Nightingale Bow, Skyrim

I decided to build a weapon as a companion piece to the Ancient Nord armor built for DragonCon 2013. There’s no shortage of cool things to make from Skyrim, but I had only had three days to devote to the project and I wanted to use as many existing materials as possible. I haven’t ever made a bow before, and after scrolling through the wiki a bit I decided that the Nightingale Bow had the perfect combination of aesthetic qualities and construction materials for what I wanted.

Blueprints were done in Adobe Illustrator.

I started off with some very light whitewood. These were chunks of a 1×12 I had sitting around from some shelves. I clamped two halves together and let them cure overnight.

To expedite tracing, I cut out one half of the bow from my printed blueprints and used primer to mark an outline. These shapes were trimmed on my bandsaw.

There was a lot of shaping after this, mostly done with a heavy rasp and a heavy tooth grinding drum. Thankfully the whitewood is little denser than urethane foam, so this work went quickly if a bit messily.

Here’s a contrast of a finished bow limb next to the raw cut piece off the bandsaw. Another benefit of this wood was the weight; a sanded piece weighed under half a pound.

Both limbs sanded and shaped. This was about 6 hours of work to get to this point.

The bow arms each were brushed with two coats of a polyurethane/stain mix. I had three cans of various dark colors that each had just a few ounces left at the bottom. By mixing them all together I had juuuust enough to coat the bow limbs.

The grip and arrow rests were a combination of MFD and PCV pipe. I trimmed the pipe ends off at an angle first, then drilled holes in the MDF at a matching angle on my drill press. Once assembled these parts were superglued together. There’s a recessed hole at the front to hide the bow limb mounting screws.

Each limb was secured to the handle with a 3″ long wood screw and a lot of wood glue.

I traced the pattern on the bow onto the limbs so I had an idea of where to sculpt the filigree. This was mostly done with a few patterns trimmed out of the printed blueprints and a few curves done by eye to blend those shapes together.

At the base of the limbs there’s a large amount of detail and raised metal parts. I was planning on sculpting all the shapes with Apoxie Sulpt but a chunk this big would have been heavy and expensive in material costs. I have a bunch of Smooth-on’s Free Form Air, which I used as a sort of sub-structure to fill in the larger voids.

Some time with the Apoxie later, here’s one limb detail section nearly complete. This is a rough sculpt, which I cleaned up later by sanding the cured surface.

After one half cured, I repeated the process to the second limb.

Here’s a head-on shot of the arrow rest. The cavity in the buttress was done with a set of hand files after the clay had cured.

There’s little Nightingale emblems that fit into the open wood areas on the front and rear near the grip. These were laser cut from some 2mm craft foam so they could be easily glued onto the compound curved areas of the bow after painting.

Speaking of painting, the masking on this thing took forever. I found the fastest method was to wrap the wood areas in tape and then trace along the edge of the filigree with an exact blade. This produced a fairly clean edge, and any slight misalignments were fixed with a bit of weathering later. The paint used here is Rustoleum hammered silver. I’ve got tons of this stuff sitting around.

Tape removed! Quite pleased with the results.

To pattern the grip, I wrapped the handle in masking tape and cut along one side. The tape was laid out on a piece of leather then cut to shape. I’m not much for soft materials, but I do like the braid/knot thing I came up with for the cover. It’s remarkably non-canon, which isn’t typical of me, but I like to be inventive every now and again when the mood strikes.

Since there wasn’t time to make a quiver, I only made a single arrow to pair with the weapon. The arrowhead is laser cut acrylic and the shaft is stained the same mixed color of the bow limbs. I wrapped the fletchings and arrowhead with jute, though this is really ornamental since they’re superglued in place.

The serving on the bowstring was a macrame knot done with more jute, and was strung in a way to hold the arrow nock in place even when not being held. The string itself is elastic and provides enough draw to pose with the bow, but not enough force to fire the arrow more than a few feet. This is supposed to be a convention-safe weapon, after all!

The final detail was a bit of grimy weathering and a few highlights on the raised edges of the filigree, then all done!

The completed project totaled around 35-40 hours and had almost zero new material costs.

Take a look at some higher resolution final images in the gallery, and if you’re interested in more build photos please check out my flickr page.

Thanks for reading!