Ask Arbutus RV Sales Consultant Larry Epp if he’s an expert at building giant archery bows and he’ll tell you he’s just the opposite. Still, he managed to build, from scratch, what is thought to be the World’s Biggest Bow. Here’s how…
In the fall of 2009 I was sitting on the veranda outside the Old Archers Cabin at the Courtenay District Fish and Game archery range wondering who would have built the extremely large arrow sitting by the side of the range.I got to wondering how big a bow would have to be to shoot that arrow. Larry Epp
After measuring the arrow, I determined that a bow approximately 70 feet long should do the trick. I measured my Checkmate 45-pound-draw recurve bow, and started playing with the idea of building something to scale six times the size of that.
I should mention here that I am not a carpenter. In fact, if I were given six pieces of wood, pre-cut and numbered, I would have a hard time building a box with them.I figured it would take about two months and a budget of about $200 to create this simple bow approximately 30 feet long. I set out to do so with 10- and 12-feet pieces of wood and a couple of small bottles of wood glue, and began to laminate these. With the addition of more clamps, tarps to keep the glue off the floor and fans to clear the air of glue smells. I had a piece with 12 layers of wood. With an obsessive focus on the end result, it is easy to overlook the challenges to get there.
With two doors in the workshop at 90-degree angles to each other, that bow would have been a permanent fixture in our house.
By now, my two month-project was well into its sixth month, and our new archery fieldhouse had been completed, so I requested permission to use this new facility to continue my work on the bow. Permission was granted together with support from the majority of the club’s archers.With plenty of room to work and lots of encouragement from fellow archers, I plugged along, experimenting and thinking up ways to bend the limbs, laminating, carving and sanding.
The bow started to take shape. Some pieces broke, some cracked, but each setback just made me more determined to finish the task.After some research on how to build dugout and birch bark canoes, I applied some Old World technology. With the limb ends enclosed in wooden frames and tarps, wedges applied to encourage the correct bend, and using boiling water to produce steam, the job got done. This process took the better part of a month. The joins were finished with an overlay of Italian bending poplar, both for strength and to cover the seams.
The completed bow is over 30 feet long, and contains more than eight types of wood, including fir, spruce, cedar, maple, oak, mahogany, purple heartwood and Italian bending poplar, a gallon of wood glue, two layers of epoxy resins and three coats of spar varnish.
So much for making it a two-month project with a $200 budget!
With the bow completed, it was time for the string. I decided to braid four strands of lightweight clothesline together.Just as we just got the bow strung, the line snapped and nearly decapitated my dear friend Terence Walker, who was helping me. Until this point I had done everything possible to keep with traditional methods and materials, but it was time to finish with a safer bow string using a piece of stainless steel aircraft cable.
Finishing the project required an arrow of proportionate size. Staying with the proper scale, I decided to use a 1.5-inch dowel, 12 feet long and to attach vanes to match. I had no luck finding a turkey with feathers two feet long and nine inches wide, so I decided to use Italian bending poplar, thin and flexible and easily etched, to give it a texture similar to a feather. I made the point from heavy-gauge aluminum and attached it with strands of leather soaked in water. Once the leather dried, it bonded the point securely to the shaft. Since it was too big for me to take hunting, I decided to donate the bow to the Courtenay District Fish and Game archery group. In January, at great risk and with a lot of effort by my friends and supporters, the bow and arrow were mounted at the entrance to our archery facility. I have thoroughly researched this on the Internet and believe this is the largest laminated recurve bow and arrow in the world.