Fig. F: A doll’s bed for my daughter, Molly, age 7. We used
a bit of tree branch to give a rustic look. Pre-drill the
slats to avoid split ends. Fig. G: To make a laminated
beam, spread a thin layer of glue on each slat and clamp
together. Fig. H: The finished beam can easily support
60 lbs. Fig. I: String 3 slats with a length of line to make
a bow. Fig. J: My son, Joey, age 4, shows that bamboo
sticks make excellent arrows, even without feathers.
The kids had broken the footrest on our baby low-stretch cord — nylon clothesline works great.
buggy, but I could never find anything both rigid and Cut a length of line about 1' longer than your slats.
thin enough to effect a repair. Then I hit on the idea of Tie a stopper knot at one end, then stack your slats
a curved, laminated beam of paulownia slats. My and thread the line through 1 set of holes. Bend into
8"-long, 3-slat-thick beam with a slight curve has a curve, thread through the other set of holes, tie off,
held up better than the original plastic. and you’re done (Figure I). Add duct tape to show
The strength of this little beam was so impressive the kids where to hold the bow (Figure J). The quick
I decided to experiment with something bigger. construction is key, because as soon as the first kid
I hammered nails into our deck where the center gets one, the others will be all over you.
and 2 ends of the curve would be. Dry-fitting the For arrows, you can use any straight sticks;
slats proved this simple jig would work. bamboo garden stakes work well. Cut a vee groove
I then wet down 1 side of the slats and spread at one end to accept the bowstring. You would think
a thin layer of Gorilla Glue on each before setting that you’d need feathers to get the arrows to shoot
them into my jig. I clamped the whole thing together well, but in fact the sticks fly nicely naked.
with all the clamps I had, plus temporary clamps If they flew any straighter they’d be deadly,
made from lumber and drywall screws (Figure G). which isn’t really the point. Similarly, you could add
It’s important to apply pressure all the way along more slats to your bow for more force, but try not to
your glue-up. start an arms race.
Once dry, the beam measured 37" long by 1" thick
and had a chord (height) of 7". It supports at least
60 lbs. with little deflection (Figure H).
My beam experiment and quick projects were fun,
but the best use of paulownia is also the simplest:
archery bows. All you need are 3 slats and a bit of
Dan Albert (
email@example.com) is an assistant professor
of history at Salem State College in Massachusetts. He writes
on transport technology.