Bow Stories - My Experiences With Cross Country Ski Bows




About: I made a beer mug with only a knife & a hatchet. I think that says a lot about me.

This story starts about 25 years ago. I was a teenager, and every winter I went with my parents to the Alps to hike & cross-country ski. We've never been into flashy & fancy ski or snowboard experiences - not that they didn't want me to do that, it's just that after a few rides on skis I felt that I just didn't fit in that world.

Being a lone wolf is a state of mind. I prefered cross-country, and when I discovered the possibilities of snow rackets and winter trekkings on high altitude I never touched those skis again.

So those 3 pairs of skis stayed all the time in the garage of my parents, until the day I decided to make a few bows from it.

You know, there's not such a thing as 'the ski bow'. There are many designs possible and they all have their pro's & contra's.

In this I'ble I'll discuss 'my' 2 designs. Bow stories.

Step 1: You Definitely Need Skis

Why skis? Because they have the perfect flexibility & strength to make bow limbs with. Just like compound bows they have a wooden core and a fiberglass front and back.

I used cross country skis, just because I already had them. A lot of people use downhill skis and I'm really curious what it's like to use a snowboard, but, as I said, I had them & I decided to use them.

Advantage is they already have a nice width - about 5cm - and you can make a discrete, minimalistic bow from it.

You can buy them for a few pebbles in second hand stores or sites. No need to spend a lot of money to it.

And for those pebbles you can make an excellent recreational bow.

Step 2: Demolition

You're only using the tips of those skis, that's the part with the best flex. In all my 3 bows I cut the skis at about 65cm from the tip.

Step 3: First Design: Fast & Furious

I made this design a year ago. Instead of going to a complex building process I wanted to go straight forward no nonsense. The concept was simple:

- fix the two limbs together using two aluminium plates and 6 button-bolts

- use a disc sander to carve a nice handle and an arrow rest

- use the same sander to cut a few notches on the tips

- use standard 3mm paracord for the string

- nice shooting!

Simple, easy, fast & effective.

Step 4: Thoughts

I like the design - though I didn't like the continous smashing of the string to my left arm. This one is the most powerful of both designs, which is because you have to take those limbs a whole more backward to get the arrow in position than with next design. More stretch, more power etc.

Step 5: Second Design: Nice & Smooth

My second design was born in an attempt to make the bow more friendly & visually appealing. So I thought that introducing wood sounded like a nice idea. I also wanted to know the effect of a 'not in line'-build - aka fixing the two limbs at a certain angle to the handle.

The birth of a - succesful - prototype:

- cut a piece of wood (I used a rough piece of 'indistructable' elm) of about 40cm long & 5cm wide

- cut the ends at an angle of about 20°

- draw a centerline and use a saw, chisel or whatever you've got to cut a U-section away above the centerline - that's where the arrow will rest

- take the handle in the hand that'll hold the bow, draw the contours of your hand and cut, sand or chisel wood away until it feels comfortable

- glue the two limbs to the handle - bicomp is just fine

- drill 8mm holes right through the limbs and the handle and use button-bolts to hold them tight (sink the bolts - or use love-less bolts)

- cut notches to the tips (the further you position them from the tip, the more powerful the bow will be)

- finish the handle: sand, polish, oil, varnish, whatever

- fix the paracord string

- you're done!

As you see, it's a whole lot of work more than the previous one, but after this effort you definitely have a very nice bow.

Step 6: Thoughts on This One

Most prototypes need a lot of work to get full satisfaction, but I really have to say that this one's the most pleasant bow I've ever had in my hands. It's a pleasure to shoot at 25m - what I call 'recreational distance' - and if you manage to equalise your draws those arrows fit nicely & closely together.

Of course you don't have the power & precision of a compound bow, but that should never be the standard by building this type of bow.

It's compact, friendly and accurate. What do yo need more on summer evenings when you're coming home from work and you just need a moment for yourself?

Pictures: the second one in this design. De wood is cherry.

Step 7: Final Thoughts

Building your own bow is one of those very satisfactional activities in an outdoor guy's life. Shooting those arrows with your personal build can fill someone's heart with serinity & peace. I really don't care about it's power or surgical precision.

To me bow shooting is not about that. It's to find inner peace.

That bow is always with me. I shoot in in the mountains, on the beach & wherever I went to get some fresh air.

And I did find peace. Sometimes.

I hope the info has been useful. Success in the building.



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    7 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with your home built bows. I agree with you that shooting is very relaxing and a way to meditate. The sound of an arrow flying through the air and the thump of impact is visceral in it's appeal.

    1 reply

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanx friend! Though my (carbon) arrows are quite silent, I agree that the impact they make is part of the pleasure. I experimented with several materials, and the winner's definitely a bag stuffed with hay ;)


    1 year ago

    Well I don't mean to be a bore but THIS IS NOT A CROSSBOW. A cross bow and a bow are different and hurr durr your title is misleading because reasons

    Oh wait. Hasn't that conversation already happened somewhere? ;)

    The fast and furious one is my favorite, with just a couple tweaks it could be great and I actually like the raw design. Maybe a stiffer cord than paracord? I've had a lot of success braiding my own flax thread (du fil de lin fin pour la couture) with a handheld drill.

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    Mort de rire mon ami, I like your sense of humour and good memory ;)

    Got to try that fil de lin, or maybe I'll skip directly to dental floss to get some white bright flashyness in this project!


    Reply 1 year ago

    hold on now i feel like you're making fun of me ;)


    1 year ago

    That's a good idea... to use ski tips as bow arms. And skis come in pairs and you 2 for each bow!

    1 reply