My woodworking project this winter has been an experiment in how to make a homemade crossbow. Below are some photos of the project as it is progressing.
Stage 1 was to make the basic crossbow shape, including the handle / stock, the bow limbs, and the bowstring which I made out of braided sisal. (Sisal is stronger than cotton or jute, but not as strong as silk or dacron. Sisal is more readily available which is why I chose it. It also doesn't stretch and if it does snap, it is cheap to replace.)
The wood used is oak.
Stage 2 was to make a working trigger and stirrup (to pull and cock it faster). As you can see below I have completed part 2A of Stage 2, but have yet to make the stirrup (part 2B). The trigger mechanism is pretty simple and follows a centuries old crossbow design.
The wooden dowels used for making the trigger is poplar.
While testing the trigger I shot a pencil (for lack of a crossbow bolt being handy) several times at a cardboard box. It was surprisingly accurate and powerful. (It takes two hands to draw the bowstring back to the trigger position so I guess I should not be so surprised it is so powerful.)
Safety Note - Due to the trigger design you cannot set it on a table while cocked, the trigger will be pushed upwards and set off the string. I did not discover this the hard way, I was smart enough to realize it before setting it down.
Stage 3 will be to "beautify the crossbow" - namely sandpaper, fine sandpaper and eventually shellac.
Stage 4 will be to create several small wooden crossbow bolts, complete with feather fletching and steel arrowheads. I may decide to shellac and beautify the crossbow bolts too.
Stage 5 will be to make a wall rack so it can sit on the wall as an objet d'art. Because frankly I am not planning to do anything with this beyond testing it out and maybe shooting at cardboard boxes. (See my notes below about making a larger version.)
TOOLS USED SO FAR
Drill (various bit sizes)
I have not used any formal designs made by someone else. I have relied entirely on photographs of older style crossbows and then designed it as I saw fit.
Seeing how well it is working I am already planning to make a larger / more powerful version. In which case my biggest question will be "how big" because obviously I still need to be able to draw it back and cock it. Building one with a crank or lever would require significantly more research on my part in order to make a working prototype.
Thus I consider the above crossbow to be a smaller scale prototype of my future crossbow, one that will still be hand drawn and cocked, but more powerful. I am not sure if I will use oak for the bow next time. I might use maple or something more flexible instead.
With respect to hunting with a crossbow you need to be using a minimum poundage to hunt with a crossbow. My crossbow above would not be legal for hunting because it is obviously not powerful enough. However that doesn't mean a person could not make a more powerful homemade crossbow, one that fulfills the minimum poundage requirements, and then use it for hunting.
Build it, practice with it so you become really good with it, get your hunting license, and you can legally hunt with a homemade crossbow as long as it fulfills all the requirements.
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