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Plant, Harvest and Process Flax Plants Into a Sturdy Primitive Bowstring

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Dang! Grow your own flax plants, harvest and process them with little effort to make your own awesome traditional archery primitive bowstring.

All you need to make this primitive archery bowstring is some flax plants, beeswax, an antler or other hard surface, and time: time to grow the plants and let them dry, and (much less) time to actually wind the bowstring.

Shawn Woods prefers to use sinew bowstrings, that is, the back leg tendons from elk or deer. However, he indicates that he’s had some issues with sinew bowstrings later in the season when conditions are wet.

So, he likes to have a backup bowstring made of plant fiber. This bowstring is strong enough to draw a 70-pound bow.

After shallowly planting the flax seeds (Woods used the Marilyn flax variety), he got a nice-sized patch of flax plants growing in his garden. After around 100 days, the plants were ready to harvest.

Woods wanted to harvest them before they went to seed, as the strength of the fibers is optimal at this point. He allowed the plants to dry for a few months in his garage before using.

After removing the tops of the plants, he runs the stalks over the elk antler several times to remove the pulp. He uses his thumbnail to completely remove the interior. Then, he separates the fibers manually.

Next, he takes small bundles of fibers, around the diameter of pencil lead, and runs them over the beeswax to coat them so that they hold together and strengthen.

Then he lays out the different clumps of fibers parallel to one another, but staggered so that the overall bowstring is stronger, with no weak spots.

He begins by twisting the end loop and tying it off with part of a strand of flax fibers. Watch the video for a detailed tutorial on this part.

He doesn’t really tell you how to judge the length of the bowstring: that’s something you’ll have to figure out while you’re making it.

But it’s a simple matter of continually twisting the fibers and adding new fibers to the string as you come to the end of specific strands. Use the beeswax liberally throughout the process.

Put a loop in the other end just as you did the initial loop, and there you have it. Now go out and give it a test shot or two.

Like what you see here? You can read more great articles by David Smith at his facebook page, Stumpjack Outdoors.

NEXT: Frog Hunting with Primitive Archery: Get Yourself Some Frogs Legs

Plant, Harvest and Process Flax Plants Into a Sturdy Primitive Bowstring