How to Make a Crossbow from Scratch

One of the weapons that you can use for hunting is a crossbow. It is a very good weapon especially for novice hunters since it is fairly easy to use and does not require much upper strength. However, accuracy, efficiency and practice are still needed to put a crossbow in its best use. One good thing about a crossbow is that it is inexpensive and is easy to make. So, if you are someone who wants to make his own crossbow just for the fun and satisfaction of it, or if you happen to be in the wild, and for whatever reason, you have no weapon in you that you can use in hunting for food then this article will be very helpful for you. Here are very easy steps on how to make a crossbow from scratch. In this article we are going to make a simple crossbow from readily available materials. But before we proceed to that, let’s have a short discussion of some things that you need to know first.


Basic Elements of a Crossbow

The Bow

The bow is basically composed of the limbs and the string. The limbs are the arms of a crossbow. They are the flexible curved shaped part of the crossbow which is attached to the stock and is where the potential energy of the crossbow is stored. This determines the force that the arrow will have when it is fired. There are different designs and materials that can be used in making crossbow limbs which vary from every manufacturer. For the design, there are two types which are the compound crossbow and the recurve crossbow. The former has much stiffer limbs than the latter and the latter has limbs where the tips flare away from the archer. For the materials, manufacturers usually use fiberglass because of its strength and flexibility while others use steel. However, since what we aim in this article is how to make a crossbow from scratch using readily available materials, we would consider using wood or PVC pipe.

How to make a crossbow from scratch

The bow - Photo credit:

The string is what holds and launches the arrow. It is attached to both ends of the limbs and connects the limbs together. This transfers the kinetic energy from the bow to the arrow. Strings should have high strength and low creep or stretch. Materials usually used for strings are high modulus polyethylene, polyester, synthetic fibre, or a spun fibre of liquid crystal polymer.

The Stock

How to make a crossbow from scratch

The stock - Photo credit:

The stock is where the bow and all other components of the crossbow are attached. It allows the shooter to easily hold or shoulder the crossbow in order for him to take a good aim. A good stock should ergonomically have good positioning and allows the shooter to have a good grip. Materials usually used for stock are wood, molded synthetic plastic, or other composite plastic materials.

The Trigger

How to make a crossbow from scratch

The trigger - Photo credit:

The trigger is housed into the stock. It is responsible for firing your arrow. The trigger retains the string when the crossbow is cocked and releases it when the trigger is pulled. It works like pulling the trigger of a rifle, but it is quite different since it holds back much more weight due to the string’s tension. A good trigger must be crisp and clean when pulled. Also, it should hold the string well in place to avoid accidental release of the arrow. Many triggers, however, are accompanied by a safety mechanism.

The Bolt

How to make a crossbow from scratch

The bolt - Photo credit:

The bolt serves as the arrow of the crossbow. It must be compatible with the crossbow in size and must not me too heavy or too light to have a good shot. Also having a notch and fletching on the butt of the bolt helps for a better flight.

How to Make a Crossbow from Scratch

Before we proceed on the steps on how to make a crossbow from scratch, here are some materials that you may need:

  • Knife
  • Rope or string
  • PVC pipe or Bamboo
  • Wood plank
  • Saw
  • Measuring tape
  • Chisel
  • Drill
  • Wood rasp
  • Sand paper
  • Wood glue

Step 1. Prepare all the materials that you will need

If you happen to be in the wild and wish to build a crossbow for survival, it is enough that you have a good knife and a rope. The next thing that you need to do is to search for a wood that can be used to make the crossbow. The wood must be both strong and flexible. A good wood material that you may try to find is bamboo. If you are not familiar with it, it is a green woody grass which grows as high as 40 meters. They are green, tree-like in appearance, have narrow leaves, and have hollow jointed stems. Choose the ones with a stem diameter of about an inch or two and cut three stems which are around 1 meter long each. If you do not have a string with you, you will also need to look for fibrous plants that you may use to make one. Examples are the leaves of Cattail, Yucca, Agave, and Douglas Iris, the bark of Willow, Maple, Basswood, and Cedar, and the bast of Dogbane, Milkweed, Nettles, Hemp, and Flax.

If you are going to build the crossbow at home, you can make a crossbow from wood plank and PVC pipe which will require more materials to use. Prepare all the materials listed above except for the bamboo.

How to make a crossbow from scratch

Prepare the materials - Photo credit:

Step 2. Construct the limb

If you are going to build the crossbow in the wild, you are going to use a bamboo stem. Get a bamboo stem which measures around 1 meter and cut it in half lengthwise. Smooth the inner part of the wood using your knife. Afterwards, bend the wood such that the inner part of the arc is the outer (green) part of the wood. You may use your knees to help bend it easier but make sure that you don’t put too much stress on the wood more than it can handle so that it wouldn’t break. Create two grooves opposite to each other around one inch from the end of the limb. Do this in both ends. This is where you will attach the string later.

