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The use of the bow can be traced back to the earliest civilizations, as witnessed in writings and drawings from all over the world. Drawings, biblical writings, and ancient cultures make references to this tool and weapon. The bow and arrow have shaped history, whether it be on the plains of the ancient Roman and Greek battlefields, the defeat of the French army at Crecy in 1346, or the expansion of the American West. And, the sport of archery is considered one of the oldest traditions. Today, archery is classified into two areas: target and field. Target archery requires archers to shoot a specific number of arrows at different distances, with set targets that have established values. Field archery includes an open-field target range where archers shoot different arrows at different targets or different distances around a course. This simulates the type of shooting experienced while hunting. Other field-archery sports include archery golf, roving, and bowhunting. The bow is a simple machine , a two-arm spring. The archer stores energy by bending the bow. This potential energy is transferred to the arrow in the form of kinetic energy when the arrow is released. Bows initially were made from one material, usually wood, and were called self-bows. These bows had difficulty handling the forces and stresses placed on them when they were drawn. The stresses would cause the bows to break. Early hunters developed the use of wood, horn, and sinew , glued together in layers to increase the bow's tensile strength . These bows were called composite, because they were made of two or more different materials. Today's bows are a combination of wood, fiberglass, lightweight metals, and high-technology materials. The evolution of the bow continues with therecurve design, the use of pulleys, and the latest in engineering research that makes the bow more efficient and easier to use. Arrows have undergone an evolution of their own. Early arrows were made of wood and werefletched primarily with the feathers of such birds as eagle, crow, goose, and turkey. Most of today's arrows are still made of wood, but some are made from aluminum, fiberglass, and graphite. They are often fletched with feathers, although some have more modern spinwings or plastic veins.


Find out which design factors contribute to the best bow and arrow. You will learn the differences between self-bows and composite bows. Explore which types of arrows fly best, and identify and describe the parts of the bow and arrow. CAUTION: Safety precautions should be followed when using any kinds of bows and arrows. Adult supervision is recommended. Materials
  • various-size rubber bands
  • 6" plastic drinking straws
  • removable sticky notes
  • scissors
Part I Make a bow following these directions:
  1. Notch a small "v" in each end of a straw.
  2. Place a rubber band over the ends of the straw, as in stringing a bow.
  3. Hold the straw and draw back on the rubber band as an archer would.
  4. What happened if you drew too far back? Record your observations.
  5. Diagonally roll a sticky note from the plain side to the glue side. Insert it down the middle of the straw.
  6. Draw back on the rubber band again and record your observations. Part II Make an arrow following these directions:
    1. Use 6" straws for arrows; fletch with paper and cardboard.
    2. Create several different arrows, paying attention to tail-feather construction, weighting, and notching.
    3. Record all the information that went into designing your arrows. Test your arrows by holding the angle constant and measuring which one flies the farthest. The use of different rubber bands is likely to give different results, so try large ones and small ones, thick ones and thin ones.


    Elliot, C. (1982) Archer's digest. Northfield, IL: DBI Books.
    Hamm, J., ed. (1992) The traditional bowyers bible, vol. 1. Azle, TX: Bois
    d'Arc Press.
    McEwen, E., R. Miller, and C. Bergman. (1991) Early bow design and
    construction. Scientific American (June): 76-82.
    Additional sources of information:
    National Archery Association
    1750 E. Boulder St.
    Colorado Springs, CO 80909
    (719) 578-4576
    National Field Archery Association
    Rt. #2 Box 514
    Redlands, CA 92373
    (714) 794-2133
    Traditional Bowhunter Magazine
    P.O. Box 15583
    Boise, ID 83715
    Community resources:
    Archery clubs
    University archery team