Making of a wooden flightbow- 2.5xdouble dragons

Here is my build- along of a wooden flightbow called 2.5xdouble dragons. I call all my bows, the choosen name is related to my favourites during the time I do them. In this case the name is a link to my favourite band when I made the bows forerunner 2xdouble dragons, DOUBLE DRAGONS, a mathrock- duo from Middletown, Connecticut. 2nd, my 10 years old daughter wanted to know how to play computer- games, so for to get the actual spirit, I checked for the Double Dragons- Fists of Rage-, a classic. I found a free download of it, we really had some fun…… 3rd, the 2xdouble dragon was my first trial to make a wooden flightbow, if you´ve begun it, you´ ll be unable to stop it, I have to make a better one, soon you get hooked on flightbowery. 3xdoubledragons will upcoming.

For to be serious, I´m an experienced bowyer, during the past 20 years I´ve done hundreds of so- called primitive bows, but I´m a flightbow- beginner, if you are an advanced flightbowyer, my first trials are not to much exciting for
you. So support me with your advice, if you´re a flightbow- beginner too, my first trials could inspire you, maybe you could share your first trials here.


What is a flightbow? A bow that is shooting a flight- arrow very, very far! What is far in that case? An average wooden bow or selfbow is shooting a common arrow matched(spine) to the bows capablities(drawweight, drawlength) its drawweight plus 100. F.e., your bow draws 50lbs, so it should send an arrow about 150yards, plus/minus 20%, according to the bowwood and the design. This is a rule of thumb. The plus tells us there are opportunities to make the same bow shooting an arrow further.

Take a lighter arrow, but not to light, there is a limit. If the arrow is to light, it will not get a stable flight, the arrow will not fly to far.

You could shorten your bow in length, you could heat- treat it or steam- bend some reflex into it, but don´t go to far. It´s a risky game, for to get it, just do it……………………

More experienced bowyers know more or less what makes a wooden bow shooting an arrow very far. Some designs are predicted to shoot far, done with excellent fast woods you´ll get it.

According to my knowledge one of the actual wooden flightbow- records has been shot by Marc St. Louis, he gets about 360yards with his heat- treated elm bow, drawing about 65lbs.

For more infos on primitive flightshooting go for the PALEOPLANET- just use the link buttom at the right, look out for the flightshooting section in their forum.

But the truth is: it is very hard to do a flightbow, you can calculate them very exactly, anyway you´ll be far away from a real flightshot. Bowyers are always going for to get a lot of energy of a minimum of mass. But to less mass makes a bow unstable, breakable…………exploding……………sometimes I´ve the impression that real great flight- bows are done by accident? A well- done wooden flightbow should shoot an arrow at about 280yards.

For to make a bow shooting an arrow far, it should cast an arrow with a high speed. Usually shorter bows bows shoot faster than longer bows, cause the limbs- motion takes less time. Again there´s a limit, short bows stress the wood more, its again a question of balance, anyway you´ve to make a decision, choose a design, a real great bowwood, maybe osage- orange, yew, elm, ipe, blackthorn, hawthorn or my favourite euonymus.

In the case of 2.5xdouble dragons I was heavily inspired by PALEOPLANETS Badger5419 aka Steve Gardner, he is a real expert in flightbowery and the author of  “The Mass Principle”, a great chapter in the Traditional Bowyers Bible, volume 4.

He recently came up with the idea of making flightbows very short and shooting them with very light arrows for to get high speed casting the arrows very far, go for: http://paleoplanet69529.yuku.com/topic/31937

But it´s myself who is somehow obsessed by short bows, I love the idea to handle a weapon looking like a toy, its making is such a delicious job, so exiting…….

I had 2 small pieces of osage- orange left, about 24″ in length, one of them measured less than 1″ in thickness, the other one measured a bit more than 1″ in thickness, their width was about the same, 11/2″. Not to much mass for to get a bow stronger than 45lbs, anyway an experience with a design.

