Top 5 Traditional Bow Designs 0
Top 5 Traditional Bow Designs

As you may know, different cultures have developed unique bows depending on the accessible material, local conditions and specific needs. One can distinguish tens of different designs, basing on many findings from around the world.

In this article  I’ll present you the top 5 bow types (in my opinion) I’ve made and used in my bow building career. We’ll talk about their pros and cons from the archer’s and bowyer’s perspective. Let’s get into it.


Number 5. – Mollegabet bow.

This self bow design is considered to be especially efficient. Basing on my experience and tests I’ve made, it’s 100% true. How is it possible? Mollegabet bows are quite unique, as their limbs are built from 2 totally different parts - wide, thin working inner limb and very narrow, but thicker and stiff outers.

In such a bow, not the whole limb is bending, but only a part of it. Narrow, stiff outers are significantly lighter, what leads to better mass distribution over the weapon. That makes Mollegabet bows especially great performers. I’ve never liked tillering these, and I find it quite challenging. These bows to work well have to be designed and crafted carefully, but also require quite good and thick material.


Number 4. – English longbow.

One of the most legendary designs. English longbow in the most common meaning is a long, narrow and rounded belly bow with full cow horn nocks. Such a construction requires great quality material. Traditionally, it was built from yew wood, using its sapwood for the back, and heartwood for the belly of the bow. English longbows are usually tillered further than other types, even over 30”.

They are bending on the whole length of the stick, even at the handle, which isn’t that distinctive as on other bows. English longbows are often more powerful, drawing sometimes over 100lb. As these are quite narrow, the bowyer can make more bows from the single trunk. These are also faster and easier to make with simple tools than some other designs.


Number 3. – Recurve bow.

Stiff handled self bow with recurved tips and arrow shelf seems to be something what my viewers like the most. And to be honest, it’s one of my fave bow designs too. To build such a weapon, both the wood species, and it’s quality to have to be great. It also takes much more time and skills to complete such a project.

What’s the most challenging issue when it comes to building a recurve bow is dealing with string alignment and twists. Nevertheless, I like shaping my recurves into aggressive bends. Recurve bows are a bit more compact and really efficient, storing more energy than straight bows. They are also especially esthetically pleasing.



Number 2. – Simple flatbow.

The more bows I build the more I appreciate simplicity and dependability in my products. A wide and flat limbed bow with no additional curves is what I love lately. It’s one of the safest designs to build and use. I like to build it with a stiff handle and limbs a bit over 5” at widest.

Such a bow is really dependable and can take a lot. Due to these reasons, it’s recommended for aspiring bowyers as a good start into bow making. On the other hand it’s not as great performing one as some others and does require a bit more of work to shape the stave properly.



Number 1. – Rawhide backed shortbow.

A bit more advanced bow, but I decided to put it as my top 1.  This design is inspired by the heritage of Native Americans. It’s short and wide with a working handle. The back of the weapon is reinforced with rawhide, what makes it even more dependable. 

The combination of these features allows getting a lot from the short piece of wood - tillering it to the fairly high drawlengths. This makes the bow highly compact and useful. What’s more, I noticed these make smooth and fast shooting sticks.

I like to use black locust for these bows and to decorate the back with colorful patterns, as the Natives did. This design requires more work and time, but to be honest it’s worth giving it a try.


My video on bow designs:


As you can see, depending on what you do value the most in your bow, a different design may appeal to you. The diversity is what I love about my craft and profession. And what is your favorite bow type? Let me know in the comment. 


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