To paraphrase the great Yogi Berra, 90 percent of this craft is all about finding the perfect stick for a bow, while the other half involves getting it ready for shooting. When we go on hikes, we like to keep our eyes open for the perfect stick. It’s at least 30" long. It doesn’t snap when bent — this is key! It looks thick enough for a kid to hold but not too thick for bending. You know what a bow looks like. When you bend your stick, you want it to be able to reach that bow shape and then snap back to a straight stick. Don’t worry about finding a perfect “bow-shaped” stick, as a pre-bent stick won’t supply the tension you need to actually shoot an arrow. Just find a good straight stick that will bend but not snap, that your child can easily hold, and that has ends thick enough to carve a few notches into.
Once you have your stick in hand, it’s time to get it the right size. Don’t snap it. Instead, break out a handsaw and cut it down to about 30" in length.
Now it’s whittlin’ time! I don’t know why this always excites me so much. Maybe because it’s such an old-school, nostalgic thing to do. How often do you get to whittle in your everyday life? I love it. The goal here is to get rid of any bark, twigs, leaves, or anything that will get in your way or that you don’t want on the finished product. Hold your stick in one hand, and use your knife to scrape away from you. (See image) Again, this is key for safety reasons. Move your knife away from you, as you scrape the stick. Let the kids try this and teach them the safe way to do it.
Now you have a pretty good-looking stick. It’s time to get it ready for your bow string. Cut two notches on either side of each end, about an inch from the tip and angling in toward the middle of your bow. (See image)
All that’s left to do is tie your string. If you happen to have deer guts taking up space somewhere and the know-how to turn sinew into bow strings, by all means, do that. If not, simple kitchen twine will do the trick. Loop your twine around the two notches on one end of the bow and tie a good knot. Now, pull the string tight and loop it around the notches at the other end of your bow. Your stick should still be more or less straight. Be sure to pull the string super tight before tying your last knot.
Almost done. Now that you have your string knotted around the bow, have the kid take a practice pull or two. Find the place where it’s most comfortable for a grip and then lace around that area with your old leather shoelaces and tie into place. This is optional, but it does give a nice old-timey look to the bow.
Now it’s time to make a few arrows. Take a dowel that’s arrow-sized and grippable (5∕16" or slightly smaller works great, but use what you have or can find), and cut it to about 14" to 16"in length. (Test how far back your kid can pull the bow string from the bow and then add a few inches to that for arrow size.)
Carve a notch in one end of the arrow. The bow string should fit into this notch. On the notch end, tape or glue some feathers (another great thing to find while hiking) to serve as the fletching, which keeps the arrow flying true. On the other end, glue your pencil eraser on the dowel as a “tip.” (See image) Wait until your arrows are dry and then have at it. Who knows? Maybe your child will get good enough to split another arrow through the middle. A kid can dream. Note: Look, if you’re in some airplane crash in the wilderness and you need to whittle down some arrows from twigs and sticks to hunt for meat, you could do that. But if, like me, you have a youngish kid who’s not quite ready to face any survivalist scenarios or might just accidentally take out someone’s eyeball, you should probably stick with this method.
Excerpted from <a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1440561192/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1440561192&linkCode=as2&tag=craftfocom-20">"Dad’s Book of Awesome Projects</a>" by Mike Adamick, Copyright © 2013 by F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.