If you are going to build it at home, cut a 38-inch PVC pipe with one inch diameter. Measure 1 inch from inch end and drill a hole through the PVC pipe. This is where your string will be attached later.

How to make a crossbow from scratch

Construct the limb - Photo credit:

Step 3. Make the stock

For the bamboo crossbow you’re making in the wild, get a bamboo stem which is around one meter and make a hole around 1.5 inches from the end of the stem. The hole must go through the stem and it must be big enough to fit the limb that we have made earlier. One good way to make this hole is to make two slanted cuts that form a “V” on the opposite sides of the stem. Also, make a square hole through the center of the stock which is big enough to house your trigger.

If you are at home, you may use a wood plank for the stock. Any decent hardwood will be fine. Get a wood plank of around 2 inches wide, 2 inches tall, and 38 inches long. Hold it as if you are holding a crossbow and mark the area where it would be comfortable for you to place the trigger. In this area make an rectangular hole which is around 3 inches long and a ¾ of an inch wide using your drill and chisel, and wood rasp. Smooth the surface with sand paper. Next, find the center of the stock and make a channel of around ¼ inch deep from the front end of the stock to the hole that we just made for the trigger. The channel should be wide enough such that the arrow can comfortably sit on it without being restrained when fired. Also, drill another hole around an inch away from the front end of your stock. The hole must fit the size of your PVC pipe limb well. You can also create a grip for your crossbow by attaching a plank of wood with a comfortable size at the back end of your stock using wood glue.

How to make a crossbow from scratch

Make the stock - Photo credit:

Step 4. Make the trigger

For the bamboo crossbow you’re making in the wild, carve a piece of wood into a “T” shape wherein the horizontal part is around 1 inch long and the vertical part is around 2 inches. The horizontal part must be thicker so it can retain the string and the vertical one must be thick enough to hold the pressure of the string.

If you’re making it at home, you can use a small piece of wood plank to make the trigger. Using a saw cut an “L” shape from it of around 1 inch wide and slightly less than ¾ of an inch thick. The height of the “L” must be around 3-4 inches. After that, make a channel of around 1/8 inch at the center traversing the width of the outside part of the base of the “L”. Then, drill a hole near the intersection of the “L” where you will insert the screw to attach the trigger to the stock.

How to make a crossbow from scratch

Make the trigger - Photo credit:

Step 5. Construct the bolt

For making the bolt in the wild, you can also use the bamboo by cutting a thin piece of the wood, around 1/3 of an inch wide and sharpen one end to a point. Then, smooth the arrow all around and put a notch at the other end. You can also put feathers (if you are able to find some in the wild) to the notched end to improve arrow flight.

In making the bolt at home, you can use dowel. The length should be longer than the distance from the trigger to the front end of the bow. Sharpen the other end of the dowel and put a notch on the other end. Lastly, glue feathers opposite each other on the notched end.

How to make a crossbow from scratch

Construct the bolt - Photo credit:

Step 6. Assemble the parts

For the bamboo crossbow, insert the limb onto the front hole we made earlier making sure that it is centered and it is secured well. Next, tie the string at both ends of the limb where you make the grooves and secure them well. The limb must be slightly bent when the string is attached. Then, place the trigger on the square hole and pull the string and slip it onto the trigger. Make sure it is retained well to avoid accidental slip. Lastly, place the butt of the arrow onto the string. Our crossbow is now ready for firing.

If you don’t have an available string, you can make it using the fibrous plants that you have collected earlier by twisting them together.

For the PVC pipe and wood crossbow, insert the PVC pipe on the hole we made at the front of the stock making sure that it is centered and secured well. Next, tie the string on both ends of the limb where we made a hole and secure it well. The limb must be slightly bent. After that, place the trigger on the rectangular hole in the stock and screw them together making sure that it is loose enough to be pulled. Next, pull the string onto the trigger and slip it on the groove of the trigger. Lastly, place the butt of the arrow on the string. The arrow must fit the channel of your crossbow without being restrained. Our crossbow is ready for firing.

How to make a crossbow from scratch

Assemble the parts - Photo credit:


Having knowledge on how to build a crossbow from scratch will be a great help for us hunters who may face unexpected circumstances in the wild. A crossbow is a good tool for you to hunt possible source of food in the wild, and you can also use it to protect yourself from predators. Also, if you want a crossbow but can’t afford one or find it too expensive to buy one, you can just build one yourself. It not only helps you save money, it also gives you a feeling of satisfaction of being able to make your own crossbow. I hope this article helped you with that.

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Sheldon Martin

Sheldon Martin is the founder of Captain Hunter. is a site dedicated to the sport of hunting. We have a deep respect for nature and for the environment, and we therefore take the sport of hunting very seriously. Never think that you are alone in the woods again. Our goal is to share what we know with who needs it most.

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