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

the ferrules.

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:

Northwest Archery LLC - PO Box 305, South Prairie, WA 98385

(888) 897-2393