Would you believe it if I told you I made this bow out of plastic and for less than SGD$10? I’ve been crafting and hoarding for long enough to own most of the materials used and that cut my spending down massively. But even if you were to purchase everything from scratch, I doubt this project would blow your budget either =)
Here is a short tutorial to share with you how to make a wooden bow for cheap!
I made this bow using a 1.2 inch plastic electric wire cover such as the picture below. The name of this item varies but they are the same thing . They are made out of plastic, flexible , usually flat rectangular in shape and used to cover unsightly wire cablings.
At this point I’m sure you’re twitching your eyebrows in confusion.
Let me explain myself. This is an unlikely material but it is amazing for our need because not only is it light weight, it is also flexible, cheap and easily sourced. The only problem you will face is the amount of time and artistic talent required to paint it into wood at the end.
- Plastic electrical wire cover of the appropriate length & width for your bow
- Hand Saw (Or just anything to cut the plastic wire cover)
- Compressed Foam
- Bow String (I used something like this)
- Suitable fabric for the bow grip/handle
- Hand drill
- Rubber bands
- Masking tape
STEP 1: Cut your plastic wire cover
Because it is way to difficult to maintain a consistent vertical cut, I highly recommend you find a wire cover that is already in the width you need. If you can’t find one then I recommend you continue searching or abandon this method of construction all together.
We start by cutting your wire cover to the right length. I recommend googling or doing some long and hard size comparison in front of a mirror to determine the best length of your bow. At this point I can’t remember with certainty the length of my bow is but I think it was roughly 54 inch. But since this is just a prop and not for real archery, as long as the length looks good on you, anything is fine.
Because 54 inch is too long to be travel friendly, I cut the plastic wire cover into half with a hand saw. If the length does not bother you, you can skip this step. I bought this handsaw from DAISO for $2 and it has been my only sawing tool for as long as I can remember.
Then drill a hole into either sides of the wire cover (that means 2 holes in total). Drill right through the top and bottom plastic so the bow string will be able to get through it.
I actually salvaged my wire cover from some deconstruction work at home (we tore down an old electric cable) and because it used to be on a wall, one side of it had industrial double sides tapes on them. Unwilling to buy new wire covers, I set about peeling and scrapping the tape off with my fingers and a penknife. It wasn’t fun but at least I put some old stuff that was really just taking up space at home to some good use!
STEP 2: Prepare your Bow grip/Handle
After your wire cover is ready, the next thing to do is to figure out how long and wide you want the handle portion to be. For me, it was simply about getting a piece of EVA foam (1cm thickness) with the right length and wrapping it around the centre of the bow.
I used what I think is called EVA foam because I happen to have a big roll of them from Philippines. They are hardy and cheap and many cosplayers used them to make armour. However, I encourage you to be creative here and instead of buying new materials, go with whatever suitable materials you have on hand.
The foam sheets we often get when we buy a new laptop or tablet is a suitable candidate.
If you like, you can even roll up sheets of newspaper and work from that too!
After you are satisfied with how the Bow handle look, unwrap it from the bow and let’s move on to the 3rd step.
STEP 3: Paint your wire cover
It’s as simple as the sub header really, time to paint the wire cover! I used acrylic paint but you’re free to use any paint you like as long as they hold up to the weather and our sweaty palms.
I painted with an old retractable makeup brush. The result of using a powder brush was impeccably smooth and dense paint coverage! I literally only needed 2 strokes to cover the entire thing with opaque brown paint.
I let the base paint dry overnight. At this point, you can actually skip to step 4 but for a more convincing end product, i decided to paint this plastic into wood. This is labour intensive and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not personally interested in painting. But it does deliver a more realistic end product.
With a fine paint brush and a slightly bigger paint brush, I went about painting tiny strokes that mimic wood grains with various shades of brown; namely light brown and dark brown and sometimes a blend of both. I’m sorry I have no WIP photos to share here, painting is a grubby business and it’s difficult to take photograph of the process without dirtying my camera. So you’ll just have to make do with your imagination.