The design of 2.5xdouble dragons is based on skinny tip- designs originally derived from the ancient Mollegabet- and Holmegaard- bows: a skinny tip is usually a bit thicker than wide, so it is stiff, not bending and reduces mass of a bow´s limb. So it provoques the inner limb bending more and increases the speed of the limb´s forward motion. It tooks a lot of experience to know how to design a skinny tip. If it is to long the inner limb could break down, if it is to skinny it will bend, maybe sideways too. Have always in mind to keep the building line while laying out and shaping the bow, otherwise you´ll end up with the string beside the bow´s handle. So the last step in shaping the bow will be the rasping of the skinny tips very carefully.


osage billets
osage billets
the back of one of the billets has still to be worked down to a running through growthring
the back of one of the billets has still to be worked down to a running through growthring
the other billet is to thick, it has to be splitted
progress in splitting the billet, I prefer blades and hammerheads for delicious splitting jobs
the split is done, the lengthwise splicing can be done
adjusting the w- splicing of the 2 billets
the lengthwise splitting is fitting, take very care of a straight building line, use a wooden slat as a ruler
laying out the design, using 2xDouble dragons as a clue
again checking the layout
the design is done, laying out thickness
thickness- job is done, checking building- line again, before shaping the tips
working the tips
the cross- section of a tip
just a look through the window of my workshop- before tillering and drawing the bow
hey it´s working well, drawn at 22", what a bend!
2.5xdouble dragons unbraced
2.5xdouble dragons braced
2.5xdouble dragons belly

2.5xdouble dragons turned out to work well, even with this tremendous bend in the linner limbs, cause it took some set after a few fulldraws, I heat- treated the inner limbs at their belly- side heavily. This worked well, finally it draws 38lbs at 23″. It is a fast bow, it shoots a 330grs.- arrow at 132f/s, a 255grs.- arrow at 144f/s, a 220grs.- arrow at 168f/s.

Its measurements: length is 44″ ( handle 5″, bending sections 11″, tips 8.5″), physical weight is 9oz., the string is made of linen.

The handle measures 1″x3/4″ in cross-section, the limb is 11/4″ in width , tips are tapering from 11/4″ to 3/8″ in width and 5/8″ in thickness.

I´ve never done a selfbow such short before and I´m really surprised what a bend an outstanding bowwood like osage could withstand without any damage. It is very worth to go on making short selfbows. 2xdouble dragons will be featured here  soon as well as a short selfbow made of euonymus.

2.5xdouble dragons has not got a finish and a final wrapping at its handle yet, I´ll do it if I´ll be very sure that it is really ready, maybe I´ll do some additional heat- treating or making the tips more skinny for to get some more f/s.

50% of the work is done, now I´ll have to find the flight- arrow matching the capablities of 2.5xdouble dragons. I´m sure this bow will shoot a 100grs.- arrow with 200f/s plus. But how to do such a light arrow performing a stable flight? I´ll update you.

Update the 2.5xdouble dragons.

For sure this is a short flightbow, usually wooden flightbows have to be longer. Flightbows made of horn, wood and sinew are capable of storing more energy, so they can be build shorter.  If hornbows are made to long, they are to heavy in physical weight and the advantages of the horn/ wood/ sinew- composition are lost.

While making short flightbows I´m just checking out how far could I go drawing an only- wood- bow. Those trials are telling me a lot about the capablities of bowwoods. Anyway a short bow will shot a light arrow very fast, cause its limbs are moving faster.

The best length of a wooden flightbow should be about 60″ in length for an about 24″ draw.

Sorry about the chronos for the 2.5xdouble dragons, there was something wrong with the setting of my indoor chrono- equipment. I guess experienced bowyers have noticed my wrong numbers. After having rearranged the setting I got the following numbers, now the calculation of the efficiency are making sense.

Here we are: a 330grs. arrow was shot at 124f/s, a 232grs. arrow was shot at 130f/s, a 155grs.arrow was shot at 141f/sec, this means 11.7, 10.1 and 6.7.

The 2xdouble dragons is ready, its numbers: 45.5″ in length, 44lbs at 23″. It shots the 330grs.arrow at 124f/s, the 232grs.arrow at 141f/s anf the 155grs.arrow at 155f/s.

