Covered Topics

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Friday, June 17, 2011

A Homemade PVC Pipe Archery Bow

For thousands of years, the bow and arrow have been used for both sport and survival hunting. Even today it is still used throughout the world. In America, it is primarily a sporting weapon, though occasionally it is still used for more serious purposes. For example, during the Vietnam conflict, American Marines were said to have used bows and arrows for relatively close situations where a quiet, discrete weapon was needed.

Ever since I was a boy, archery has fascinated me. I had never owned a bow nor did I have the opportunity to get instruction from anyone who could properly teach me. As an adult I fortunately was able to take archery at a local college. I did quite well in it and bought my first bow shortly before the end of the course. Since then, life intervened and I haven't shot a bow in years. While I still have my factory-made bow, I wanted to try something a bit different.

My Hardware Store Specials:
One goal of mine was to, as much as possible, stick with materials I could readily buy at any local hardware or home improvement store. When doing a project I try to avoid any hard-to-find or exotic stuff whenever I can.

I am currently doing two archery bow-building projects. Both of these are classified as "long bows", as opposed to a recurve or compound bow.

One is a "board bow" - so named as it is carved from a solid 6' piece of red oak 1" x 2" board. I have the rough shape cut out and am in the process of whittling it to its final shape. This is a painstaking process involving a draw-knife and/or a carpenter's plane. More on this project in a future post. I got the board for under $10 USD from the local Lowes Home Improvement Center.

In the picture above is another experiment I am doing - the PVC pipe bow. While handling some PVC pipe a while back, it occurred to me that given its springiness it should make a crude but effective bow. Some searches of Google and you-tube revealed numerous examples of folks who have made PVC bows. Many of them were of low draw weight and made by kids, but a few are of decent (40# or more) draw weight and made by adults. And so I made the one in the picture above. It consists of a 72" piece of 1.25" schedule 40 PVC pipe. The string is my own crude attempt at a "Flemish bowstring", made from 6 pieces of mason's line. I bought my mason's line from the local Home Depot for about $5 USD.

I haven't fired this bow yet, but I do have some arrows that are suitable for the approximate draw weight involved. In a future post I will give test results, draw weight measurements, ...
Meanwhile I have built a wooden stand for measuring the draw weight accurately and for "tillering" the board bow. "Tillering" is the process of shaping the limbs of the bow and adjusting their tension so that the bow is properly balanced.

A Word (or Two) of Warning:
If you decide to try this, BEWARE that PVC gets extremely brittle in cold temperatures! DO NOT try to use such a weapon at temperatures below 45 degrees F - it could shatter and injure you!!

Secondly, when messing around with unproven materials such as these, use some good, stout eye protection. If the string or the bow fails, you do not want the shrapnel going into your eye.

By the way: PVC pipe is great stuff; I've found all sorts of novel uses for it. PVC performs reasonably well up through VHF frequencies for winding loading coils for amateur radio antennas.
Granted, this has NOTHING to do with archery, but it is another valid re-purpose of a common commodity.


  1. he has made GREAT PVC bows! i suggest watching some of his videos. i made 2 bows from his designs, there great!

    1. Eli: Yes - I have mentioned backyard bowyer in more recent posts. He has gone on to write several books, as well as having done a whole YouTube channel on this subject. I found backyard bowyer just within the past year or so.


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