This is how the end product looks. On very close inspection you can probably sense it’s forgery but for pictures, I think it’s good enough and I’m mighty proud of it!
STEP 4: Wrap the bow handle
After the paint work has dried, it’s time to assemble everything. Wrap your foam around the middle of your plastic wire cover and secure either with a rubber band or with some tape.
Next, find a nice long rectangle piece of fabric and we are going to wrap it around the handle. Tuck one end of the fabric strip in between the foam and wire cable, then twirl the fabric around the bow handle. Finally end off by tucking the end of the fabric into the other end of the foam. I apologise for the lack of photographs as I hadn’t originally planned on doing a tutorial on this. This is actually a very simple step and if my written and pictographic instruction doesn’t help you. I suggest you let your instinct take over, I’m sure it will come naturally to you.
You should end up with something like this.
STEP 5: Fix everything together
Now it’s finally time to put the bow string through the holes at either ends of the wire cover and tie them taut! Because the plastic wire cover is flexible, you will see your straight bow actually bow together into a crescent ! And then you’re done!
Because I had sawed my wire cover into halves for the sake of mobility in transport. When I assemble them , I need to bind them together before I wrap the foam and fabric over them.
How to make Arrows
Now with bows you need arrows, and here’s how I made mine.
- Long bamboo sticks (I used Rotan canes)
- Aluminium wrap
- scrap papers
- straw strings
- feathers (or in my case, thin compressed foam)
I bought some Rotan canes. The ones Asian parents used to discipline their children. On hindsight they were a little too short but as long as I don’t do a full bow drawing pose, the discrepancy in bow length isn’t too obvious.
I cut through the centre on both ends with a pen knife. Be careful not to cut yourself here.
I made a paper mache arrow tip but without all the glue mixture soaking.
I cut some paper into the 2D shape of an Arrow tip. Layered the paper onto each other with tape and tried to build the basic shape. After that, I wrap it around some lousy aluminium wrap. We don’t use aluminium wraps often at home and the only ones I found was this really cheapskate and horribly discoloured one. The uneven colour turned out to be a blessing as it made the arrow tip look almost like it’s made out of stone. Crumple the aluminium wrap before wrapping it give the arrow tip a very interesting texture.
To make it more realistic, I weathered the aluminium wrap with some black permanent markers. Do this with a light hand and wipe the ink off immediately to avoid a harsh stroke. What we’re trying to get here is a subtle dash of uneven colour.
If you are using real feathers, in this step you would just cut them to shape. But because I forgot to get real feathers in time, I made them with white compressed foams.
I basically cut them to shape and with a sharp little scissors, I taper the edges off to make them look like a feather. Then with different shades of blue and purple and black, I draw strokes from the middle outwards to give the illusion of a feather.
After I was done drawing strokes on them, I sprayed a coat of black spray paint over it.
Insert the ‘feather’ in between the bamboo cane we just split and tie the ends up with a straw string. Seal the knot with some UHU glue.
This is the first batch of arrows that I made with crepe paper and is not done as explained in Step 3. But I don’t have any pictures of the arrows I did the 2nd time so please make do with these photographs haha.
I hope you guys found this tutorial useful. Apologies again for the lack of WIP photographs. I was working on a deadline (as usual -_-) and found it really difficult to take pictures as I went along. But I think with some imaginations and brainstorming, you guys should be able to come up with innovative ways to solve your crafting problems. This method however, is not suitable for recurve bows.
Other than the fact that this prop is insanely cheap, it can also be easily dismantled and assembled again when you need them. The collective weight of everything is probably less than 500gm and bundles into a convenient size of a tripod. This makes it so much easier to store and travel with!
Remember to leave me a comment on the blog to tell me what you think! I don’t always reply (comment system here is a little mweh) but I read every single comments ^^