smallest pouch over the tip of the upper limb.

    Step on the stringer cord and pull up on the riser to make the string taut. Guide the string into the notches of the upper limb.


  • The benefits of building the bow out of wood are cost, speed and weight. The cons are warping and weaker limbs. Elm, maple, sycamore, hazel and ash are suitable and easily-available timbers that make excellent bows. Oil the bow with natural or synthetic materials. Native Americans used bear or deer fat and brain matter. If using natural materials, warm the mixture before applying.
  • When shooting your bow, wear a wrist guard to protect your wrist and forearm from the recoiling bow string. Using a bow stringer to string your bow is the safest and most commonly used method.


  • Never hyperextend or dry fire your bow. This will damage the bow. Dry firing is when the string is pulled back and let go with out an arrow. This will break the bowstring or cause the limbs to explode. Flat bows can shoot with accuracy up to 100 yards or more. A bow is a weapon and you should treat it as such. When shooting, use correct form to avoid injuries.

Things Needed

  • Files
  • Bark scraper
  • Sanders
  • Oil
  • Eye protection
  • Bow stringer

About the Author

Heidi Shaffer has been writing professionally for more then five years. She is currently a senior reporter and researcher for a construction data firm and writes about nature in Denver for a website. Shaffer is working towards a bachelor's degree in business and journalism at the Community College of Aurora.