Mounting Takedown Bow Sleeves
by Jay St. Charles
The following method can be used to incorporate a socket and
sleeve assembly into many different longbow and recurve bow blanks.
Considerations - A critical alignment factor in the crafting of
sleeve/socket take down bows is the indexing of the limbs to the axis of
the sleeves. The sleeve assembly becomes the central determining point
of your bow. If the limbs are tipped out of alignment with the sleeves,
the resulting misaligned handle keel or ridge will create a difficult to
shoot, torque plagued bow. Take the necessary time to make certain that
alignment is correct on all planes. Although it may seem important to
use some sort of shaping jig or template to assist in attaining an
alignment of sleeves and billets, for individual bow projects it is not
only possible but perhaps advantageous to depend upon alignment by eye.
Most self billets vary to the extent that they will defy the effective
use of a jig. Unless a great number of sleeves are being mounted on
uniformly shaped bow blanks, the free hand method may be the best
process to use for accurate alignment of the sleeves.
It is possible to alter an existing bow into a takedown, but this is a
more difficult task than beginning from a blank. There is no margin for
error. If it is a favorite bow that you might wish to turn into a take
down, the bow will be much better off if it is left in one piece. This
is because no matter how much care is taken to keep that bow the same,
it will be an entirely different bow by the time it is finished as a
take down. An exception to the above would be the conversion of an
unpopular, little used one piece bow. Treat it simply as a marginally
dimensioned bow blank.
Joining billets using a sleeve/socket system effectively extends the
potential length of the billets and the bow. This system of joining
places the billets butt to butt, creating four inches more length to
play with than does splicing. A pair of billets suitable for only a
64" bow might now be used to build up to a 68" bow. Sleeve/socket T/D
assemblies consist of straight metal sleeves which have no built in
provision for backset. If a finished take down bow is to have any
backset, it must exist naturally in the billets or be set into the blank
by steaming or by the gluing forms. An ideal pair of self billets for
crafting a take down should have an inch or more of a natural backset
curve in each limb.
It is optional which sleeve is to be used for the top or bottom limbs.
Using the inner sleeve for the top limb (and establishing the center
line of the bow one inch below the arrow shelf) the two halves of the
resulting take down will be equal in length. This mounting
configuration provides the minimal break down length for the bow.
If the inner socket sleeve is used on the bottom limb (and the bow's
center is one inch below the arrow shelf) the resulting bottom unit
will be 4" shorter than the top limb.
Basic tools useful for sleeve installation include a solid bench with
good vise, preferably a swivel base model, a sharp hand saw, a rasp, a
long straight edge, a good eye, time and patience.
Two power tools that are particularly helpful for sleeve installation
are the belt sander and the band saw. Both of these tools can be used
to do a more precise, controlled job than the rasp or hand saw for all
but the very last bit of socket fitting. On the belt sander, a belt of
36 or 40 grit is most useful for handle ferrule shaping.
Clean all metal surfaces of the sleeve/socket components with a strong
solvent such as acetone or laquer thinner to remove any trace of the
machine oil that may be present. Remove any burrs from the inside edges
of the sleeves. Rough up the interior cement contact surfaces of both
sleeves with coarse emery cloth or sand paper to provide a clean
gripping surface for mounting. This procedure establishes the final
interior surfaces of the sleeves and better assures an optimum fit. The
sleeve components are formed together in the same die. As a result, the
two sleeves will have a close fit but there is also only one way that
the two sleeves will fit together. To keep track of this match up, mark
the outer ends of the sleeves with tape.
It is critical that the bow backs are inserted intact inside the
sleeves while fitting. Establish the final outer surface of the bow
back before you mount the sleeves. Make sure not to cut into or dent
this outer back area with the sleeve edges during fitting. The sleeves
are fitted by removing material from the belly and sides of the billet
ends. Square the butt end of each billet to 90 degrees. Using the
sleeves as a patterns, trace the outline of the inside of both top and
bottom sleeves onto the flat surface of the appropriate billet butt. A
long pencil with a sharp point works best.
As a reference for seating depth of the sleeves, draw a line across the
back of each limb butt. On the limb that is going to receive the
shorter interior sleeve , draw this line to match the exact length of
the sleeve, for you will be seating the sleeve to this full depth. On
the billet that will be receiving the longer outer sleeve, draw your
line 1/16" shorter than the half length of the long sleeve to allow for
the thickness of a gasket seal at the bottom of the socket.
Shaping of the sleeve ferrules can be performed with a rasp or a power
belt sander using a coarse grit belt. Start at the very ends of
billets, cutting to trace the outline you have drawn on the billet end
until you can begin to slip the sleeve over the ferrule you are
forming. With a pencil, mark the high spots that will be visible along
the back edge of the sleeve as you work it forward up the billet
ferrule. Frequently check the alignment of the sleeve with the billet
by sighting down the sleeve and limb, using the center lines as a
guide. The fact that both components are made of thin tubing material
leaves them vulnerable to accidental deformation during the mounting
process. Let wood removal create the fit. Do not force the sleeves
onto the ferrules.