The short euonymus called alasehir is not quite ready but chronoed. It is 50″ in length and draws 23″ at 50lbs. it shots the 330grs.arrow at 140f/s, the 232grs.arrow at 150f/s and the 125grs.arrow at 162f/s.

So I´m far behind the magic 300f/s, I´ve to go again…………………………

Next trial is an about 55lbs at 24″ longer bow made of euonymus again, it is 59″ in length. It is not ready, you see it anyway posted here in a somewhat rough state.

Enjoy the pics! There are flightarrows too, an upcoming bowXplosion will be a build- along of flight- arrows.

short flightbows long flightbow 5 2010
flight bows flight arrows 5 2010



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Again Euonymus as a bowwood

After having read the infos published by the Japanese ATARNET member Alex S. focused on Japanese forerunners of the famous yumi- bows, my appreciation of this wood is heavily confirmed.

Along Alex S.´ report the forerunners of the famous yumi- bows are made as selfbows of one piece of wood in the same design. Length of a wooden yumi has been about 78″, with a lower limb measuring 1/3 of the length, the upper limb measuring 2/3 of the length.

The wooden yumis had been made of euonymus, sandal- wood(imported from India via China), this must be great to work cause of its smell, I guess a lots of you know its smell from incense sticks. Zelkova serrata has been used by Japanese bowyers, it is a kind of elm. Torreya nucifera was also highly appreciated as a bowwood, it is the Japanese yew.

For not to forget mulberry, which is known for to be used by South Korean bowyers.

The wooden yumis have been called to be more durable, less sensitive to environmental conditions and cheaper as the very delicious to do yumis made of bamboo. The word yumi means nothing else than the word bow, euonymus is called mayumi or bowwood. So it must be highly appreciated by the Japanese bowyers.

I´ve done 5 bows of euonymus, short ones, cause I prefer short bows, but I have to do a wooden yumi, I´m still waiting for some more infos from Alex S.

When you´ve read my article about a very special experience with euonymus(look here for “A bowXplosion”) you know how this wood is able to perform. I´m just working another short euonymus- selfbow, I´m looking for 50lbs at 23″, it should be able to cast a light arrow with more than 200f/s.

another euonymus bow 50" in length, at 21" in the tillering board

I´ll update you

update of euonymus as a bowwood

I´ve updated the Euonymus- bows article,  cause I recently began the topic “Asian wooden bows” in the ATARNET. Alex S. a japanese member of the ATARNET posted a list of woods traditionally used in Japanese selfbowery. The ancient Japanese bowyers highly appreciated euonymus or spindlewood. Go to:  http://atarn.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1590

I got a lots of emails asking for the basics of traditional bowery.

I´ll do a “How to make a selfbow, string and arrows- basics” until the end of April. I´ll offer it as pdf- download.

Now I´m heading for the Eagle Feathers Trading of Andy Schumacher near Zürich in Switzerland to run another bow- class. I´ ll report.

Cupid´s, Apollon´s or Armors bow

Diana breaking Cupids bow

Some years ago I was involved in a research- project, guided by Prof. Erhard Godehardt,  focused on Greek archery of the Antique. We did some reconstructions of different types of Greek bows,  most of them based on the design of Scythian bows. The Greek were very impressed by the performance of Scythian bows and they adopted them soon for to replace their former wooden bows.

Among the reconstructions was a type of a Greek bow attributed to Apollon, the Greek god of love and the later Roman God Armor or Cupid, the god of love or of to fall in love.

cupid riding a dolphin

We did 2 Cupid bows as hornbows succesfully. I´ve found them a challenge to do, cause of the shortness of these bows. During the making of the bows I got very interested in all the myths about Apollon and Cupid, but above all I was very attracted by all the legends about Apollons sister Artemis, the later Roman godness Diana. I got a feeling of the so- called Amazons, the times of matriarchy and some actually negated aspects of feminity.

