Here’s the pvc recurve bow tutorial I promised. First you want to start by gathering the materials and make sure you have the tools for this project.
– 3/4 inch Pvc pipe
– A few feet of any type of string
– I recommend buying an actual bow string as opposed to making your own. They run about $7 on amazon and will save you hours making your own. For this bow you want a string that’s about 5-6 inches shorter than the length of the bow. (My bow was 58 inches so I went with a 52 inch string.) You’re looking for about a 6 inch gap between the string and the back of the handle when you string your bow. I usually buy a few different size strings so I can try a few out to see which one fits the best.
– Safety glasses
– Two bar clamps
– Heat gun
– Some type of hand saw (I have a Japanese pull saw, but a hack saw or wood saw would be fine also.)
– Two pieces of wood wider and longer than your bow.
– Tape measure
– Sand paper
– Small round hand file
– An assistant
Alright now that you have all of your tools and materials squared away it’s time to get started. First thing you want to do is decide how long you want your bow to be. I chose 58 inches. There’s not to much to deciding on a length so just pick a length that seems good. Somewhere around 55-65 inches should be fine for most people.
Measure out and cut the pvc.
It’s not all that important to have a perfectly straight cut, just try to get it as square as you can by eye, most of it gets trimmed later anyway.
Now measure and mark a halfway point on your pvc pipe. My pipe was 58 inches long so i marked 29 inches. Also put a mark 2 inches above and below your halfway mark. My marks were at 27 and 31 inches. This 4 inch section will later become the handle of the bow and marking it now makes forming the limbs easier.
Next sand off any manufacturers markings on the pipe. You don’t have to do this step, but it only takes a few minutes and keeps your bow nice and clean looking at the end.
Now to the fun part, forming the limbs. Set up a piece of wood at the edge of the work bench and lay your pipe on top of it. (If your work bench is long enough to support the entire length of the pipe feel free to skip this step.)
Draw a line or make a mark on the piece of wood. This is to help you line everything up when you flatten the second limb.
Measure out two other marks at about 9 and 18 inches. These marks are where you want to place your clamps when you’re flattening the first limb.
Grab your handy dandy heat gun and start heating the first side of the pipe. Use nice even back and forth motions when heating. You want to heat from the handle mark all the way to the end of the pipe. You’re looking to get the pipe hot enough to be soft, but not hot enough to bubble or burn. This step might take a little bit of practice until you find the exact right temperature.
Once the pipe gets hot enough place the second piece of wood on top the pipe and place the two bar clamps at the 9 and 18 inch marks that you made on the lower piece of wood earlier. Tighten the clamps to draw the top piece of wood down and squish the pvc pipe.
You want to end up with a taper on the limb when you draw the clamps down tight. You want the tip to be completely squished and taper up to the handle mark where the top piece of wood is almost not even touching the pipe.
If the pipe wasn’t heated enough and you can’t get the tip to squish the whole way, take your heat gun and point it in-between the two pieces of wood as you move it up and down the length of the limb. Try to heat both sides evenly. It doesn’t take much heat at this point. The wood seems to help direct the heat into the pvc.
Now just draw down on the clamps a bit more and the end should squish down flat.
It’s ok if the top piece of wood bends a bit. Now just let the pcv cool for a bit. Once the pipe is cool enough to touch it should be ok to take off the clamps and see how it looks.
You should end up with a semi decent taper from a round pipe into a squished pipe.
Now flip the pipe around and start heating the other limb just like you did with the first one.
Once the pipe starts to warm up, go ahead and clamp the squished side down to the piece of wood. This is to make sure both limbs squish flat in exactly the same plane. Twisted limbs are a bad thing.
Finish heating the second limb and go ahead and squish that one too. you want to try to get the taper on the limbs as even as possible. This takes a bit of practice and don’t worry if it doesn’t come out perfect.
You should end up with something like this with a pipe in the center that tapers out to flat at the tips.
Kinda looks like an elongated bow tie.
Next you want to heat the handle section of the pipe. This doesn’t take long at all.
Squish the handle in the opposite direction as you squished the limbs. There’s no need to use clamps here, just hand pressure should be enough. You don’t want to squish it flat, just enough so it’s more of an oval than a round pipe. You can also use this time to get a little forward set on the limbs.
Once the handle is cool you should be able to stand it up so you can measure how far the limbs go forward. Mine was about 3 1/2 inches.
Next you want to draw out the nocks for the string. While you’re at it draw a line about 6 inches in from the tip.
You can be as creative as you like here. just don’t cut to far down into the limb.
go ahead and cut out your nocks and then sand or file them so there’s no sharp points.
Next you want to find some sort of round object to bend the tips around. I had an old paint can that was perfect.
Remember those marks you made about 6 inches in from the tips? Heat up the limb from those marks to the tip. once the tip is hot enough to bend just lay it over the paint can or round object and hold it there till it cools. The pvc can be pretty hot when you do this so gloves might be a good idea. I just held a rag in between my hands and the pipe. Sorry there’s no picture for this step, I needed both hands to make the bend.
You should end up with something like this when your’e finished. If you did, good, if not, go back and keep messing with it until it comes out semi close to this.
Next if you want to you can wrap a handle for your bow.
Start at one end and wrap the rope around the bow until it holds itself in place.
Keep wrapping until you are just short of completely covering the handle.
Loosely wrap 3-4 more times around both the bow and your finger.
Feed the end of the rope back through those last few wraps.
Work the rope tighter while keeping the wraps nice and even.
Pull the rope nice and tight and snip off the end.
It’s not the prettiest, but it’s functional. If you’re having trouble keeping the wrap tight a little glue dabbed on the last few wraps on both ends can help keep everything in place.
Go ahead and carefully string your bow. Don’t be surprised if it looks like this at first. This happens because one limb is stronger than the other. In my case the top limb was much stronger than the bottom limb. Don’t worry this is super easy to fix.
Heat the weaker limb very slowly and carefully. as the limb heats up it tries to go back to it’s original round shape. Heat it till it starts to un-flatten a little bit, then stop, and let it cool. Alternatively you can squish the stronger limb if you want a weaker bow. This may take some back and forth working on both limbs till you get something that is fairly even when strung. Make sure you let the whole bow cool before you try to string it.
That looks much better!
Grab your quiver, arrows, and your new bow and head out to your target range. Start super close to the target so you don’t loose arrows until you get a feel for how to aim. You want to nock your arrows so that they are perpendicular to the handle when you shoot. this takes some playing around with until you find the exact right position.
Have fun and be safe!