When both sleeves have been fitted up to the depth index lines drawn
on the back of billets, fit the sleeves themselves partially together
and sight down the joined stave to check alignment. Make notations on
any adjustments that will need to be made at the time of cementing the
sleeves to the billets. If you find an error, you can take care of
small divergences by adding a thin wooden shim during the cementing of
Using a proper adhesive in mounting handle sleeves is critical to long
term satisfaction with your take down bow. The sleeve joints are under
a variety of stresses, including impact loads from shooting the bow and
the "breathing" of the bow wood as it expands and contracts from changes
in temperature and humidity. The adhesive must adhere well to both wood
and metal surfaces. It must be able to fill any small gaps in the
mounting joint and have low enough viscosity to stay put. I have had
excellent results from a two part epoxy from the Smooth-On Company,
designated MT-13, available through Northwest Archery. Use of a product
such as this, formulated to adhere metal and wood, will help provide a
solid, long term bonding of the sleeves. Clean the sleeves thoroughly
again inside and out with clean solvent to remove any remaining traces
of oil or dirt. Prepare your work area in advance for the sleeve
mounting process, having the items you'll need close at hand. Although
MT-13 requires 24 hours to fully cure, it can begin to stiffen within
minutes, depending on room temperature. It is advantageous to mount the
long outer sleeve first. This is the easier of the two to mount and
align because of its longer sighting plane.
Give the ferrule surface a good coating of MT-13 and slide on the
appropriate sleeve. Follow the notes you made on the back of the
billets earlier, carefully monitoring alignment. Put this half of the
bow aside to cure overnight. The following day, the shorter inner
sleeve can be accurately mounted using the solid longer sleeve and
billet unit as an alignment tool. This "one at a time" method of
mounting provides a good approach to assuring accuracy in
Once the cement has cured square off the butt of the inner sleeve and
polish any hardened epoxy residue from your sleeve units. If there is
difficulty in sliding the two sleeves together, it is most likely that
the side walls of the short and more vulnerable inner sleeve have been
sprung outward during its fitting onto the billet. Even when utmost
care is taken, it is difficult not to cause some slight springing of
The solution is to correct the shape of the outer sleeve to match the
new shape of the solidly epoxied inner sleeve unit. This can be
performed with very carefully applied "tuning" pressure from the jaws of
a vise on the open half of the outer sleeve. When you feel the
slightest amount of movement, back off and check directly by fitting the
two units together. A dial caliper is very useful at this point in that
you are dealing with only a couple of thousandths tolerance in this
fit. Repeat this process gently until the sleeves are fitting together
well. Polish the sliding surfaces of the sleeves inside and out with
fine steel wool to help them slide together smoothly.
Crafting the Bow
As discussed earlier, in the layout of a take down bow using a
sleeve/socket assembly, that assembly must be used as the central axis
around which the limbs are crafted. This axis is pre-established by the
sleeve assembly as it is the one component of the bow that cannot be
altered. In the case of the one piece bow, it is possible to compensate
the handle section, shifting the axis by removing handle material from
one side. In the case of the sleeve/socket handle assembly, the handle
section is the fixed controlling component. Because of this you must
keep an eye on how the "keel" of the handle and limbs line up throughout
the layout and tillering of the bow.
With the components mounted and fittied, it is possible to look down
the length of the stave and get an idea just how it is shaping up.
If the lines on the backs don't match up, any extra width left at the
tips of the billets come will come in handy. Draw a new center line on
the newly joined take down stave Also note and mark the center line of
the outer take down sleeve. Using the sleeve center line as reference
lay out the bow back. The more precisely the blank is laid out and
cut, the easier it will be to craft into a bow. In the quest to produce
a forgiving, easy to shoot bow it is important to understand how much
influence the basic layout of the bow has in enhanceing these
To accommodate the sleeve assembly, the limbs must begin at the handle
with a 2" to 3" stiffened area. These stiffened sections are necessary
to isolate active flexing from the edge of the sleeve assembly and a
resulting destructive fulcrum effect of the limb wood bending over the
rigid sleeve edge.
An alignment check for a sleeve/socket handled bow can be performed by
first holding the bow in your hand as if you were going to shoot it,
noting the flats that exist on both sides of the outer sleeve. When
these flats are held directly perpendicular to your line of vision, the
bow string should be centered exactly in the middle of the keel of the
outer sleeve. If it is not centered, then one or both of the limbs are
misaligned and should be corrected by the removal of limb material.
Be sure to seal the bottom of your sleeve socket. Automotive fiber
gasket material, 1/16" thick and cut to fill the bottom of the bow
socket will accomplish this well. Trace the shape using the mounted
inner sleeve butt. You can seat this gasket by gently pushing and then
tapping it home with the other half of the bow. A few drops of Loc-Tite
420, carefully dripped around the inner edges of the socket floor will
complete the job. To seal the flat end of the inner sleeve socket use
another few drops of Loc-Tite 420 as a very effective "pickling"
finish. Take care not to the slide the sleeves together until this is
all well dried, or your new bow may never take down again!
Mounting a screw in each sleeve section provides a finishing touch to
the sleeve mounting project. A small brass flat head of 5/8 length
works well. Remember that when installing a screw through a fiberglass
layer, the hole must be of large enough diameter that there is complete
clearance between the glass and the screw threads. When baffled by a
problem, often the best cure is to put the bow down for the day and give
yourself some time to ponder. You might be amazed how clear things can
become after allowing a problem bow rest for a short time.
Incorporating a sleeve/socket handle into a suitable stave is not
difficult if the proceedure is undertaken with the same care and
patience accorded to any bow building task.
Sleeve assemblies ($36.00 US) and MT-13 Adhesive ($9.95 US) are currently available from:
Archery LLC - PO Box 305, South Prairie, WA 98385