2 years ago I got a fax of a customer of mine, with the pics you see above: Diana breaking Cupid´s bow and Cupid riding a dolphin…………….Michael, I want such a Cupid´s bow made as a hornbow, 100cm in lenght drawing about 50lbs at 26″, further instructions soon…………… further instructions were telling me to make the limbs heavily reflexed. I´ve to tell that this guy knows to do selfbows very well,  he´s an artist and former physicist and I´ve several got some very useful advices in the physics of different bow- designs.

So we cooperated and ended up in making the bow as a usual horn- composite with a spliced in handle, the limbs made of mountain- maple, horn as belly and sinew backed. The bow is based on some paintings done during the Renaissance, when a lot of Italian artists painted scenes of the Roman and Greek Antiquity. So it is not historically prooved, no findings.

The lenght measured over all the bows curvature is 103cm, the non- bending handle is 30cm in length, 2.5cm in width, 2.8cm in depth. So the limbs are 36.5cm in length, 3cm in width with the last 6cm tapered to 1cm, the thickness of the limbs is about 0.6cm midlimb.

I cut the horn- slats from the inner curve of a pair of waterbuffalo- horns, with a radius of 12cm. It took me some hours to go into the woods for to find a mountain- maple grown in the fitting shape.  I don´t take care to much on the growthrings of the handle- piece, cause it would not bend, I just cut  it from a piece of mountain- maple too.

At first I glued the horn and the core of the 2 limbs, than I v- spliced them into the preformed handle, when the 3 parts were fitting, I glued them. A week later I did a pre- tiller, I drew the horn- maple- lamination to about 15″, for to see if it works without any problems(twisting, breaking glueline………), everything was working well. The client wants me to splice in 5cm long slats of horn with a cross- section of 1cm x 1cm for to shape the nocks as he has seen them on the paintings. Finally the bow was backed with 3 layers of leg- sinews from deer. Now we decided to give the bow a drying- time of 13 month( 13 is the lucky number of the Ancient times).

When I began to tiller the bow, I was quite nervous, cause of the shortness and the heavily reflexed limbs, the limbs were reflexed almost allover their whole length. After 3 trials I drew the bow to 25″, no cracks, no explosion, drawweight as desired, great to see almost the whole limb unrolling, like a fresh grown shoot which has just penetrated the soil as my wife noted…………………….Anyway we decided to sew the bow limbs completely into canvas for safety reasons. Additonally the canvas is a great base for to paint the bow. It is very obvious that the sea and diving is another passion of the client: Cupid loved it to surf with dolphins, for those of you interested in totem- animals, the dolpin means joy of life, harmony, social behaviour,  the squid means the art of disappearing, our inner monsters, the depth of our being…………………

This Cupid´s bow draws 48lbs at 26″, it shots a 340grs. arrow at 151f/s. due to its big handle this bow is so comfortable to shoot, no handshock, the “unrolling” of the limbs makes a very smooth and  even draw. But don´t be to much attracted by the exciting curves of this Cupid´s bow, it is a beast. Imagine a 70lbs- version.

The shape of the bow is like the human upper lip, drawn the bow looks almost like a heart.

Keep in mind Cupid´s guiding theme: amor vincite omnia- love beats everything.

Some of you know that I´ve been involved in the research of horn- bows for some years, anyway I prefer selfbows again, cause I´m seriously in doubt about the efficiency of hornbows.Even the Cupid´s bow is a great example of what the horn/maple/sinew- gang is able to withstand.  But the Cupid´s bow will ever be one of my favourites, I love its charming shape turning into a beast when drawn and released.


cupid braced

cupid unbraced
cupid with dolphins on its back
carving at the handle
Cupid string bridge- silencers
cupid at 25

For those who like to look intelligent and charming movies: go for the TV- Series “Cupid”, created by the maker of the “Veronica Mars”- series, Rob Thomas. He creates a modern version of a Cupid, damned to live in our actual human world…………I love it.

For those who like deeper insights in squids, go for Martin Moyniham, the famous evolutionary biologist, look for his book: communication and non- communication.  A summary of it at http://www.deviantart.com, look for octopi as a metaphor( there is a search), really interesting.

For those who like unserious pics and  some hoax, here we go, a modern Cupid visited me today:

a modern cupid?
modern cupid: love beats everything