‘Ye Olde’ LARP bow (on the cheap) and accessories

I’m plotting a new character for Fools and Heroes – a medieval fanstasy LARP game. I’m hoping a new character will give me new keen. Simpler kit should make things a bit easier too!


I’ve been having a lot of fun shooting things with my crossbow in 5k REM so thought I’d give archery a go in the Fools and Heroes game world. Ye Olde¬†crossbows are a lot more expensive than modern day ones though, and far too complicated for me to attempt to make myself. Luckily, my loft full of LARP tat contains a cheap old bow that will get me started, at least.



It’s a 25lb practise bow, the kind you can pick up cheap for kids. It’s been lurking up there for a fair while, and is missing it’s string. I picked a new one up from the Internet, and bought some LARP safe arrows from a friend. (They aren’t cheap, but I’m happier buying them than risking hurting someone with homemade ones.)

Yeah. It’s pretty rough looking. White plastic and a black rubber handle are not very Ye Olde, but we can deal with that. I’ve seen people cover these kind of bows with leather scraps before, but I thought I’d try something different.

First up, a quick coat of paint. This is the super sticky acrylic sold in little pots for airbrushing. I lack an airbrush so just painted it on after a good scrub with soapy water and a very light sanding. It’s holding better than I thought, but it will crack and peel off during use. It still looks a lot better than the plain white plastic though.

I covered the handle with leather, forgetting to take photos of the process. It was fiddly, but not too hard. I soaked some fairly thin veg tan leather and wrapped it around the rubber handle, tying it down with string as I went. As it started to dry out I pushed the leather further into shape and tied it down. When dry I sliced off the excess leather so it fit snugly and pricked stitching holes. I used a curved needle to stitch it into place.

Right. Now we start the real work – thread wrapping. I’m using a brown crochet cotton. If I try to wrap the ends, the thread will just slide off, so I’m covering these with a scrap of brown felt first. I’m using a bit of glue to hold things in place, but trying to use it sparingly enough that it won’t show through. Getting started is the hardest part of thread wrapping, one the end is fairly neat, just keep wrapping. Push the thread flush up against the previous round, keep it nice and tight. I found it best to put the glue on the sides of the bow rather than the flat front and back – it bled through less.

For the notch where the string goes round – I wrapped in a cross to cover a bit of the bend. I tried not to bulk it out too much, the ends of the string need to slip over here.

And the finished thing. Looking pretty Ye Olde for a dirt cheap modern bow! After all the wrapping I went over it with some beeswax polish to give it a bit of waterproofing. I’ve had a couple of plays out with it now and the thread wrapping is holding up really well. The little bits of white visible in these pictures are glue blobs rather than the plastic showing through, hopefully they’ll come off by themselves eventually.

I’ve made some other bits and bobs too, some I’m happy with, others need more work.

LARP arrows are a beast to carry. They’re fairly ugly when carried foam-tip upward in quivers, it ruins any photos taken and just generally looks silly. It makes them top heavy too, so their more likely to fall out. Unfortunately, carrying them tip down has problems too. You swap the arrows looking silly for the quiver looking silly. I made this in plain brown fabric originally and it looked even more like a pillowcase full of arrows than it does now. Ho hum. I’m going to add some leather pieces to attach it to my belt, that might help.

Practising with archery has revealed all the various weaknesses of my wrists and hands. I don’t have callouses in the right places for pulling the string to not get painful. There is a device for this, I don’t know it’s proper name but Dan has let me borrow his so I’ve been thinking of it as Dans little flappy thing. Dans is leather but it has a plastic block on the back to keep your fingers spaced properly, so I’ve tried making a new one in plain leather. It worked fairly well in practise, but I will probably end up loosing it so I’ll be making a few spares just in case.

I also have feeble wrists. Specifically, my right wrist has an old RSI from sewing that can flare up if I’m not careful with it. I sometimes wear a splint in normal life, but it looks very obviously modern and medical. I’ve tried to reproduce what it does in a more Ye Olde looking fashion. The proper splint has a metal plate held in place on the underside of my wrist. I used steel boning to replicate this. It’s not as solid as the metal plate but it still offers some support. I tried a few fastening methods on this. Buckles were going to be too bulky, lacing too difficult to do up with my off hand. The original brace has lots of elastic and velcro, great for flexibility but I really wanted to avoid having to use them. The simplest method ended up being the best. These fabric strips wrap around quickly and tuck in easily. They lie flat, so shouldn’t get caught on aught, and allow a bit of flex for comfort.


So, the new character is getting there. Slowly but surely. And I’m enjoying making kit again!




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