Yesterday we turned up and glued three bits of wood together with polymite (used to be castamite) - hickory, purpleheart and lemonwood and bound them with sellotape to hold them evenly while they glued. We also made our strings by taking five separate lengths of dacron (a kind of nylon I think) and binding them together with beeswax to make a skin. Three skins are then roped together to form the bow string.
Today we turned up and marked out the centre lines (not on the centre of the bow; it had to account for any bends in the wood) and the dimensions for the bows. Gavin the tutor then roughly cut the bows to their dimensions (using a band saw) and we shaped them with planes and rasps:
Azekeil shaping his bow
Evildonut shaping his bow
Azekeil's bow during tillering
Next, after cutting temporary string nocks was a process called tillering where the wood of the bow is taught to bend by repeated gentle stretching using a wooden frame to hold the bow and string. This also allows you to examine the bend of each limb, which should bend smoothly. Any points where the bow bends more (usually because it is thinner) is called a hinge. The only way to sort out hinges should they occur is to shave off the stronger sections to make a smooth curve. This can lead to a bow of weaker poundage than you'd hoped. Luckily, with a modicum of patience and taking off a small amount at a time this doesn't appear to have been a problem for any of the 7 of us on the course.
When we eventually got the bow poundage about right (so we could mostly pull it) we checked again with shorter strings that are closer to the final string length. Our bows were pulling 55-57 pounds by the time we started sanding them. The bow is likely to lose another 5 pounds or so as we finalise it and it settles down:
Azekeil's bow after sanding with 60 and then 180 grit paper
Azekeil's bow after sanding alternate angle
Azekeil's bow after sanding macro shot
Notice how my bow has taken a set (i.e. bent) due to the tillering process.
Tomorrow we will sand it wet and dry with even finer paper, put in an arrow inlay and the final nocks and the grip, then I believe we will oil it and we'll be finished!
The whole process has been really satisfying and very gratifying. I never believed I could really manually create something of such aesthetic beauty and functionality and to see it taking shape under my hands and the tutor's guidance is absolutely fantastic. I can't recommend it enough.
The process is also simple enough for us to help anyone else who wants to make their own longbows; let us know :)