The following conversation occurred between me and Dad, then me and Dan. (Dad was a bit too grumpy to interview, as you’ll see). This took place on December 23, 2016 as Dan was constructing the bows for his kids for Christmas. This was before he decided to chop off his thumb.
What you got, Dad?
Wood. Leave me alone.
Care to elaborate?
What you making?
[Dad grabs my voice recorder and tosses it in the scrap wood pile.]
We’ll catch up later.
What you got, Dan?
What’s it look like, jack-[censored].
You too, huh?
[Dan laughs]. Nah. Couple pieces of walnut.
Wanna walk me through the process?
DIY bow and arrow for kids.
. First, I cut a couple pieces of walnut down to about 1×2 or so on the table saw.
. Next, I drew out a pattern. You could get all mathy like I did and measure the crap out of this thing. Or you could eyeball it. Whatev. I don’t think it really matters for how well it shoots or anything. Just aesthetics.
. Then you take that to the bandsaw and rough out the shape of it. Now the first time, I used a spokeshave to hog out the rest of the way right up to the line, but that was a lot of material to remove. Kind of a pain. Second time around, I learned something.
. You take it to the table saw next to cut most of the profile of the bow. Don’t go through all the way, obviously. Just push it until the bottom of the blade reaches the handle, then finish out the cut on the bandsaw.
About 3/16 of an inch. You don’t want too thick or you’ll break the bow when you try to bend it.
[5. Finish cutting the profile on the bandsaw.]
6. Now you can sand or spokeshave or whatever right up to the line. Trust me. Much easier this way. It’s way easier to remove 3/16 of material than two inches.
After that, you pretty much have the whole shape finished.
Of course,  you sand it to get nice softened edges and all that, and that’s probably the most time-consuming part, but it also makes it look the best.
Now the scary part.
Well, it would rather suck to get this far and break your bow and you’d have to start all over.
 We bend it. Don’t be too aggressive or you will break it. Ask me how I know…
Is that what Dad was cussing about?
Yeah. His first attempt shattered.
So what’s the trick?
A heat gun. The heat softens the wood fibers or something and makes it easier to bend. Kinda tricky. You gotta hold it over your shoulder and bend it while applying heat. But once you get the hang of it, it’s not so bad. And you keep going until you get a nice bend to it.
 Then you cut a notch it in for the string to go into. I just used a pocketknife.
 Then I tied a half-whinzer fisher’s knotical not.
You made that up, didn’t you?
Totally. I don’t know what you call it, but….here, take a picture. This knot. Whatever you call it.
We’ll call it Zoey.
Sure. A Zoey knot. So you tie the Zoey knot on one end, bend the bow, loop the other end, then mark where the end of the loop is. Now, you tie your other Zoey knot, making sure the top of the loop is at the mark, if that makes sense.
Yeah, I know.
So you’re using twine?
Yeah. We thought about getting some paracord, or something with a bit more spring to it, but I guess the springiness comes from the wood, not the cord. So, I don’t think it really matters what you use. You could probably get away with pink yarn, if you wanted.
We could. But the kids couldn’t.
Yeah. Totally intimidating to have a nine year old pointing a pink-yarned bow string at your face. Neighborhood kids wouldn’t let that go.
. Then, for the arrows, I just got some dowels, some foam hockey pucks, drilled an undersized hole in the hockey pucks, glued them in, and now we’re in business.
Well let’s see it in action.
[Dan fires an arrow]
[I laugh.] Wow. That’s actually pretty cool.
Yeah. Quite a bit of power behind these little guys. But hopefully not enough to hurt anybody.
And now, some other shots of these babies.
Nice work, Dan!
And special thanks to Samurai Carpenter for giving Dad the idea in the first place. It was a total win with the kiddos.