How to Make an Ancient Japanese Bow

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The Japanese used a bow very similar to the English longbow.
The Japanese used a bow very similar to the English longbow. (Image: Samurai image by Pontus Edenberg from Fotolia.com)

The traditional Japanese bow, or Yumi, is startlingly similar to the English longbow. The only main difference is the position of the handle and the type of wood it is made from. Traditionally, a Yumi is made from bamboo, as it is a flexible, yet tough wood. The handle on a Yumi is well below the center. There are several theories about why this is, but the main ones are that the bow was designed to be shot from horseback and that the wood was thicker at the bottom and makers thus had to overcompensate with a longer tip. Yumi are not particularly difficult bows to make, especially compared with laminated composite bows. All you need are a few materials.

Things You'll Need

  • 10-foot by 2-inch wood
  • Rasp
  • Large boiling pot

Acquire a piece of flexible bamboo about 10 feet in length. You can also use yew or hickory, but you may want to use bamboo for the sake of authenticity.

Use a rasp to file the width and thickness of the wood. The bow should be around ¾-inch wide and ½-inch thick all over.

Soak the bow in boiling water for around 30 minutes. Now the bow is soft and supple and you can bend it into shape. This is called tillering the bow, and is an important step in the production of any bow. Bend the bow into the appropriate shape and hold it in that position for several minutes. Then release slowly and repeat until the bow limbs have dried or have begun to slightly curve.

Wrap fabric where the grip is. The grip should be positioned two-thirds down the bow.

Cut notches at both ends of the tip where the string will be attached. Use either the rasp or a knife to do this.

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